Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Popularity Papers

The Popularity Papers

Amy Ignatow
Fiction  Series
For ages 9 to 12
Abrams, 2010   ISBN: 978-0810984219

Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang are different in many ways, but they are still the best of friends. In just a years time they will be going into junior high, and they have seen that junior high can really change a person. In elementary school, Lydia’s big sister Melody was a pretty normal girl, and now she is a weird creature who wears lots of dark clothes, has “scary piercings and jewelry” and is permanently “cranky.”

Wanting to be ready for what is to come, Lydia and Julie have decided that they are going to observe the “popular girls” so that they will be able to emulate them and hopefully become popular as well. After all, if they are popular, then surely they will not turn into a Melody.

The first thing they do is to try to dye a section of Lydia’s hair. Gretchen Meyer, who is one of the popular girls, has a blond streak in her hair and surely this helps her popularity ratings. Unfortunately, Lydia and Julie use household bleach, and as a result Lydia gets a bald patch on her scalp.

After the failure of this experiment, Julie and Lydia decide to take up knitting, which is what Sukie does. Sukie is another of the uber popular girls. One of Julie’s dad’s takes the girls to a knitting store and he buys them yarn, needles and a how-to book. Very quickly Lydia and Julie discover that knitting is not easy to do. In fact, it is so confusing that they end up with horrible snarled yarn messes that they decide to hide at Lydia’s house. They don’t want Julie’s dad to see their knitting disasters.

Undaunted by the failure of their first two experiments, the two friends set about trying to get Lydia a stellar part in the school musical. They have seen that being the lead in a performance really gives a girl a high popularity ranking. They choose a song for Lydia’s  audition that they hope will show off her singing skills, and Lydia dresses like Jane, the popular girl who always gets the best female roles in the school plays. Surely this time they will get everything right. What could go wrong? As it happens, a lot can go wrong in a very short period of time.

Presented in a journal format with pictures drawn by Julie, and handwritten text written by both the girls, this book will have readers in stitches. It is interesting to watch how the girls’ quest to discover the recipe for popularity changes over time. They learn a great deal about themselves, each other, and the girls that they so admire. Could it be that popularity is actually overrated?