Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sophie's Choice: Sophie Hartley and the Facts of Life by Stephanie Greene


Sophie took a pair of socks out of her top drawer and counted to herself silently. One, one thousand... two, two thousand...

"I HATE MY HAIR!" Her older sister, Nora, shouted, louder this time. Even her hair dryer sounded furious.

The old Sophie would have tried to cheer Nora up by saying something dumb like "I have curly hair, too, and I like it." Sophie couldn't believe how much she'd matured in two short months. Since Nora had moved up to the attic and Sophie had turned ten, Sophie had started seeing things in such a new light that she felt she could easily be eleven. Or even twelve.

The thing was, Sophie wasn't in a rush to be eleven or twelve. It would bring her that much closer to being fourteen.

The facts of Sophie Hartley's life is that there is way too much puberty in her family. Her sister Nora is sure that only her wavy hair stands between herself and her crush, Ian Bishop. Her sixteen-year-old brother Thad is paying a lot of attention to his hair now that he is going out with Emily, his latest girlfriend. Nora grumps about everything, and Thad makes himself scarce, especially at chore time. Her mom is beyond frazzled, so tired of teen-aged drama that she jumps at a chance to fill in for her boss at a conference for five days, leaving Dad in charge of the hormone-charged household.

And as if that is not enough adolescent angst, at school the class gossip, Destiny, is gathering the fourth grade girls around to whisper that she knows all about the movie, the famous video on puberty that the fifth graders are going to see. Destiny promises her furious followers a secret meeting to reveal all.

"We don't care about that stuff," Sophie told Destiny.

Destiny looked pointedly at Sophie's friend Alice and said, "Alice does. Hailey's older sister saw the movie last year and said it was disgusting."

But in a move to keep her two best friends from being sucked into Destiny's circle, Sophie hears herself promising to sneak the book on adolescence that her mom bought Nora out of her sister's room and explain all to Alice and Jenna. And when Alice blabs about the meeting to some of the other girls, Sophie finds herself the purported girl guru of P-U-berty, with a fourth-grade following who expect her to tell them everything, even the disgusting parts.

Turn back, turn back, O Time in thy flight! Make me a kid again, just for ... well, at least until Mom gets back, thinks Sophie Hartley, in Stephanie Greene's latest Sophie story, Sophie Hartley and the Facts of Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion, 2013). Just-turned-ten Sophie is happy with herself at last and would just love for things to stay the same in her family, thank you very much. But Time--time, and P-U-berty--wait for no one, and it's up to the Hartleys and Sophie to figure out how to live in their new family with two teenagers and a ten-year-old who knows only too well what's coming next. Sophie Hartley is a terrific protagonist, one who is the new Ramona Quimby for today's readers, one we know will make good choices with her sense of self and humor intact, in a typical family which is, as Ramona described her own, "a good, sticking-together family" despite it all. Greene does middle elementary characters with realism and insight and a knack for comedic writing that keeps the inevitable angst in its place. Growing up is hard to do, but Sophie Hartley is on her way.

Stephanie Greene's other Sophie stories include Queen Sophie Hartley, Sophie Hartley, On Strike, and Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home