The Zibby Payne series by Alison Bell
Current Mood: pleased
Current Song: Work by Jimmy Eat World
In the spunky, stubborn Zibby Payne, author Alison Bell has created an outstanding character who sticks to her guns and trusts her instincts. Were they contemporaries, Ramona Quimby and Zibby Payne would be friends. Zibby is extremely loyal and very aware of the power of words. She's unafraid to say how she feels, and she also apologizes if she gets too loud or overworked about something. Young readers will learn some important lessons from her, including three very big ones: you don't have to change for others to like you; be proud of who you are; and sometimes, you just gotta go for it! I highly recommend this series for kids in elementary school and just beginning middle school.
The series began with Zibby Payne and the Wonderful, Terrible Tomboy Experiment. Zibby is psyched to start the sixth grade with her best friend Sarah. They have always been close and have lots in common, from head to toe. They like many of the same things and often trade shoes so that they have mismatched pairs.
Unfortunately, her first day of middle school does not completely go as she had planned. Sarah and Zibby's friends start talking about boy bands, comparing lip gloss flavours, doing each other's hair, and giggling when boys from their class walk by. Zibby can't believe her eyes or her ears.
Oh dear Patron Saint of sixth graders, she inwardly prayed, don't let me get stuck talking about boy bands or Groovy Grapilicious lip gloss every day at recess or I'll crumple up and die!
At least she still has Sarah. Right? Well, kind of. Sarah's still her friend, but she's interested in this new recess routine.
Zibby would rather go play soccer with the boys than talk about them. She decides that she's a tomboy and starts wearing her older brother's T-shirts so she can kick the soccer ball around at recess. She then founds an Ultra-Exclusive Tomboy Club and asks potential members four very important questions:
"What's your favorite lip gloss?"
"Boys - which ones at school do you think are cute?"
"Athletic ability. Rate it on a scale of good, okay, or plain-out terrible."
"The fourth and last question. If your friends didn't want to play tetherball with you anymore, and instead wanted to sit around and put on makeup, fix hair, and talk about boys and act like total jerks and even make fun of you, what would you do?" She didn't mean to yell out this last part, but thinking about how her friends had been treating her, she just couldn't help it. - Page 67
Sadly, one other girl is declared fit to join, and the club is short-lived. Meanwhile, Zibby is shocked to discover that her older brother has a girlfriend. What is going on with everyone lately?
As the self-proclaimed tomboy continues to play soccer with the boys, she watches Sarah and her other friends chatting away. She truly misses talking to Sarah. Zibby realizes that although she and Sarah each have new interests, they still share other things, and the two can remain friends.
Additional favorite quotes from the book:
"You've gone over to the Dark Side!" - Zibby to Sarah, Page 25
"Sorry, but when I feel strongly about things, I get loud." - Zibby to her mom, Page 49
In the second book, Zibby Payne and the Drama Trauma, she steps into the spotlight - literally.
When she first hears about the school play, Zibby is not very interested in it. That changes the second she finds out that the lead character loves playing soccer as much as she does. The role goes to one of her classmates at first, but when she is injured, Zibby gets the part. She is back on Cloud Nine, floating along happily until she learns that there's a kiss in the script. No WAY is she going to kiss a boy!
Every time they have to rehearse the kissing scene, she makes an excuse so she doesn't have to go through with it. She keeps stalling and stalling, trying to think of a way out of it, until it's too late: opening night is around the corner. Feeling uncomfortable, she abruptly quits. Though Zibby is very headstrong, she is also considerate, so once she realizes how much her leaving has messed up the entire production, she becomes determined to set things right.
I zipped through Drama Trauma in one sitting and loved it just as much as the first book. This is a great book for kids who talk about "cooties" and have boy-girl "issues," and to teachers and librarians looking for a cute story to read aloud to those kids.
Three parties factor into the third book, Zibby Payne and the Party Problem. First, popular Amber invites many of the girls in their class to her exclusive party. She has a history of throwing the biggest, coolest bashes around. This time around, some of her invitations include a "special coupon" redeemable for a secret prize. The girls who don't get invited at all feel left out, and those who get invitations without coupons wonder why Amber included them at all if she doesn't think they are cool enough to get the bonus surprise. Zibby thinks Amber's being unfair, and she wants to boycott the party.
Shortly after Amber's event comes Savannah's roller skating party and sleepover. Zibby is excited to go. She thinks that Savannnah's a lot more friendly than Amber. But when the skating is done and it's time to go to Savannah's house, Zibby finds out that her best friend Sarah wasn't invited to the sleepover. It turns out that the party girl's mom permitted her to invite twelve girls to the rink, but only six back to their house. Upset that people are being left out again, Zibby turns down the sleepover and leaves with Sarah instead.
Zibby decides to have her own party. Determined to have "the most inclusive party on the planet," she makes a lengthy guest list naming "everyone [she's] friends with, sometimes friends with, used-to-be friends with, and want-to-be friends with." The guest list grows as she adds the boys she plays soccer with and two girls she thinks are kind of weird but doesn't want to leave out. After she "accidentally dis-invites" those girls and her well-intentioned plans go awry, she has to eat some humble pie before the party's over.
Three's a crowd in Zibby Payne and the Trio Trouble, the fourth book in the line. New girl Gertrude seems cool from the second she enters the classroom. With her funky vintage clothes, she certainly doesn't dress like any of her classmates. Soon, Zibby learns that Gertrude has odd allergies, that she is an artist, and that she doesn't eat junk food. She's an individual, that's for sure, and Zibby befriends her almost instantly.
Unfortunately, Zibby's best friend Sarah is wary of the newcomer, and the feeling is mutual. Ever the peacekeeper, Zibby tries to find common ground for her two best buds to stand on. She concocts Operation Friendship in an effort to make them get along, but her plan backfires: when Gertrude and Sarah finally do bond, they start doing things without Zibby! Finally, when the girls realize they don't have to out-do each other or fib to make friends, three becomes company.
The fifth book in the series, Zibby Payne and the Red Carpet Revolt, was released in September 2008.
Wicked Cool Overlooked Books
I've given this series the WCOB tag. Wicked Cool Overlooked Books is a monthly blog notation encouraged by Colleen from Chasing Ray: On the first Monday of every month, she posts about a book she enjoyed that she wishes others would pick up, and invites others to post their picks as well.
Read my other posts about Wicked Cool Overlooked Books.
Learn more about WCOB at Chasing Ray.
Related Posts: Booklist: Ramona Readalikes, Author Interview: Alison Bell