Thursday, July 5, 2012

11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass

Title:  11 Birthdays
Author:  Wendy Mass
Publisher:  Scholastic
Year:  2009
Pages:  267
Genre:  Fantasy, Magical Realism
Themes:  Friendship, Family, Forgiveness
Age Range:  3th-6th Grade

Summary:  (from Goodreads)
It's Amanda's 11th birthday and she is super excited -- after all, 11 is so different from 10. But from the start, everything goes wrong. The worst part of it all is that she and her best friend, Leo, with whom she's shared every birthday, are on the outs and this will be the first birthday they haven't shared together. When Amanda turns in for the night, glad to have her birthday behind her, she wakes up happy for a new day. Or is it? Her birthday seems to be repeating iself. What is going on?! And how can she fix it? Only time, friendship, and a little luck will tell. 

11 Birthdays is Groundhog Day for the upper elementary set.  Amanda is doomed to repeat her birthday until she figures out what good deed she must make or important action she must take to move on in her life.  This is my first time reading a book by Wendy Mass, and I was impressed with how real Amanda and Leo seemed.  Mass seems to really understand (remember?) what it is like to be 10 going on 11, when you're getting closer to being a teenager and you start worrying about what's cool, who's popular, and who likes who-you know, likes likes...

One of the things that I really like about this book is that it portrays a friendship between a boy and a girl that is deep and abiding, without any hint of romantic attachment.  Amanda doesn't suddenly realize how cute Leo is.  Leo doesn't start blushing fiercely whenever Amanda is around and mumbling.  The friendship feels balanced, with each half having equal power in the relationship.  As a fifth grade teacher, I've noticed how much earlier children are falling into the whole boy/girl (or boy/boy or girl/girl) thing, and I appreciate that Mass shows her readers that it is possible and rewarding to have friends of the opposite gender without romantic overtones.

Mass gives readers plenty to think about with this story.  What is the true nature of forgiveness?  How do you make amends for things that you have done?  How do you balance things you do for other people with things that you do for yourself?  Amanda and Leo struggle with all of these questions through the course of the novel, and I think that this title would be a good one to add to any reading program.

Teacher Resources:
Scholastic Book Talk
Kid's Wings Unit
Kids Book Club Activities

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