Monday, April 24, 2023

MMGM- Audrey Covington Breaks the Rules and Women Who Built Hollywood

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Evans, Karina. Audrey Covington Breaks the Rules
April 18, 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Audrey is excited to be graduating from elementary school and starting 7th grade in the fall, but is irritated that her parents still don't trust her to walk to a local ice cream store with her two best friends. They are strict about other things as well, and tend to micromanage everything she eats and wears, and limit her screen time. She's planning on having her traditional year end sleepover with her friends Sadia and Tamzin, but they disinvite her. When she finds out it is because of all of the rules her parents make that "ruin the fun", she is very angry. Her parents are helping her grandmother, former Hollywood star Rhea Covington, move from her house into a luxury retirement villa, and Audrey has to come along, because she's not allowed to be home by herself for more than an hour. Her grandmother isn't too keen on moving, and hasn't packed anything, so there is a mad scramble to get everything on the truck. Audrey helps, and when they reach the facility and are in the middle of unpacking, sneaks out to her parents' car to check her phone, to see what her friends are posting on social media without her. She falls asleep, and wakes up to find her grandmother taking off in the car! She claims that she wants one last day of freedom, and one more night out like she had when she was a star. While she hasn't planned ahead too well (she doesn't bring a credit card, can't drive very well, and both of them forget that Audrey's phone can be tracked by her parents), they set off on an adventure. It's not just greasy hamburgers for Audrey, who wants her grandmother to suspend all of the rules for her; it's breaking into a movie studio, "borrowing" clothes and a golf cart, crashing a big Hollywood party, and having quite the adventure. Audrey even makes friends with Eva, a young star her own age who not only lets her stay at her party, but has security kick Audrey's parents OUT of the party. The fun has to end some time, and when it does, will Audrey and her grandmother be able to negotiate and come to an agreement with Audrey's mother where they can both have more freedom?
Strengths: It doesn't take much for friends to drop each other in middle school, so it was completely realistic that Audrey's friends drop her because she can't watch PG-13 movies and eat too much sugar. I liked that the set up to the adventure was fairly brief, giving us just enough of an excuse for Audrey and Rhea to run away. The glimpse into life in Holloywood as an former star was fun, and there's even a little bit about the unfairness of Hollywood when it comes to women's roles. Tween interest in celebrity will be satisfied with Audrey's friendship with Eva. I'd be interested in another book about Audrey once her grandmother goes back to work as a film star! 
Weaknesses: As an adult, I wanted a bit more information. Why exactly was the grandmother leaving her house? She seemed unable to drive herself, and the fact that she left home without money gave me pause. What is her level of competence? She seems pretty young and spry. Of course, young readers will just enjoy Audrey's freedom from her parents "unreasonable" rules. 
What I really think: This is a fun romp that readers of Callaghan's Lost in Hollywood or Malone's The Sleepover will enjoy, and reminds me a little of Pinder's 2006 But I Don't Want to Be a Movie Star. Still a little sad that someone lost my library's copy of that one. 

Rubin, Susan Goldman. The Women Who Built Hollywood 12 Trailblazers in Front of and Behind the Camera
May 16, 2023 by Calkins Creek
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Early Hollywood is fascinating to me, and I also love biographies, so this collection of the stories of Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Frances Marion, Louise Beavers, Fredi Washington, Hattie McDaniel, Marion Wong, Anna May Wong, Dorothy Arzner, Margaret Booth, Clare West, and Helen Holmes as fascinating and also well-researched. Looking at individuals is a good way to understand the history through a particular lens, and it is impressive that Rubin was able to not only high light women, but to find a little bit of diversity in the film industry. There's so much written about Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and other white men that it's interesting to see how the early movies included women. 

Each subject gets a picture or two, information about early life, and a good overview of her film career. There's enough about studio systems, the way films were made, and a bit about the types of films that were popular and how they were consumed by the public that readers who are unfamiliar with this time period will be better able to understand the impact these women had. Readers might be encouraged to try to find some of the films mentioned; I've seen the 1959 Douglas Sirk version of Imitation of Life, but don't know how I've missed the 1934 one with Cincinnati native Louise Beavers and Claudette Colbert. The saddest part of the book was Beavers' comment that she would rather be playing maids in films than working as a maid. 

It can be a little difficult to get middle grade readers to investigate pop culture of 100 years ago; Lillian Gish was almost exactly my grandmother's age, and she would be 130 were she still alive! Still, this is a valuable book to have for pleasure reading as well as National History Day projects. Calkins Creek publishes such great narrative nonfiction like Brimner's Blacklisted! or Jarrow's Blood and Germs, so I will purchase this one right away so I can get it in hardcover.

This is also a great book to have as a resource for students who read Wiley's The Nerviest Girl in the WorldCheaney's  I Don't Know How the Story EndsNesbet's Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen, or even Fleming's Strongheart! I'd love to see individual biographies of any of these women; the only one I've seen so far is Yoo's book about Anna May Wong

Blather: It's back to being chilly in Ohio, and since the library will be closed all day for testing (that I will probably be proctoring for a large chunk of that), I couldn't muster anything but jeans and a sweatshirt. My nice one, mind, with the shawl collar. And a book pin. But still. Real shoes aren't happening either. 

Did have a successful weekend of reading and am blogged through at least half of August. Did a little sewing. Walked the dog. Did laundry. Have food for the week. 

May is filling up with park days and pool days and Welcome Nights and Evening of Honors, and Picky Reader is getting married on the Saturday after school is out! (5/27) It's all rushing a bit fast, and... it was hard to come to work today. But I did, since I haven't missed a day with students all year. 

If you got dressed and made it to work today, good for you! You deserve applause, and your hot, caffeinated beverage of choice. I'd be glad to deliver it to you if I weren't in charge of 55 students who need to make up the language arts test. 


  1. This sounds really cute! I'm a huge fan of stories featuring a grandparent, so this seems like a really great book for that. :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. You have a lot going on but are certainly getting ahead with your reading. I love the sound of this first book you shared. Young readers will gravitate to a story with believable characters and plot. Thanks once again for being a part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

  3. Audrey Covington Breaks the Rules sounds like a hoot, have to check it out. Happy MMGM to you and have a lovely week.

  4. The book on Hollywood women sounds fascinating, and a nice companion piece to Audrey Covington Breaks the Rules - which sounds a fun read, and one I think most readers would identify with!! Good luck with the exam supervision (as we call it over here) and hope all is in train for the wedding!