A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book, like the Dork Diaries series starter, Tales of a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life, is filled with references to pop culture and material goods, including celebrities, designer clothing, tech gadgets, makeup, TV, etc. This Wimpy Kid-like book may draw in kids who like the first book, as well as reluctant readers, but they may grow tired of the self-absorbed, materialistic protagonist.
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What's the story?
This book leaves off one day after the first book ends, just after Brandon asks Nikki to be his science lab partner. This volume focuses on the Halloween dance, which happens to be the same night Nikki has promised to work at a ballet party hosted by her little sister's friend. Readers will recognize the cast of characters here, including mean girl MacKenzie, who is in charge of the dance. When MacKenzie suddenly resigns from her job, the Halloween dance might get cancelled -- and if MacKenzie's plan works, the entire school will blame Nikki. Can Nikki and her friends figure out a way for the dance to go on? And can Nikki juggle going to the dance with her friends, secretly being Brandon's date -- and fulfilling her promise to work at the ballet party?
Is it any good?
The protagonist in this latest installment in the series continues to be dramatic, self-absorbed, and popularity-obsessed, but she does show some growth here. Nikki has a fleeting moment of compassion for her little sister when she freezes on stage, shows leadership by organizing the school dance -- and learns basic lessons about honesty and how to be a better friend when her best buddies discover her multiple commitments on the night of the dance. Even so, readers will have a hard time finding a character to relate to. Nikki overreacts to everything, and her "woe is me" attitude, constant irritation with her little sister, and flighty decision-making quickly grow tiring. Meanwhile, her nemesis MacKenzie remains a stereotypical enemy. Readers may find this book easy to read -- but other illustrated novels, like The Popularity Papers, will get them thinking deeper about themes like fitting in and friendship.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about self-image. Nikki's extremely self-degrading, calling herself "loser, "dork," and "pathetic." Is this something you hear your friends doing a lot? Does Nikki really mean what she says about herself -- or is she saying something else?
Lots of books, movies, and television shows talk about kids wanting to be popular. What are some other titles you can think of?
Do you think the media typically reflects how kids actually feel about the pressure to fit in -- or does it promote a shallow kind of popularity?
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