How I Survived Being a Girl

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Overview

Carolyn is a girl with strong opinions. On being a girl: 'stupid.' Wearing dresses: 'only when forced, and then with shorts underneath.' Summer nights: 'make you feel invincible.' Girls with MaryJjanes: 'no use at all.' The boy next door: 'I do not have a crush on him!' The top bunk: 'for really great dreams.' She thought she knew how she felt about everything. But the summer before the sixth grade, though everthing seemed the same, it all felt...
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Overview

Carolyn is a girl with strong opinions. On being a girl: 'stupid.' Wearing dresses: 'only when forced, and then with shorts underneath.' Summer nights: 'make you feel invincible.' Girls with MaryJjanes: 'no use at all.' The boy next door: 'I do not have a crush on him!' The top bunk: 'for really great dreams.' She thought she knew how she felt about everything. But the summer before the sixth grade, though everthing seemed the same, it all felt different.

In this wonderfully funny first novel, Wendelin Van Draanen perfectly captures the emotional earthquakes of growing up and growing into oneself.

Author Biography: Wendelin Van Draanen is a high school computer science instructor. She lives with her husband and two children in Santa Maria, CA.

Twelve-year-old Carolyn, who has always wished she were a boy, begins to see things in a new light when her sister is born.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Donna Brumby
Carolyn's story, a warm-hearted narration of her family, friends, neighborhood and small town adventures, comes across as a funny and touching description of a young girl growing from a child into a nice young woman. Carolyn, with two brothers, is necessarily something of a tomboy, but is just beginning to think about her old chum Charlie in a different light. There's plenty of action; Mom's expecting, the next-door neighbors are fun to spy on, and life seems pretty satisfactory for Carolyn, even in spite of her "dragon lady" teacher and too many girls with dolls, hair ribbons, and shiny Mary Janes. Fun is always a bike ride away for Carolyn, and lucky readers are invited to come along.
Kirkus Reviews
Van Draanen's first book has a crackling pace, funny lines, and an iron-willed heroine with a knack for putting herself in the center of all the action.

Sixth-grader Carolyn doesn't act like a girl, and doesn't look much like one either, clad in boys clothing and wearing her hair very short. She likes to spy on the neighbors with her two brothers, play stickball, and dig foxholes in the backyard. Of girls who play with dolls and wear too much lace, she has low opinions, and hardly counts herself in the girl camp at all until some unfamiliar feelings surface for her stickball buddy, Charlie. When her baby sister, Nancy, is born, Carolyn decides that being a girl is really okay, now that she has an ally in the family. The era in which the story takes place is never specified, and while Carolyn's voice is contemporary, some of the problems she faces are dated, e.g., having to wear a dress to school and being unable to have her own paper route because she is a girl. Regardless, her irreverent narration is engaging and she's refreshingly astute about family and neighborhood dynamics. Blithely entertaining.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060266714
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/1997
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Wendelin Van Draanen
Author Bio Wendelin Van Draanen is a high school computer science instructor. She lives with her husband and two children in Santa Maria, CA.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



The Freekos



Jack and Allen didn't help matters much. Picking on me and all. Just something brothers do, I guess. Call you names. Pound on you. And worst of all, ditch you. Now, it's one thing to get ditched because you're whiny or slow or a bigmouth. It's another thing to get ditched because you're a girl.

Things started looking up, though, when Jack decided he'd ditch Allen too. Billy and the boys were always ditching their little brothers, and Billy being Jack's best friend, Well, you know how it is.

So Allen and I started hanging around together more, and one of the things we did a lot of was spying. Spying's great fun. It gets the blood pumping, ba-boom! ba-boom! ba-boom!, right up in your ears so you almost can't hear anything else.

Everyone knows that when you go spying, you've got to wear dark clothes, and most people think that's because you want to be able to hide, which is true, but dark clothes also put you in the mood, and there's nothing better than being in a spying mood.

One night we tossed our beanies out the window and told Mom we were going across the street to the school to play hide-and-seek with some friends. She said that was just fine without even looking up from her knitting, and Dad was busy wrestling with the wiring of a lamp, so it was no problem slipping by him.

Allen wanted to go clear down to the Spook House, but I convinced him we ought to see what was happening over at the Freekos'.

