Wednesday, July 7, 2010
My Last Best Friend (Friends for Keeps)
Written by: Julie Bowe
Recommended Ages: 7-10
This is a funny, heartfelt story that will appeal to elementary school-aged kids who know what it's like to experience the highs and lows that first friendships often bring with them. My Last Best Friend is written in an easy-to-read, breezy style that also works well as a read aloud to a class.
Ida May is entering the fourth grade and she is not at all excited about it. Her one and only best friend Elizabeth has moved away, and there are all sorts of things amiss. For instance, in fourth grade you have to write in cursive, not printing; you have to do multiplication and division, not addition and subtraction; and you're supposed to walk to the bus stop alone, not without your mother. Ida Lee is not excited for the year.
We're introduced to quite a cast of characters in My Last Best Friend, many of whom I recognized from my own childhood. There's Jenna, the mean girl whom everyone is afraid of (and believe me, she's pretty awful). There's Randi, the tomboy who's great at all things with a ball. And there's Stacey, the new, somewhat mysterious, girl in the class. The friendship between Ida May and Stacey develops in a sweet way through a secret letter writing campaign that moves the story along at a nice clip.
Julie Bowe has done a wonderful job portraying a girl who is on the verge of adolescence, and wishes she was back in third grade when life was easier. Kids will identify with her insecurities and root for her to succeed. If you have a child who loved Clementine, this is a perfect "next step" for the slightly older reader. While My Last Best Friend can be read and enjoyed for the story alone, there are lots of "teachable moments" about what it means to be a friend, and how to treat your friends. The characters grow in very real ways, and even the villain Jenna shows a spark of compassion at the end of the book. There are two more books that continue on with Ida May's fourth grade year: My New Best Friend and My Best Frenemy. I highly recommend the series.
BookNosher Activity: If you visit Julie Bowe's website, she has instructions on how to make a BFF bracelet.