Elizabeth Atkinson has written a book for tweens called From Alice to Zen and Everyone in Between (Carolrhoda Books at Lerner Publishing) I think it’s perfect for ages 9-14 so I hope you give it a read.
It’s difficult to find books that are as realistic and age-appropriate as this. I envision this becoming a timeless realistic tale of an 11 year old girl who simply enjoys her perfect life building go-karts with her dad, playing soccer, tolerating her mom’s need to shop for pretty things with her, and hanging out with her pets. Alice and family move from Boston to the ‘burbs where she desperately hopes for a best friend her age.
What does she find on the street named Hemlock Trail that has no hemlocks? A boy named Zenithal Stevie Wonder Malinowski who actually enjoys reading fashion magazines and singing Motown music and is far more concerned with body image than she is. Zen’s uniqueness make him an unlikely best friend, but he is prepared to offer Alice the full depth of his knowledge on "How to be popular in middle school."
I love the realistic questioning and searching for one’s self that occurs in this book. Alice doesn’t need excessive drama to realize she can make choices and be herself in middle school. She finds a way to accept herself, make her own choices of friends, and help others gain acceptance. She doesn’t need the make-up that makes her look 16 and she prefers her dad’s homemade lunches to the unappetizing appeal of eating school cafeteria lunches just to be like everyone else. Alice finds a way to be herself and accepts that she doesn’t have to be like the most popular people to be happy.
I love the buzz about this book whether it’s from the local Newbury Port News, children’s letters to the author, or the fact that it was nominated for the 2008 ABC New Voices Award.
Also coming from this author is GLEE!: A Young Adult Guide to Gluten-Free Independence (coming soon). One of my colleagues has a son with gluten allergies and I can’t wait to show her this book. You should watch her at McDonalds ordering him a hamburger cooked with gloves on and no bun and wrapped in foil. It is quite the procedure. I’ve seen kosher kitchens before, but the gluten-free kitchen within the regular kitchen is an amazing struggle for normalcy. So far I haven’t cooked any of his foods in the wrong pan or had to throw out the dishes because I contaminated them.