'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 27 March 2015

Review: Double Dare You (Ella Diaries #1)

Meredith Costain has a natural gift when it comes to using a child’s voice and thought. Her writing, characters and storylines always impress. The light-hearted tone and focus on important themes entertains while imparting strong messages. I was hooked on Ella from the first page, and was overjoyed that there were two books together to read.

The design of the book is similar to Tom Gates’ in doodles and picture format. The main character Ella loves to write poetry and draw stylish clothing. She is confident wearing what she likes which is an unusual mix of patterns, shapes and colour. She also likes to illustrate her thoughts and feelings. I loved the idea of hearts taking the place of dots over the letter i.

Many diary entries are accompanied by haiku and lots of drawings. Starred words are defined for clarity. This device is a good way to teach children new words and new ways of expressing ones’ self. Each book is illustrated in a different colour. This title is red.

Ella is a ‘secret scribbler.’ Keeping a diary is a way to exercise her active imagination, her parents believe. She sees her diary as a place to share her ‘utterly biggest secrets.’ That’s why she has to guard it from her curious little sister Olivia.

A new school year is starting. There are many adjustments for Ella. She has a new teacher, a new routine, and still has to cope with the unkind actions of the class’ popular circle, particularly the leader, queen of nastiness, devious Peach Parker, a former friend.

The first day of school is a recorded tragedy. ‘Unforseen circumstances’ interfere with Ella’s sitting next to long time BFF Zoe. This leaves the seat next to her open to Peach who continues her sly and deceitful ways.

Ella considers how best to respond to peach’s subtle but offensive attacks. Luckily she is strong-minded and clever, and sees through pretence easily. Frequently the victim of Peach’s emotional bullying, she is never diminished by her cruelty and with her diary to vent her frustration, she manages to make her way through it all. But how will Ella respond to Peach’s double-dare which is really another disguised form of bullying?

The writing is sharp and funny. I love the characters – nasty and nice; even the dog. The strong themes of friendship, peer pressure and bullying, are cleverly addressed while showing there is more power in refusal than escape in submission.

Title: Double Dare You (Ella Diaries #1)
Author: Meredith Costain
Illustrator: Danielle McDonald
Publisher: Scholastic, $6.99 RRP
Publication Date: February 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781743628638
For ages: 7+
Type: Junior Fiction