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 involves a series of challenges between a group of neighborhood boys and girls. Some of the challenges involve risky behavior, like jumping from a high
tree or shoplifting. During the final
challenge, the neighborhood bully sets a barn on fire and several of the kids get
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What's the story?
Juliet and Lowell used to be "inseparable," but now that he has new guy friends, he barely even speaks to her anymore. Thank goodness spirited Patsy moves to their town, instantly becoming Juliet's new best friend. But Patsy's got some serious opinions -- and when Bruce Wagner, the neighborhood bully, tells her, "There's boy stuff and there's girl stuff, and they aren't the same," she disagrees. To prove his point, Bruce proposes a series of tests -- like running races -- for the boys to face off against the girls. Juliet finds herself joining Patsy's team to show Lowell up, even as the tests become more and more dangerous.
Is it any good?
This book discusses some tough gender issues, introducing them to readers in a way that will make sense to them. Juliet is a sensitive but strong character, and readers will understand both how mad she is at Lowell, and how much she misses her old friend. Setting the book during the Cuban Missile Crisis was a stroke of genius; the impending war makes a powerful parallel to the more personal war that Juliet and Patsy are fighting against the neighborhood boys. Also, putting the book in the past also lets tweens talk about how much has changed when it comes to gender politics (and what hasn't).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender issues. What's your take on these issues? Can girls and boys be friends? Is there such a thing as a "girls' sport" or a "boys' sport"? Are you comfortable with society's roles for men and women? If not, what could you do to break them down?
This book was written during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Has life changed since then? What are some of the big and small differences you see between Juliet's life in the '60s and life now? For example, she doesn't know what yogurt is when she sees it in the supermarket -- but now even small markets have many varieties. What else did you notice?
The kids experience a lot of peer pressure in the book. One day, Bruce challenges them to shoplift from the store, for example, which several characters don't want to do. Have you ever been in a situation like that, where you know you something is wrong but you're afraid to say no? How did you deal with that situation?
For kids who love friendship stories
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