Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dear Julia




Amy Bronwen Zemser
Harper Collins

Elaine Hamilton is a shy and awkward teenager, perfectly content to stay hidden in the shadows. Since she was six years old, Elaine has been cooking and writing letters (hence the title) to Julia Child. She is so shy that she can't bring herself to mail any of those letters, but rather stacks each one neatly in the trunk at the foot of her bed. By her sixteenth birthday, Elaine has memorized nearly every recipe and mastered every technique that her idol, Julia Child, knows. She prepares dishes for her family each night such as Poulet Roti a la Normade and Caneton a l'Orange.

Elaine may be shy, but she is also focused and knows exactly what she wants to be when she grows up - a chef and a teacher, exactly like Julia Child. Her mother, a US Congresswoman, is adamant that Elaine cannot throw her future away in order to pursue domestic activities.

In the meantime, Elaine meets Lucida Sans, (like the font). She is everything Elaine is not: boisterous, confident, theatrical and bold. Her life's ambition is to become famous any way she can. Lucida wears wild costumes and wigs on a daily basis, not caring what anyone else may think of her. She is obsessed with a boy named Croton Harmon, to whom she is attracted and yet rebuffed time and time again.

Those are the basics, but they don't convey how wonderfully quirky this book is! The characters are very nicely developed, each one in their own very strange way. Elaine's vocabulary is completely unlike other teens and she speaks and behaves in a stilted manner. She has five younger brothers, one of whom seems to be on the verge of becoming a cross dresser, as well as a stay-at-home dad who practices vinyasa yoga in their basement.

This is very well written and highly entertaining. There is a definite plot to follow and the readers will find themselves eagerly reading to find out if Lucida and Elaine are able bring their plans to fruition. Truly, this is an excellent selection for a pre-teen reader.

Harper Collins has the first 66 pages (wow!) posted. Take a peek for yourself to see if you agree with our assessment!


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