Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Here's Lily!

Here's Lily! is the first in a series by Nancy Rue. In it we meet Lily, a sixth-grade girl struggling to find her place in the world. Too often teased by her older brothers and the wretched Shad Shanigan from school, she is convinced her curly red hair, full lips, long legs and white skin are a curse. Then someone visits her school: a recruiter from a local modeling agency.

At first Lily is mortified to be chosen as the guinea pig for the demonstration. But as the woman gently makes small changes to highlight Lily's best features, Lily feels better and better about herself. At the end of the session, the speaker secretly invites Lily to join a special modeling class.

Lily's parents, conservative Christians, are hesitant to let Lily join. They don't see how God can be glorified through such a vain pursuit. Finally they consent, but require Lily to find God in it before they'll allow her to sign up with the agency afterward. The class is much like a charm school. It emphasizes poise and teaches the students how to make the most of their appearance and their behavior. Lily doesn't find God right away, but she does find that when she applies the lessons from her class, she doesn't feel so bad about the bullies in her life. Convinced that what she is learning could also help other not-so-popular girls, Lily starts a private "Just for Girlz" club.

The class ends with a big fashion show, which unfortunately conflicts with Lily's mom's volleyball schedule. After a lot of trouble trying to get everyone there to show off just how beautiful she is (and how wrong all the bullies have been), Lily accidentally starts a grease fire just days before the fashion show. She and her dad are rushed to the hospital. Lily has burns all over her face and can't imagine anything worse. Then her teacher from the modeling agency reminds her that beauty is found not in external appearance or even in self-confidence, but in GOD-confidence. This is a conviction that what God creates is wonderful and He can make all things beautiful.

Lily decides to do the fashion show, even with the bandages on her face. She finally feels her parents support and even gets a little closure with the Shad situation. The agency offers her a job as a model, but now she's not sure if she wants to do it after all. She's got her Girlz Club now. Finally comfortable in her skin and at her school, Lily needs more time to think about whether or not she's ready to give it up for an early career.

What I Like: This book offers a much needed realignment for tween perspectives of beauty. The story is told in first-person which makes it easy for readers to relate and become engrossed. I love how the author emphasizes that God can be glorified in a variety of professions: Lily's mom is a volleyball coach; her dad is a literature professor. Even her modeling coach finds ways to honor God through the gifts and professions He has given. Also, I really appreciate that everything doesn't work out perfectly with Lily's bully situation. Lily learns a better way to handle it, but this doesn't automatically turn Shad (nor her brothers) into nicer people. I love that each book in this series has a nonfiction companion. (See "Special Info" below.)

What I Dislike: A couple of the references are dated and may not be understood by the current generation of tweens. For example, the class bully repeatedly teases one girl by calling her "Rosanne." He's clearly referring to Rosanne Barr of '90s fame, but I doubt any of today's pre-teens would know who she is. Another example: the main character talks about her "Caboodle" without explaining what it is. Are Caboodles still super popular? I haven't seen one in years.

At first I struggled with Lily's parents. They came across as pre-occupied and inattentive, certainly not the ideal Christian parents. I felt they put Lily down more than defend her. But the further I went in the book, the more I realized her parents weren't showing favoritism, but rather the book simply revealed an authentic fifth-grader's perspective. This trait might turn off adults, but it will endear tween readers who long to have someone understand their plight.

Overall Rating: Very Good.

Age Appeal: 8-12

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2000; ISBN: 0310232481; Paperback; $6.99

Buy it Now at for $5.49!
OR Buy it at for $6.99.

Special Info: Every book in this series has a nonfiction companion book. The companion for this title is The Beauty Book. Conversational in nature, this book reprises the main characters from Here's Lily! to tackle beauty topics and teach kids how to value and properly care for their bodies, without being vain or insecure. The two books work beautifully together to promote a healthy, godly body image in young girls.

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