by Ali Maier
Joanna Robinson, illustrator
Erie Island Media
Back Cover: “A BROTHER AND SISTER . . . ARE FORCED TO SHARE ONE JOURNAL!
“This is exactly what happened to 10-year-old twins, Maggie and Max Pruitt. When mom come up with a plan for the summer journal, Maggie and Mas can’t believe it. Worse yet, they have to share! Maggie and Max find out they have some very different (and funny) views about everything that happens over the summer.”
Opening: “Dear Maggie and Max, I bought this summer journal for you to share. I would like you to write about your summer. It will give you a wonderful opportunity to see things from each other’s perspective. Here are the rules: . . . You are both very funny and talented writers, so I can’t wait to read what you’ve written. I love you both!”
Look out Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries, here comes Mom Made Us Write This, another funny diary that makes your sister’s diary a real bore. Mom begins her children’s summer with an assignment. Her rules include things like, “You must read the previous entry before you begin to write, and exceptional vocabulary with earn you extra allowance.” The kids are not amused.
Max, who has a healthy self-image, and Maggie, who is older than her ten years—but then what girl is not—start the journal with a lot of arguing, though it is nice arguing per mom’s rules. Each child choses six of the required twelve summer topics, and may nicely comment on the other’s entry. Unfortunately, this is what they do.
There is no irreverence in the entries. Both children are kind to each other, which is unrealistic at best. Here is Max, at the beginning of the summer, counting on one of Maggie’s entries about the prospect of journaling with her brother:
“Really? You like expressing your opinion? I hadn’t noticed. Ha ha- NOT!”
Maggie is a bit snarky:
“ I wish you would have wet your pants. Now THAT would have been funny . . .no wait, hysterical!” (a heart for the dot over the “i”)
Max decides to write about the zoo, the doctor’s office, baseball, hotels, and grandparents. Maggie choices are getting in trouble, icky babies, Ice Cream Day, Cedar Lakes (roller coasters; renaming of the real Cedar Point), and back to school. Good ole’ mom picked the last topic: what I learned writing this journal. As the summer and the writing moves on both kids write compliments about the other. Actually, good portions of the comments are nice. I expected more differences of opinion about the topics and each other. Ten-year-olds, one boy and one girl, who they agree on so many things, just does not seem realistic.
Mom Made Us Write This is much softer than Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Dork Diaries with no entry shocking or surprising, making it a great choice for younger children. By the end of the summer, the two are just as courteous as they began. While the author tries to give Maggie and Max his or her own voice, often it is difficult to know which child wrote the entry. You should be able to open and read the book at any page and know if it is Maggie’s or Max’s writing.
I think younger middle grade kids will like Mom Made Us Write This. I like that the author tried to infuse a local Lake Erie site into her writing, such as Cedar Point, which she call Cedar Lakes. I also liked the illustrations, which represent doodles Maggie and Max would draw inside such a journal. I do wonder if readers can support another humorous, middle grade, diary series. Time will tell. I think Mom Made Us Write this in the Summer would have had better appeal had it been released last June, rather than this past October.
Erie Island Media (SP) website
Released October 3, 2013
Age 8 to 12
MOM MADE US WRITE THIS IN THE SUMMER, BOOK #. Text © 2013 by Ali Maier. Illustrations © 2013 by Joanna Robinson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Erie Island Media, Brunswick, OH.