Barshaw's debut children's book, a paper-over-board volume, replicates the sketchbook of 11-year-old Ellie McDougal. Her surname nickname reflects her love of doodling, which she does a great deal of in these, unfortunately somewhat repetitious, pages. While Ellie's parents are away, she and her baby brother join their aunt, uncle and cousins on a camping trip. In line drawings accompanied by often acerbic commentary, the aspiring artist chronicles the ups and downs of this week-long expedition, which initially entails far more downs than ups. For starters, Ellie points out that her aunt is in a "perpetual bad mood" and all of her three cousins "are pains," especially Eric, whom she refers to as "Er-ick" and describes as "a nose-picking, booger-slurping, bug-infested parasite." Ellie's depiction of him (through most of the book) as a six-armed monster grows tedious, as does the incessant bickering between the two cousins. More diverting are the young journalist's descriptions of such family activities as catching frogs, visiting an animal museum, taking a nature walk, star gazing and tossing water balloons. She also offers instructions for playing a handful of games. Predictably, as the vacation ends Ellie admits that she has had more fun than she'd expected and, on a list of things she learned during the week, includes a nugget of wisdom: "No girl is an island. We're all in this together. Might as well try to get along." Ages 8-12. (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Just right for the chapter-book crowd is Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel. A girl who likes to doodle, Ellie interlaces her journal with her own pictures. In chronicling her camping trip with extended family, Ellie includes pictures about and comments on everything from frogs to her younger cousin Tiffie, whom Ellie likens to a "prissy little frou-frou show dog all fluffed up and barky." Ellie's observations and sketches are laugh-out-loud funnyand far from flattering. When her icky cousin Eric gets hold of her journal, Ellie knows she's in big trouble. And she also feels guilty about her mean portraits. Ellie manages to make it up to Eric (a candy bar helps) and salvage the camping trip while learning that "you can't always judge … a vacation by its first day," "Eric isn't so bad" and "elk are not meat eaters." Irrepressible Ellie is sure to inspire young readers to embark on their own writing/drawing adventures. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
School Library Journal
Eleven-year-old budding artist Eleanor McDougal shares the sketch diary she keeps throughout her camping trip to northern Michigan. She's making the trip with relatives she does not know very well. Her descriptions of Aunt Ug, Uncle Ewing, and her three cousins are scathing, while she portrays herself as an accomplished artist, naturalist, and born leader. Readers see other facets of Ellie's character as she teases and berates her cousins and ignores her three-year-old brother. When her behavior gets out of control, the adults step in with discipline that forces Ellie to get to know her cousins. Initially the kids forge friendships by playing pranks on the others, but ultimately they enjoy many adventures. Ellie shares instructions and diagrams for games such as "Spoons," "Fing Fang Fooey," and "Sardines" that are easy to follow and will inspire readers to gather friends and play. The engaging text reflects a contemporary preadolescent sensibility and is chock-full of clean, distinguished line drawings on each spread. As Ellie shares her frustrations, conflicts, fun and wildlife facts, readers observe the valuable lessons that she learns about getting along with others-even if they seem to be obnoxious relatives. Ellie hints at further summer surprises, and readers will look forward to her next adventure.
Laura ScottCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Forced to go camping in northern Michigan with her three cousins and younger brother, 11-year-old Ellie keeps a copiously illustrated record of the experience, documenting her dislike for the family and the situation, as well as her growing enjoyment by the end of the week. Part journal, part graphic novel and all fun (with echoes of Harriet the Spy), this is a clever account of a growing-up experience that will be familiar to middle-grade readers. When Ellie's journal is discovered and read by her cousin "Er-ICK" and her Aunt "Ug" (Eric and Mug), she learns something about her aunt and discovers common ground with her cousin. When the four older children get lost in the woods at night, they find ways to work together to rescue themselves. Hand-lettered text supplements black-and-white cartoon-like drawings. Full of maps, wilderness-survival tips and instructions for counting out rhymes and group games, as well as for making an automatic spitball machine, this will be an agreeable summer read. (Graphic fiction. 8-11)
From the Publisher
“Part journal, part graphic novel, all fun (with echoes of Harriet the Spy), this is a clever account of a growing-up experience that familiar to middle-grade readers.” Kirkus Reviews
“The engaging text reflects a contemporary preadolescent sensibility and is chock-full of clean, distinguished line drawings on each spread. As Ellie shares her frustrations, conflicts, fun and wildlife facts, readers observe the valuable lessons that she learns about getting along with others–even if they seem to be obnoxious relatives. Ellie hints at further summer surprises, and readers will look forward to her next adventure.” School Library Journal
“Ellie's journal encompasses a little frog mystery, a little Seaweed Sally intrigue, and lots of wilderness adventure and drama. Ruth McNally Barshaw's first book for children speaks volumes with its words and its pictures. This record of a diarist is fun to read and recommended.” CurledUp.com
“Lots of voice, humor, and pre-teen attitude shine through the pages in Ellie's journal, not just through words and story, but through her art. The simple line drawings on every page add personality, and the hand-drawn text makes it feel authentic. After experiencing Ellie's way of expressing herself, kids may be inclined to create there own illustrated journals.” Grand Rapids Press
“There is nothing to dislike in this charming tale, which is heavily illustrated with whimsical cartoonish drawings. It realistically portrays the characters (even the adults!), giving readers much to consider about the pros and cons of relationships, along with hilarious situations and witty asides” KidsRead.com