The Freekos were easy to spy on, and we never felt bad about doing it because they weren't very nice people. They hated us way before we ever thoughtabout spying on them.

When I say spying on them was easy, I mean easy. Normally we spy on people doing stuff in their yards. We don't go looking in just anyone's windows! But the Freekos didn't have drapes, so you could go right up to the window and peek inside. Now, you may think that's not very nice of us, and you're right, but you have to understand that when you've got neighbors like the Freekos, you find yourself doing stuff you know you shouldn't, and pretty soon you just get carried away.

Anyway, Allen and I peeked in the front windows and then in the kitchen window, but we didn't see anybody, and it's not much fun spying on a sink full of dishes. So we looked over the back fence, and boy did that make our eyes pop open! Freeko was lying on his stomach by the pool in a pair of old underwear and he wasn't moving. Not at all.

Allen looked at me and whispered, "Is he dead?"

Well, he sure looked dead to me, and all Iwanted to do was get out of there. I whisperedback, "I don I t know!" and was just about to say weshould leave when Allen started to climb over thefence. I grabbed him and said, "What are you doing?"

He looked over his shoulder. "Don't you want to find out if he's dead?"

I didn't want my little brother thinking I was a sissy, so before he could start climbing again, I scrambled over the fence and whispered, "Hurry up!"

We went around the pool over to where Freeko was. Well, it's not a pool like you're used to thinking of It's got water in it, but you wouldn't want to swim in it unless you were a snake or a frog or something that liked slime.

Anyhow, we got up to Freeko and looked at him for a couple minutes trying to figure out if he was breathing or not. That wasn't easy to do, because he was lying facedown on the cement. I tried to get in close to Freeko's face to see if there was any air going in and out, but all I could really see was his stubbly cheek. Everything else was kind of smashed into the cement, which made me think that maybe he was dead, because no one could actually sleep like that.

Then Allen poked him with his foot. Freeko groaned and rolled over, which spooked me so bad I almost fell into the pool. Freeko kind of sputtered and started snoring real loud, his stomach going up and down, up and down, with little rocks from the cement kind of stuck to it.

Allen looked at me and said, "Why's he sleeping out here?" but before I could come up with an answer, we heard the sliding glass door open and had to scramble and hide behind a trash can.

Well, Fattabutta came swooping out of the house wearing one of her muumuus. She poked Freeko right in the ribs with her foot and cursed at him something fierce. Freeko mumbled but went right back to sleep, so Fattabutta picked up this booze bottle that was bobbing in the pool and used it to scoop slimy water on him.

just then we heard Dad calling, "Jack, Carolyn, and Al-len!" which made my heart stop. We couldn't go anywhere with Fattabutta right there.

So we were still watching Fattabutta splashing and cursing and waving the bottle around in the air when it came again, "Jack, Carolyn, and Al-len!"

I grabbed Allen in case he was thinking of making a break for it, and we just watched as Freeko got up on his knees and started crawling toward the house like some kind of gigantic snail. Fattabutta walked behind him, cursing and emptying the bottle on his back.

just as Freeko was getting up on his feet, we heard, "Carolyn! Allen!" and Dad was sounding pretty mad.

The minute Fattabutta was in the house, we climbed over the fence, popped down into our own backyard, and raced for the back door. I tried to catch my breath and act normal, calling, "We're home!"

How I Survived Being a Girl. Copyright © by Wendelin VanDraanen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

Chapter One



The Freekos



Jack and Allen didn't help matters much. Picking on me and all. Just something brothers do, I guess. Call you names. Pound on you. And worst of all, ditch you. Now, it's one thing to get ditched because you're whiny or slow or a bigmouth. It's another thing to get ditched because you're a girl.

Things started looking up, though, when Jack decided he'd ditch Allen too. Billy and the boys were always ditching their little brothers, and Billy being Jack's best friend, Well, you know how it is.

So Allen and I started hanging around together more, and one of the things we did a lot of was spying. Spying's great fun. It gets the blood pumping, ba-boom! ba-boom! ba-boom!, right up in your ears so you almost can't hear anything else.

