Friday, July 13, 2012

Touching MIddle Reader Series

The Mother-Daughter Book Club
All women remember that age. You were about 11 or 12 years old, heading into the stage where boys were cute, brothers were horrid, and parents were embarrassing. It last about until you were 18. And school? Well, school was a battlefield. Essentially they were the hardest years of your life. Now imagine your mother and some other mothers decided to have a Mother-Daughter Book Club with girls you would never speak to in school... unless they were spreading vicious rumors about you, but you can't really call that "speaking", now can you?! In The Mother-Daughter Book Club, Heather Vogel Frederick gives her characters plenty to think about as they survive 6th grade and their mothers.

Cassidy is a tomboy who loves to play hockey and embarrasses her supermodel mother with every burp and outburst. Emma is the poor, pudgy daughter of intellectuals who named her and her brother after Jane Austen characters (Darcy?! No wonder the boy played hockey!). Jess is a shy, sweet farm girl battling her own issues on the home front since her mother moved to NY to be an actress while dealing with issues at school where everyone tells her she stinks and calls her Goat Girl. Megan is one of the popular girls and would sooner die than be caught hanging out with Cassidy, Emma, and Goat Girl. But when their mothers start a book club (sans Jess's mom who is MIA), they have no choice but to all get together once a month. They may have no choice about attendance, but they don't have to pretend they like it.

At first all the girls hate the idea, but slowly they begin to enjoy reading Little Women, especially since Louisa May Alcott lived and wrote the story in their town! Their mothers have made the club pretty fun and not hard, so they can live through the meetings once a month. But the book club is a constant reminder for Jess that her mother has left her family behind. It also reveals the tensions between the mothers and daughters themselves. But when Megan and her followers pull a prank that went way too far, the whole Book Club is threatened. Now the girls and their mothers must decide whether the Book Club can survive a betrayal as bad as Megans, but if the girls didn't want the club in the first place, what is going to make them try to save it?

I had a feeling this was going to be an adorable story, and I was right! These girls are a wonderful mix of characters from the Queen Bee to the target to the hockey playing tomboy/jock. It explores this mix of girls and how they interact when they must be on their best behavior in front of all their mothers. But more importantly, it explores their interactions when their moms aren't around, and it can get ugly! I think my favorite character had to be Cassidy who knew she could never live up to her model mother and just wanted to play hockey. In fact, when there was no hockey team for girls in the town, she didn't hesitate to hide her identity and try out for the boys' team! She was a real butt-kickin' girl, and she wasn't afraid to stand up to Megan and her cronies. I liked the other girls, even Megan eventually, but I loved Cassidy!

This also explores that sacred yet tenuous relationship between mother and daughter. Any of you daughters out there can admit that this relationship is always a little strained but devoted at the same time. I am 31 and my relationship with my mom is that exactly! So the different girls and their wildly different mothers all came together for one big lesson: mothers and daughters love each other, but sometimes they don't see each other enough to understand each other. I think this would be a great lesson for any young lady struggling at this age to traverse life with her mom (or her mom struggling to deal with a daughter this age!). This book is best for a high skilled 4th grader through about 7th grade. It is written in simple language, but the book is fun and has great characters. I look forward to the other books in the series, and might even have to read Little Women again!

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