Starring Jules (As Herself) is the first book in a new early chapter book series by Beth Ain. I've been hearing good things about this series, and after reading the first book, I think that Jules is going to join the ranks of Clementine and Ivy and Bean as early chapter book staples.
As you can see on the cover image, seven-year-old Jules is full of joy. As the book begins, she sings a jingle about fizzy ice cream to her family in a cafe, catching the attention of a casting director for a mouthwash commercial. After that, realistic and over-the-top worries about her audition mix with friendship dynamics, as we spend a week in the life of Jules.
Jules makes witty lists. She rails against the former best friend who has become too interested in sparkly, girly things. She loves turquoise. She defends her four-year-old brother (and does n-o-t call him by vegetable names, like some protagonists we know). She has a mother who is an artist, and a father who is a chef. While I don't find her quite as authentic as Clementine, she's more dramatic, and I think that kids who pride themselves in not being mainstream will particularly enjoy her.
Here are a couple of examples of Jules' voice:
"To me, Teddy is kind of like a bouncing Super Ball. The kind that bounces so high and crazy you have to cover your head once you've let it go just so it doesn't hit you when you aren't looking. Right now, the bouncing ball is coming right for Charlotte, and Teddy bumps right into her as he comes to a stop." (Take Two)
"Both my parents talk about palates a lot, but when my dad says it, he means taste buds, and when my mom says it, she means colors. Sometimes, wonder if they know they are not talking about the same thing." (Take Three)
The advanced copy that I read of Starring Jules (As Herself) didn't have most of the illustrations yet in place. But if the picture on page 3 of Jules and her little brother, Big Henry, blowing bubbles in their milk is any indication, the illustrations will be as lively and vivacious as the cover image (though the interior art is not in color). Jules' quirky sense of style comes across (striped leggings, sneakers, a short skirt, and a polka-dotted shirt), as does her apparent need for constant movement. I look forward to seeing the final version, with all of the pictures.
From talking with parents of voracious new readers, I have the impression that there is a boundless need for early chapter books with strong characters and relatable adventures. Starring Jules (As Herself) will be a welcome addition to the genre, with a likable, energetic heroine. Kids who enjoy school plays, and are enraptured by the idea of being on television, will be particularly pleased with Jules. The second book in the series, Starring Jules (in Drama-Rama) will be out in late August, just in time for the new school year.
Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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