Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keena Ford and the Second-Grade Mix-Up by Melissa Thompson, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Another cute little elementary school girl. "Yeah", I can hear you saying, "what's different about this one?" You got your Junie B., your Clementine, your Lucy Rose, your Piper Reed, your Sassy....Well, some things are different and some aren't. Quirky, exuberant, extrovert little girl? Check. Making mistakes and learning at school? Check. Male and female friends? Check. Mostly uninterested in "girly" stuff and very scornful of all things pink? Check. And (what rapidly seems to be becoming part of the checklist) divorced parents who get along just fine? Check.

But there are a few differences that make this story stand out - just a bit - from the rest of the herd. First, the story of Keena's mishaps and mistakes in second-grade is written in journal format. Obviously, it's not as a real second-grader would write it - it wouldn't be readable. No spelling errors, weirdly-shaped letters, and Keena's mom has given her a dictionary so she can look up long words. But it is written in a style that feels believable for a seven-year-old girl.

Second, Keena Ford is much less heavenly and more realistically brat. She's snide to her brother, gets in fights, and her major mix-up happens because she is too greedy for chocolate cake and the special birthday crown to explain that it's not really her birthday. But she apologizes, she learns, and she gets going again, trying to do better next time.

The black and white illustrations are soft and have a chalkboard look about them; they fit in perfectly with the emphasis on school and enhance key elements in the story.

Verdict: This will be a fun read for girls who are ready for chapters and like school stories about spunky little girls. (Because of the girl-themed cover and plot, I'm not seeing any boys picking this up; I haven't had much success in booktalking the friends-school type story to boys.) It's also a good introduction to the journal format.

ISBN: 978-0803732636; Published July 2008 by Dial; Borrowed from the library

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