Thursday, January 09, 2014

Oh, What a Tangled Web: Just Grace and the Super Sleepover by Charlise Mericle Harper

Today when Mimi came over, all she wanted to talk about was the sleepover. I tried to change the subject, but every time I did, she just changed it back. And then it was too late to tell her the truth.

Mimi's favorite thing about the party was the number one thing I didn't like. It was weird to have us feeling so different about it. I wanted to make myself be like her, and be excited, but I couldn't. Just thinking about being in the dark, with creatures all around, made my ears hot and my hands sweaty. Plus now I was worried about beetles, too.

I was a good actress, though, because Mimi didn't seem to notice.

Just Grace and Mimi have always felt the same about almost everything. But when their classmate Grace F. decides that her birthday party will be a campout in her backyard, Mimi can't wait. Grace, on the other hand, can't bear to think about it--creepy spiders and crawly bugs and nighttime animals all around. And what if Grace F.'s backyard is next to a graveyard?

Just Grace just can't tell the gung-ho Mimi that she's afraid, so she just nods when Mimi keeps talking. Grace knows it's wrong to lie, but figures that a small nod is a only a small lie. But then Mimi suggests that they both make super-special birthday cards for Grace F. after school. Just Grace worries so much about the sleepover that she forgets about the card until Mimi appears at her door the next morning.

The first thing she asked me was, "Did you make your card for Grace F.?"

The answer was no, I had totally forgotten about it, but that's not what I said. Without even thinking, my mouth said, "Yes."

Now, not only is Just Grace living a fib, pretending to be excited about the sleepover, but she has told her best friend an outright lie. As the two walk to school, Just Grace pretends to listen to Mimi's happy talk about the party, but her mind is already at school, figuring out how she can make a card before Mimi finds out. She asks for a pass to the library but Mimi decides to come along. Grace says she's changed her mind about getting a new book and pretends to be interested in some flyers from the desk, but when she drops them on the way back to class, she hastily tosses them into the recycling container by the library. Back in class, she pretends that she can't find the birthday card in her backpack.

Just Grace tries to make the card under her desk, but Miss Lois crossly tells her to pay attention. She gets a pass to the girls' bathroom but can't find anything to make a card from but paper towels. Then Miss Lois assigns Mimi to work with Grace on their geography project, and Grace has no chance to get away from her to make the card. On the way to lunch, Mimi tries to help her friend find her card.

"I know where it is! Don't you remember? This morning, you threw away some papers. I bet the card was in with those papers!" I nodded like I agreed with her.

Now Just Grace has to go back during lunch and pretend to look in the bin for a non-existent card. And when she comes back to the lunch table empty-handed, she finds herself telling the biggest lie yet.

"I was looking for the card I made for Grace F., but then something happened. The recycling container made a noise. I think there's a ghost in there."

Amazingly, all her friends swallow Just Grace's whopper, and one by one her classmates find an excuse to check out the recycling container beside the library. And strangely enough, a lot of them hear a ghostly sound, too! Just Grace can't believe what she has done.

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive," is the theme of Charlise Mericle Harper's eleventh book in her series, Just Grace and the Super Sleepover (The Just Grace Series) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). Growing up with Grace means sharing third-grade experiences with Harper's likable character whose well-meaning white lie spirals into a tangled web that ends in a sort of third-grade mass hysteria, from which there is only one way out--to 'fess up to Mimi that she's afraid to sleep outside at the party. Can Just Grace find a way to end the spook-in-the-can craze and keep her best friend? She can, and in an imaginative but cleverly foreshadowed way that will please her readers. Cross my heart!!

Harper's skill lies in her use of Just Grace's self-revelatory internal narrative, illustrated by her own drawings, a method which has worked so well for Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  Young readers venturing into chapter books where there is the opportunity to develop a serious theme will find Harper's Just Grace just right in this funny but fraught story of primary-grade life.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home