Rissa Bartholomew's Declaration of Independence

( 1 )


The hilarious, heartwarming first installment in a friendship series from a fabulous new voice in middle-grade fiction.

Rissa Bartholomew didn't plan on declaring her independence from all of her friends at her own birthday party, one week before the start of middle school. But somehow, that's exactly what she did. Now she's entering sixth grade without a single friend, and she's determined to make new ones without simply following the herd.

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The hilarious, heartwarming first installment in a friendship series from a fabulous new voice in middle-grade fiction.

Rissa Bartholomew didn't plan on declaring her independence from all of her friends at her own birthday party, one week before the start of middle school. But somehow, that's exactly what she did. Now she's entering sixth grade without a single friend, and she's determined to make new ones without simply following the herd.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Clarissa "Rissa" Bartholomew has grown weary of her family, wearing hand-me-downs from her well-to-do friend Beth and following the "herd": her four closest friends, with whom she doesn't seem to have much in common anymore. Rissa begins middle school determined to be independent, though with her ex-friends avoiding her, she soon discovers that independence isn't all it's cracked up to be: "In fact, I felt like I was being punished." Debut novelist Comerford, a PW reviewer, realistically conveys Rissa's feelings, from her nervousness about becoming a teenager ("I'd lived with one.... Mary Ann was a very weepy individual, and it made me think that teen life must be pretty hard") to her compassion for unpopular nerd Brian. