Saturday, September 27, 2008

Elvis and Olive

I thought this was a fantastic book. I loved the characters: book smart, lives-in-her-mind, socially reserved Natalie, and "feral cat" Annie (Natalie's description). The opening scene is their very strained but hilarious first encounter. They become fast friends and immediately form a secret club, with secret names (Elvis and Olive) and the secret mission of uncovering as many "good" secrets about their neighbors as possible. The two girl spies are good at their self-assigned task and manage to uncover some secrets that lead to tricky situations and more power than they know how to responsibly handle (including secrets about each other). The lessons they learn about friendship and privacy and community are rich and are very well earned by the careful story development and true to character writing. Stephanie Watson zooms in on what it's like to be a 10-year-old girl with that same sweet accuracy as Jenny Han does with her 12-year-old characters in Shug.

I hate that this great book about ten-year-old girls will be a rather hard sell with my eleven-turning-twelve-year-old students. Sixth graders are fussy like that. I think I can make the hard sell, and I'll put some serious effort into it because the reading level of the text is right at the "enjoyment level" of my students, because it's a story I think they'll delight in, if they give it a chance, and because I think it's far better written than those silly vampire books that my students can't get enough of.