Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: "Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen" by Donna Gephart!

"Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen" by Donna Gephart!
And such a pretty cover!
Don't you just love it when you love something, you feel you need to shout it from the mountaintops to let the world know?

This is how I feel about Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, the super talented and very funny Donna Gephart's newest middle grade novel! I learned about Donna's work last year when I attended her humor workshop at the NESCBWI conference in Fitchburg, MA. She taught us how to think more like a kid and what kids think are funny. (After leaving this workshop, I found the same kinds of things that make a fourth-grader laugh also make ME laugh, and thus decided: I am still a kid. Yesssssss!)

Thinking like a kid is what Donna does best, and it shows. Olivia Bean is a brainy middle-schooler who loves Jeopardy! so much that her family knows better than to bother her between the hour... er, half hour, of 7:30 and 8:00pm. She shoots out answers as if she's on the show herself... if she could be so lucky. Turns out, she is that lucky, at least when it comes to the auditions for Kid's Week. (I won't ruin what happens next!) And though Olivia's got a lot on her shoulders for a twelve-year-old, she learns she is luckier with more than just the trivial things in life.

I really enjoyed this book, because I could not only relate to the character, I felt I was this character. Donna's writing allowed me to get out of my own head and into Olivia's in a nanosecond. Her triumphs became my triumphs, and her fears became my own. After reading this book, I found myself caring when Jeopardy! was on. (Usually that's my husband's thing.) I've never forgotten what it was like to be twelve; I guess for some reason I'm somehow stuck in that mindset. So as I read Olivia's thoughts and feelings, I just nodded my head and felt the same exact way she did.

Not only that, but many of Olivia's childhood worries were also my own: her single mom loses her job; parents are split; little brother both annoys and cheers her up; single mom is dating; a best friend loses touch. This book felt like it came from my own memories, and the imagery in my mind helped me recall all those little details that we are sometimes afraid to forget. Or afraid to remember.

What I especially loved about Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen is the endearing relationship between Olivia and her little brother, Charlie. Charlie was my second favorite character in the story, because his love for his big sister always managed to save the day and make Olivia feel better, and he totally cracked me up! She learns a lot from him though she doesn't realize it. And since the siblings are seven years apart, they don't fight as nearly as much as my little brother and I did! (Being just shy of three years apart, our sibling competition kept us all on our toes!)

Anyway, I think if I had read a book like this when I was twelve, it would have made an impact in the way I see the world. Because, though I doubt I would have noticed it back then, the underlying theme of the book is something that can be carried unto adulthood for all walks of life. And that theme is Perspective. Life isn't always what it seems, and there are more to things than what meets the eye. Someone can treat you in a mean way but truly they might be hurting inside, even more so than you. Someone can treat you nicely, but they're really sizing you up for the next battle. Someone could genuinely care about you, though you may have mistook their words to be hurtful.

It's always good to remember to step outside the box, or the Jeopardy! podium, and see the world in a different light!

Thank you, Donna, for that important reminder!

And here are some links:

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