Schroeder, Lisa. My Secret Guide to Paris
February 24th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
**SPOLER ALERT** Okay, it's something in the first chapter or two, but quit reading if you don't want to know. There's no way to avoid it.
Nora and her grandmother have always bonded over their plans to go to Paris someday together. Her grandmother works with a fashion designer and goes frequently herself, but finally realizes that as Nora approaches her 12th birthday, she's ready to make the trip herself. They plan on going in March and then Grandma is hit by a car and dies. Really. Fortunately, she was a very organized lady, and she had planned the trip already in a 13 Little Blue Envelopes fashion, leaving Nora clues for when she would be in Paris, ostensibly with her mother while Grandma was working. Nora pleads with her mother to take her; mother is feeling guilt because she was on the outs with her mother in the wake of her parents' divorce. Eventually, she gives in (since Nora tempts her with antique doll possibilities), and the two, along with Nora's brother, head off. Nora manages to be allowed to go off with her brother, meets a nice British girl her own age, and follows several of the clues, only to find that none of the people she is supposed to meet will give her the packages her grandmother has left with them unless her mother is also there. Nora asks her mother to go with her; mother agrees reluctantly-- there were other things she was planning on doing with her time. Eventually, they round up all of the packages, attend a fashion show, and make their tentative peace with the grandmother's death.
Strengths: Fantastic travel book. Lots and lots of appealing details about seeing Paris, which has never been a place I have EVER wanted to go. Almost made me want to visit! The addition of a British friend, as well as the mother-daughter bond added a bit more meat to the story, but the travel portions are the real selling point here.
Weaknesses: The cover seems wrong-- Nora is always portrayed as being in jeans and a t-shirt, although perhaps this is meant to be the outfit her grandmother gives her. The beret is right. Also not keen on the use of "secret" in the title; it's not a secret guide for very long.
What I really think: The grandmother did not have to die. She could have broken her leg, and there were unrefundable tickets. THEN, when they returned, Nora could have continued her close relationship and her mother could have mended her fences with the mother. Unnecessarily sad to just violently and randomly kill the grandmother. This loses the book a Sparkly Unicorn designation!