Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review - The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang by Amy Ignatow

Summary: (via Goodreads) Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang are best friends with one goal: to crack the code of popularity. Lydia’s the bold one: aspiring theater star, stick-fighting enthusiast, human guinea pig. Julie’s the shy one: observer and artist, accidental field hockey star, faithful recorder. In this notebook they write down their observations and carry out experiments to try to determine what makes the popular girls tick. But somehow, when Lydia and Julie try to imitate the popular girls, their efforts don’t translate into instant popularity. Lydia ends up with a bald spot, their parents won’t stop yelling, and Julie finds herself the number-one crush of Roland Asbjørnsen. Worse, they seem to be drifting farther and farther from their goal—and each other.

Review: Awesome! That’s all I have to say about the “Popularity Papers” by Amy Ignatow. It’s a children’s book, but one that even an adult can enjoy. Most simply described, it is a scientific approach to climbing the popularity ladder in the minds of two 10-year-old girls. The book is written entirely in the girls’ loopy and uneven script and is also illustrated by them! Very cute!

(image stolen from NYT article about the book)
It’s really funny and heartwarming, in a children’s book type of way. The thought process of these two characters (Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang) is perfect (and I do have some authority when I say this because I know a 5th grader or two.) They come up with some clever observations about popularity, and follow these up with ludicrous plans on how to apply what they learn on themselves. The outcomes are a mixture of success and failure, but neither girl dwells too much on their failures.

The two best parts of the book are the friendship between Lydia and Julie, which is really sweet and lovely and a genuine portrayal what best friends should be, and the family situations the girls are in: Lydia is raised by a single mother and Julie has two dads. The author doesn’t try to explain or rationalize their situations but somehow makes them completely natural and normal as the story progresses.

I have a nephew who is 10 years old and I sometimes read the books he reads (especially now in the summer months when he has vacation) so that we can discuss them together…he is very bright! But I know that it can sometimes be challenging to entice a kid his age to read. This book, although clearly geared towards girls and not something he might be interested in, uses brilliant visual techniques to pull you in (very similar to the ones utilized in the Wimpy Kid series) and I think it would really interest someone his age. Heck, I really got into it myself.

Lit Snit Verdict: B

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