Kiki of Lotus Lane

kiki cover

Lotus Lane #1: Kiki: My Stylish Life

By Kyla May


Published by: Scholastic Inc. (April 30, 2013)

Available in: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were four books in the Lotus Lane series.


Fact: girls can be silly.

Lotus Lane #1: Kiki: My Stylish Life is a modern chapter book in look, feel and subject matter. It is written for and will be enjoyed by girly girls who like fashion, access to the popular girls’ club and a peek into a lively diary that is more rambling thought than plot.

With a graphic novel layout and illustrations reminiscent of the Hello Kitty brand, Kiki is part of Scholastic’s excellent Branches line of chapter books. But for the first time, I’m not completely in love with a book in this line—but not because of poor production.

In fact, this book is just as slick and well-designed as the other Branches books. It appeals to a very specific target market with light, reality-based dialogue, lots of dazzling fashion content and a silliness embraced with fashionista zeal. On the more serious side, it also deals with the misunderstood/mean girl issue. And the graphic novel format has, so far, been more available for boys (Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid), so it’s nice that girls have a choice here, too.

My problem is that the fun quickly turns annoying and exhibits less than model behavior. Kiki and her friends bash the new girl and obsess about what they’ll wear to school each day. What was OTT (over the top) fun with a BFF in chapter one becomes snarky and shallow by chapter three. It’s a good book—it just made me cringe. I found Kiki a little like eating too many donuts: the idea is delicious, but even before the halfway point, I felt sort of sick.

To Branches I have to say, Bravo for the line. But is Kiki really the best you can do? And do we really want to promote this kind of individual to our second grade girls?

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


Marty McGuire

Marty cover

Marty McGuire

By Kate Messner and Brian Floca, Illustrated by Brian Flocca


Published by: Scholastic Paperbacks (May 1, 2011)

Available in: paperback, library binding, audible audio, preloaded digital audio player, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were two books in the Marty McGuire series, with the third expected in April 2015.



Marty McGuire is a smart, brave, confident girl who’d rather wade for frogs than don a tiara, and for that any tomboy will love her.

Perfect for second and third grade readers, this book starts in a comfortable chapter-book zone, complete with all the usual suspects. There’s a kind but quirky teacher who endlessly shakes maracas. A bossy, prissy classmate is antagonistic and annoying from the start. A friend from the previous school year has defected her friendship, and Marty finds this a mystery and galling. There’s a play at school that provides the framework for the book’s plot. In the end, Marty has to grow, compromise and show some spunk.

All this is perfectly acceptable and palatable. Kids like the familiar, and this story feels familiar for a good bit of the first half. But about halfway through, an inventive, unique verve takes over. Marty becomes a truly original character who takes bold chances and shows her iconoclastic ways. As a character, she starts slow, but she blooms in the end.

The simple but quite physical and expressive illustrations enhance the story. They don’t just show moments or scenes, they show emotions and movement.

The story also has a fair amount of animal behavior, habitat and conservation information, all slipped in with ease and just enough science. That’s a nice extra touch.

And I gotta admit, the name “Marty” for a brave, confident girl is pretty fabulous. Just sayin’.

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