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Country Girl, City Girl


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About the Author

Lisa Jahn-Clough has written and illustrated a number of books for young children, including Alicia Has a Bad Day; My Friend and I; Missing Molly; Simon and Molly Plus Hester; On the Hill; and Country Girl, City Girl. She has taught at Maine College of Art and the Vermont College Writing for Children and Young Adults program.


Jahn-Clough's (On the Hill) protracted tale centers on the friendship between two teens with dissimilar backgrounds. Narrator Phoebe, a friendless 13-year-old who lives on a Maine farm, wears her hair in braids and delights in reading fairy tales to her goat. Melita, a 14-year-old who sports stylish fashions and a purple streak in her hair, arrives from Manhattan to spend the summer on the farm when her mother (a college friend of Phoebe's late mother) enrolls in a clinic after a suicide attempt. The story assumes the sleepy pace of the girls' days: shutterbug Phoebe photographs Melita, Melita shows Phoebe how to apply makeup and they make plans to stage a fashion show in which they'll dress as fairy tale characters and "reidentify them as modern young women." Phoebe's infatuation with her friend takes on a new dimension when Melita teaches her how to kiss on the lips ("Like a fairy tale. I'll be the boy, the prince. You can be the princess"), during which Phoebe reflects, "I'm kissing... I'm kissing Melita. And it was exciting." As she grapples with her confusion surrounding her feelings, Phoebe makes some credible reflections ("Is this what it meant to have a best friend? Were you supposed to want to kiss your best friend?"). She then contends with jealousy when she visits Melita in the city and learns she has a crush on a young French man. The author's descriptions of Phoebe's colliding emotions ring true and the girl's fervent desire to learn more about the mother she never knew adds a poignant note. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Jahn-Clough shows insight into Phoebe's developing personality.
Smoothly told, with feminist sensibilities and references to Grimms' Fairy Tales, this novel engages readers with a fully developed protagonist who demands sympathy from her reader.
A shy unpolished girl in the throes of growing up having something to offer to a fashion maven will be a welcome idea to the many girls for whom glamour and popularity seem as distant as the moon.

Gr 7-9-Two girls thrown together by chance forge an exceptionally close friendship, and one has the courage to admit that for her it is more than platonic. Phoebe has grown up on a farm in Maine. During the summer before eighth grade, Melita, slightly older and worlds more sophisticated, comes to stay. Melita, child of a single, psychologically troubled mother, and Phoebe, child of a widower, are both lonely, although they express it differently. Glamorous Melita entrances shy, literary Phoebe, who likes being behind a camera. Together, they feed one another's imaginations and plan a feminist fashion show. After Melita returns to New York, Phoebe visits her. When she sees that her friend has a crush on a boy, she is forced to come to terms with her own feelings. Her range of emotions and the degree to which they drive her behavior are the most successful elements of the book. While the adolescent dialogue doesn't always ring true and the ending is a bit rushed, the confusion, self-doubt, and self-discovery that Phoebe experiences will be familiar to readers. The lesbian issue is unresolved and relatively low-key, allowing it to be as important or unimportant as readers make it. A shy, unpolished girl in the throes of growing up having something to offer to a fashion maven will be a welcome idea to the many girls for whom glamour and popularity seem as distant as the moon.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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