Being the father of two pre-teen girls, I view the world of entertainment quite differently than I did ten-plus years ago. That copy of Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly that once graced my desk or the family coffee table is being re-thought as my girls start to read and absorb everything that comes along their path. My wife and I are more cognizant of what advertising images are present in things that hang around the house, and what kind of music is playing on the family stereo. What once was an important matter of personal conviction is now a slightly bigger family conversation. That is not to cast judgment on the reading of Rolling Stone (though careful judgment is encouraged); it's simply that situations change and different angles need to be considered.
Recording artist Natalie Grant seems to have these same kind of thoughts in the writing of her new series of pre-teen novels, Glimmer Girls. But thankfully, the first two novels in the series, London Art Chase and A Dolphin Wish, are light on the preaching and heavy on silly fun.
Centered around three sisters, older twins Mia and Maddie and their little sister Lulu (a family lineup that mirrors Grant's own), who are the daughters of a pop star mom, Glimmer Girls reads like an episode of a Disney Channel sitcom, only with a family that prays together (often during stressful moments) and treats each other with kindness (as opposed to the sassiness and snark of a typical Disney Channel show). Beyond that, Grant mercifully avoids the kinds of "messages" that weigh down many such attempts. Instead, Grant writes with an insider's ear for pre-teen dialog, and a suitably whimsical take on what constitutes a "mystery" at this age.
In London Art Chase, the sisters and their faithful nanny Miss Julia participate in the sort of far-fetched art theft capers that are common plot devices for books of this genre, but the storytelling is fun and lively and the family interactions honest.
The second book in the series, A Dolphin Wish, shows Grant settling into a writing groove and comes off as more polished and confident. Set against the backdrop of the San Diego Zoo, the story again features a mystery to be solved and family dynamics to be negotiated. There is a nice lesson featured towards the end of the book about why people make the choices they do, but it naturally flows from the story and feels honest.
My pre-teens devoured these two novels in just a few days (waking up early to read before school) and were blessed to find characters that pray like our family does, yet feel authentic and close to home. Grant is to be commended for stretching herself this way, and Glimmer Girls are a welcome edition to the ranks of pre-teen books. They aren't merely a good alternative read for pre-teen girls, they stand on their own as a fun and creative series of books for their audience.- Review date: 2/2/16, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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