Tan, Susan. Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire
March 28th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Cilla has many of the same concerns that many almost nine year olds do-- she is worried about getting along with her best friend, concerned about school work and making the teacher happy, and struggling with the impending birth of a new sibling, whom she calls "The Blob". In addition, she is worried that her two sets of grandparents, both of whom she adores, don't get along with each other. She's fine with being half Chinese, but worries that her grandparents don't like each other, since they rarely socialize with each other. Cilla is also determined to write a best seller before her sibling is born, so that she will have something to set her apart and keep her from being forgotten.
Strengths: Ms. Tan spoke at ALA Midwinter, and it was very interesting to see how much of this book was pulled from her own life. Cilla's concerns are valid, and sympathetically portrayed. I appreciated that while she was concerned about the cultural differences that seemed to be keeping her grandparents apart, they weren't the entire focus of the story. The adults who occasionally inquired of Cilla "What are you?" were a nice touch-- clearly, Cilla is an author. The illustrations add to the appeal, and Ms. Tan talked about how they actually informed her writing a bit. This is a great choice for elementary students who are fans of Junie B. Jones and Amber Brown. A second book is in the works.
Weaknesses: This was too young for middle school. There's a big difference between how problems are perceived in 3rd grade and 6th through 8th, and the friend problems, impending sibling, and interactions with parents aren't quite on point for older students. Perhaps some day we will see an upper middle grade friend drama from Ms. Tan.
What I really think: Intriguing new author who was able to hold her own on a panel with Scott Westerfeld and LeUyen Pham, which had to be nerve wracking! Will watch her progress with interest.
Cooner, Donna. Worthy
March 28th 2017 by Scholastic
Public Library Copy
Linden is enjoying high school, although she is more interested in her future writing career than in playing all of the popularity games. Her long time friend and neighbor Max thinks she is doing pretty well for herself, but aside from her outspoken friend Nikki, Linden doesn't hang out with two many people. When the very cute Alex shows her some attention, she is very pleased, especially since prom is coming up, and who doesn't want to go to prom? They embark on a sweet relationship, but when a new app, Worthy, starts causing trouble in school, Linden is concerned. Her friend Nikki is able to fight back when her own relationship is in the spotlight, but Linden thinks the app is why Alex won't go to the prom with her. Who is behind the app, and why is it so detrimental to the self-esteem of the girls whom it targets?
Strengths: I am so glad that this is appropriate for middle school girls. Books like Steele's The Market and other books that address popularity or social media are very popular, especially with 8th grade girls. Cooner's Skinny is also popular, so I'm definitely purchasing this. It had a lot of good messages, a sweet romance, and a cover that will appeal to my readers.
Weaknesses: I am not a modern teenager, so I had some problems with understanding the whole social game aspect. See note below!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, but glad I read it first, having just had my eyeballs singed by Mlynowski's I See London, I See France. (NOT middle grade. Or high school. Maybe for adults. Maybe.)
Just this weekend, I decided that the differences between my daughters' perception of social worth and my own could be explained by Colbie Caillat's song "Try". Not all of it, but a lot. When I heard the song, I could definitely agree that girls don't have to spend money and wear makeup, but to not TRY? Hmmm. My mother disagrees, and also would like to tell you to go put some lipstick on and TAKE YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR POCKETS. And, really, would it have hurt you to do something with your hair? It's looking awfully flat right now. And no, you don't need that piece of bread. That skirt looks a bit tight.
Is it a good thing that I didn't pass this super critical voice-in-my-head on to my own girls? Perhaps the thought that they don't have to try is what makes them think they are always gorgeous. I know that trying is critical to all of life's successes, and I clearly don't try hard enough. But the concept of not trying is also why teachers at my school think leggings are appropriate for work. I'm too old to think this is true.
Argh. Testing for the next three days, so weirdly slow and tense days in the library. I decided over the weekend to stop wearing turtlenecks because it is April, but this led to not a single solitary thing I am wearing today being a good idea! I will hear my mother's voice in my head all day long.