First up, I'd like to announce the winners of the first ARC grab bag giveaway. These folks were chosen at random and they will need to contact me at blogger at yaliteraturereview.com to claim their prizes. The four winners are: Kristin, Braine @ Talk Supe, Dorine White, and Eric at YAvolt. Watch for another contest this Wednesday - all about signed copies!
Middle Grade Monday: The Pen Pals Series, by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Pages: 144 (varies - paperback)
Reading Level: 10 and up
Enjoyment Level: High
This is one of the series that I loved growing up. I didn't get to read them all, but I devoured the ones I did have. And reading them made me want to go away to boarding school.
Four girls at boarding school meet, become friends, and run an ad in the neighboring all-boys' school newspaper for pen pals.
While I think writing for kids has kind of come a long way since the late 80s, this series is pretty well-written. There are details here and there that make me cringe a little, reading them now. But I also remember how it was to read them the first time, and as a kid (which might be more important), I never would've found anything to critique. I had characters I liked, and some that I didn't, but I never had any trouble loving the stories.
As an adult, I feel like several plots could be cleaned up, and the characters are definitely not as modern now as they felt then, although unlike some books, even the references to electronics (records, tapes, and VHS!) and other pop-culture things don't date the series for me. And, if they were to re-release these (like they are with some BSC books) it wouldn't be difficult to update the various details.
The characters always seemed older to me, but then, I was reading them as a 12-year-old. I can't say that they are realistic for 13 and 14-year-old girls. The dialogue sometimes comes off as forced. They get into trouble and have reactions that sometimes don't make sense to me.
But whatever they are to me as an adult, they were successful for me as a kid, and the books still have me reading easily as soon as I start page one. I miss having a series like this to read - the kids' market has changed so much that a lot of long-running series aren't as successful as some from back in the day.
This series is still a good one to share with middle grade girls. They might want pen pals and to go to boarding school after reading them, but there's nothing wrong with that, right?
Until next time, go read something.