The Wonderful Thing About Hiccups: Cece Meng
Children's Literacy Round-Up: June 26

Maeve on the Red Carpet: Annie Bryant

I enjoyed the first couple of Beacon Street Girls books that I read, and was pleased when the publisher offered me a copy of the latest Maeve on the Red Carpet. The Beacon Street Girls series is part of a brand designed to empower "tweens", and help them with the transition from "toys and boys." The books feature five middle school age best friends, all from diverse backgrounds, and with distinct interests. They go to school on Beacon Street in Brookline, MA.

The books are (according to the publisher) "shaped by leading experts in adolescent development and current research on how to positively impact girls' self-esteem." Although I'm generally a bit leery of books that try explicitly to get across a particular message, I like the Beacon Street Girls books. The characters are well-drawn and realistic. They make mistakes, and learn from them. They suffer from pesky younger brothers, difficulty with math, and divorcing parents, among other ordinary tribulations. Despite their differences, they are loyal to each other. And their stories are fun!

This installment, part of a series of "adventure" titles that each feature only one of the five Beacon Street Girls, sends Maeve to movie camp. It reminds me a tiny bit of Noel Streatfeild's books (Theater Shoes, Ballet Shoes, etc., though with quite a bit more privilege). Near the start of what promises to be a boring school vacation week, with all of her friends away, Maeve learns that her father has arranged to host a New York Film Academy film camp in the family's theater. A wealthy sponsor has offered to pay for improvements to the theater, and a famous Hollywood director will be leading the camp. Maeve is over the ceiling thrilled, despite that fact that her annoying younger brother, Sam, will also be attending the camp.

When camp begins, Maeve learns a lot, works hard, and is a bit star-struck by the pampered daughter of the wealthy sponsor (who, in an amusing throwaway joke, knows the famous "Venice Doubletree"). The other kids are more down-to-earth, though the Director's son turns out to have real acting experience. Through her interactions with the other campers, and their parents, Maeve learns some hard lessons about trust, friendship, and betrayal. I must admit that I saw the betrayal coming a mile off, and I think that many readers will, too. But the point isn't so much the betrayal itself, but the way that Maeve reacts to it, and eventually bounces back.

I also enjoyed Maeve's relationship with her little brother. He follows her around with a movie camera and drives her crazy, but also stands by her in unexpected ways. Here's one of my favorite exchanges:

"Good," Sam answered. "Because I think you're the best actress in the whole world!"

I looked at Mom, who just shrugged. Sometimes little brothers could surprise you by saying the nicest thing and make you feel totally guilty for ever thinking of them as an annoying pest. Then other times...

"Last one to the theater's a rotten egg! Haha, that's you, Maeve," Sam suddenly cried.

I think that fans of the BSG books will enjoy this installment. It's nice to have a chance to focus on just one of the girls, and get to know Maeve and her family a bit better. And Maeve is fun to spend time with. She's overly dramatic, and annoyingly obsessed with her appearance, but she's not afraid to work hard or to admit her mistakes. And her genuine enthusiasm for movies is irresistible. The details about how a movie is made are interesting, too, and should be a hit with kids who are film junkies. I give Maeve on the Red Carpet four stars!

Book: Maeve on the Red Carpet (A Beacon Street Girls Adventure)
Author: Annie Bryant
Publisher: B*tween Productions, Inc.
Original Publication Date: April 15, 2007
Pages: 240
Age Range: 8-13
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.