Sunday, February 1, 2009

THE KIND OF FRIEND WE USED TO BE by Frances O'Roark Dowell

The friendship adventures of Kate and Marylin continue in THE KIND OF FRIENDS WE USED TO BE. The girls were in sixth grade in THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF GIRLS, and now they are in seventh.

Marylin continues to hang out with the cheerleaders, although she is gradually beginning to realize that the controlling Mazie does not always have her best interests in mind. When Marylin meets Rhetta the new girl, she never dreams that they could have so much in common. Rhetta's gorgeous anime drawings of fairies remind Marylin of the stories she constantly imagines but never has the courage to put down on paper. Their unlikely friendship gives Marylin the inspiration to stay a cheerleader but not follow the crowd just for the sake of following.

Kate also makes some new and different friendship connections. Who would have guessed that Flannery who just a year ago had made Kate feel so awful could possibly become someone with whom she can share some of her most personal thoughts. When Kate decides to move from an interest in basketball to taking up the guitar, Flannery provides the support and encouragement Kate needs. Kate also finds another musical kindred spirit when she meets Matthew Holler. He is not like the other boys. He recognizes her need to be something other than a girly-girl, and he really listens and cares about the song lyrics she feels driven to create.

Both Kate and Marylin realize their friendship will survive the test of time, but they also realize that they will both need other friends to support them as their interests and needs change.

Again Frances O'Roark Dowell tells a story that will connect with middle grade readers. She covers the topics of struggling friendships, divorcing parents, and the need to be an individual - all subjects that complicate the growing up process. Both THE KIND OF FRIENDS WE USED TO BE and THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF GIRLS would be excellent additions to any middle grade classroom or library.

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