Stella Batts series by Courtney Sheinmel, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
Current Mood: sick
Current Song: One Fine Day by The Chiffons on Cold Case
Eight-year-old Stella Batts is pretty content. Her little sister Penelope usually forgets to knock before entering her bedroom, but Penny's mostly okay, and the girls are looking forward to the little brother their mom is expecting. Their parents own a candy store called Batts Confections, which offers almost every kind of sweet treat you can imagine. Stella is fond of her family, her town, and her school - but ever since one of the boys in her class called her "Smella," she's not too fond of her name. Now if she could only think of a name she likes better...and as soon as the girls in Stella's third-grade class find out that she's changing her name, they all want to change their names, too!
Stella Batts Needs a New Name, the first in a new series of chapter books for young readers, is presented as Stella's autobiography-in-progress. Aspiring writers will relate to Stella's dream of seeing her name on the cover of a published book, and kids who like the stories of Judy Moody or Ramona Quimby will happily find a new friend in Stella - though it is, I think, important to note that Stella is calmer than either Judy or Ramona.
I have been reading Courtney Sheinmel's works since her debut, My So-Called Family. (Please refer to the end of this post for additional posts and reviews of Sheinmel's other books.) Stella is her youngest protagonist to date. I really liked how she interacted with her parents, how proud she was of their family business, and how well-behaved (but still acting her age!) she was in her household and her community. I also like that she has a sweet tooth but doesn't go crazy for (or from) sugar.
Stella also has a sweet smile. Artist Jennifer A. Bell created the cover art as well as the interior black and white drawings of Stella, her family and friends. Spot illustrations also show Stella's favorite places, her favorite foods, and her daydreams. The artwork fits right in with the story's style and compliments the text. After finishing the book, I dropped by Jennifer's website, where I found this adorable mouse, which brought to mind the adorable ballerina Suzy's Zoo mouse. Then there are Bell's sweet teacup critters, who are welcome to hang out with me in Wonderland (and at Seven Impossible Things) on a sweet spring day.
If I were Stella's neighbor, you'd find me in Scheherazade, the bookstore which opened up next door to Batts Confections. If I bumped into Stella there, I'd ask her what books inspired her as a young writer, and I'd make sure she had a copy of What's Your Story?: A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction by Marion Dane Bauer. (You have NO idea how many times I read and re-read that book when I was a kid!)
The Stella Batts series so far:
#1 Stella Batts Needs a New Name
#2 Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
#3 Pardon Me
#4 A Case of the Meanies
From Stella Batts Needs a New Name:
"I want to be a writer."
"Me too," Penny said. "I'm going to be a princess, and a candy store owner, and a writer."
"That's too many things," I said.
"No, it's not," Penny said. "Right, Mom?"
"You'll be very busy, but I'm sure you can do it all," Mom told her. - Pages 17-18
From Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow:
Sometimes it's hard to think of the right words, even for people who want to be writers when they grow up. - Page 132
I'm a lucky girl who loves her name. My mom wrote down various spellings of my name when I was perhaps 3 years old and let me select my favorite version. How cool is that? How cool is my mom? (Answer: Very cool. She's the best.)
Related Bildungsroman Posts
Interview: Courtney Sheinmel (2008)
Interview: Courtney Sheinmel (2009)
Book Review: My So-Called Life by Courtney Sheinmel
Book Review: Positively by Courtney Sheinmel
Family: Courtney Sheinmel
Hope: Courtney Sheinmel