Weekend Picks May 13, 2022
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This is an ‘oldy but goldy’ from the pen of acclaimed author Joan Bauer.
Do you know her? You should.
Joan Bauer is a Newbery Honor Medal best-selling author, screenwriter, songwriter, and inspirational speaker whose novel Rules of the Road was chosen as one of the top young adult novels of the quarter century by the American Library Association.
In the sequel to the Rules of the Road, Best Foot Forward, we meet up again with our intrepid teenage shoe saleswoman, 16-year-old Jenna Boller, who comes of age learning to manage a shoe store, run by her employer and role model Madeline Gladstone, the matriarch of Gladstone Shoes. Complicating matters is Jenna’s absent alcoholic father and her need to be supportive of both her mother and younger sister – while learning to navigate the ever-present chaos at her seemingly normal and idyllic summer shoe store job.
What could go wrong? Everything.
Gladstone’s recent merger with a larger company – think corporate buy-out – leads Jenna to untangling an unpleasant web of corporate corruption – as the new company challenges Gladstone’s time-honored way of serving its customers with honesty and distinction. Further complications ensue when Jenna learns that the merger with a discount shoe chain – has been orchestrated by Mrs. Gladstone’s less than scrupulous son, Elden.
And as if that weren’t enough, Jenna must also micromanage – and eventually role model – a new hire - Tanner Cobb, a guy with a past, a police record, and dangerously good looks – and to top it off – he once shoplifted from the store. Couple this with a budding teenage romance – one with a winsome looking Charlie from the local donut shop – and suddenly, you have a summer Jenna will always remember.
And so will young (and adult) readers.
I like Joan Bauer. In her sure hands, young readers are introduced to the realities of coming age through the eyes of emerging teen Jenna’s undying compassion and burgeoning confidence. Her deep and steadfast demeanor - always growing, always becoming – determined to put her ‘best foot forward’ – accompanied by vivid characterizations, crisp, believable dialogue, and true-to-life scenarios – pays off for not only for this earnest teen heroine, but also for her readers.
The beauty of young adult books is that there is something for everyone – from horror to reality, from science fiction to nonfiction, - there is a young adult book that will meet the needs and desires of adolescents everywhere – no matter their age, skills, and desires. For finding the right book for the right kid – is the job of any teacher, librarian, parent, and/or adult who cares about kids and reading.
All too often, though, well-meaning adults care more about ‘what’ kids read – than ‘that’ kids read. Yet, it is ‘that they read’ which is most important. For ‘that they read’ is what turns them into lifelong readers - who will, in-turn, nurture future young generations to do the same.
Joan Bauer is the perfect fit for kids who are looking for a good read about kids they know – summer jobs, they do – and less than perfect parents, they hope to change.
Jeffrey Kaplan, PhD
Associate Professor Emeritus
School of Teacher Education
College of Community Innovation and Education
University of Central Florida
Senior Adjunct Professor
College of Doctoral Studies
Grand Canyon University