Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Down the Aisle: Just Grace and the Flower Girl Power by Charlise Mericle Harper

My brain when through a superfast list of everything to do with a wedding: wedding dress, flowers, flower girl... and then it stopped. I looked up at Augustine Dupre and said, "I will be the best flower girl ever! I promise! I promise! I promise! I PROMISE!"


Just because you really, really, really want to be a flower girl and you know you'd be perfect at it, and even if it's probably the only time in your entire life that you'll have the chance to be one, this does not mean that being the flower girl is going to come true.

Augustine Dupre, the incredibly cool and kind young woman in the apartment downstairs from Grace, is getting married--to Luke, the UPS man, and the wedding is to take place outside in Mrs. Luther's backyard, in just a few weeks. Grace's world is rocked!

But Luke has a five-year-old niece, Delphine, who has first dibs on the solo flower girl slot! Grace is beyond disappointed, but Augustine promises that she will come up with an important role for her best young friend, and Grace, realizing that she is about to age out of the flower girl role, is still sad, but understands.

Now her busy mind turns to what the perfect gift for the perfect bride should be. Mom and Dad are giving Augustine a silver bowl. Boring, thinks Grace.

And then Grace comes up with an idea that is so exciting, so novel, so totally perfect for Augustine--and so hard to carry out. Mrs. Luther's cat, Crinkles, adores Augustine, and always makes a beeline for her whenever she sees her. Wouldn't it be a great wedding gift if Grace could make Crinkles a flower cat, and train her to walk slowly down the aisle, wearing a flower collar designed by Grace's best friend Mimi, and jump into Augustine's arms just as the wedding is about to start?

But how do you train a nervous cat to stroll slowly down the aisle on cue in the midst of dozens of people?

Library research on cat training is discouraging. Cats won't perform for food treats like dogs, she learns; they can only be "trained" to do what comes naturally to them. Wearing a flower-power collar takes some getting used to for Crinkles, but Grace works on that skill every day. Grace notices that Crinkles does a cautious and stately high-stepping walk whenever her dog Mr. Scruffers is in sight, so Grace sees that Mr. Scruffers has to be part of the plan. But her dog will only sit still and quiet while watching Mimi's little brother Robert eat crackers. And Crinkles will only go in the opposite direction when her friend Sammy is present, preferably wearing cat-scary oven mitts, so Robert and Sammy have to be part of the plan as well. The whole production involves a very complex protocol, but Just Grace becomes Wedding Planner Grace and with the help from her friends carefully sets up everything for the big moment. Will it be the best wedding present ever, or will it be a nuptial feline-canine disaster?

Charise Mericle Harper's forthcoming sequel, eighth in this celebrated series, Just Grace and the Flower Girl Power (The Just Grace Series) (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) is one of the best yet in the Just Grace series. Harper's novel device of having main character Grace narrate and illustrate her own story with her hand-drawn cartoons is a plus, meaning that the plot unfolds with a humorous self-commentary on Grace's state of mind. Grace is both a unique individual and a typical third grader whose world centers around doings at her school and in her neighborhood, with the ups and downs involved in shifting classroom relationships and family life itself. For traditional fans of Ramona Quimby, Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, and Clementine, this one is right on target but yet unique in itself.

Other memorable books in this series are Just Grace Walks the Dog (The Just Grace Series), Just Grace and the Terrible Tutu, and Just Grace and the Double Surprise (The Just Grace Series).

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