Stella Batts: Broken Birthday
Jennifer A. Bell, Illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 155 pages
Stella Batts series #10
In her tenth adventure Stella is very excited. She is saying goodbye to age eight and about to turn nine. Even better, She and her family plan to celebrate the big day across the country with her best friend who moved away. On her "birthday observed" day (when Mom brings cupcakes to school) tragedy strikes. While showing Mom a project high up on the wall, Stella takes a tumble, gravely injuring her leg. A trip to the hospital reveals that the leg is not only broken, but will require surgery. Stella is scared, but kind hospital personnel and a new friend help to make her feel more comfortable with the procedure. All goes well with the surgery, but now Stella is trapped at the hospital for her big day and can't move her leg or get out of bed. Stella's new friend and roommate, Camille, helps her to survive a lonely night in the hospital, full of card games and secrets. The birthday finally arrives and with it many surprises, including balloons, sugar-free cake that diabetic Camille can eat, and a visit from Stella's old best friend who moved away and her new best friend who moved to town from the UK. A birthday present of a friendship bracelet kit is immediately put to good use as Stella realizes that all of her friends are good friends and they can all be best friends together.
Fans of Junie B will naturally turn to Stella Batts, who has a similar energy and take on the world, yet is less fresh, more kind, and uses better grammar. Also, the reading level is a bit easier, making this an excellent choice for kids, especially girls, who are transitioning to chapter books. Readers will identify with Stella's excitement about her birthday and disappointment when it all falls flat. Also relate-able is Stella's friendship dilemmas, balancing more than one best friend and learning how to be friends with everyone and not hurt another friend's feelings. My niece Madeline recommended this book to me. She related to the story on an emotional level and plowed through it rather quickly. Even though I never read another book in the series I jumped in at number ten and had no trouble figuring out who was who and what was going on. Pencil illustrations enhance the text and add a layer of interest for the reader. The chapters are a proper length for this reading level, often ending in a little cliff hanger to get the reader turning pages, the font is large and the vocabulary is right on target. The best part of this series is that Stella's family owns a candy store, which is every child's fantasy. A likable heroine who will be enjoyed by and related to by young readers.