Part of the fun of reviewing Advanced Reader Copies is having the opportunity to read books by authors whom I may not have otherwise discovered. Such is the case with Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer by Ali Maier. This he-said, she-said journal-style book by 10-year-old twins appeals both in the writing and in the design.
I’ll start with the design. When one is flipping through a stack of books trying to decide what to read, appearance truly is worth a thousand words. The cover of Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer has the look of a young person’s journal, from the use of colorful block stencils for the title to the illusion of tape on the side. Sticker and refrigerator art also decorate the cover. The inside pages are just as believable, from the use of lined inside pages to the handwritten-style font. Doodles, maps, and cross-outs further enhance the inside pages. After I scanned my pile of books looking for a light read, Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer was a perfect top pick.
Next, I’ll turn to the writing. As with the artwork, there was no one single mode used. There were lists, scribbles, and journal entries. Even the latter varied greatly in style. Some read like narratives and others like descriptions, essays, or even research. Most important, the he-said entries in Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer actually felt as if written by a ten-year-old boy and the she-said entries felt as if written by a ten-year-old girl. Max loves pranks, humor, and sports, while Maggie loves to read, write, and go to the mall. Before you start thinking the twins are stereotypes of their gender, let me reassure that they also have other sides to them. Max is an A-student and gets bullied, while Maggie loves animals and ice-cream. In addition, Max dislikes heights, while Maggie dislikes babies. So, you can see, the two are complex individuals too. Anyone who likes humorous chapter books will find this title an equal delight.
Through the dual journal entries, the twins share their summer adventures and learn more about each other along the way. Nothing earth-shaking happens, but instead the plot consists of small moments, and Maier has an entertaining style that makes this action mostly work. On occasion, such as when the family stayed at a hotel, I did find myself wishing for dialog and other literary elements one often finds lacking in a journal.
The twins don’t even dramatically change, but again Maier has created endearing enough characters that we still end up liking and rooting for Max and Maggie. Maier even set readers up for a sequel because, while the twins did gain some appreciation of one another, they also still squabble and have the kind of moments that led to the journal assignment in the first place.
I enjoyed my leisurely read of Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer this past weekend on a car drive. If you like graphic novels, chapter books, and humor, you should give the title a chance. It might even inspire your own journal!