Drawing On Her Strengths: Ellie McDoodle, New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Seriously. This is the end. I'm doing this new journal to keep track of my family's move to a new house (new city, new schools, new everything). There won't be much to keep track of, though, because this is the END of everything good.
Eleanor McDougal, a.k.a. Ellie McDoodle, graphic diarist extraordinaire, introduced in Ruth McNally Barshaw's Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel, is back in an even-better sequel, Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School. In this one, Ellie's problem is worse than camping with worrisome relatives in the woods: she's moving away from her six best friends, her house with her own room with her own clouds painted by her own mother on her own wall, her school where she knows everyone, and even her nickname, McDoodle, for her constant cartoon commentaries on daily life.
In the new place, she has to share a room with her high-school senior sister and go to a school where nobody knows her name and nobody can get it right. (On the first day she's called Eleanor, Allie, Ella, Elmo, Ollie, Ellie McDoo-gal, and, worst of all, Smellie McDoo-doo.) The school already HAS a best artist--Rachel--so nobody, including the cranky art teacher, Ms. Trebuchet, cares about Ellie's comic drawings.
But Ellie's got spunk and resilience and a dab hand for a caricature on her side. She sets out to find something good in her neighborhood and finds a humongous library and great woods to explore. And at school she finds a way to put her art skills and Ms. Whittam's social studies unit on non-violent protest to good use--organizing some long-needed action against the slow lunch line that leaves her class three minutes to actually eat their lunch--if it is indeed edible! In the course of designing a logo for the movement (a circle with a capital Q (for queue) with a diagonal line) and stickers and T-shirts with the logo for her co-protesters, Ellie wins the hearts and minds of most of the class--and the majority of the school board members--and becomes a fifteen-minute media darling when the protest turns up on the evening news.
Ellie even gets her nickname back from her new classmates and writes a new END to her current graphic diary.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED:
1) When I'm most sad, I should watch, because things are bound to get better.
2) A brand-new situation is like a blank canvas: I can be a real artist and make it great.
3) It's okay if new people don't like me right away. They will eventually.
4) From now on, I'm going to find the "new kid" and be friendly.
I need a new sketchbook. This isn't the end... it's only the beginning.
Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School is an empathetic, funny, and highly readable semi-graphic novel, a format which seems to be in style these days. In addition to the best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw, recent books which make use of this format for middle school girls include Katie Davis' The Curse of Addy McMahon, reviewed recently here, Margie Palatini's Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone, reviewed here, , Marissa Moss' Amelia's Notebook series, two of which are reviewed here, Rachel Renee Russell's Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life, and the similar format adopted by Newbery author Jennifer Holm in her unique graphic collage-styled Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff, reviewed here. All of these engaging middle school characters are transitional sisters under the skin with whom 'tween readers will feel right at home.