Friday 17 July 2015

Double Dare You: Ella Diaries #1

Double Dare You: Ella Diaries #1 by Meredith Costain, illustrated by Danielle McDonald (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $6.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-863-8

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

This is the top secret diary belonging to Ella, who is just starting Grade 5. Instead of being the best year ever, it seems to be going from bad to worse. First her BFF Zoe does not show up at school, and then she is made to sit next to her worst enemy Peach. No matter what Ella does, Peach is in her space.
Peach does everything she can to make Ella and Zoe’s lives miserable, especially when everyone starts to play the double dare game. Can Ella figure out a way to get out of a particularly mean dare without losing too much face?
This series will appeal to girls in lower to middle primary. Handwritten to create a young girls diary, the i’s are topped with hearts and there is much scribbling out, as well as sketches, diagrams, exclamation marks, and large font to emphasise the drama of a grade 5 girl’s school life. Exploring issues such as friendship, bullying, playground crazes and insecurities, young girls are going to relate to and enjoy reading about the daily drama of Ella, Zoe, Peach and their friends.
I have only one slight reservation with Ella’s Diaries. I have to assume this Ella is a grown up version of Ella from the Ella & Olivia series even though it is a different author. All the names are the same – BFF Zoe, sister Olivia, dog Bob – and both series have the same illustrator so she even looks the same. But Ella feels like a different person. The relationship between the sisters is different; there is no lovely family bond, and Ella seems harder, more sarcastic and less warm. These changes and hard edges, however, could be relevant to adolescence and growing up quickly.
This is a small quibble, and only in light of my reading of the former series, this issue aside, they are thoroughly enjoyable books. My eleven year old daughter was totally engaged by this series and I think young girls will love to follow Ella and Zoe as they grow up.

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