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Just Like Me

Just Like Me

4.3 8
by Nancy Cavanaugh

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In the tradition of Every Soul a Star and Inside Out & Back Again, Just Like Me is a funny, uplifting summer camp story about unlikely friendships and finding your place in the world from the award-winning author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet.

Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery


In the tradition of Every Soul a Star and Inside Out & Back Again, Just Like Me is a funny, uplifting summer camp story about unlikely friendships and finding your place in the world from the award-winning author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet.

Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery and Becca, my "Chinese Sisters," that's who. We're not really sisters—we were just adopted from the same orphanage. And we're nothing alike. They like egg rolls, and I like pizza. They're wave around Chinese fans, and I pretend like I don't know them.

Which is not easy since we're all going to summer camp to "bond." (Thanks, Mom.) To make everything worse, we have to journal about our time at camp so the adoption agency can do some kind of "where are they now" newsletter. I'll tell you where I am: At Camp Little Big Lake in a cabin with five other girls who aren't getting along, competing for a camp trophy and losing (badly), wondering how I got here...and where I belong.

Told through a mix of traditional narrative and journal entries, don't miss this funny, surprisingly sweet summer read!

"A tender and honest story about a girl trying to find her place in the world, and the thread that connects us all." —Liesl Shurtliff, Author of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

"A heartwarming story about the universal struggle of yearning to be an individual while longing to fit in."—Karen Harrington, author of Sure Kinds of Crazy

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Tween readers will find much to identify with in this charming and refreshingly wholesome coming-of-age story. Set to a soundtrack of 1970s and 1980s disco and pop classics and filled with swimming, campfires, games, and an occasional Bible study, the narrative follows all six cabin residents as they learn important lessons about being honest, kind, and comfortable in your own skin...Filled with slapstick humor and fast-paced action, the novel will engage reluctant readers, while offering fuel for deep contemplation by those ready to tackle questions of identity and belonging." - School Library Journal

"[A] delightful, touching story...The characters are believable and well developed, and the mix of personalities helps propel the story forward. Through the issues of family and friendship, Cavanaugh (This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, 2013) explores what connects us to one another." - Booklist

"Incredibly moving. Julia starts to come to terms with the sea of repressed emotions that surrounds her adoption, and her bunkmates, who have their own secrets and vulnerabilities, acknowledge and share them as well... a touching ending." - Kirkus

" This book flows, is insightful, and has a spiritual undertone. While I was reading about the adventures of Julia and her sisters, I felt I was there with them. I felt the embarrassment of losing a team sport and the excitement of bonding over marshmallows. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever had a childhood. " - Story Monsters Inc

Kirkus Reviews
Although she doesn't identify as Chinese, Julia, an 11-year-old girl adopted from China, is sent to sleepaway camp for a week to bond with the two other girls who were adopted from the same orphanage at the same time. There are two interconnected plots in Cavanaugh's third novel directed at middle-grade girls (Always, Abigail, 2014, etc.); one concerns Julia's acceptance of her heritage and feelings about being adopted, the other involves a camp competition that forces Julia and her at-war bunkmates to work together and eventually develop a liking for one another. After stirring up some initial interest, the story goes through a didactic and dull stretch as the camp competition and its subsequent life lessons pile up. Near the end, however, the story shifts again, gaining gravitas and becoming incredibly moving. Julia starts to come to terms with the sea of repressed emotions that surrounds her adoption, and her bunkmates, who have their own secrets and vulnerabilities, acknowledge and share them as well. The campers are differentiated well enough for readers to remember who's who, but except for narrator Julia and her bunkmate Gina, a foster child who pretends that everything is a joke, they don't have much in the way of shading or soul. Tame tale redeemed by a touching ending. (Fiction. 9-13)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Julia is headed for a week of summer camp, but she's not looking forward to it, especially since she has to keep a journal for her adoption agency that she would rather forget about. She may have been born in a Chinese orphanage, but that doesn't have anything to do with her life now. She, Becca, and Avery were all at the orphanage together, but that's where their similarities end. Once at camp, though, Julia discovers that they might just have more in common than she thought. This coming-of-age tale is perfect for those struggling with their identities. The mean girl characters begin more as caricatures than real people, but they do become more three-dimensional as the story progresses. The narrative touches on divorce and foster care, as well as adoption. It's a religious camp, but the only references to Christianity are several mentions of having a Bible and one short discussion of a Bible verse. Cassandra Morris narrates, bringing all the characters to life. VERDICT Those looking to add diversity to their shelves will find this fits the bill. ["Filled with slapstick humor and fast-paced action, the novel will engage reluctant readers, while offering fuel for deep contemplation by those ready to tackle questions of identity and belonging": SLJ 1/16 review of the Sourcebooks Jabberwocky book.]—Elizabeth Elsbree, Krug Elementary School, Aurora, IL

