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Summary: Just as Bailey Fish (age 11) was reading a passage in her book about guests at the door ... Surprise, the doorbell rang! When her grandmother called her, she got an even bigger surprise. A man introduced himself as "Dad" and a young girl as "Norma Jean, your sister." Bailey was not happy. When Sugar, her grandmother, agrees that Norma Jean could visit for a few weeks, Bailey was even more unhappy. She doesn't want a real sister, her friends are her sisters. To prove her point, Bailey starts a No Sisters Sisters Club. She's sure that will keep Norma Jean out of her world. But as Norma Jean pushes to get closer to Bailey, the girls find themselves in the middle of some unusual events. Will Bailey help her sister? This chapter book for pre-teens offers a story about life lessons and challenges today's kids can understand.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up
Young Reader Reaction: Even though the book lacks a true story line, it conveys the life and feelings of Bailey Fish fairly well. I could feel how Bailey felt when her unknown father and half-sister suddenly arrive. The end had a fairly nice touch as Bailey understands more of who she is and accepts her family. The glossary and history of Virginia mentioned in the back of the book was a nice touch. I felt the plot was fairly weak, as not much action occurs to further the story or mystery presented on the back flap of the book. I would recommend this book to a girl in elementary school who has just started reading. As an 11 year old, Bailey would have adventures deemed worthy by younger girls. Her bravery shown in the adventures would be a model for others. Much of the events would be more understandable to girls such as slumber parties, chatter about boys, and girl bonding.
Adult Reader Reaction: Every time I tried to put down the book, I found myself saying "one more chapter." They are short, which moves the story and adds to the suspense, but also makes it perfect reading for reluctant readers. The author quickly sets a stage and engages you in Bailey's world, especially her emotions. I love how she drew on the other books in Frank Baum's Land of Oz series to build out this story.
Pros: This fast-paced chapter book offers pre-teens a story with wonderful characters, mystery and adventure, and themes they can relate to: divorce, extended families, absentee parents, and personal safety. The end of the book is packed with information to round out the story and also help with vocabulary.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a very enjoyable story, and like a lot of the really good mysteries ... even if you know the ending, it's fun to read it again.
Educational Themes: Before I even got to the end (where there is a list of bookclub questions) I had made a note that this would make a great bookclub selection for pre- and early teens. There are plenty of themes to explore. The author has very effectively woven in US history and facts about Central Virginia ... enough to pique a teen's interests. You'll find photos, maps, a bibliography (including websites) and a glossary in the back.