Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rebel McKenzie (review)

4/5 stars

Rebel McKenzie (Goodreads | Amazon) feels like a book for kids and as a middle-grade book, that's probably a good thing.  One of my friends (Cough Megan at Book Brats Cough) keeps talking how a lot of middle grade books feel like they're being written for adults who are sentimental about the innocence of youth rather than for actual children who are in the midsts of it.

There is no real sentimentality in Rebel McKenzie.  It's a book very much in the present, with a main character who is flawed and funny.  Whereas adults might clutch their pearls at Rebel's tactics and her tendency to be mean-spirited, I think kids will relate to the smart girl who wants to be taken seriously, humiliate the neighborhood bully and be a good aunt to her little nephew all at the same time.

The story starts with Rebel attempting to run away to join a kid's paleontologist dig.  When that attempt fails, her much-older sister shows up and asks Rebel to come stay with them for the summer to babysit her nephew Rudy.  This is where the adult in me started to say "Wait that doesn't seem believable" but then I remember that was pretty much how all my games as a kid went. (Seriously when I played Barbies the parents went away for the summer leaving a house full of teens and kids, shenanigans ensued and they had to flee to the cave in the woods aka my bunk-bed).  That's not something that's going to faze a kid, reading-wise, they'll just be glad to have parents out of the picture.

Rebel is not a perfect main character, but she's a realistic one.  In order to raise money for the paleontologist dig, Rebel decides to win the Frog Level Volunteer Fire Department's beauty pageant.  And Rebel uses any means necessary, even tricking her new-found friend.  With a unique talent (burping...), and a non-beauty queen personally, can Rebel beat the neighborhood bully/beauty queen, her new homely friend, and become the serious paleontologist she dreams of?

As you can imagine, Rebel's antics do not go unchecked and there's a nice little moral to the story by the end.  After all this is middle-grade and we don't want our little girls taking out their best friends in beauty pageants, but it's a fun ride of a book.

I loved the newsletters, cartoons by Rudy and other children-friendly insertions of this book. Middle Grade can be so fun! 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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