Barshaw's debut children's book, a paper-over-board volume, replicates the sketchbook of 11-year-old Ellie McDougal. Her surname nickname reflects her love of doodling, which she does a great deal of in these, unfortunately somewhat repetitious, pages. While Ellie's parents are away, she and her baby brother join their aunt, uncle and cousins on a camping trip. In line drawings accompanied by often acerbic commentary, the aspiring artist chronicles the ups and downs of this week-long expedition, which initially entails far more downs than ups. For starters, Ellie points out that her aunt is in a "perpetual bad mood" and all of her three cousins "are pains," especially Eric, whom she refers to as "Er-ick" and describes as "a nose-picking, booger-slurping, bug-infested parasite." Ellie's depiction of him (through most of the book) as a six-armed monster grows tedious, as does the incessant bickering between the two cousins. More diverting are the young journalist's descriptions of such family activities as catching frogs, visiting an animal museum, taking a nature walk, star gazing and tossing water balloons. She also offers instructions for playing a handful of games. Predictably, as the vacation ends Ellie admits that she has had more fun than she'd expected and, on a list of things she learned during the week, includes a nugget of wisdom: "No girl is an island. We're all in this together. Might as well try to get along." Ages 8-12. (May)[Page 62]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 3-6-- Eleven-year-old budding artist Eleanor McDougal shares the sketch diary she keeps throughout her camping trip to northern Michigan. She's making the trip with relatives she does not know very well. Her descriptions of Aunt Ug, Uncle Ewing, and her three cousins are scathing, while she portrays herself as an accomplished artist, naturalist, and born leader. Readers see other facets of Ellie's character as she teases and berates her cousins and ignores her three-year-old brother. When her behavior gets out of control, the adults step in with discipline that forces Ellie to get to know her cousins. Initially the kids forge friendships by playing pranks on the others, but ultimately they enjoy many adventures. Ellie shares instructions and diagrams for games such as "Spoons," "Fing Fang Fooey," and "Sardines" that are easy to follow and will inspire readers to gather friends and play. The engaging text reflects a contemporary preadolescent sensibility and is chock-full of clean, distinguished line drawings on each spread. As Ellie shares her frustrations, conflicts, fun and wildlife facts, readers observe the valuable lessons that she learns about getting along with others--even if they seem to be obnoxious relatives. Ellie hints at further summer surprises, and readers will look forward to her next adventure.--Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI[Page 138]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.