A Three-Book Series for the Girls

I admit to a weakness for Maine authors, especially when they live in the same town as me, as does Jennifer Richard Jacobson.  That said, I would love her Winnie series no matter what.  First off, I have immense respect for authors who can tell a satisfying story in 112 pages.  What a gift to children eager to read a novel but not ready for the thick, complex books older middle graders read!  Not one extra word in the whole book, I tell you.  Brilliant.

Winnie Fletcher differs from popular Ramona/Judy Moody-type characters– bold and wacky– because she is vulnerable.  Perhaps this makes her a bit more real.  An only child, Winnie’s mother died when she was an infant. For most young girls (and their moms!), this premise is both terrifying and fascinating. Left to navigate the world of childhood friendships, ballet recitals, packing for camp, and such with her loving if hapless dad, Winnie is at once buoyant and self-doubting.  Jacobson never dwells on the sadness inherent to the situation, but rather on spinning situations that keep us rooting for Winnie to find her way.

In Truly Winnie (my favorite of the three), Winnie is off to overnight camp for the first time.  She’s going with her two best friends, but they are assigned a different tent. Winnie’s tent-mate is confident, bubbly, and gregarious, and in an effort to impress her, Winnie inadvertently leads her to believe her mom is alive.  And a famous artist.  Whoops.

The lie gets bigger and bigger as the week progresses, and all kinds of tension bubbles around Winnie’s being able to keep her home friends from knowing her lie or spilling the truth to her camp friends.  Everything builds to Parents Weekend, when she’ll have to keep dad in the dark or blow her new friendships– and risk dad’s disappointment.  The poignancy of this predicament may resonate more with the adult reader than the child, but all kids know what it’s like to get caught up in fibbing.  Winnie manages to learn her lesson and save face at the same time in a resolution that resists moralizing.

The other two books are equally worth reading. Winnie Dancing on her Own deals with a question all kids face at one time or another:  What do you do when two of your closest friends are crazy about an activity you simply don’t enjoy (in this case, ballet)?  If you don’t do it, will they still be your friends?  In Winnie at Her Best, Winnie struggles to find her own special talent or skill.  Why are everyone else’s so obvious?  What if she doesn’t have any talent at all?

Great characters, masterfully tight plotting, universal issues about growing up, and fun details (have you ever heard of a “floating lunch” when campers attach their lunches to flotation devices and eat in the lake?  Cool!)   I hope you can get your mitts on these.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julie Otte
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 19:49:13

    I was intrigued and picked up all 3 books today. Very easy read. Tore thru the dancing one in about 1/2 hour. I love the big print so I don’t have to wear my reading glasses. The most important part of this book for me was the fact that it showed the 3 girls having disagreements and working them out! I remember at that age telling my best friend I would never be her friend again. I think this will show young girls that it is okay to have a little tif with their friend and still be friends. I’m going to take the camp book up to camp to read this weekend.


  2. cameronkellyrosenblum
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 20:15:41

    I think the books are genius in the friendship department. I love how the author gets so much across in so few words. The camp book is so fun!! Glad you are enjoying the list.

    How did the merlot/chip combo work out for ya?? 🙂


  3. Meg Wilson
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 20:46:10

    I love this great new venue for kid lit chatter! Love the bright, airy look and “feel” to it as well. Wow! Count me in as a member of your Feeding the Flashlight Fan Club!


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