Change Is in the Air, Mallory

By Laurie Friedman, Illustrated by Jennifer Kalis

 mallory cover

Published by: Darby Creek Publishing (August 1, 2015)

Available in: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were 25 books in the Mallory series.

 

Change is hard.

And with Mallory McDonald, the chapter book set gets two chances to see how this plays out. The book reviewed here, Change Is in the Air, Mallory, is for the older chapter book crowd. Our protagonist is in the summer between fourth and fifth grades, so the text is a bit more complex and dense on the page, and feelings about change are a tad more self-aware. For the younger chapter book crowd, Mallory’s first book, Mallory on the Move, also tackles change, but three years earlier in her life.

First, these books are staunchly “girl” books, even though there are some good treatments of boy characters involved. There are also tie-ins that girls will love: a craft activity detailed in the back, as well as a terrific Website for the whole Mallory series, www.mallorymcdonald.com. Mid- to late-elementary kids can enjoy surfing the site for all things Mallory. It’s a nice touch, and one that can show children how fun it can be to get totally consumed by the book world.

Change Is in the Air, Mallory  tackles the subject of friends leaving and subsequent loss and loneliness. Feelings are talked about—a lot. So much so, it’s hard to imagine any kid being this open about the happenings around her. For instance, here’s a section where Mallory and her friend, Mary Ann, discuss Mary Ann’s recent move.

 

“I have had a hard time,” I say. “I’ve been really sad that we don’t live next door to each other anymore.”

I pause. What I have to say next might not be something she wants to hear, but I feel like I need to say it. “I guess it kind of bothered me that it didn’t seem like it was hard for you.”

Mary Ann shakes her head. “It’s not that it wasn’t hard. Maybe I just don’t show it the same way you do.” She shrugs. “Even though we’re best friends, we handle things differently.”

 

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard many elementary-aged kids having these kinds of conversations. But this isn’t a bad thing. I can see this book being helpful to kids going through similar circumstances, especially girls who tend to have consuming friendships at this age.

The general art design of the book adds to the appeal to this age group with some straight illustrations, some comic-strip style illustrations, and some asides to the reader in both direct address and letters. Girls, especially those undergoing change, will eat this stuff up.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

Just Grace

grace cover

Just Grace

By Charise Mericle Harper

 

Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (March 18, 2008)

Available in: library binding, paperback, audible, audible CD, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were 12 books in the Just Grace series.

 

Purr.

Just Grace is a girl we know: active, often in trouble, misunderstood, smart, put upon, kind, empathetic and just a bit of an attitude. There are similar characters in chapter book fiction (Junie B. Jones, Clementine, Judy Moody and Marty McGuire come to mind), but Grace Stewart is still one very welcome kid in the crowd.

I like this series because it has a number of interesting twists on the usual chapter book subset. There’s an odd and intriguing mix of geography, from France to Wisconsin to California. There are inventive projects intended to make someone feel better. The text breaks are not so much in chapter format as train of thought and, often, a numbered list. It’s easy and fresh, and a child could be mid-way through before she even realized it. That’s a confidence builder.

Best suited for girls in the second through fourth grades, Just Grace does have a few challenging components. Paragraphs can be quite long, and the vocabulary contains some real corkers for this age group, such as anthropology, inspiration and empathy. But with the author/illustrator’s lively and touching comic-style drawings and infrequent use of photos, the tough words are no roadblock. Instead, the book reads quirky and true, something utterly Grace.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….