Fuse #8

Monday, May 08, 2006

Review of the Day: Rosy Cole's Memoir Explosion

Mmmm. I love the smell of a new series in the morning. Got a new "Rosy Cole" book on the plate today. Nothing too extraordinary, but small Rosy-Cole-enthused fans are allowed to disagree with me.

There is a certain kind of 7 to 10-year-old girl out there who cannot abide fantasy. We adults have a tendency to believe that all kids love "Harry Potter" and that little girls are all about ponies, and princesses, and pretty purple magic wands. I confess that sometimes I fall into this all-too-easy mode of thought. Recently, however, I've had young female patrons approach my Information Desk at the library and ask for realistic fiction. They want to read about girls like themselves, not fantastical witches or wizards. Fortunately, this is a need that has been addressed time and time again by the publishing world. From Paula Danziger's, "Amber Brown" books to Megan McDonald's, "Judy Moody", there is an abundance of chapter books about white normal schoolgirls. So maybe I can be forgiven for being surprised that "Rosy Cole's Memoir Explosion" is the eleventh book in this already established series. Who knew? With that, I quickly devoured a familiar tale of writing, it's pitfalls, and how a bending of the truth will inevitably lead to tears.

It started with an assignment. Rosy Cole's teacher scribbled the words, "Write about the most interesting person in your family" on the board. This, to Rosy's mind, poses a bit of a problem. As far as she can ascertain, nobody in her family is the least bit fascinating. However, help arrives in the form of her college aged sister Pippa. She recommends that Rosy consider writing a memoir of her own life. After some brief thoughts on the matter, Rosy agrees. Memoir writing, however, isn't as easy as it sounds. Rosy quickly decides that while her own life hasn't been significantly fraught with peril, maybe her friends' lives have. Before you know it Rosy has concocted wild stories (some might call `em lies) and smooshed them all into her memoir. Now her friends hate her and Rosy has to figure out how best to undo all the damage she's just done simply with a couple misplaced words.

Maybe the other books in the "Rosy Cole" series have alluded to this, but when you see a family in which two of the children are significantly older than the third, there was probably a reason for it and it probably wasn't intentional. With that in mind, it's interesting to see how Rosy's relationship with her family members plays off of the significant age difference. Greenwald has created a particularly lifelike world with her simple words and short chapters. This is helped in no small part by her illustrations. Say what you will about out series for girls, how many have been illustrated by their own authors? Now for me, Rosy wasn't a particularly likable character in this title. She writes a book full of lies so that she'll be more interesting. Then, when she loses all her friends, she writes a tale that tells her true story. And apparently this story is so sad that it makes everyone feel sorry for Rosy and all is well in the end. I dunno. Obviously losing all your friends is an awful feeling and earns instant sympathy right there. But Rosy never actually apologizes to anyone. She just writes a story, gives it away, and that's that. But then you take a look at the pictures in this book and Rosy gains sympathy by leaps and bounds. Perhaps Greenwald's grasp of Rosy's personality is a touch stronger visually than verbally. Whatever the case, she's a master with the pen and inks.

Consider "Rosy Cole" recommended for those girls who've already breezed through "Judy Moody", "Amber Brown", "Anastasia Krupnik", and the "Alice" books by Naylor, and need something more. It's a nice enough story with more than a slight similarity to "Harriet the Spy", but it wouldn't be the first series I'd recommend to a young 'un off the top of my head.


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