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Girls Acting CattyReview - Girls Acting Catty
by Leslie Margolis
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 2010
Review by Christian Perring
Jan 11th 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 2)

We met sixth-grade student Annabelle in Boys Are Dogs, where she learned how to deal with boys by using the basic skills of puppy-training.  She still has those skills in this follow-up, but it turns out that they are not very helpful when faced with a more difficult problem: mean girls.  Annabelle has one group of friends, and they are taunted by another group of popular girls.  The meanest popular girl is Taylor, who finds subtle ways to make Annabelle feel bad about herself.  She asks Annabelle if she has started shaving her legs yet, making her feel self-conscious about her new leg hair.  Her best friend Rachel is dead set against Taylor, but Annabelle is a bit more open minded and is ready to give her a chance.  So part of the story is a morality tale, in which Annabelle has to decide who is good and who is bad, and whether the attraction of being friends with the popular girls is worth losing her best friend.  One strength of the book is that it allows some complexity -- it isn't completely black and white about who is driven by insecurity and who is motivated by generosity. 

Another theme of the book is puberty.  Annabelle not only has to get her first bra, but she develops her first crush, which totally destroys her concentration and makes her feel very strange.  It's made more complicated by the fact that her crush is on her 20-year-old step brother who is good looking and visiting from Switzerland.  But maybe that's better than getting crushes on boys in her own grade, which is what her friends are doing.  The girls start "going out" with the boys, but Annabelle can't work out what that means -- it seems to mainly involve them passing notes to each other saying whether they are going out or not.  Even though relationships often only last a few days, the children still get their feelings hurt when they get dumped or used, especially when the mean girls start scheming. 

Annabelle gets some understanding of a real relationship from her mother and her mother's fiancé arguing over their forthcoming wedding.  She is not initially enthusiastic about being the maid of honor, but eventually Annabelle starts to bond with her mother over the change in their family.  The book is a nice portrayal not only of sixth grade life but also of a girl's changing relationship with her mother as both of them go through major transitions.

 

© 2011 Christian Perring        

  

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York


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