Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sophie Steps Up

Sophie LaCroix, sixth-grader, drama queen, and Corn Flake, is back to help girls learn another lesson about themselves and what God expects of them. In Sophie Steps Up, Book Four in the Sophie series, FaithGirlz author Nancy Rue tackles what it means to accept others.

Sophie is an imaginative girl with a flair for drama. Together with her friends, Fiona, Maggie and Kitty, they make up the Corn Flakes. Unlike the popular Corn Pops, the Corn Flakes pray, try to be kind to others, and try to embrace their uniqueness. In addition to typical sixth-grade struggles, Sophie has a habit of getting lost in imaginary worlds and being imaginary characters. Since she has had a hard time staying on task in school and keeping her grades up, her parents have been taking her to counseling with Dr. Peter. His kind eyes and wise suggestions make Sophie look forward to her weekly visits with him.

When the girls' art teacher announces their next project is to be a performance (for the St. Patrick's Day competition), and they can pick their own groups, Sophie and her friends are thrilled. They already make movies for fun, and are only slightly put off when Miss Blythe tells them it must be a live performance. But when new student, Darbie O'Grady, arrives in class and Miss Blythe assigns her to Sophie's group, the Corn Flakes stability is shaken. To make matters worse, Dr. Peter changes Sophie's visits to an "as-needed" basis, Darbie seems, ". . .sullen and annoyed and smoldering no matter what was going on," and Maggie, who was supposed to make their costumes, is reassigned to a group with the popular girls.

The closer the performance deadline gets, the more frustrated the girls become. When one planning meeting after another ends in disaster, Sophie finally asks her parents if she can talk to Dr. Peter. She is afraid she is falling into her old habits of escaping into imaginary worlds. Sophie is pleasantly surprised when her parents promise to help her, instead, but their conversation is ruined by Sophie's sister, Lacie, who is always in some sort of crisis. Eventually, Sophie reads the Bible story about Jesus washing the disciples feet, and decides she needs to wash Darbie's feet. Sophie decides a tea party will show her good intentions.

After learning more about Northern Ireland and the tragedies in Darbie's past, Sophie and Darbie decide to write a play to teach the rest of the class about Northern Ireland. However, Fiona quickly lets Sophie know she is feeling left out, and soon Sophie and Darbie are literally washing Fiona's feet. Like most sixth-grade messes, the friends work everything out and go on to stage a presentation sure to make everyone think, regardless of whether it wins the competition.

What I Like: Rue captures the confusing, frustrating and emotional world of sixth-grade, but she keeps the love and hope of Christ front and center in the book. I love the fact Sophie is seeing a counselor, and I enjoy his gentle manner and biblical advice. By taking the Bible at it's word, Sophie learns how to relate like Jesus to a new friend and also how to accept the idiosyncrasies of an old friend.

I always like books where we get to see friends having disagreements and working things out. Dealing with conflict is so hard, but such an important life skill, and Rue gives girls lots of examples of being selfless, apologizing, and thinking about other perspectives.

I have to admit I'm biased, but having a sister, brother-in-law, and niece living in Northern Ireland, I enjoyed the cultural references and colloquial speech Rue included. My daughter really liked the book too.

What I Dislike: I kept getting confused about the Corn Pops and Corn Flakes, and I think it is sad there are so many "cliques" represented, but this probably is realistic in a lot of school situations.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 9-12, but this installment would be fine for 8 and up

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2009; ISBN: 978-0-310-71841-3; Paperback, $6.99

Buy it Now at for $5.49

OR Buy it at for $6.99.

Special Info: Sophie Steps Up was published in 2005 as Sophie's Irish Showdown.
You can view reviews of other works by Nancy Rue here.
Check out other FaithGirlz titles here.

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