April 08, 2010


Friend or Flirt? Quick Quizzes about Your Crush. By Lizzie Mack. Scholastic. $5.99.

Sink or Swim? Quick Quizzes about Summer Camp. By Lizzie Mack. Scholastic. $5.99.

Sophie the Awesome. By Lara Bergen. Little Apple/Scholastic. $4.99.

     Lizzie Mack’s “Quick Quizzes” books could probably go on forever, or until she runs out of subjects – whichever comes first. After two books of quizzes designed for BFFs, now we have another relationship-oriented book and one about a typical warm-weather activity. The format is identical in all cases, and the books do not need many pages, because each quiz is printed four times – except the final “more intense” one, which is printed only twice. The books are lighthearted fun throughout, provided that readers keep them lighthearted and do not try to make too much of them. For example, Friend or Flirt? has a “Your Ideal Date” section that includes the chance to check “sit next to him” or “pretend you don’t know each other.” Its “Random Thoughts” quiz asks, “Would you call any of your crushes just to talk? (Never) (Sure!)” And in “What a Boy Likes: What do you think he thinks is attractive?” there are choices between good at sewing and good with cars; cheerful or gloomy; rocker girl or preppy; and pierced ears or painted nails. The cleverest quiz here has “Getting the Boy!” on one side of the page and “Getting Rid of the Boy!” on the other. Some choices in the latter are between “change your cell” and “never call or text him back,” and between “make fun of him” and “get snuggly in front of his friends.” The questions are along similar lines in Sink or Swim? Here, there are choices between activities: scavenger hunt or nature walk; softball or relay races; talent show or color war; beach or pool; and many more. There are also choices of “pet peeves,” such as “no-see-ums biting you or gnats up your nose,” “waking up early [or] lights out early,” and mosquitoes or ants. Despite its title, this book is not entirely camp-focused. One quiz, for example, is called “Time to Travel” and offers choices between Disney World and Six Flags; horseback riding in Wyoming and surfing in California; the coast of Maine or the Canadian Rockies; and the Australian Bush or the Caribbean island of St. John (that last one may be a bit of a stretch). These books are good fun and in good fun, and can be a pleasant way to spend time with friends or pass time during a long trip – as long as no one makes life decisions (or makes or breaks friendships) on the basis of the answers.

     The question Sophie Miller asks herself in the first of Lara Bergen’s planned four-book series – and it is a life decision – is how she is special. Not whether she is special – she knows that she is, even if her family and clothing and everyday activities are all totally average. No, Sophie is something else; she is sure of it. But what else? Maybe she is awesome, as in Sophie the Awesome. Having decided that she is awesome, Sophie sets out to show her awesomeness to everyone, but quickly runs into a little trouble doing so. Her best friend, Kate, says Sophie is an awesome friend, but Kate can’t stand listening to Sophie sing. And the “awesome” horse Sophie draws looks more like a cat. And Sophie’s attempt to show how awesome she is at music by playing a really loud rhythm on cymbals has all her classmates holding their ears. Jumping down six steps doesn’t turn out to be so awesome, either: Sophie ends up needing to go see the school nurse. Furthermore, Sophie – who even has an ordinary name, since she isn’t the only Sophie in her third-grade class – gets paired for an interview assignment with a really annoying boy named Toby Myers (“she just plain hated him…he was a big, giant pain in the neck”). Things don’t go as badly in the assignment as Sophie thinks they will – although they are certainly not awesome – and in fact, eventually Sophie comes to realize that she is not awesome after all. No, she is heroic. In fact, she is Sophie the Hero – which will be the next book in this series (to be followed by “chatterbox” and “zillionaire,” for anyone who is wondering). Sophie’s story is full of fluff and silliness, and will appeal to second- and third-graders looking for a touch of enjoyment, if not awesomeness.

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