Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Last-but-not-least Lola: Going Green by Christine Pakkala, illustrated by Paul Hoppe

Yet another beginning chapter book series has started.

  • Spunky girl with a slightly odd name? Check.
  • Is she the class clown, hyperactive, and socially awkward? Check.
  • Is her family slightly quirky? Check.
  • Does she have friendship problems? Check.
Le sigh. So, Lola Zuckerman is tired of always being last because her last name starts with Z. She's determined to win the Going Green contest, not just because her older brother won it, but to show she can finally be first in something and beat her former best friend, Amanda Anderson. Lola and Amanda haven't been friends since Amanda moved into a big new house and she and Lola had a fight.

Of course, all Lola's best ideas get taken before they get to the Zs, she gets in trouble for saying mean things about Amanda, who makes fun of her with her new friend, and she just knows she's never going to win. But then...she does! Only it doesn't feel quite as good as she'd hoped. With a little compromise, Lola finds out that she can be friends with Amanda again and maybe some things are more important than being first.

Well, not really. In the preview of the second book, Amanda and her bff are still being mean to Lola, who is still being her usual chaotic, socially awkward self, etc. etc.

So, kids love these series. They like the formulaic aspect, they like the realistic kids, and everyday problems of school and family. But do we really need another one? I am all for formula over unique - often unique just means it's so esoteric or literary a kid can't or won't read it - but there are a lot of other beginning chapter books out there that could be written. First of all, what about all the Princess Poseys? By which I mean, what about all the girls who aren't in constant friend drama or trouble with the teacher, who aren't quirky and loud and "unique". One of my most popular chapter book series is Julie Bowe's books about a class of very ordinary kids, featuring the most average girl of all. Even though she's not loud and in your face, she still has a story to tell. What about the kids of color? Yet again, we have another dang redhead when there are, on average, more kids of color even in a small predominantly white town like mine than actual redheads. And, of course, redheads are always wild and crazy. I also found the teacher (do we have to have another quirky teacher?) unbelievable. I can't believe that no parent has complained about her strict alphabetical policy, especially when it means that kids like Lola are always last for everything. I can't believe that she hasn't gotten in trouble for calling the kids candy nicknames. I also have trouble believing the Going Green competition and how she let it keep going even when it was obviously causing a lot of classroom ructions.

Verdict: This isn't a bad book, per se, it's just very formulaic in a genre that I feel is overpopulated. If you have lots and lots of Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody fans who just can't get enough of this type of character, it's worth adding, but it's not really going to balance out the collection.

ISBN: 9781590789353; published September 2013 by Boyds Mills Press; ARC provided by the publisher at ALA annual 2013

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