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Capture the Flag
Kate Messner


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The Dirt Diary PDF Print E-mail

What You Need to Know:
• When her parents split up, Rachel Lee is determined to find a way to get them back together, no matter what it
  takes - even lying, spying and stealing.
• Rachel finds comfort in her love of baking.
• The sequel, The Prank List, will be released in July 2014 and the third book, The Gossip File, will be out in 2015.
• There's mention that Rachel is half Asian, but her heritage doesn't play a big role in the story except that she's
  aware that she looks more like her dad (whose parents are from Korea) than her blond mom.
• Rachel definitely has an interest in boys, but it's all very innocent.
Sweet Book Summary:
Middle school can be filled with challenges, and Rachel Lee, an eighth grader, seems to be facing quite a few of them. She's extremely insecure, or as she says, "freakishly shy" and only feels comfortable around her dad and her best friend Marisol or when she's baking. Her lack of confidence has made her a target for mean girls Briana and Caitlin. Unfortunately, as she says, "...when the popular girls finally learned my name, it was only so they could make fun of me." When her dad abandons their little family to start a scuba-diving business, Rachel is devastated and determined to stop the divorce. She comes up with a "Get-My-Parents-Back-Together Plan" that includes stealing money from her college fund, lying to her parents, and secretly buying a ticket to Florida so she can talk some sense into her dad.

Rachel figures she can pay back the college fund with the prize money she wins for creating the best recipe at her school bake sale, but things aren't going very smoothly. Her recipes seem to reflect her moods, and they haven't been so good lately. When her mom starts a cleaning business, Rachel decides to help out to make more money, but she finds that being a maid for kids in her school can be complicated. On top of that, the money isn't adding up fast enough so she agrees to spy on Briana in exchange for cash. Rachel knows she's out of control, but even when Marisol confronts her, she still can't accept it. They end up in a huge fight, and Rachel finds herself truly alone. Now she only finds comfort in her "Dirt Diary" where she writes about her housekeeping mishaps. It helps to put her thoughts onto paper, but how will she use that information and what will happen if all that "dirt" ever gets out?

Readers will relate to the friendship drama, first crushes, bullying, and middle school angst that Rachel experiences. They will sympathize with her when she's embarrassed or feels like a loser or thinks she's invisible. Whether or not they have experienced divorce themselves, or perhaps know someone who has, readers will understand the pain and concern that result from any change in a comfortable family situation. Although Rachel often feels like her mom doesn't understand her, their relationship improves, and their communication is much better by the end of the story. Things tie up nicely as Rachel gains confidence and realizes that lying is not the solution to her problems. The Dirt Diary captures the roller coaster of emotions that epitomizes middle school, and in this case it is well worth the ride!
Author: Anna Staniszewski Illustrator: n/a Published: 2014, 256 pages
Themes: Bullying, Cliques/Popularity, Cooking, Ethics, Divorce, Friendship, Self-Awareness/Discovery
Sweet Discussion Questions:
• Do you agree with Rachel's behavior? What would you advise her to do differently?
• Why did Briana target Rachel? What can Rachel do to change Briana's behavior and her own?
• What makes Marisol a good friend?
• Why does baking help Rachel get through some difficult moments in the story?
• Why does Rachel lie to her mom and also occasionally to her friends?
• When and why do you keep secrets from your friends and family?
• Is it ever OK to lie or steal?
• How could Rachel's mom have handled the divorce differently in terms of its impact on Rachel?
• Rachel often claims to "have no choice" in what she's doing. Does she have a choice? What are her options?
• Is Marisol being a good friend when she tells Rachel that she's tired of her acting like a "victim"?
• When Rachel lies about finding a note in Briana's room, she justifies it by saying Briana deserves it? Do you agree?
• How else can parents be helpful if their kids don't want them to just come in and try to fix everything?
• Would you have turned Angela in for cheating in the bake contest?
• How would it make you feel to work as a maid in your friends' houses?
• If you could rewrite the ending, how would you do it?
If You Liked This Book, Try:
The Center of Everything, Linda Urban
The Upside of Ordinary, Susan Lubner
How to Rock Braces and Glasses, Meg Haston
The Mother-Daughter Book Club, Heather Vogel Frederick
This recommendation was written by: Melissa G.
Support Independent Book Shops: Click Here to Buy this Book on IndieBound

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