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Review: Genie Wishes

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Looking for new books to share with your child? Check out the book review below! Each week we bring you the latest reviews of books geared toward children in grades K-5 from the creators of "Sweet on Books", a locally-based initiative with reviews written for you exclusively by mothers, as part of our ABC7 Learning Section Enjoy!

Title: Genie Wishes

geniewishes250 Author/Illustrator: Elizabeth Dahl

Themes: Family Life, Friendship, Identity, School

Published: 2013, 288 pages

'Sweet' book summary:
Reviewer: Melissa G.

Genie Haddock Kunkle is the charming and funny heroine of the equally charming new book Genie Wishes, by debut author Elisabeth Dahl. Genie has just started the fifth grade at Hopkins Country Day School, where she has just been voted class blogger for the new classroom blog, "Wishes, Hopes and Dreams." In the blog, Genie is tasked with speaking for the students. Fifth grade is a scary time and things and people are changing rapidly. Genie isn't quite sure how to navigate this new territory, let alone blog about it, but she tries. As Genie's older friend Eve said, "Right, fifth grade, that's when everything started to get weird".

Author Elisabeth Dahl writes a funny and warm story about facing the many challenges that tweens on the edge of adolescence face every day. Dahl can definitely be compared to Judy Blume; her presentation is humorous and direct. I have a feeling that several of the issues Genie is dealing with will resonate with many of the young girls who pick this book up. Some of the surprises Genie has to navigate this year include losing her best friend to the new (mean) girls, boys suddenly acting strangely, puberty changes, her widower father dating, and more. Dahl handles each issue, delicately, with concern and honesty, and allows Genie to see each through realistically and with a fair amount of grace. I wish I had been as mature as Genie back then!

The reader will see a strong and united family in Genie's, even though they have been affected by tragedy. After Genie's mother died in a car accident, Genie, her father and her brother moved in with her grandparents. Gran plays a large role in Genie's life. Genie may be lacking a mother, but she isn't lacking a mother figure. I think this may give hope to young readers who have been directly impacted by death or fear its effects. Girls will also find a strong role model in Genie and emulating her bravery will do them good. Dahl has sprinkled this book with a fair amount of girl-power messages. When Gran hears boys may be intimidated by Genie's intellect, she quickly reminds her, "...never hide your smarts, not for any man!"

The cover of the book invites the reader in with its picture of a young girl and her computer; it and will appeal to a modern, young audience. The publisher recommends this book for ages 8 and up. I find that a bit young for some of the subjects that are discussed in this book. I would caution you to take care to put this into the hands of a reader you know can handle the issues it covers and to make yourself available for questions should your reader have concerns.

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What You Need to Know:
  • Growing up is hard, but Genie Kunkle succeeds and lives to blog about it in this delightful new book, Genie Wishes.
  • The story here is reminiscent of another great adolescent author, Judy Blume.
  • There are some tough issues discussed in this book. Our protagonist, Genie, has recently lost her mother in a car accident and her grandfather to a heart attack.
  • Girls will find a strong role model in Genie, who faces challenges head on.
If you liked this book, try:
  • The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
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