A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the main character, Julie, is part of the American Girl series that has its own stores selling all things American Girl: dolls, clothes, DVDs, etc. This first book in the series features a 9-year-old living in San Francisco in the '70s and captures issues and historical events of the era: President Nixon resigning; Vietnam veterans needing support; parents getting divorces (like Julie's); and the changing rights/roles of women, especially regarding Title Nine.
What's the story?
Nine-year-old Julie Albright moves with her mother and older sister to an apartment in San Francisco, above her mother's shop. Her parents are divorced. She starts the 4th grade at a new school and feels lonely -- her best friend Ivy is still back in her old neighborhood.
At school, she befriends a boy and learns of basketball team try-outs that are only for boys. Julie feels this is unfair and learns how to take a stand from her sister, mother, and friendly neighbor, a Vietnam veteran.
Is it any good?
Written by Megan McDonald of the popular Judy Moody series, MEET JULIE provides just the right amount of detail to give readers a taste of the fantastic 1970s. She doesn't skimp on what was hard about the era and provides positive examples of important people to Julie during this time, including her single mother and a veteran.
It's ironic that the squeaky-clean American Girl brand has added a child of the '70s as the latest in their family of period characters. Yes, it's the psychedelic 1970s with fatigue-wearing Vietnam veterans and teen girls throwing out labels like "male chauvinist pig." But Julie is a model 9-year-old with shiny blond hair, a strong sense of fairness, and an insatiable amount of energy -- in other words, she fits right in with the American Girl image.
There are also plenty of references to things that American Girl readers will like: lava lamps, pet rocks, mood rings, and apple seed bracelets. (This seems like a marketing hook, too, so parents watch out.) Julie's life, though, is not an easy one for any 9-year-old. Her parents are newly divorced, she's changed schools, and she sees her dad every other weekend. Despite these challenges, Julie is, perhaps unrealistically, strong and overly confident. She presents the coach with a petition -- since there's no basketball team for girls, it's not fair that she can't try out for the boy's team. Her complaints go all the way to the School Board. Now that's some American Girl pluck.