Everyone knows that when you go spying, you've got to wear dark clothes, and most people think that's because you want to be able to hide, which is true, but dark clothes also put you in the mood, and there's nothing better than being in a spying mood.

One night we tossed our beanies out the window and told Mom we were going across the street to the school to play hide-and-seek with some friends. She said that was just fine without even looking up from her knitting, and Dad was busy wrestling with the wiring of a lamp, so it was no problem slipping by him.

Allen wanted to go clear down to the Spook House, but I convinced him we ought to see what was happening over at the Freekos'.

The Freekos were easy to spy on, and we never felt bad about doing it because they weren't very nice people. They hated us way before we everthought about spying on them.

When I say spying on them was easy, I mean easy. Normally we spy on people doing stuff in their yards. We don't go looking in just anyone's windows! But the Freekos didn't have drapes, so you could go right up to the window and peek inside. Now, you may think that's not very nice of us, and you're right, but you have to understand that when you've got neighbors like the Freekos, you find yourself doing stuff you know you shouldn't, and pretty soon you just get carried away.

Anyway, Allen and I peeked in the front windows and then in the kitchen window, but we didn't see anybody, and it's not much fun spying on a sink full of dishes. So we looked over the back fence, and boy did that make our eyes pop open! Freeko was lying on his stomach by the pool in a pair of old underwear and he wasn't moving. Not at all.

Allen looked at me and whispered, "Is he dead?"

Well, he sure looked dead to me, and all Iwanted to do was get out of there. I whisperedback, "I don I t know!" and was just about to say weshould leave when Allen started to climb over thefence. I grabbed him and said, "What are you doing?"

He looked over his shoulder. "Don't you want to find out if he's dead?"

I didn't want my little brother thinking I was a sissy, so before he could start climbing again, I scrambled over the fence and whispered, "Hurry up!"

We went around the pool over to where Freeko was. Well, it's not a pool like you're used to thinking of It's got water in it, but you wouldn't want to swim in it unless you were a snake or a frog or something that liked slime.

Anyhow, we got up to Freeko and looked at him for a couple minutes trying to figure out if he was breathing or not. That wasn't easy to do, because he was lying facedown on the cement. I tried to get in close to Freeko's face to see if there was any air going in and out, but all I could really see was his stubbly cheek. Everything else was kind of smashed into the cement, which made me think that maybe he was dead, because no one could actually sleep like that.

Then Allen poked him with his foot. Freeko groaned and rolled over, which spooked me so bad I almost fell into the pool. Freeko kind of sputtered and started snoring real loud, his stomach going up and down, up and down, with little rocks from the cement kind of stuck to it.

Allen looked at me and said, "Why's he sleeping out here?" but before I could come up with an answer, we heard the sliding glass door open and had to scramble and hide behind a trash can.

Well, Fattabutta came swooping out of the house wearing one of her muumuus. She poked Freeko right in the ribs with her foot and cursed at him something fierce. Freeko mumbled but went right back to sleep, so Fattabutta picked up this booze bottle that was bobbing in the pool and used it to scoop slimy water on him.

just then we heard Dad calling, "Jack, Carolyn, and Al-len!" which made my heart stop. We couldn't go anywhere with Fattabutta right there.

So we were still watching Fattabutta splashing and cursing and waving the bottle around in the air when it came again, "Jack, Carolyn, and Al-len!"

I grabbed Allen in case he was thinking of making a break for it, and we just watched as Freeko got up on his knees and started crawling toward the house like some kind of gigantic snail. Fattabutta walked behind him, cursing and emptying the bottle on his back.

just as Freeko was getting up on his feet, we heard, "Carolyn! Allen!" and Dad was sounding pretty mad.

The minute Fattabutta was in the house, we climbed over the fence, popped down into our own backyard, and raced for the back door. I tried to catch my breath and act normal, calling, "We're home!"

How I Survived Being a Girl. Copyright © by Wendelin Van Draanen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book is a funny story of a girl who loves doing everything guys do. But the guys dont always think it is cool to hang out with the girl who lives down the street. She does all of the following to be as non-girly as possible, Get a dog, avoid girls who wear mary janes, and spy on the neighbors. I hope you enjoy this story of a girl who just isnt like the common girly girl.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2005

    I fell in Love!!

