Friday, September 25, 2009

The Play's The Thing: Stage Fright (Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls) by Meg Cabot

"I just couldn't believe it!

I had tried out for the role of Princess Penelope.

I had worked really hard on my audition and yet somehow I had ended up as the princess' EVIL STEP-MOTHER?"

Allie Finkle has tried to follow all the rules--including "Don't eat anything RED!" (which doesn't really apply onstage). But despite the coaching of her Uncle Jay, an actual drama major, rehearsing 'til she's hoarse, and a standing ovation from her classmates for her tryout, Mrs. Hunter assigns her to the role of the Evil Queen, who hates Princess Penelope of the Realm of Recycling and who even dies in the last scene of her own pollution ray.

The rules aren't working!

At least the class diva, snooty Cheyenne O'Malley, the star of every play she's ever been in, doesn't get the part either. Cheyenne is stuck with the role of the Compact Fluorescent Bulb Fairy Queen. And at least one of Allie's three BFFs, Sophie, gets the plum part. Still, Allie has to admit that she's jealous of Sophie, who really is as pretty as a princess. Allie secretly begins to learn her part in hopes that she may be called on to step in at the last minute.

But Uncle Jay points out that Allie actually has the biggest and best part, a character role which gives a real actress the opportunity to show off her skills.

"It's easy to play a character everyone is going to love....." said Jay. "Anybody could do that.

But the fact is that your teacher saw something in you that told her 'Hey, this little girl could do something really challenging--make people hate her.'

She must think you're the best actress in the class."

Cheyenne takes another tack, reading her lines without inflection in a robotic voice, making it clear that if she can't have the lead, she's going to do nothing to make the play a success. But despite her initial disappointment, Allie finds that she has a real flair for comedy, making the Evil Queen so funny that she cracks up the class during practice. In her red high-top sneakers, striped stockings, and her dad's old Dracula cape, Allie realizes that she is all set to steal the show.

But as rehearsals progress, Sophie's nerves make her more and more imperious, until uncharacteristically she pitches a Cheyenne-style fit at the dress rehearsal over what she sees as Allie's upstaging.

"I'm the star of this play, Allie! ME, not YOU! Why won't anyone remember that!

Ugh! I HATE you.!"

At this Mrs. Hunter abruptly cuts Sophie from the play. At first, Allie is elated! Her hard work learning Princess Penelope's lines has paid off and she is sure that Mrs. Hunter will choose her to step in and play the lead that night. But then Allie realizes that no one in the class is ready to step into her role with so many lines to learn in an afternoon, which means that even if she is the star, the play will surely be a flop. Suddenly Allie knows what has to be done.

"I knew how to do the queenly thing and save the day.

And when you know the right thing to do, you have to do it. That's a rule!"

In her just-published fourth book in this popular middle-grade series, Stage Fright (Allie Finkle's Rules For Girls), best-selling author Meg Cabot comes up with another winner. Allie's voice is authentic, a fourth-grader who is not perfect but basically has a good heart, and her efforts to learn the rules of life in her own setting will ring true to middle readers.

Other books in this series are Moving Day (Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls), The New Girl (Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls), and Best Friends And Drama Queens (Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls).

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