My daughter has two birthday parties to attend next weekend. One is a kickball party, and while that has nothing to do with children's books, I have to mention it because I love the idea. My children go to lots of elaborate, expensive themed birthday parties where everything is fancy, but they don't get to interact with the other kids. What they most want to do is simply play. I'm so happy that a bunch of nice girls are going to meet at a local ballfield next Sunday to spend the afternoon playing kickball and eating cake.
I do, however, need to buy presents for those parties. Usually my children pick out a favorite book or two for the birthday child and we purchase a gift card to a local bookstore. Those get wrapped up with something little such as bubbles or a Matchbox car. One of our favorite books to give to girls in second, third, and even fourth grade is Eleanor Estes' The Hundred Dresses. We have also given it as a First Communion gift because of the lesson it teaches about how to treat other people.
In the book, poor Wanda Petronski, who wears the same faded dress to school everyday (the book was written in the 1940's when girls still wore dresses to school) announces,"I have a hundred dresses at home- all lined up in my closet." The other girls in her class begin to tease her about the dresses they know she can't possibly afford. As it turns out, the girls find out, too late, that Wanda had made 100 hundred drawings of beautiful dresses. Perhaps it was not too late, as they all learn something about making assumptions and teasing. One girl in particular vows never to stand by and say nothing again. My description sounds a bit heavy handed, but the book is really quite lovely and subtle in both the story and the sketches by Louis Slobodkin. It's a great gift to give to a girl.
Unfortunately, my daughter gave The Hundred Dresses last year to both of the girls whose parties she will be attending this weekend. So we chose another, more contemporary, chapter book which she recently read, My Last Best Friend by Julie Bowe. This is like chick lit for second through fourth graders. If Sophie Kinsella of the Shopaholic series was writing for girls, this is what she would write. It's light and funny with a self deprecating first person narrator, fourth grader Ida May. It also has a good message about friendship and how to treat other people, but it's basically a beach read. And what girl can't use a good beach read in June?