Monday, January 12, 2009

Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee (Scholastic, 2008)

Lynn: 9-year-old Julia Gillian is good at so many things that she keeps a two-sided list of her accomplishments. These include making papier-mâché masks, understanding her dog Bigfoot and being skilled at the Art of Knowing. But even a masterful 9-year-old has a fear or two. Julia’s include finishing the green book when the ending is so clearly going to be sad. The dog in the story is only a year older than Bigfoot and Julia doesn’t like to even think about that. It hasn’t been a very fun summer either. Her teacher parents are taking classes and study all day, the claw machine is still unmastered and there have hardly been any picnics or trips to the water park. But as the summer wanes, Julia discovers that everyone has fears and learns to understand what her neighbor Enzo means when she says, “the only way out is through.”

I fell in love with the endearing and independent soul that is Julia Gillian right on the first page. The humor and whimsical drawings create a warm tone but don’t underestimate this book. Julia is a wonderfully rounded character full of traits that can be found in children everywhere. Alison McGhee is as observant as her protagonist and she deftly explores the issue of fears, acknowledging their very real power in the life of a child. Julia searches for answers but in the end she understands that conquering her fears is something she must do herself. McGhee’s respect and affection for young readers is clear and they will both appreciate the sensible message and smile at the satisfying ending – strawberry bubble tea and all. I’m really eager to see what happens in the next book in this new series, Julia Gillian (and the Quest for Joy) which will be published in April.


Monica Edinger said...

I really liked this one and found the second one (forthcoming) just as good. I'm glad you reviewed it here!

wife2abadge said...

I guess I am odd man out because I was very annoyed by Julia Gillian and only forced myself to finish the book because my daughter and I were reading it together. She liked it all right, but we were both annoyed that some of the illustrations didn't match the text!