Daily Archives: September 1, 2011

Gender Blender review

GendeGender Blenderr Blender by Blake Nelson

Delacorte Press, 2006. 9780385746960

Synopsis: Emma and Tom used to be friends: they built a tree fort and hung out together all the time. Now they are in 6th grade and boy/girl friendships aren’t cool anymore. Tom spends a lot of time perfecting his baseball pitch and is sort of mad that Emma is hanging out with the mean girls. Emma is mad at Tom for pushing her away because she is a girl and trying to get Jeff Matthews to notice her. When they are paired together for a health class assignment in which they are supposed to discover “how our gender creates differences in our lives”, the two try to set aside their differences and work things out. But when the two switch bodies, things start to get stranger than both of them expected.

Why I picked it up: I read a review of the book and then found it on sale at a book fair.

Why I finished it: Nelson has a unique gift for getting into the mind of a middle schooler, much like Judy Blume. The chapters switch viewpoints between Emma and Tom, giving the reader insight as to what goes on in their heads as they learn to navigate the middle school minefield while trying to work out issues of gender and friendship. It is full of humor and there are few pages that I didn’t read where I was not laughing both at the characters and at the remembrance of going through some of the same situations. The book also touches on elements of sex – Tom gets Emma’s first period, and Emma has to figure out what to do when she wakes up in the morning with an erection – and maintains the delicate balance of fact-finding and fear of a changing body. Growing up can be hard, but finding ways to create humor out of a rocky situation can make it almost easier.

Other related materials: Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers, Freaky Monday by Mary Rodgers, Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor, Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Forever…by Judy Blume

 

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Ginger Pye review

Ginger Pye bGinger Pyey Eleanor Estes

Harcourt Young Classics, 2000. 978-0-15-202499-4

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Jerry and nine-year-old Rachel Pye live in the small town of Cranbury, halfway between New York and Boston. The family has a cat, but Jerry very much wants a dog. But not just any dog: the smartest dog that could do all kinds of tricks. After earning a dollar dusting the church pews, Jerry and Rachel buy a puppy from their neighbors and name him Ginger. But after they bring Ginger home, an unsavory character in a yellow hat begins hanging around and following the Pye children. When Ginger is kidnapped, it will take lots of sleuthing and love to bring Ginger home.

Why I picked it up: I remember starting it years ago and never finishing it, so I thought I would go back and re-read it.

Why I finished it: Estes’ former career as a children’s librarian comes out in the text. She has definitely captured the child’s voice in the text as the story moves along from how the children will earn the dollar to buy a puppy, to bringing him home and naming him, to the search to bring home their beloved pet. There are little sketches mixed in with the text that help readers make the transition from picture books to more lengthy chapter books. What I did not like about the book was that it seemed forever to get to the point. There are flashbacks within the text detailing past events, such as how Mrs. Pye met Mr. Pye, why Dick Badger swims perpendicularly, and other little stories the take place before the start of the book that often don’t have anything to do with the story and could be distracting. It is clearly illustrating how the mind wanders in moments of boredom or terror, but don’t seem to hold the reader’s attention. Those with animals will be able to relate to the heartbreak Jerry and Rachel experience when they lose their dog and cheer them on as they try to solve the mystery of the unsavory character in the yellow hat. The ending was sort of predictable (to me), but the children are always the heroes.

Other related materials: The Moffats by Eleanor Estes, Pinky Pye by Eleanor Estes, Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, The Borrowers by Mary Norton

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