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 looks like a scrapbook; except for a few school compositions, it has very little straightforward narration. Most of the issues are typical middle school stuff, but others are a little more extreme. For example, Ginny’s older brother carries several not-so-harmless pranks a little too far, crashes his stepfather’s car while drunk and is sent to military school. Ginny herself is compassionate and well-meaning, but she also has moments when things are too much for her and she makes a few desperate choices that seem out-of-character: she skips school, lies about the reason, and even slaps a girl. In the end, she learns some important lessons about dealing with life, especially when it doesn't exactly match your dream.
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What's the story?
Ginny starts seventh grade with a very hopeful to-do list including things like: get a new dad, look good in the school photo, get the starring ballet role, win something, and so on. As the year goes on, she does cross items off her list -- but reality doesn't always live up to her expectation. Starting with a disastrous hair-dyeing experiment, one thing after another goes wrong, and her middle school experience is far from what she had planned. Told completely through the “stuff” she has collected (notes, receipts, classroom assignments, poems, cartoons), this is the story of how she survives one very trying year of ups-and-downs that are “worse than meatloaf.”
Is it any good?
This seemingly random collection of receipts, notes, and lists effectively creates a complete narrative with a strong, intriguing storyline, well-developed characters, and emotional depth. Formatted like a scrapbook with cartoon strips, poetry, and classroom notes strategically placed to move the story along, this book is touching, and fun to read. Middle school kids will related to the issues in Ginny's life, and will enjoy reading back and forward through all the "stuff" that made up her year. Because this book is so visually engaging, it's a great choice for reluctant readers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this book compares to the author's other books, which include the Babymouse series, and also books like Turtle in Paradise. Have you read her other work? What do you like best?
Discuss the value of keeping scrapbooks, and just how the "stuff" you collect can tell the story of your life. Which things told you the most about Ginny's world? Elizabeth Berkley also used a scrapbook format for her advice book Ask Elizabeth; what does this format do for readers? What would you include in your own scrapbook?
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