In The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick, sixth-graders Emma and Jess are best friends in Concord Massachusetts.
Emma loves reading and writing. Her parents are big Jane Austen fans who named their kids after her characters. Her father is a writer, her mother, a librarian.
Jess lives on a farm with her father and brothers. Jess’s mom is an actress currently working in NYC.
Emma and Jess are definitely not among the popular girls, who tease Emma about wearing hand-me-downs and call Jess “Goat Girl.”
One of the “mean girls,” Megan, was Emma’s friend years ago. But now their paths have diverged. Megan loves style and design, but her mother has dreams of math and science camp and MIT and Harvard for her.
Cassidy is a new student who loves sports, especially hockey. She’s tomboyish and doesn’t care at all about her appearance. Her mother was a super–model.
The moms cook up an idea that they’ll form a mother-daughter book club, and their first book will be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
None of the daughters wants to participate. Some of them clash with each other, some clash with their moms. But perhaps they can learn a thing or two from Louisa.
I don’t read many books for this age range, but a friend recommended this to me. I loved the tie-in with Louisa and Litttle Women. The girls even visit Orchard House in Concord, where Louisa lived and wrote Little Women. I also enjoyed how the girls learned and grew over the course of the book. Even the moms learned that they can’t make their daughters fit into their own “castles in the air” dreams.
The chapters all begin with a quote from Little Women and vary between the different girls’ points of view. At the end is a discussion guide, recipes, charts for planning goals, and information about starting a book club.
The only thing I didn’t like was the treatment of Mrs. Chadwick, the head “mean girl’s” mom and villain of the piece. Mrs. Chadwick seems fair game for names and derogatory comments about her anatomy from the parents as well as the girls. In one scene near the end, the girls and their moms turn the tables on Mrs. Chadwick and her daughter with some mean girls’ (and women’s) tricks of their own. I suppose, in a literary sense, this was their comeuppance. But I wish the moms had been better examples in this.
But other than that, this was an enjoyable book in many ways. It’s the first in a series of seven, each one built around a classic book. I like the idea and the characters, so I may try some of the other stories.