среда, 4 июня 2008 г.

Chick lit author gives girls good read

Meg Cabot does chick lit, and she does it well.

She's had steady success with dozens of fun, sassy titles for women, including the Heather Wells mysteries and the recent "Queen of Babble" series.

Her charming book for young adults, "The Princess Diaries," spawned sequels and spinoffs in the double digits, including two Hollywood movies.

And it seems like every few months, she's produces another title for teen girls. A recent example is "Airhead." Its grabby premise: A down-to-earth New York City girl suffers an accident and wakes up in a model's body.

With "Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day," Cabot targets third-and fourth-grade girls for the first time, and she hits the mark.

Allie Finkle is edgy and interesting enough to engage bright, savvy 8- and 9-year-olds. But at heart, the story is wholesome and family-oriented.

The great cover is the first sign that this book will win over kids and parents.

Allie is represented by a photo. She's adorable, full of attitude and with cowgirl boots and beaded belt, she's clearly got style. But she's not dressed like a 25-year-old.

Even cooler, the cover folds out into a poster, with variations on Allie's outfit and some of her "rules."

Inside, each chapter starts off with a rule foreshadowing the contents. Some are goofy, some serious. Rule No. 1 will draw readers right in: "Don't stick a spatula down your best friend's throat."

Bad choice, but readers will empathize. The friend could be a spoiled brat.

Things get even rougher when Allie's parents announce the family is going to move. They've found a big old house in town.

It's one of those decisions that seems so right from a parental point of view. A glorious old Victorian to restore. More room for Allie and her two little brothers. A school within walking distance. It's only a half-hour away. Allie can see old friends.

The move seems all wrong to Allie. She'll trade pink carpet in her room for a house that looks haunted. She's leaving her modern suburban school for a rundown school in town. Plus, she'll be a new kid in fourth grade, a scary prospect in itself. But one teacher seems wonderful and the other, deadly dull. There's no telling which class she'll land in.

Cabot does a terrific job weaving many layers into Allie's story. She has friend troubles at home, so a fresh start has advantages, especially when she discovers a spunky girl lives next door to the new house. But the unknown is terrifying.

A funny, harrowing side plot deals with Allie's passion for animals. She rescues a turtle from a Chinese restaurant and a prize show cat that a classmate has shut in a suitcase, earning her both admiration and a heap of trouble.

Characters, both adults and kids, are multidimensional. Discerning youngsters will see that Allie's mom and dad aren't the bad guys. And readers will be as delighted as Allie when her parents unveil the pretty bedroom they've created for her in the new house.

Adults sometimes cast a rosy glow around childhood. For each of us who wishes we were 9 again when life was easy, there's a 9-year-old who knows it's not.

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