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Perfectly Chelsea

Perfectly Chelsea

by Mills, Jacqueline Rogers (Illustrator)

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Chelsea learns she is perfectly human

If Chelsea Garing likes anything better than school, it's church, especially when she gets the chance to shine. Unfortunately, Chelsea can't perform perfectly every time. One day, when she's serving as acolyte, her candlelighter unexpectedly goes out. Another day, when she's acting a role from the Good Samaritan story


Chelsea learns she is perfectly human

If Chelsea Garing likes anything better than school, it's church, especially when she gets the chance to shine. Unfortunately, Chelsea can't perform perfectly every time. One day, when she's serving as acolyte, her candlelighter unexpectedly goes out. Another day, when she's acting a role from the Good Samaritan story in Sunday school, annoying Danny Repetti plows into her. Why her friend Naomi Goldberg doesn't find Danny unbearable is beyond Chelsea. During fourth-grade gym, Danny makes a remark about Hanukkah that Chelsea is sure has offended Naomi — yet it hasn't! A much more serious matter perplexes Chelsea: how can God let people die?

Chelsea Garing may not always be at her best for God or man, but she learns to accept everyone's shortcomings — including her own — in this thoughtful, funny portrait of a child who loves her life at church. Warm, lively drawings by Jacqueline Rogers complement the story.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Unlike most fiction for children, this story clearly shows the importance and place of religion in everyday life...more depth than the usual chapter book and more references to church activities than most readers will come across in a month of Sundays." — Booklist

"Genuine...This will resonate with many kids' experience, and it may actually inspire a few youngsters to find new appreciation for their own religious life." — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Those searching for religious-themed fiction will find much to rejoice in here." — The Horn Book

"Engaging." — Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Mills (the Gus and Grandpa books) takes this knowing middle-grade novel into less traveled territory: Chelsea, the nine-year-old perfection-seeking protagonist, spends a lot of time at church and Sunday school and thinks about religion, both her own and her best friend's, Naomi's. Chelsea isn't exactly sanctimonious. Although readers meet her in church, imagining a halo hovering over her "neat, just-combed hair," she soon cuts the church bulletin into a fortune teller. However, her biggest concern is whether she'll do a "wonderful" job as an acolyte (in fact, the flame on her candlelighter goes out as she walks ceremoniously down the aisle). Elsewhere, she worries that Danny, her nemesis at church, has offended Naomi by asking if she has a Hanukkah bush in place of a Christmas tree, the way a Jewish boy in his class last year did (Naomi doesn't mind). Chelsea suffers further indignity when she rings the wrong bell during the debut performance of her church bell choir, and later makes a bigger mistake. There are several genuinely tender moments here: the girl becomes angry with God when a neighbor dies of cancer, even though the entire congregation has been praying for her; and is devastated when her beloved minister moves to another church. Some episodes seem overly orchestrated, but on balance the conflicts, and the characters, seem lifelike and engaging. Ages 7-10. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Fourth graders Chelsea and Danny are in the same class at school and at their Christian church. Chelsea tries so hard to be perfect in both places. She is not amused by Danny's clowning around; in fact, his silliness offends her. Despite her "holier that thou" attitude, Chelsea is a sweet girl who enjoys spending time with her family and with her best friend Naomi, who is Jewish. Chelsea's thoughts and actions will hit close to home for readers in the intended age group. Chelsea's relationships with her parents, younger brother, Naomi, Danny, and others are realistic and fluid. Her story will pull readers in from the very first chapter and keep them engaged until the very end. Children will observe how Chelsea deals with many realistic situations, such as resolving a fight with a best friend, helping a sick neighbor, tattling on a classmate, and coming to terms with disappointments. This is a girl who is growing in self awareness. She learns that the world does not stop when she makes mistakes. She can strive to do her best and, sometimes, she will fail. But life goes on; there are ways to turn a mistake around. Chelsea is not perfect, but she learns how to live with that revelation. In this book children will learn many things about Christian traditions, and some things about Judaism. Chelsea learns that both religions have special rites for their members. In this way, diversity is celebrated. 2004, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 7 to 10.
—Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-This beginning chapter book is a coming-of-age story about a girl trying to make sense of the world around her. Chelsea Garing wants to be perfect. At school, at home, or in church, the fourth grader follows the rules. Danny Repetti is her opposite. In church, he laughs when her candlelighter goes out; at school, she tattles on him for making her drop her sandwich. Her friend Naomi Goldberg tells her that she was "mean," which causes Chelsea to question her own idea of perfection. The story takes place mainly in church, and the setting is used to ask some heavy questions. Jewish characters and a scene depicting the celebration of Hanukkah are included as well. Expressive full-page illustrations capture the highlights of the story.-Heather Ulesoo, New York Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Yes, nine-year-old Chelsea, whose family life revolves around church activities, is perfect most of the time. She prays to God to keep her perfect as the best acolyte, best Sunday School helper, and best good-deed-doer-but when her prayer for Mrs. Cruz doesn't keep her from dying, she has her first fight with God. Her Jewish friend Naomi is a foil for common fourth-grade encounters with school events, family traditions, and religious beliefs, as is her nemesis, klutzy Danny, who disrupts the youth bell choir and the church play about the Good Samaritan. Unusual for its focus on religion for this age, nevertheless the kids' behavior and questions about prayer and values ring fairly realistic. A nice touch at the end is when the beloved older minister leaves for a new church and is replaced by a woman. (Fiction. 7-10)

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Claudia Mills is the author of many children's books. Her last chapter book, 7 X 9 = Trouble!, was an ALA Notable Book. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Jacqueline Rogers is a veteran illustrator of children's books. She lives in Chatham, New York.

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