Meghan Rose on Stage, written by grade school teacher Lori Z. Scott, is a good place to begin when your child is ready for an essentially non-illustrated chapter book.
Meghan Rose is a typical first grader, and when she learns her school is having a talent show, she's excited - and a bit worried. What, exactly, is her talent? That girl she doesn't care much for, Lynette, plays the piano. Her good friend Ryan dribbles balls and is great at blowing bubbles. But Meghan isn't good at anything at all. So she prays about it.
Later, her moms says,
"God gives each of us different talents. Don't compare yourself too much to other people. Just focus on what you can do best...The Bible tells us to be content in all situations. Content with much...or with little."When at last Meghan decides her talent show act will be performing "the awesome, amazing, incredible, frightening volcano demonstration" (i.e., making a clay volcano erupt with baking soda and vinegar), she feels much more confident. But then her friend Ryan uses the water bottle she's filled with vinegar to water the class plants. Her act is ruined. Now what will she do?
It's not until Lynette gets a terrible case of stage fright that Meghan realizes what her true talent is. She tells her teacher: "I prayed for an idea, Mrs. Arnold...And I thought about what I do best. And it isn't jumping. Or chanting...It's being a friend..." So Meghan asks Lynette and many of her other classmates to join her on stage. And they are great.
What I Like: This book reminds me a lot of the Natalie books by Dandi Daley Mackall, which are targeted more toward preschoolers and kindergartners. Meghan isn't quite as well written, but is penned in an easier to read style. If you and your children like Nat, then you'll probably like Meghan, too. Other readers have compared this book to the mainstream series about Junie B. Jones.
Meghan is flawed, but wants to please God, and we see her dealing with common things like jealousy and wishing not-so-nice people ill - and then feeling guilty about it - with prayer. There is some humor; for example Meghan's mom tells her she'll grow eyes in the back of her head when she becomes a mother, and Meghan decides the lumps just behind her eyes are really her "eye buds," which will open up upon having a child.
A neat bonus is the inclusion of a few discussion questions at the end of the book, plus five activities to try (including creating a clay, baking soda, and vinegar volcano). There are also five black and white line, cartoon-like illustrations by Stacy Curtis scattered throughout the book.
What I Dislike: There are times when Meghan Rose On Stage's first grade characters seem to speak with the maturity of an adult. Nonetheless, the book as a whole has good kid appeal.
Overall Rating: Very good.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 6 - 8, but older kids generally don't like reading about younger children. On the other hand, my 4 year old really enjoyed having this title read to her.
Publishing Info: Standard, 2007; ISBN: 978-0784721032; paperback, $4.99.
Special Info: Visit Lori Z. Scott's website for activities, jokes, and interviews with the author.