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
900L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


The camp bus sputtered and chugged up the interstate, sounding as if this might be its last trip. Avery sat across the aisle from me with her earbuds on, practicing a Chinese vocabulary lesson. Becca sat next to her, chewing on a straw and watching a soccer match on her cell phone.

"Ni hao ma," Avery said, her chin-length hair with bangs making her look studious in her thick, black-framed glasses.

When she saw me looking at her, she pulled out one earbud and offered it to me.

Did she really think I wanted to learn Chinese with her?

"Technically the lesson I'm working on is review, but I could teach you the basics if you want."

I looked around at all the kids on the bus staring at her and shook my head.

"GO! GO! GO!" Becca yelled, pumping her fist in the air as she cheered for Spain's soccer team. Her hair spilled out of her ponytail as if she were playing in the soccer game instead of just watching it. "Booyah! Score!"

As kids stood up on the bus to see what all the yelling was about, I slid down in my seat, and the driver gave us that "death look" in her rearview mirror. The one that said, "If I have to stop this bus, somebody's gonna get it..."

"Hey, Julia!" Becca yelled, holding up her phone. "Wanna watch with me? The game just went into overtime!"

"No thanks."

Crowding around a tiny phone screen and watching people kick a soccer ball around was not my idea of fun.

My idea of fun was craft camp at the park district with my best friend, Madison, but Mom said I had the rest of the summer to do that.

Instead I was heading north toward Wisconsin to Camp Little Big Woods, but at least that was better than heading south toward Indiana for Summer Palace Chinese Culture Camp.

As soon as we "graciously" agreed to be the subjects of Ms. Marcia's adoption article, she suggested that the three of us spend a week together making paper lanterns and learning the pinyin alphabet at culture camp.

"It will be a great way for you girls to reconnect not only with each other, but also with your heritage," Ms. Marcia had gushed.

She loved treating us as if we were two instead of almost twelve.

But I said there was no way I was going to eat Chinese food three times a day and do tai chi every morning, so we settled on the sleepaway camp Avery and Becca went to every year.

I reached into the pocket of my suitcase and pulled out the plastic lacing of the gimp friendship bracelet I had started a few days ago. I had planned to finish it before camp so that I could give it to Madison when I said good-bye to her, but I'd run out of time. I decided I'd try to finish it while I was at camp and mail it to her along with a nice, long letter saying how much I missed her.

"Hey, Julia!" Becca yelled. "What's that?"

"Nothing," I said. "Just a friendship bracelet for my friend Madison."

"COOL!" Becca yelled. "We should totally make those for each other in the arts-and-crafts room at camp."

She went back to her straw-chewing and her tiny-phone-screen soccer game.

Friendship bracelets for the three of us? I guess "technically" as Avery would say, the three of us were friends. But even though "technically" I had known Avery and Becca longer than I had known my parents, I couldn't imagine ever thinking of them as the friendship-bracelet kind of friends.

What are your thoughts on the Chinese proverb: "An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break."

