Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing) (series #1)
What You Need to Know:|
• Reluctant readers will relate to Julia’s aversion to books.
• The city of Minneapolis plays a substantial role in the story.
• The main character learns some strategies to overcome her fears.
• This book is long but there is a lot of white space and plenty of great illustrations.
• This book is the first in the series.
It’s summer in Minneapolis and nine-year old Julia Gillian is contemplating her talents. Like many kids that age, she’s keeping track of what she’s good at and so far, she feels pretty confident in her abilities. She's perfected the art of the papier mache mask and she seems to have a flair for the "art of knowing" or predicting what will happen. One thing she doesn’t feel so good about is reading so she’s trying to avoid that at all costs. Her parents are busy doing their own thing so Julia spends much of her summer visiting 18-year old Enzo, a girl who lives in the downstairs apartment, or walking around her neighborhood with her dog Bigfoot. Julia starts the story as a happy, cheerful kid but soon finds herself in a bit of a funk. Maybe it's the summer heat or the fact that her parents are studying all the time, but stuff starts to irritate her. She's bothered by the stuck up dog down the street, the elusive stuffed meerkat she's been trying to win for three years in a local "claw machine" game, the bad news she reads in the newspaper, the realization that her parents haven't always been completely honest with her, and the "green book" that she desperately wants to avoid because she's afraid the ending will be sad.
As Julia is a really thoughtful character, most of the book is spent on her moods, feelings, opinions and ideas. She actually doesn’t do much in the 288 pages except walk around her neighborhood and visit, mostly with adults. When she interacts with the one other child mentioned in the book, she spends that time acting like she's an adult. She spends her time thinking about herself, her family and her community. Contrary to most characters in this genre of books, Julia doesn’t seem to think at all about her peers. In fact, it is unclear as to whether or not she has any friends her own age. While it is, on the one hand refreshing not to read about cliques and popularity, it is somewhat disconcerting not to hear mention of any friends at all. Maybe it is because of this lack of social interaction that Julia seems so comfortable being her own, quirky self. She likes acting like a grown up, trying out unconventional phrases like "indeed it is" and "at will" and wearing masks to help her cope with her feelings. She does seem to learn some coping methods and matures throughout the story, going from feeling like everything is unfair to learning to have a more positive outlook on life. Lastly, the illustrations, done in a similar style to Marla Frazee's in Clementine, are expressive and entertaining, and definitely add to the enjoyment of the story.
2008, 288 pages
Animals, Books & Reading, Community, Compassion/Empathy, Environmentalism, Family Life, Feelings, Identity, Independence, Overcoming Fears, Self-Awareness/Discovery, Urban
• Can you list some of your talents or things that you’re good at?
• Is your neighborhood like Julia’s? What do you like about your neighborhood? Julia’s neighborhood?
• What are you afraid of? Do you have any tricks to get over your fears?
• Do you ever read ahead in a book to find out the ending?
• Does Julia seem like someone with whom you’d be friends?
• Why does Julia stop to talk to the little girl she sees when she's walking? How does she help her?
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