Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Red, White & True Blue Mallory, by Laurie Friedman, reviewed by Freaky

We have several of the Mallory books here at the library, and they have not been terribly popular. Of course, neither has the book we reviewed yesterday, which we loved, so number of check-outs is not necessarily an indicator of quality.

These have all the attributes of, say, Junie B. Jones or Amber Brown which should make them appeal to younger girls, so we are inclined to think it is just lack of name recognition. We are going to start pointing them out to kids who ask for similar books, and see if circulation increases.

For those who are new to the series or who have read every title (more than a dozen) so far: Red, White and True Blue Mallory is written in journal format, which is a very popular venue these days, particularly with reluctant readers. It has more pictures than many of its predecessors, so in those respects it might make a good introduction to the series for someone who needs a little pushing.

The story itself, however, reads like a guidebook, as Mallory's class visits Washington D.C. A very entertaining guidebook, mind you, with tidbits like, "It took almost 30 years to build the Washington Monument (which is even longer than it takes my brother, Max, to finish a book report)", or "There are some very big monkeys at the [National] zoo called orangutans who know how to use a computer. HOW TOTALLY COOL IS THAT?" Mallory's enjoyment of the trip is clouded by her best friend, Mary Ann, paying more attention to a boy than to Mallory. The problem is that the guidebook part takes over the story part - in other words, it reads more like a guidebook with a story included as a way to connect the museums and monuments.

And they visit a LOT of museums and monuments. I think that is the root of the problem: when I read the itinerary at the front of the book, the list of places the class was going in a few short days made me want to crawl into my shell and hide in the mud. (Okay, the idea of traveling anywhere for four days with a class of ten-year-olds does that, but you get the picture.) For a field trip or for a chapter book, that was just too much information to try to cram in. I also - minor quibble - have to question a ten-year-old getting so excited about a loose tooth. Six, yes, ten - not so much.

So, to recap: a good series in general. The format might make it a good first choice, the content might not. Give it to girls in the 8-11 range, or young fans of American history.

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