The Mother-Daughter Book Club (Mother Daughter Book Club)

By Heather Vogel Frederick
Publisher:Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, (4/22/2008)

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The book club

is about to get

a makeover....

Even if Megan would rather be at the mall, Cassidy is late for hockey practice, Emma's already read every book in existence, and Jess is missing her mother too much to care, the new book club is scheduled to meet every month.

But what begins as a mom-imposed ritual of reading Little Women soon helps four unlikely friends navigate the drama of middle school. From stolen journals, to secret crushes, to a fashion-fiasco first dance, the girls are up to their Wellie boots in drama. They can't help but wonder: What would Jo March do?

Acclaimed author Heather Vogel Frederick will delight daughters of all ages in a novel about the fabulousness of fiction, family, and friendship.

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"The Mother-Daughter Book Club (Mother Daughter Book Club)"
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Average Rating:

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From Booklist

Four sixth-graders sign up for a book club, in which they'll read Little Women with their moms. In alternating chapters, each of the four girls describes a meeting. There is aspiring poet Emma, whose librarian mother started the group; Jess, Emma's best friend, who lives on an organic farm; hockey-playing Cassidy, daughter of a former supermodel; and popular Megan. Despite their initial resistance to the club, the girls experience joys and sorrows and develop a closer bond, just like the characters that they grow to love. Plenty of detail and musing about Little Women will entice readers to pick up the book if they have not yet read it, but familiarity with Alcott's classic isn't required to enjoy this story. The girls' relationships and feelings are complex; unfortunately, their typecast mothers are much less so, and a fairy-tale ending caps the story. Still, readers will be easily pulled along to find out how the four girls resolve their differences. A book discussion guide is included. Booth, Heather --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From The Mother-Daughter Book Club


"'It's so dreadful to be poor!' sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress."

"Nice skirt, Emma," calls Becca Chadwick, giving me the once-over as I head down the aisle of the school bus looking for a seat.

This is not a compliment and I know it and she knows it. Blushing, I slide into the first empty spot I find. My brother Darcy passes me, heading for the last few rows, which, by tradition, are reserved for eighth graders.

Behind me, I hear Becca whisper something to Ashley Sanborn. I hunch down and smooth a crease in my skirt, my stomach clenching in all-too-familiar anxiety. It's starting already. I'd hoped maybe sixth grade would be different.

"Must have been a big back-to-school sale at the thrift store," says Ashley, her lame attempt at sarcasm producing a burst of laughter from Becca.

As the bus doors whoosh shut and we lurch forward down Lowell Road, I force myself to ignore them both and look out the window instead. The familiar scenery is soothing, and I feel myself relax a little as we cross the quiet waters of the Concord River and pass stately old colonial houses and meadows hemmed by time-worn stone walls. In a few weeks the leaves on all the trees will start to turn, quilting the woods with New England's famous blaze of yellow and scarlet and orange.

Here and there amongst the thickets I spot fat clusters of wild Concord grapes. They'll be ripe soon, and just thinking about the way the thick purple skins burst when I bite down, releasing the sour juiciness inside, makes my mouth start to water.

As we turn onto Barnes Hill Road and begin our slow circle back toward town, I pull a notebook from my backpack and open to a fresh page. "Ode to September," I write across the top. I chew the eraser on my pencil, pondering my opening line. But instead of writing verse, I find myself stewing about how much I hate the first day of school.

I never used to. When I was little, I could hardly wait for it to start. I'd get all excited about my new lunchbox and pencils and stuff, and I'd wear my new shoes around for weeks to break them in.

Then a couple of years ago, in fourth grade, everything changed. Suddenly it was all about who's popular and who's not and if you're wearing the right thing. Which I never am. Ever.

The bus wheezes to a stop in front of the Bullet Hole House. It's called the Bullet Hole House even though the Anderson family owns it because two hundred and fifty years ago during the Revolutionary War, a retreating redcoat -- that's what they use to call British soldiers -- fired at it. Well, at Elisha Jones, who lived in the house back then. He was a minuteman and he'd accidentally slept through the skirmish across the street at the Old North Bridge. He was standing there in his doorway watching the British retreat when it happened. Sometimes I think about the Jones family, who were probably sitting at their breakfast table when wham! -- all of a sudden a bullet hits the house. I'd have been scared to death. At least it missed Elisha.

Anyway, the hole is still there and there's a little sign explaining all about it. The Bullet Hole House is on all the maps of Concord, and tourists are always stopping to take pictures of it. They take pictures of everything in our town. You can't turn around in Concord, Massachusetts, without bumping into history, my dad says, and I guess he's right.

The front door opens and someone runs out, but it isn't a minuteman and it isn't a redcoat, it's only Kyle Anderson. He swats me on the head as he passes my seat. It's more of a big brother swat than a mean swat, though. I've known Kyle since I was in diapers.

"Hey, Emma," he says.

"Hey, Kyle."

Behind me, Becca and Ashley chorus their hellos too, but Kyle ignores them and takes a seat beside my brother. Kyle and Darcy are best friends.

