Friday, April 12, 2013

Starring Jules (as herself) by Beth Ain

I almost didn't read this book. It is set in New York and it features a spunky girl with individual style and "pizzaz". Two strikes! However, I am super glad I did go ahead and read it because it also features a really well-written depiction of elementary school friendships and a girl who is thoroughly realistic and every seven-year-old girl can relate to what she's going through.

Jules is mostly happy with her life as a "scrambled eggs and chocolate milk type person" even though she does not currently have a best friend. Her best friend went on a fancy vacation and now she is into girly things and Jules feels very left out. It's just her and her lists, trying to keep herself focused. However, things seem to be looking up! She gets asked to audition for a tv commercial and there's a new girl - from London! - who just might be her new best friend. But now she's stressed and worried about her audition and things don't go the way she expects with Elinor.

What I loved about this story was that it never descended into stereotypes. Jules' weird quirks are interesting and make her a unique person, but they also get her into trouble and sometimes hurt other people's feelings. There's a natural feeling to her problems with Charlotte, her former best friend, and the author keeps a perfect balance between them, neither demonizing Charlotte for liking more "girly" things than Jules nor throwing in a fake make-up. At the end of the story, it's like Jules' mom says - even if they like different things and aren't best friends any more, they can still be nice to each other. The tv commercial is almost incidental to the story, the real plot being Jules' friendships with different people and how she learns to compromise with other people while still being herself.

Verdict: This is a perfect book for girls in that in-between stage in elementary school. It's got just enough pizzaz to keep it from being a problem story about friendship, but enough gentle hints to help out girls going through their own friendship tough spots. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780545520478; Published March 2013 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter; Purchased for the library

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