Two female main characters, no strong male characters but boys (especially ones who are having trouble with bullies) might still be able to relate. For 7-8 year olds, a chapter book rather than a middle-grade.
About 136 pages.
The Adventures of Tempest and Serena
by Marty Mokler Banks
In short: The two main characters, Tempest and Serena, are twin sisters. One, Tempest, is tempestuous; the other, Serena, is shy. On the first day of school, Tempest rebels–she’s not going back. Having obtained a magic flashlight, she makes a wish to have a forever summer, sprouts wings, and flies off, leaving behind her sister Serena to cope with all the responsibilities, here represented by having to defend Tempest’s empty bus seat, lunch seat, etc., from a school bully.
I normally write book reviews trying to see things from a kid’s perspective. I just couldn’t on this one; I apologize. So this is for parents.
It was well-written, with solid characters, fun episodes, and lessons to be learned, but–I almost had to read this as an adult; there were too many interesting adult-level things going on. I’d definitely give it a try on your chapter-book reader who’s bored with Ramona and that ilk but isn’t ready for the intensity of a middle-grade yet. It’s a gentle book, the equivalent of a Mr. Rogers episode, all sweetness and light on top but a bunch of powerful, subtle things going on underneath.
I think I’ve been in too many college literature classes to read that straight on. Anytime you see twins, you have to suspect that the characters are really one person, split in two. Or, in this case, perhaps an imaginary friend. Is Tempest real or not? The mom acts like it’s not important that Tempest, one of her daughters, is gone. For months. And the way that Serena has to defend the empty places where Tempest isn’t, like her lunch seat…it seems like something my daughter would have done, at eight-ish, when she loved an imaginary friend.
In the end, I don’t know–some people acted as though Tempest were real; others, not. I think it’s not meant to be figured out so much as appreciated. At that age, what’s real is what’s in front of you, even if it only comes out of your imagination.
Read on a literal level – it seems impossible, and almost sad: the wild sister comes home. I got the sense that she was foolish to go, even though she had such great adventures; she had such a time of it getting back. But–looking at it as though Tempest were an imaginary friend–of course your imaginary friend has to come home; your imagination has to focus on the here-and-now sometimes, too, and it can certainly go haring off whenever it wants to.
I think that what it comes down to is that I’m too old, too adult to be able to judge this through a kids’ eyes. Normally, it isn’t a problem–I love it when a kids’ book takes me away from the adult world. Ahhhh, it’s nice to lay all that “adultness” aside. But this? You never get to lay that responsibility aside, so it’s not a perfect kids’ book for an adult reader–but I can’t tell you whether it’s a perfect kids’ book for a kid. I suspect it is, for the right kind of kid.
Tempest and Serena Cooper think they are nothing alike. That all changes when Tempest flies off a wild, brave journey to find summer forever, while Serena promises to save her sister’s seat on the school bus. As each battles bullies, disasters, and loneliness, they find they’re not so different. A suspenseful, charming chapter book adventure for readers ages 7 and up.
About the Author:
Marty Mokler Banks writes for the travel and business worlds, but is most passionate about her work in children’s fiction. She received a B.S. in journalism from the University of Colorado-Boulder and attended the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. An active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Marty lives in Colorado with her family and dogs.
Marty welcomes comments and feedback via Amazon’s reviews and likes to hear directly from readers through her website, www.MartyMoklerBanks.com.