Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Seeing Cinderella

Remember what it was like to be in middle school?  All ankles, knees, elbows and nose, hoping no one will notice whatever it is that you think is wrong with you that day,  figuring out what your "thing" is, trying to balance multiple classes and teacher expectations, avoiding the bullies, and wanting to be safe at home, while simultaneously not wanting to be under your parents' thumbs?  Good times.

This little gem captures all of those feelings perfectly.  Seeing Cinderella chronicles the first half of Callie's sixth grade year.  The day before school starts. her mom takes her to the optometrist for a check up because she is having headaches.  Callie is determined not to wear glasses and has memorized the vision screening chart in a vain attempt to trick the doctor.

He's not fooled and the reader should pick up on the fact that he is no ordinary optometrist when he gives her an eye exam that includes a bizarre version of the Rorschach test and asks questions about making friends, sounding more like a psychologist than an optometrist.  As she prepares to leave, he tells her that the frames she has selected are backordered and gives her an incredibly ugly pair of glasses to use in the meantime, advising her to use them wisely.

Callie soon discovers that when she is wearing the glasses, she can see what people are thinking (in text form) as well as their wishes and past experiences (in video form).  This gift proves helpful as she figures out who her real friends are, which boy likes her and is worth liking back, and what is going on with her separated parents.  

I expected that the glasses would be used in mischievous ways far more often than they would be used as a tool for introspection, but author Jenny Lundquist doesn't want the message to be lost. Callie's voice is clear and true throughout the story as she learns some tough lessons and finds a way to be herself, happily.

The chapter subtitles are clever, the characters are true-to-life, and Lundquist demonstrates an understanding of a middle schooler's innermost struggles and a delightful ability to articulate them.  Once you've read Seeing Cinderella, be sure to explore her other novels.

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