The following review was contributed by: MOLLY MARTIN
The book opens with Melanie excited as can be. She has a brand new diary, and something exciting to write in it. This was the best day ever… it was the last day of school and the last day of fourth grade. Before long Melanie is facing the prospect of that long ‘nothing to do’ summer. Cecily her best friend has gone on a trip to visit her dad, and Melanie is missing her friends from school. Melanie’s diary continues with day to trials of a ten and a half year old girl.
Things are about to change, in early July Melanie’s school teacher Mom receives a grant. Before leaving for Holland so that Mom can use her grant to study artist Vincent Van Gogh Mom gives Melanie a copy of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank.’ When Cecily’s mom is diagnosed with breast cancer Melanie writes her fears and worry in her own diary along with her notes about the upcoming trip. At last the day comes to fly to Holland, and horror of horrors; all the luggage is lost. Melanie is beside herself when day after day the luggage remains lost and they are wearing the same clothes. After several days pass with no luggage they all go shopping. Whew! Melanie was happy for that. At least Cecily got to come along on the trip while her mom is having surgery back home.
Before long Melanie is getting really out of sorts with Cecily and her penchant for always saying and doing the right thing. And before you know it Melanie and Cecily have a big fight at one of the most important museum’s Melanie’s Mom has come to visit. Of course Melanie records every bit of the lost luggage, the sights and sounds of Holland and that quarrel with Cecily in her diary. The trip to Holland and the trip home add more fuel for Melanie’s writing.
Melanie Martin Goes Dutch is a refreshing read sure to please girls of the 9-14 group. Author Weston obviously knows this age group well, she proves her prowess as a gifted writer by producing a nicely wrought narrative sure to appeal to girls and their Moms. With out coming off as stilted or preachy Author Weston deftly weaves a bit of geography, the story of Anne Frank, a good bit of art including one of my own favorite artists Van Gogh, along with a discussion of breast cancer and the import it can have on the lives of others into the work.
The format of diary entries with all the squiggles, cartoons and verbiage to be expected from a ten-year-old girl are a delight to read. The reader is caught up in the narrative immediately. Melanie is a typical girl who grumbles, laughs, finds her parents a source of embarrassment, argues and resolves the quarrel as she writes it all down to remember forever. Humor abounds as the travelers deal with the lost luggage and a visit to a topless beach. Melanie’s feelings of not doing quite as well as her friend, finding her little brother a pain in the neck and not always wanting to ‘go along with the program’ are all feelings most youngsters know well. Writer Weston gently guides the reader into an understanding that Melanie, the reader and most likely everyone has these same feelings at one time or another.
Melanie Martin Goes Dutch is a book sure to fit well into the classroom ‘free reading’ program, a home library and pleasure reading for middle grades. Look forward to reading others in the series.