Dear Ms. Marcia,

I've been hearing about this red thread for as long as I can remember, but I cannot imagine a thread, of any color-red, blue, purple, orange, or green-connecting Avery, Becca, and me. And if by some chance there really is a thread, I'm pretty sure this trip to camp might just be enough to snap that thing like an old rubber band, breaking it once and for all. Then that Chinese proverb would be history in a whole new way.


Meet the Author

Nancy J. Cavanaugh has a BS in education and an MA in curriculum and instruction with multiple published works. She was a teacher for more than fifteen years and currently works as a Library Media Specialist at an elementary school. Nancy lives in Tarpon Springs, FL with her husband and daughter. Visit www.nancyjcavanaugh.com

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Just Like Me 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
This_Kid_Reviews_Books More than 1 year ago
Synopsis- Julia is not a happy camper. Or, she will be. Her mom is making her go to a week-long summer camp with her two “Chinese sisters” – two girls also adopted from the same orphanage in China – who absolutely adore everything Chinese while Julia doesn’t. It doesn’t help that the adoption agency’s agent is writing an article about how the three of them are bonding. And Julia doesn’t want a single part of it. What I Thought- I was not expecting to like this book. In fact, I kind of went into reading it with a sour attitude – I was craving a good action/adventure. What I found was a skillfully crafted, meaningful story that captured my interest from the start. To me, that really shows what a good book this was. I really got into the story, and felt connected to the characters. There was a lot of drama, which could get annoying (especially for a boy), but it helped build the story. The story is about getting along with others, getting to know yourself, and ultimately accepting yourself. The characters have their ups and downs with each other, creating a nice challenge for the kids to overcome. The book is very character-driven, and tells two stories – one of Julia learning to get along with the other girls, and another told through letters to her adoption agent, about her internal conflict. I like the fact that the book points out that even though they are adopted, they are still their parents’ children. This is a very good story and speaks to Ms. Cavanaugh’s ability to capture a middle grade audience. *NOTE* I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
Julia was adopted from an orphanage in China, but she doesn't think of herself as Chinese. She's American. Avery and Becca were also adopted from the same orphanage. All three sets of parents went to China together to get the girls, so they've kept in touch over the years. Avery and Becca go to the same school, and they're more into being Chinese and learning about the culture than Julia is. This summer the adoption agency manager has decided to write an article about them, so the girls go to summer camp together for a week. They've selected the camp that Becca and Avery go to every summer because Julia didn't want to go to Chinese culture camp. And they've been given journals with writing prompts to record their feelings and experiences over the week. The book is told in Julia's voice with journal entries between chapters. And all of the adoption stuff is set against the backdrop of a cabin full of fighting girls and a crazy camp contest that Becca and another girl in the cabin are determined to win. I loved all the camp shenanigans in this book. The serious subject was handled well, and it was not too heavy for middle grade readers. Overall, this story was a really cute, sweet, and fun read. It wraps up a little too nicely, but I was fine with it considering the age group. It would give younger readers exposure to adoption and the complex feelings that go along with being adopted. http://www.momsradius.com/2016/08/book-review-just-like-me-mg.html
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DaneWeimMama More than 1 year ago
A beautiful story of friendships & the power of embracing yourself just the way you are. The story centers around 3 Chinese "sisters" (they were adopted at the same time at an orphanage in China) but told from the viewpoint Julia. Julia doesn't totally embrace her culture & has trouble fitting in with the other 2 girls that do. Its a wonderful story that teaches while entertaining. I look forward to reading more by Nancy J. Cavanaugh Advanced Reader Copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Connie57103 More than 1 year ago
This is about three young Asian girls who were adopted to the same parents. They were from the same orphanage. Two of the "sisters" get along like sisters and embrace their Chinese heritage. The third sister pretends to hate Chinese food, culture, and sometimes even feel envious of her sisters. This is a wonderful book by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, who says that this book is about finding your place in the world. I believe that most young adult readers can relate to that. But, Ms. Cavanaugh chose this particular subject to bring the message to the forefront. Is it better to deny who you are to fit in with other people or to accept who you are from, even though you cannot relate to that group? This is an excellent story for any kid trying to find their niche in this world, adopted or not. Thank you Ms. Cavanaugh, SOURSEBOOKS Jabber Rocky, and NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book to read and give my honest review.
