Children's Books: Keeping It Age-Appropriate
By Catherine Bateson
Holiday House, $7.95
Secrets, Lies and My Sister Kate
By Belinda Hollyer
Holiday House, $16.95
By Nancy Springer
Holiday House, $16.95
Readers often ask if particular books are appropriate for their children, as age guidelines on book jackets can be misleading.
In this and following reviews, I'm offering movie-rating-type guides, which I hope will help. Reading along with or discussing the stories is the best screening.
"Being Bee" is modern day, first-person bibliotherapy for the pre-teen adjusting to a new adult in the house. Main character Bee has trouble adjusting to her dad's new girlfriend, Jazzi.
Once again modern morality rolls its eyes at traditional values, and Bee is made to feel foolish for being uncomfortable when Jazzi stays the night. Other than that, Bee is the usual moody but charming middle-schooler. She deals with fickle girlfriends, dotes on her pet guinea pigs, and tries to be standoffish to Jazzi, even as she admits Jazzi isn't all bad.
An endearing part of the story reveals that Jazzi has a mentally challenged brother, whom Bee readily accepts and befriends. Prudereview rating PG: live-in relationship.
Titled like a taboo tale, "Secrets, Lies and My Sister Kate" pleasantly surprises with the heart-hugging story of sisters Mini and Kate. The siblings are admirably close, and escape their parents' arguing by going on imaginary journeys. Pretending that they are choosing camels and tracing the Old Silk Route, Mini and Kate enjoy exercising not only their imaginations, but their geography acumen as well.
Mini, a self-labeled geography nerd, finds it difficult to make friends, so is delighted when a new boy with a slight stutter but wide open heart arrives in her class. When Kate disappears, Mini's new friend helps by listening and offering much-needed support. Prudereview PG: teen runaway, adoption distress.
"Somebody" is the story of 15-year-old Sherica, who has also gone by the names Debbie, Suzy, Louanne, Rose, Patty, and Marsha. Sherica isn't schizophrenic -- she was abducted by father when she was a child. He keeps on the move to evade the authorities.
Though he doesn't physically abuse Sherica or her older brother, he emotionally berates her for being overweight, even while pacifying her with cookies and ice cream to keep her emotionally weak and depressed. With little self esteem, Sherica is brainwashed into believing that her mother was a tramp, and never wanted anything to do with her.
Finally developing the resolve to find out the truth of her past, Sherica accesses a library's computer and finds Web sites and news stories about her childhood abduction. A library worker reads the computer links that Sherica inadvertently leaves open, and urges her to break free from her father.
Prudereview PG-13: brief pornography and fantasy references.
For more of Vermeulen's reviews visit www.prudereviews.blogspot.com.
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