by Tiffany M. Brown
Wendy Sefcik, illustrator
Website: Isabella E. Austin, an elementary school student with a BIG heart, uses her interest in art to inspire other students to make a difference!
First Sentence: I am Isabella Austin.
Synopsis: Isabella Austin, a student at Andover School of the Arts and Academic Excellence, won a school contest. She had the winning suggestion in the school-wide Make a Difference, Change a Life contest. Now she must give a speech to a school assembly and she fears public speaking. When the assembly gathers, Isabella stands frozen in her classroom, terrified. When she gets to the stage, her fears are still with her, but when she looks out into the crowd and sees her parents, Isabella finds her comfort zone in them and gives a great speech. He winning idea enables the school to collect ten thousand dollars, in two months, for needy kids. Isabella is no longer suffers from the “public speaking blues.”
Gallery Eleven Twenty-Two is the inaugural book for the Brewster Moon Publishing Company. The illustrations by Ms. Sefcik are bright, cheerful, and add much to the story. The elementary school is every kid’s dream. On the spread out campus—positioned next to an ocean or large lake—the students have access to large classrooms, waterfalls, horses, and a huge ant farm visible from the large playground and inside the school. Isabella’s classroom has one glass wall looking out onto a large area of water. Isabella loves her school and it is easy to see why. The illustrations give a wonderful view of this fantastic elementary school.
Isabella has two best girlfriends: Ellie—brown hair, loves purses—and Ryan—freckle faced skateboard trickster. The three friends love to talk about fashion, like new gadgets, and dislike boys. Isabella has a rule about boys. She will not hug them for any reason. Boys get a high-five only. Isabella’s father went through a tough time when he lost his job. The family could no longer eat fancy meals, watch cable, or go on shopping sprees or vacations. Isabella could no longer go to Girly Girls, a spa for young girls. Isabella and her friends live a privileged life.
Page 7 introduces the problem: Isabella is afraid of public speaking and now must speak in front of the school. The conflict is resolved when Isabella surprisingly spots her parents in the audience. This is too easy a resolution. Isabella really did nothing to resolve her fear. She thinks her fear has left her, but what happens when her parents are not around? Isabella’s speech is a recap of the family austerity program. This time in her life is what inspired her to write her winning idea. This family story of perseverance is not backstory it is her speech. Only hearing it as part of Isabella’s speech would have given that scene merit. Repetition of a complete story at the key moment of Isabella’s fear is a lost moment for readers.
I was bored waiting to find out what this story was about. I loved the tour of the school and the family getting through a tough time was inspiring, but the story is Isabella’s fear of speaking in public. It was also nice to hear about Isabella’s best girlfriends, yet they really did not figure into the plot, the conflict, or the resolution. With only 36 pages, too many were wasted on “stuff.” I did not need to know that the flowers were purple, yellow, and blue or that an aquarium held both fresh and salt-water fish.
There are several good messages in Gallery Eleven Twenty-Two. Mom tells Isabella, “No matter how bad things seem, there are people in worse shape than we.” This is one of only three pieces of dialogue (plus the speech). Both of her parents told Isabella, “if I (Isabella), could dream it, I could do it.” The last is “one small idea . . . (can make) a positive difference and (change) lives for the better.” I think this is a story about giving to others, not facing fears.
Little girls will like the book more for the illustrations of girls doing girly things than for the story. Gallery Eleven Twenty-Two contains so much backstory there is not enough room for a good story. The climax of the story—Isabella facing her fear and speaking in front of the crowd—held no surprises and nothing new for the reader. This is a story in desperate need of more show and less tell. In the end, the illustrations are the book’s redeeming feature. Gallery Eleven Twenty-Two is a beautiful book and the cover will grab young girls’ eyes.
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Released May 1, 2013
Ages: 6 and up
© 2013 by Brewster Moon Publishing, used with permission
Text: Copyright © 2013 by Tiffany M. Brown
Illustrations: Copyright © 2013 by Wendy Sefcik