Xkoqueen More than 1 year ago
Friendship & Fun Three Chinese girls, who were adopted from the same orphanage in China, are thrown together in summer camp by their parents and teachers. Two are good friends, accepting of their birth culture and their adopted family. Julia, the narrator of the story, tells her tale through diary-style letters to her teacher and through narrative. Julia doesn’t feel connected to her heritage or her loud, fellow- Chinese adoptees, Becca and Avery. She refers to herself as half Italian, half Irish and half Chinese; she really wants to find a way to affiliate herself with the cultures of her adoptive parents. Becca and Avery embrace everything about their Chinese heritage; they show off chopstick skills while eating Cheetos, cool themselves with paper fans, and eat their snacks out of Chinese takeout containers. How will Julia survive the summer stuck in a cabin with Avery and Becca? With each journal entry, Julia’s descriptions become less curmudgeon-like, and even though she claims she’s not bonding with her Chinese “sisters”, the evidence proves otherwise. If nothing else, there is safety in numbers when the three find they must share a cabin with Vanessa, a hyper-competitive camper, and her foster sister, Gina. The girls struggle to accept one another and get along; the struggles are reminiscent of the movie The Parent Trap. The shared punishment leads to cooperation, but little things lead to another group blow up. While they lose the camp athletic competition, they win in the realization of how similar they are to each other. Instead of a trophy, they are awarded with new friends. When left alone with her thoughts, Julia ponders her birth mother. Did she love me? Why did she give me up? Does she think about me? She’s so busy worrying about her own sad story to wonder if her cabin mates have struggles of their own. Ultimately, she learns that everyone has problems and that the other girls also make up little stories (pretend) to make their lives more palatable. Cavanaugh, an adoptive mother, was inspired to write this story based on her experiences with her adopted child. Just Like Me explores the self-doubt felt by adopted and foster children as well as their wavering feelings about their heritage and their adopted culture. This feel-good story of acceptance and friendship is good for all ages, and it will be most appreciated by elementary to middle school aged readers.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
Competition galore! Excitement was in the air for Beca and Avery, as they again are headed off for summer church camp. Julia is forced to go this year; her mother’s big idea. The three girls who were adopted from the same orphanage will be attending camp together and Julia agreed to journaling to their adoption agency while she was there. Julia takes this assignment seriously and her reflections to the questions were honest and sincere and when she writes down her own reflections in the journal, they give the readers a deeper understanding of the character of Julia. Arriving at the camp, the girls discover that they will be bunking with their archenemy from the previous year and the competition does not cease. Merridth and Vanessa have brought along a cousin, Gina which just adds to the tension inside the cabin. The camp has competitions and contests with each cabin competing again each other but White Oak cabin is having a hard time bonding. The girl inside White Oak, their bickering, it’s typical and it was real. I could see it and I could feel the tension in the air and unfortunately I loved it. Their counselor tried to stay out of it because she knew they had to work it out on their own and then there was one amongst them, which was even more trouble. She was evil and I didn’t understand why but it added to the drama. These girls needed to pull it together if they wanted to win the competition this year but the clock was ticking. I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in exchange for an honest review.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
his was a nice little YA book about being adopted. It also included children who were fostered and ones whose parents had separated. It helps those kids understand that they are not alone and that there are others out there that don't necessarily live with their real parents or both parents. I think it's good for all middle graders though, as well, because it teaches them about "different" families and helps them to see how the kids feel. I think the author did a great job. The characters were definitely believable with a lot of teenage angst, but it wasn't so much that it turned me off. Actually, I finished reading the book with a good feeling because there were several lessons learned. And, I think these lessons were learned in an entertaining way, not a preaching way. Thanks to Sourcebooks for approving my request and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.