Posts tagged ‘reviews’

Review: THE DAUGHTERS by Joanna Philbin

When fourteen-year-old Lizzie Summers slips up and reveals on camera that being the daughter of a supermodel isn’t always glamorous and wonderful, it sparks a huge fight between her and her mom, but it also prompts a photographer to ask Lizzie to model for her. All her life Lizzie has felt that her crooked nose, frizzy red hair, and bushy eyebrows have made her the beast to her mother’s beauty, though, so she’s not sure she can accept the offer, even if the photographer specializes in “new pretty,” regular people whose flaws make them beautiful. Lizzie also doesn’t know if she can operate in her mother’s world–or if her mom will even let her do it.

Complicating matters further, Todd Piedmont, Lizzie’s childhood friend and the boy with whom she shared her first kiss at eight years old, has just moved back from London and she’s getting mixed signals from him. He seems to be interested in her–he even tried to kiss her before his party–but now he’s dating Ava Elting, the snobbiest girl in school.

Through it all, Lizzie knows she can always count on her friends Carina Jurgensen and Hudson Jones. Carina’s dad runs a media empire and Hudson’s mom is a famous pop star, so they know what it’s like to always be in a parent’s spotlight. Together the girls figure out who they are beyond just being their parents’ daughters and make sense of boys and social politics at school.

Gossip Girl/Clique/Mean Girls-style books aren’t usually my thing, but I liked the twist here that the parents are famous, not the girls themselves–something Philbin must know herself from experience, since she’s the daughter of Regis Philbin. THE DAUGHTERS was also less racy than I was expecting; although one character is accused of “hooking up” with a girl we never meet, the main romantic arc culminates in nothing more than a knee-watering kiss. And in general the characters here were nicer than I was expecting. Maybe all of this gentler content is because the characters are fourteen and the book is aimed at readers 12+.

At some points the writing relies on clich├ęs (Lizzie’s friends are a Brita filter, the clouds are fluffy like cotton candy, someone’s jaw actually drops open) and the romantic part of the plot is fairly predictable and the cliffhanger seemed a little cheap (Lizzie’s story is wrapped up pretty nicely but the last page and a half introduce a new crisis in Carina’s life).

Overall, though, it’s a good first novel that I really warmed up to as I read on. The characters are what make the book interesting: they’re genuinely trying to figure out who they are and to stay true to themselves. Rather than focusing on status and scandal, Lizzie and the other daughters affirm reliability and the importance of friends and family.

A note on the cover: the ARC I have is a similar design, but the three girls are all clearly dark-haired (the girls in the story are a blond, a brunette, and a redhead). The updated cover reflects the girls’ different looks and gives them more interesting outfits. The cover was actually my biggest problem with the book, so I’m glad to see it fixed. I’m still not a fan of the umbrella, but at least the cover models look like the characters.

THE DAUGHTERS will be out in May and the second book in the trilogy, THE DAUGHTERS BREAK THE RULES, comes out in November.

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Book source: ARC from the publisher at PLA

If you’d like to read this book, I’ll send you my ARC. You have to promise, though, that you’ll either post a review online or send one to the publisher and that you’ll pass it on to someone else when you’re finished with the same conditions attached. Whoever emails me first gets it!

April 2, 2010 at 1:55 PM Leave a comment

Review: I Am Going! by Mo Willems

The cover of Mo Willems's book I AM GOING! from the Elephant and Piggie series

I’ve written before about my love for Mo Willems and I finally got to the top of the holds list at my local public library for the latest in his Elephant and Piggie series, I AM GOING!. It’s currently #8 on the New York Times Children’s Book Bestsellers List; Willems also holds spots #5 and #7 for CAT THE CAT, WHO IS THAT? and LET’S SAY HI TO FRIENDS WHO FLY!, respectively.

Willems’s sense of body language and facial expressions are once again spot-on: with a restricted vocabulary, so much is conveyed through an arched eyebrow or a tilted ear, and there’s a lot of humor Piggie being flipped upside-down by Gerald’s outbursts. And I love the humor in the details with Piggie’s watch existing only when she needs to check the time and the Pigeon’s cameo on Gerald’s silly hat and the Piggie-themed calendar (I’d buy that!).

The book also touches on a lot of developmentally appropriate ideas and literacy concepts. When Gerald is trying to persuade Piggie to leave later, he asks in specific increments of time of increasing size (tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year). Readers learn that tiny text in a big bubble means whispering or whimpering, and are exposed to italicized words along with their non-emphasized counterparts (“Why? Why? Why? Why?“). Adding “Who will I skip with?”, “Who will I play Ping-Pong with?” and “Who will I wear a silly hat with?” becomes “WHO WILL I SKIP AND PLAY PING-PONG IN A SILLY HAT WITH?!?!”

But I have to admit that this isn’t my favorite of the Elephant and Piggie books. (That would probably be THERE IS A BIRD ON YOUR HEAD! or ARE YOU READY TO PLAY OUTSIDE? or maybe even I WILL SURPRISE MY FRIEND!) It seems like the book focuses too much on the build-up to the twist, and the dialog is fairly one-sided (which was especially evident when Brittany and I read the book aloud to Erin during lunch).

Don’t get me wrong, though. Mo Willems’s books, even the ones that aren’t his best, are still at the top of the heap when it comes to children’s books. This entire series is a must-have for any library with beginning readers for their story and humor, which appeal to children and grown-ups alike.

(Have I mentioned how totally hilarious I find it that @The_Pigeon follows both @ChicagoHotDog and @GreyhoundBus?)

March 9, 2010 at 11:12 PM Leave a comment