23 October 2012

Review: 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass (Plus Feature)

Remember earlier this summer when I introduced you to the Scholastic Mother Daughter Book Club for middle readers? I'm committed to featuring or reviewing all the books selected for this club because I think Scholastic has picked winning titles that have broad appeal..

Don't forget that the Scholastic book club site includes more information about the books, recipes, reading guides, and contests. The resources are perfect for book clubs, teachers, homeschoolers, and any one who wants to get more out of reading books with middle grade readers.

The first selection for October is 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass. This is a light and funny story about Amanda Ellerby's eleventh birthday. Amanda was looking forward to her birthday party, even if this was going to be the first time she ever had her very own celebration. Last year, her best friend and birthday twin, Leo Fitzpatrick, wasn't very nice to her, and Amanda has been avoiding him ever since. Until this year, they've always had a joint party.

From the moment she wakes up, Amanda's birthday seems off to a rocky start: her dad has a cold, she forgot her school lunch, and her big sister is in a crabby mood. Plus Amanda's worried that her friends will be going to Leo's party instead of hers because his parents hired a band. When her own party that night turns out to be a dud, Amanda can't wait to go to sleep and begin a new day.

But when she wakes up in the morning it's not Saturday! To Amanda's confusion and fear, she's forced to live out her birthday again and again. Will she ever figure out a way to get back in sync with time?

Of course, you've immediately seen the similarity to the movie Groundhog Day, but Amanda's story is geared to young readers and incorporates some different themes. Amanda and Leo (who is also stuck in time) must research town lore, understand that there are consequences to their actions, learn that friendships have their ups and downs, and find some inner strength before they can wake to a new day.

I just couldn't help falling for Amanda. Author Wendy Mass clearly remembers what it's like to be a preteen, caught between being a little kid and an official teenager. Most girls will be able to relate to Amanda and her friends and will laugh at some of their antics.

The ten discussion questions over at the Scholastic mother-daughter book club site are sure to start some good conversations. And the apple cupcake recipe is a perfect choice for Amanda and Leo (you'll have to read the book to know why).

The second selection this month is Emily Rodda's The Golden Door, the first book in the Three Doors Trilogy. This is the story of Rye who must find a way to save his brothers who are trapped outside the safety of the city's wall. I've only just begun the book, but I love fantasies and can tell this will be a big hit with middle grade readers who like action, mysteries, myth, and fanciful creatures. The book is broken up by small (and widely scattered) black-and-white graphics of maps, signs, letters, and scrolls, which helps draw us deeper into an already engaging story.

The discussion questions on the book club site have to do with finding one's courage and paying attention to one's instincts. There are also themes of learning cooperation, the strength of family, and figuring out puzzles. The recipe for this book is honey cheesecake squares, which Rye's mother may have made her sons.

I can't wait to finish The Golden Door; I love fantasies that involve quests and myth. Plus Rye and his family are easy to root for because Emily Rodda's characters are so well developed. In addition, as Publishers Weekly pointed out, Rye's journey is not one of a higher calling but more of a personal mission to find the brothers he loves.

This post will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy 11 Birthdays at an Indie or at a bookstore near you (link leads to an affiliate program).
Scholastic Press, 2009; ISBN-13: 9780545052399
Buy The Golden Door at an Indie or at a bookstore near you (link leads to an affiliate program).
Scholastic Press, 2011; ISBN-13: 99780545429900
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Zibilee 10/23/12, 10:39 AM  

This does remind me of Groundhog Day, and Before I Fall, which are targeted at an older audience, but have interesting stories. I think this would be perfect for the tween girl that wants to devour a story that both keeps things lively and has a lovable protagonist. Excellent review today. I am going to look for this one for myself, even though I'm not in the target age group!

Belle Wong 10/23/12, 1:14 PM  

11 Birthdays sounds like a sweet read, but I'm especially intrigued by The Golden Door. Just added it to my TBR list and put in a request for it at the library. Great reviews!

bermudaonion 10/23/12, 3:13 PM  

I thought 11 Birthdays was terrific too!

Vasilly 10/23/12, 10:16 PM  

11 Birthdays sounds like a win! I had no idea that Scholastic had a mother-daughter book club going on. I'm going to check out the titles. Thanks!

Robin M 10/24/12, 12:49 AM  

The Golden Door sounds like one my son would like. I'll have to read it first, of course. :)

Joanna Hennon 10/25/12, 2:27 PM  

11 Birthdays sounds like something I'd love even though I'm nowhere near the target age group. And I don't even have a daughter I could use as an excuse!

Julie P. 10/28/12, 8:13 PM  

We are huge Wendy Mass fans. 11 Birthdays was Booking Daughter's favorite book for a very long time.

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