If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know how pregnancy can mess with your eating; sometimes, your favorite recipes become intolerable for the duration. With any luck, though, you’ll eventually be able to make them again, and when you do, there’s that moment of–“Mmmm. I completely forgot how good this is.”
That’s kind of how I feel about Joan Bauer. Not that she ever became intolerable, mind you–I just read everything she’d written and then got so distracted by pregnancy and a fourth child that her newest book flew under my radar for a while. When I finally thought to check her website, I was beyond excited for her latest offering, and what do you know?
She’s even better than I remember.
What I remember was already fabulous, you understand. Bauer has a gift for creating quirky, likable main characters, and she tells their stories with a near-perfect blend of humor and pathos. Her books tend to share certain kinds of plot features, true, but they’re so ridiculously enjoyable that it’s never bothered me. I picked up Hope was Here because it was a Newbery Honor book, and I loved it so much that I went through the rest of hers in short order; Squashed, Thwonk, Sticks, Rules of the Road, Backwater, Stand Tall, and Best Foot Forward. From there I read Peeled, Close to Famous, and Almost Home as they came out, but as I said, I missed the existence of Tell Me until recently. I finished it last night.
Tell Me is typical Bauer–a main character with a passion (acting), a loyal and fabulous best friend (Lorenzo), and a community with a purpose (a flower festival and parade). Where her early novels had fairly black and white characters, however, her later novels have grown in complexity. The town’s rich, overbearing businessman and his daughter aren’t one dimensional at all; Anna’s parents’ situation is a bit complicated; and what Anna’s trying to accomplish is not as simple as growing a giant pumpkin or winning a pool competition. Instead, she sees a girl who looks like she’s in trouble, and in the context of the town’s flower festival, she has to decide what to do about it–and how to do it.
I loved watching Anna’s story play out–don’t miss it! And if you like Tell Me, go back and read more of Joan Bauer.
I promise you won’t be disappointed.