    After reading several other titles by Wendelin Van Draanen, I came across this particular book. Looking through the shelves at my local bookstore, I flipped open to the first page and fell in love with it. Not only did I purchase it, but I've shared it with every single one of my friends. It's been read so many times the spine is about to break! Having two older brothers of my own and being the baby, I could connect so well to Caroline's everyday adventures. I almost cried out of pure joy in each chapter. It felt as though the author was reading my mind!! We've been through the same experiences and have shared the same thoughts as well as feelings. I could relate in SO many ways! I encourage anyone and everyone to read this book. If you're looking for an adventurous, humorous, and very relative book, read How I Survived Being a Girl. You won't be disappointed!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2004

    Best book ever. Point, blank, period.

    I have read this book over eleven times. In fact, I've read it over eleven times in the same year. It's too good of a book. This woman knows her stuff.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2004

    A book perfect for any girl!

    This is a great book for girls to enjoy I am in seventh grade now, but I remember how difficult it was to survive my earlier years of childhood. I can relate in almost everyway!I also think thats a very good theory that Caroline has: girls with long hair play with dolls (very true)! This book will have anybody (not just girls) rolling on the floor! I feel as if Caroline went through the same things I did, plus I love to read and so does she. But unlike Caroline I would never want to see a girl strip! If I could I would give this book 100,000 stars!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2003

    the #1 book on earth

    I read this in first grade. I'm in middle school now but it's still my favorite!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2002

    This book is a must read!

    Wendelin Van Draanen is one of my favorite authors, and it started with this book! Even though I am not the tomboy type, I still enjoyed reading How I Survived Being a Girl. Everyone should read this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2002

    this book waz da bomb!

    o.k. so this girl caroyln knows what she iz talkin about! she knows everything there is to being a girl and its all here in this book called, 'How I survived being a girl' its gotta be on your: must read booklist!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2001

    How I Survived Being a Girl

    Before I read How I Survived Being a Girl I thought it would be about a 16 year-old girl traveling around the world with only boys. It turns out that I was wrong. After I read the book I felt like I was Carolyn, the girl. Everything takes place in a little neighborhood. Carolyn, the main character, tells you about her life being a tomboy. She has a mom, dad, and 2 brothers. The youngest brother, Allen, is in the 4th grade, Carolyn in the 6th grade, and Jack being the oldest, is in high school. Allen and Carolyn go to Bradbury Elementary. The book is realistic fiction. When I was reading the book I thought the story was true. I really like this book because it¿s one of those books that is so interesting that it keep you guessing, keeps you reading, and has some suspense. I like realistic fiction because there are no monsters, aliens, or weird things. The author, Wendelin Van Draanen, makes you feel like you are at the scene watching the characters going about their life as if you¿re watching a play. I would give this book 4 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2001

    A Walk Down Memory Lane!

    I picked up this book in a teacher's classroom library and highly recommend it to any girl in the 21st century to show them how far we have come in just a few generations. I grew up with some of these stereotypes for girls and tried my hardest to combat them. This story reminds me of the fun I had with my two sisters and brother when summer vacation went on forever! A must have for any 4th, 5th, or 6th grade teacher's library and one that should be read aloud to the entire class. Boys need to know how far women have come, too, in order to prevent a regression in men's thinking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2001

    Wonderful :)

    I think that this book is the best book in the world Wendilen should make How I survived being a girl 2!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2000

    'This book is my guide to living'

    This Book was do 24/7, I am always the girl hanging out with boys( I love it though it's like been the awsome girl but still pretty and casual, and one of the guys)RIGHT NOW I am 11 1/2-12 and in 6th grade, how perfect is that. I always spied on people and I have/do actaully had/have feelings for some of my best (Boy) Friends! I love this book, I can make the sequal. I mean this book is my Life exactly, I am amazed. All the things She goes through with the brothers are what I do, trouble,spying, and misvous are what we are and what we do, I think about all the things she does wow!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2000

    GREAT BOOK FOR YOUNG GIRLS

    i love being a girl, and always have bur for some reason or anouther this was my fav book as a child. i know now that if i read it again i would get a bit bored, but for then it was great. i even read it to my plants! lol

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