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 is story is loosely tied to characters from The Wizard of Oz, and some parts are similarly scary: A certain wicked witch threatens the girls, who are banished to a strange land and have to dodge a fire. Also, a father vanishes, and his daughter is jinxed. But these scary sequences also have humor. There are many references to body image, but it's the older women who are obsessed with their looks -- the girls have the right perspective.
What's the story?
Three very different 11-year-old girls live on Gumm Street: Franny thrives on adventure, Cat is athletic with ESP, and Pru is safety conscious and loves to have her nose in a book. Around the time that a fourth girl, Ivy, moves to Gumm Street, strange things start to happen. The piano teacher and friend of the girls, Mr. Staccato, floats away into the sky, a slipper from The Wizard of Oz disappears, and a woman named Cha-Cha Staccato arrives bearing an uncanny resemblance to a certain wicked witch.
The girls must overcome their differences and work as a team to get to the bottom of these mysterious happenings, save themselves from being squeezed into a potion, and even save their beloved town of Sherbet.
Is it any good?
Filled with adventure, mystery, teamwork, fantasy, humor, and wonderful illustrations, this is a page-turner that will delight tween readers. Sending a good message for this often-cliquey age, the 11-year-old girls living on Gumm Street are very different and don't like one another in the beginning. But each has unique skills that makes her a good member of this sleuthing team.
The fantasy elements and even the character names are quirky and fun. Positive messages of beauty are woven in when two over-the-top characters who want the perfect eternal-youth-and-beauty potion have their plans foiled by the girls, who have a much more grounded idea of beauty.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the girls' personalities. How do they differ, and how are they are similar? What's the common thread that pulls the girls into this "club" and helps them recognize their companions' talents? Parents can also talk about Bling Bling and Coco's quest for beauty and how the girls -- who have their own challenges -- are more accepting of their physical selves.