Starring Jules (as herself) by Beth Ain

Jules doesn’t want to ruin THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME, and she’s willing to turn to anyone for help–even her know-it-all ex-best friend! If only that lovely new girl in class would turn out to be the new best friend of her dreams, maybe, just maybe, Jules will be ready for her close-up


To be released March 2013

First, big thanks to Scholastic for the ARC of this hilarious easy chapter book. Best suited for children ages 7-10, this book has wide appeal.  Jules is one unique kid with a huge dislike of the color orange. Her mother calls her ‘wacky’ and her ex best friend describes her as ‘the anti-lip-gloss-queen-of –the-worms’.  I simply adored the character of Jules, especially her love of writing lists.  Some of her list titles include: ‘things I would change about my room’, and ‘things to do before I turn eight’.  Sigh… I wish my lists still looked like that!

The interesting chapter titles hint to readers what’s in store for Jules.  My favourite chapter title is ‘Take Six: Promising Playdates, Spaghetti with Peanut Butter and Other distractions’.  Her lists, actions and worries are all very realistic for a girl her age.  Although readers may not be able to relate to her wish for stardom, they will understand her friendship struggles.

The black and white drawings throughout were a fun addition.  Since this was an ARC, only a couple were included but look for more images in the published version.  Lastly, as a librarian, I applaud Ain for introducing readers to new vocabulary. Jules learns the meaning of argyle, pizzazz, snazzy, and improvise.  The learning of new words was done in a natural way and I’m sure kids will positively respond to this way of learning (like Fancy Nancy).

CHA-CHA-CHA (because it’s always a good idea).

Review: Winter town by Stephen Emond

Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent’s divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she’s changed. The former “girl next door” now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, “Old Lucy” still exists, and he’s determined to find her… even if it means pissing her off.

I think Emonds did a great job at writing a contemporary YA novel that tackles issues that have long plagued teens and young adults. In the book, Lucy is experiencing the effects of a broken home and turning to drugs and alcohol. On the flip side, Evan is dealing with his micromanaging parents and trying to live up to their expectations.

Both Evan’s and Lucy’s story is told in third person. The first half is Evan’s perspective and the second is Lucy’s. I found that it was less confusing than alternating chapters. It is interesting to note that Evan’s chapters were named after Beatles songs, and Lucy’s had Beach Boys (their favourite artists).

Visual elements played a big part in the book starting with the beautiful cover.  Circles created from a hole punch were used as snow!  Since art/comics are significant in both Evan and Lily’s lives there are bits of cartoons throughout the story. At the beginning of every chapter there is also a two-page cartoon spread. I’m not a huge cartoon/graphic novel lover so I have to admit I didn’t quite understand Evan’s drawings of ‘Aelysthia’ (Evan and Lucy’s made up fantasy world).

Overall, many teens will be able to relate to having dysfunctional families, the difficulty of maintaining childhood friendships, and living up to others expectations.  The book will also appeal to those that appreciate graphics to break up the text.

In the end, the book reminded me to not ‘sweat the small stuff’ in my daily life as others around me are often dealing with much bigger issues. On tough days, try to remember:

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