A Book Review of:
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11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass
Amanda has not been looking forward to her eleventh birthday ever since she and her best friend Leo (who has the same birthday) stopped talking to each other a year ago at their 10th birthday party. After suffering through it, she wakes up the next morning just to realize that she has to live the day all over again-- school, gymnastics tryouts, and her crummy party!
I started listening to this as an audiobook, which was very well done, but I checked out the book because I wanted to read more. This book is perfectly written -- from Amanda's point of view, Wendy Mass accurately depicts the feelings of Amanda as she experiences her birthday. From embarrassment, disappointment, and anxiety to her humor, excitement, and pride, Amanda's a very well-rounded character who is extremely believable and likable. Although there is the hint of fantasy (the repeating of a day over and over again), it reads like realistic fiction. It's a great story about friendship and generosity as well, and for anyone who has gone through a rough patch in friendship, it also proves to be a good example
of forgiveness. It was a light, quick read that left me wondering what I might do if I had to repeat a terrible day all over again.
At the middle school age, it's critical that kids learn how to deal with things going on around them, especially regarding their relationships with their friends and peers. But in addition, they are learning how to respect themselves and find how to be true to themselves. This book is a wonderful example of that, but it doesn't feel like you're being taught a lesson either.
This would be a great book for a book club to read -- things to talk about could include:
- If you had to live an important (or especially miserable day), what would you do differently?
- What other stories have you come across where people have had the chance to redo something in their lives? How did their stories turn out?
- Has there ever been a time when you've said something you regretted that hurt your friendships?
- What do you think the role of the old woman really was?
- If you could give Leo a gift that would remind him of this experience, what would it be?
Amanda's sister, Kylie, gives Amanda a diary for her birthday gift. Participants could decorate a diary or journal of their own.
Allow kids to face their fears the way Leo does, and hold an Open Mic Night -- allow kids to read their poems or stories out loud to an audience. It's a great way to get them to express themselves, have fun with words, and face their fears of speaking in public (and doesn't almost everyone have those?).