mary's book basket ~ author wendy mass

Recently I have had several friends ask me for book recommendations for their 4th through 7th graders. They were looking for books "besides the classics" that would be appropriate for an impressionable young lady or gentleman.

It's been a bit of time since I have had a pre-teen in the house but I love a challenge. I needed to find books that were "clean" and would be encouraging to their young readers. They had to be entertaining with a solid plot structure that would hold the young readers attention. So off to the library I went and after a lovely conversation with my wonderful librarian, I dove into the stacks to check to her recommendations. I was not disappointed.

I stumbled upon the gifted children's author Wendy Mass. What a treat!

First in my basket was 11 Birthday's.

From Booklist:
"Amanda and Leo, born on the same day, have celebrated their birthdays together for 10 years. Still feeling hurt from an unkind remark Leo made at last year’s party, Amanda spends her eleventh birthday without her now-estranged friend to share the fun. In the days that follow, both Amanda and Leo discover that they are caught in a time loop, waking up each morning to find themselves repeating their eleventh birthdays. They soon renew their friendship and begin to experiment by making different choices throughout the day, partly for the thrill of acting without long-term consequences and partly from their fear of never escaping this mysterious time trap."

This was a wonderful book. The mystery of the time trap is a creative plot device that assists in slowly revealing the theme of the book. Attitude is everything. Amanda Ellerby thinks she's losing her mind when she "repeats" her 11th birthday. She discovers that even the smallest act of kindness can have a huge impact on someones day, especially hers. She realizes she can do anything she sets her mind to and be successful. Mind over matter wins the day.

Ms. Mass writes in the first person which helps the reader identify with Amanda revealing her inner struggles with self doubt and fear of failure. As she's given chance after chance to relive the same day, Amanda begins to make different choices that profoundly affect those around her in a positive way. She learns to forgive and encourage. What a wonderful uplifting read for any pre-teen.

Next in my basket was Finally Ms. Mass writes about Rory Swenson who cannot wait to turn 12.

From Booklist:
"Rory has a list of things she longs to do when she turns 12: stay home alone, shave her legs, babysit, wear makeup, drink coffee . . . So overprotected that she has never ridden in the front seat of a car, Rory can’t wait for her birthday. But those long-anticipated experiences bring some disconcerting surprises. In this sequel to 11 Birthdays, Amanda and Leo play minor roles and wise woman Angelina works her magic again. Rory’s lively first-person narrative clearly expresses her emotions as she seesaws between longing and fear, confidence and insecurity."

Rory Swenson reminded me of a pre-teen Lucille Ball. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Mass pulls out all the stops with the physical comedy, showcasing her brilliant pacing and comedic timing. There was one scene where Rory is trying to shave her legs for the first time that had me right back in my parents bathroom reliving the same moment. I laughed out loud so many times I lost count.

The real treasure however is the continued positive themes of self-sacrifice, generosity and kindness. "You won't get what you want until you see what you need" appears over and over again throughout the book as Rory struggles to discover that everything she thinks is so important may turn out to be no big deal afterward. Things are not always what they appear to be is the central theme. Mass weaves a modern moral tale which is a delight to read.

Another positive point in BOTH books was the portrayal of the parents. Mass shows their struggle to recognize their children are growing up. I particularly appreciate Rory's mom who is trying to let go and allow her little girl to spread her wings. Well done Ms. Mass. I look forward to reading some of your other work. I hope it's as positive as these two books. If so, your welcome on my bookshelf at anytime.

Happy Reading,
**The FCC now requires book reviewers to disclose the following. Book reviews appear regularly on this website. There are books I review on this site that I purchase myself or get from the library. However, occasionally I do receive books, at no cost, in exchange for a fair and balanced review with no other compensation provided.