Monday, August 2, 2010

Natalie and the Downside-Up Birthday

What happens if the mean girl in your kindergarten class does just about everything imaginable to ruin your birthday? That's what Dandi Daley Mackall's Natalie and the Downside-Up Birthday explores, much to the delight of preschoolers and kindergartens.

Natalie - spunky, lovable, and full of faults we can all relate to, is so excited her 6th birthday is coming up. Not only is she having a birthday party at home, but she gets to have a mini party in her kindergarten classroom. But then her teacher announces she has a "birthday buddy" - none other than "Sasha-the-not-so-nice," the brattiest kid in the classroom. Sasha seems to get everything a kid could want for her birthday: Her cupcakes for the class are bigger and better than Natalie's, and she also gives out huge napkins, toys, and cookies. Nobody wants Natalie's homemade cupcakes. And then Nat discovers Sasha's at-home birthday party is the same day and at the same time as her own. And everybody seems to want to go. There will be real ponies, a bouncy house, lunch at a pizza place with lots of games, and even bowling. Who'd want to go to Natalie's ordinary birthday party?

But in the end, Nat learns she has something Sasha doesn't have. Something much better than huge purple cupcakes or pony rides. She has friends and family - and a God - who loves her.

What I Like: My daughter, who is about to turn 5, loves the Natalie books, and with her birthday coming up, she could really relate to this tale. She felt sorry for Nat, cheered Nat on, and felt happy for her in the end. Mackall really has a lovable character here, and she does a terrific job covering topics young kids relate to.

My daughter and I also appreciate that these short chapter books (this one is 95 pages) are lightly illustrated throughout with black and white drawings by Lys Blakeslee.
What I Dislike:
As with all the Natalie books, sometimes in an effort to capture the voice of the young heroine, the author uses poor grammar. This is a real pet peeve for me, and I correct it as I real aloud. For example, throughout, Nat calls another character her "bestest friend" and it's not uncommon to encounter sentences like this: "I wait for them to be waked up more." I do understand that kids in this age group often speak like this, but having poor grammar in a book only encourages them to continue speaking incorrectly.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 3 - 8, but I doubt many 8 year olds would want to read about kindergarteners.

Publishing Info: Zonderkidz, 2009; ISBN: 978-0310715696; paperback, $4.99

Buy Now at for $4.99. Or buy as a Kindle edition from Amazon for $3.99.

OR buy at for $3.99.

Special Info: Check out our reviews of other books in this series. See also our reviews of other books by Dandi Daley Mackall.

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