Summary (from goodreads):
When Tara, a self-proclaimed shrinking violet, steals the school mascot, a goat, in order to make some friends with the popular crowd and gets caught, she gets herself in a heap of trouble. In addition, her parents decide that instead of taking her on their summer trip to Madagascar to study the courtship rituals of the Bamboo Lemur, she must go stay with her aunt, uncle, and bratty cousin Emily St. Claire in Willow Falls.
Tara thinks it’s a good time to start over; she’ll be turning 13 after all, so she might as well make the best of it and perhaps even attempt to break out of her shell (in a non-criminal manner). What Tara doesn’t know is that this charmed town has something big in store for her on her 13th birthday. It’s not a typical birthday. But then again, nothing is Willow Falls is exactly typical!
I adored Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life so when I saw Wendy Mass was signing at BEA I made sure I was there early! The book doesn’t come out until September, but I wanted to share it now so everyone else can get excited about it!
Wendy Mass seems to know that birthdays are really important to kids, especially their 13th birthday. This is her second book revolving around a deadline of turning 13, and it adds a layer of excitement and suspense.
There is also a mystical aspect to the book. There is a mysterious old woman who loves to give school students tasks to complete…and if they don’t she usually threatens dire circumstances. The fantastical element makes the book more fun to read and opens limitless possibilities.
The plot is also a lot of fun. Tara (and her friends) have to find 13 different items, all of which seem random and unconnected. It turns out they lead to more excitement and adventure for the entire town!
While the fantasy and the birthday is fun, what really makes this book are the characters and the relationships. Tara has moved around her entire life, so she is always on the outside of groups and doesn’t really know how to make friends and depend on others. Luckily, she is given a chance to make some real friends and learns what it is like. She is smart, kind, and it is so much fun to watch her grow.
All of her new friends are realistic and I think kids will be able to see themselves in someone. There is the sweet and nervous David, getting ready for his Bar Mitzvah, without his father by his side. He was my favorite character because he is so mature for his age and is the key for Tara and her journey.
It was another great book by Wendy Mass. She proves, once again, that she understand the middle grade audience. I am really glad I can give this to my husband’s middle school classroom!
Find this one for the 11-14 year old in your life!