Two years ago today, a little blog was born. Shelf Elf has read and reviewed many books since July 12th, 2007. Shelf Elf has also learned about lots of computery things she never even knew existed before July 12th, 2007. Life is better with blogging. Life is better being part of the kidlitosphere and readergirlz and Guys Lit Wire and the Cybils. I plan to celebrate today by reading this:
(please don’t be jealous, it’s my special day…) and by going on a picnic.
So it all started back on July 12th with my very first review, of Lauren Tarshis’s Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree . I thought it would be nifty to mark my 2nd Blogiversary with a review of Lauren’s second book, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love. I found an ARC of Lauren’s new book last weekend when I was working at the bookstore. When I saw it, I did a little happy dance, because I loved Lauren’s first book so much. The sequel has in fact been out since May, which made me wonder how many other of my favourite books now have sequels out there in the world while I go about my business, completely oblivious. I must try harder.
I am happy to report that Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love possesses the same sweetness, memorable characters and clever writing as its predecessor. Emma-Jean is every bit as remarkable and strange and charming as she was when we first met her, when she struggled to make sense of and resolve her peers’ social problems at William Gladstone Middle School. The second book begins just a few months after the end of book one. Emma-Jean is enjoying her new social circle. She’s getting used to having friends, even if her friends value things she doesn’t particularly understand, like lip gloss and sparkly clothing and talking about boys. Emma-Jean continues to have interests that most grade 7 girls don’t – like math problems, nature sketching and teaching her beloved parakeet Henri how to speak Hindi. She values her friendship with Vikram Adwani, the doctoral student who rents the top floor of their house, and who also happens to be in love with Emma-Jean’s mom, Elizabeth Lazarus. There have been definite changes in her life, but Emma-Jean has adjusted and some sort of balance has been restored. This doesn’t last for long however, because Emma-Jean starts noticing a change in her friends and indeed in many of her seventh-grade peers. Everyone is talking about the Spring Fling Dance. Girls are asking boys and everyone is twittering about it. Even Emma-Jean can’t quite figure out this new fluttering feeling in her heart when she thinks about asking Will Keeler to the dance. She wonders if she is suffering from spring fever, and if this is the case, what measures should she take in response? Emma-Jean also puts her outstanding problem-solving talents to work in trying to discover the identity of the secret admirer who left a note in her friend Colleen’s locker. Once again, Emma-Jean learns that people are often quite a bit trickier to work out than math problems, and that sometimes following your heart is the only reasonable course of action.
I want to use the words clean and fresh to describe the tone of these books, even though I’m afraid you’ll start thinking about fabric softener. But it’s true. There is nothing heavy about the way Tarshis writes. She doesn’t bog the reader down in description, but instead laces it carefully throughout the narrative, so that you get just the right amount at the right moment without ever stopping the movement of the story. You can hear the birdsong that is just “like the sweet little song inside Colleen’s ballerina jewelry box,” and you’re right there in Emma-Jean’s kitchen as she stands next to Vikram “relishing his familiar kitchen sounds – the whisper of the gas flames, the gentle rattling of the simmering pots, Vikram’s soft humming of a jazz melody he and Emma-Jean’s mother particularly enjoyed.” Tarshis has a deft touch that makes her writing read effortlessly. All of this is in addition to the wonderful character she offers us with Emma-Jean. I think she’s so easy to releate to for just about anyone, because no matter how cool (or not) you might be, isn’t everyone trying to figure out the people around them, to make sense of the mysterious ways we interact and understand a little bit more how the world works?
As a final fantastic bonus, the audiobook versions of both Emma-Jean stories are exceptional. Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter) is the performer for both books, and her reading is superb. Emma-Jean’s delightfully different way of seeing things comes through perfectly in the recordings. You’ll love them. Listen to excerpts here: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love.
Visit Lauren Tarshis’s website, and check out what more Emma-Jean fans are saying:
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love is published by Dial Books for Young Readers.
(Awesome “before/after” cupcake shots taken by Theresa Thompson. Check out her quirky fabulous photos).