Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Review - Mackenzie Blue, The Secret Crush

By: Tina Wells
Published by Harper Collins Childrens
Released on December 29, 2009
Source: The Publisher
Ages 8-12
5.0 stars - I highly recommend reading this book!

Synopsis (from Harper Collins Childrens): Mackenzie Blue has a crush!

But how can she get Landon—the cutest boy in school—to notice her? The class's new rock-and-roll musical is her chance.

Reasons why our musical is going to be amazing:

1.I could be the star!
2.Landon could be my co-star . . . which means we'll hang out together.
3.Working on the sets, props, music, script, and costumes will be tons of fun.
There's so much to do, I'd better get started!

Between her crush, the musical, and her friends—not to mention school work—Zee is torn in a thousand different directions. With all the real-life drama going on, will she lose sight of what's really important?

This is the second book in the Mackenzie Blue series and I have to admit that both my tween daughter and I thoroughly enjoy the voice of plucky Zee. One of the things I love about her is that she's a very realistic 7th Grade girl -- with fairly real problems. She has her friends, her seemingly unsupportive older brother and parents that she perceives as meddling at all the wrong moments in her life -- like when she's just about to kiss her crush Landon, her Mom walks in! I know, I was laughing too, and remembering all those middle school moments in my own life. But, Mackenzie's not overly dramatic or too snarky like some of the current tween heroines, she hits the right notes for both her middle grader readers and their parents.

So in this second installment, Zee's class is putting on a musical. One that they will write, practice and put on themselves. I won't spoil it for you but there are lots of surprises. Zee's antagonist, Kathi, is suddenly being very nice. Zee's BFF, Ally, who is still in Paris, has a boyfriend and doesn't have as much time to IM her and then, of course, there is the matter of Zee's crush on that cute boy Landon. One of my favorite moments in the book occurs when Zee takes inventory of How to Tell If Someone Is Your BFF (p. 184-185):
  1. She helps you with your problems.
  2. She's always there for you.
  3. She keeps your secrets.
  4. She makes sure you don't totally embarrass yourself.
  5. She chooses you over her boyfriend.
Both my daughter and I enjoyed Zee's quirky yet realistic inner dialogue and once again, the lesson to be true to yourself is illustrated in a positive way. The book contains the same fun character illustrations, IMs and diary entries as its predecessor making it a quick and amusing read.
I'm looking forward to reviewing the third book in the series, Mackenzie Blue: Friends Forever? and I admit that I've already pre-ordered the fourth installment, Mackenzie Blue: Mixed Messages, which will be released on November 23, 2010.

Book Review - Fancy Nancy: Ooh La La! It's Beauty Day

Author: Jane O'Connor
Illustrator: Robin Preiss Glasser
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's (June 22, 2010)
Age Level: 3 to 8 years
Source: Won in a Contest
Rating: 4 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

What better way to fancy Mom up for her birthday than to treat her to a super-deluxe beauty day created by Fancy Nancy herself? It's a pampering paradise, and right in the backyard! With relaxing music, fragrant lotions, colorful nail polish, and foamy mousse, Nancy gives her mom a total makeover. She even treats her to sumptuous refreshments and special entertainment. But when the pampering suddenly goes too far, has Nancy ruined her mom's big day?

Complete with tips and recipes for creating a super-deluxe beauty day of your own, Fancy Nancy: Ooh La La! It's Beauty Day will inspire budding beauty experts to open up shop and join in the deluxe fanciness!

Before I start, I just want to thank Mel at He Followed Me Home Blog. Mel is a Canadian. After winning this book in a HarperCollins contest, she realized that they would only ship to someone stateside. Being her wonderful self, she asked if I would like it and had HarperCollins send it to me. Thanks to Mel and HarperCollins my school library now has a new book.

Now on to the review - I am a fan of Fancy Nancy books. Little girls especially love Nancy and all of the situations that they finds herself in. Fancy Nancy is bold, funny, and well fancy. As an educator, I appreciate that the books expose children to a variety of vocabulary that might not normally be included in picture books for young readers. In this latest installment, Fancy Nancy has a special treat for her mother on her birthday - a day of pampering and beauty treatments. Long-time readers and fans know that any day of pampering organized by Nancy will include much, much more.

In traditional Fancy Nancy style, she has set up a French spa in her backyard. With her younger sister as her helper, they prepare to give mom a full beauty make-over including a facial, mani-pedi, lunch, make-up and hair. Though readers know that there will be something that will go wrong, you still find yourself chuckling along the way. Nancy's attempts to provide her mother with the right atmosphere include serenading her with music performed on a recorder, card tricks, and a special lunch. When things go a little awry, Nancy is thankful for the help her friend and neighbor Mrs. DeVine.

The formulaic story pattern, bright signature illustrations, and crisis averted ending are what fans of Fancy Nancy have come to love and appreciate about these books. And this one doesn't fail to deliver. However, I struggled with one thing. The addition of the "tip and recipe" boxes on many of the pages. On the one hand, I loved seeing the recipe for yogurt parfait or the tips for braiding hair. But on the other hand, there is already a lot happening in a Fancy Nancy book. Some of the pages almost seemed a little too crowded which was particularly noticeable with the smaller book size as compared to some of the other Fancy Nancy books. Fancy Nancy's Ooh La La! It's A Beauty Day would have benefited from the increase in size in my opinion.

Regardless of size, fans of Fancy Nancy will enjoy this latest book in the series.
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~