The bus lumbers on, round white-steepled Monument Square and on past Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where all the famous people of Concord are buried, patriots and soldiers and writers like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott. As we swing onto Old Bedford Road, the final leg of the bus ride to Walden Middle School, I start to feel sick. The butterflies in my stomach feel more like a herd of buffalo, and I'm worried I might throw up like I did the first day of kindergarten. My mother loves to tell the story of how when she dropped me off in the classroom that day, my teacher leaned down to say hello, and I was so nervous I threw up all over her shoes. "Emma really made a splash," is my mother's punchline. It always gets a laugh.

I don't feel like laughing now, though. I close my eyes and breathe deeply, trying to calm the stampeding buffalo. I can only imagine the impression I'll make on my first day of middle school if I walk into the classroom and barf.

It doesn't help that I can hear Becca and Ashley whispering about my skirt again. I feel my face grow hot and I wish for the millionth time that my mother hadn't made me wear it. It's pretty and everything, and nearly brand-new, but still, it's a hand-me-down. My mother said it looked fine and that no one would ever know, but I knew better.

The bus slows as we reach Half Moon Farm, but there are no Delaneys at the bus stop except Jess's dog Sugar, looking mournful, so we keep going. Jess's mom always drives her and her brothers on the first day of school. Her dad must have decided to keep up the family tradition this year. I wish he hadn't. Not that Jess could make Becca and Ashley any nicer -- that would take complete personality transplants -- but it always makes me feel better having my best friend around.

Trying to block out their comments, I concentrate on my poem again. I'm working on finding a good rhyme for "grape" (ape? cape? tape?) when we pull up in front of the middle school.

Mom made Darcy promise to take care of me this morning, and he herds me confidently through the crowded lobby. Everybody's pushing and shoving as they crowd around the lists posted on the wall by the office. Darcy runs his finger down the sixth grade homerooms and jabs at my name when he spots it.

"Miss Morales, 6-C," he says. I must look panicked because he smiles at me and pats my shoulder. Darcy's pretty nice, for a brother. "Don't worry," he tells me. "You'll like her."

"How about Jess?"

He looks at the list again, then shakes his head. "Sorry, Em -- she's in 6-B with Mr. Flanagan. But he's a good dude too."

As Darcy steers me down the hall toward 6-C, I console myself with the thought that Jess and I will still probably see each other for most of our classes. We're both in all the advanced groups.

"Have fun!" my brother says, leaving me at my homeroom door.

I nod weakly, still feeling nauseous. No one pays me the slightest bit of attention as I walk in. They're all too busy looking for their name tags. I circle the desks nervously, hunting for mine. Great. Miss Morales put me right across from Megan Wong. I slip into my seat and slant a quick glance at her. Megan is flipping her perfect, shoulder-length black hair around and showing off her new earrings to Ashley and Becca. She must have gotten her ears pierced over summer vacation.

Jen Webster arrives and comes over to join them. The four of them travel in a pack, like wolves. The Fab Four, Darcy calls them. They like it when he says that. That's because they like my brother. Darcy's a jock, and the girls all think he's cute and call our house all the time to talk to him. Darcy and I both have the same short, curly brown hair and brown eyes, but so far, nobody thinks I'm cute.

"You're just a late bloomer," my mother tells me. "Be patient." This is mom-code for "My daughter is an ugly duckling and I'm hoping she'll turn out to be a swan," but still, it's comforting to hear. Especially when you don't see so much as a single swan feather yet when you look in the mirror.

I watch the Fab Four surreptitiously while I unpack my school supplies and organize my desk. Becca Chadwick is the queen bee. I learned this from a book my mother was reading over the summer about adolescent girls. She's a librarian and she's always reading books to try and understand me and my brother better.

Queen bees are the ones who end up being the boss. How this works, I have no idea, but every group has one. They're popular and stuck-up and they aren't generally very nice to the regular bees. That's certainly true for Becca Chadwick. And for Megan and Ashley and Jen, too. The three of them are like the queen bee's court -- "wannabees," Jess and I call them.

The sad thing is that Megan Wong used to be my friend. Almost as good a friend as Jess. We used to play Barbies for hours after school in her sunroom. Megan made the most amazing clothes for them. I still have some of the little dresses and hats and things that she sewed. Then in fourth grade I got glasses and Megan's father invented some computer gizmo and made a bazillion dollars, and that was the end of that. Now Megan's all rich and conceited. The sunroom is long gone -- her family traded the cozy condo it belonged to for a house that looks like a museum. Or an airplane hangar. And Megan traded me for Becca, Ashley, and Jen.

Someone slides into the seat beside me. I look over. It's Zach Norton. His hair is bleached streaky blond from the sun and he smells like summer. The buffalo start thundering in my stomach again.

"Hi," I manage to whisper.

"Hey, Emma," he replies casually, then turns away and starts throwing wadded up balls of paper at Ethan MacDonald. Ethan bats them back at him with a ruler. The Fab Four are practically shrieking with laughter at something Megan just said, trying to get Zach's attention, but he doesn't notice. He's too busy with his baseball game. Why is it that girls think boys will notice them if they're loud, anyway?

I stare at the back of Zach's neck. He obviously just got a haircut, because there's a slim line of white skin between where his tan stops and where the edge of his sun-bleached hair begins, like the curl of surf against a sandy beach....

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Heather Vogel Frederick is the author of the first two books in the Mother-Daughter Book Club series, as well as the highly acclaimed The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, The Education of Patience Goodspeed, and the Spy Mice series. She resides with her husband and sons in Portland, Oregon.

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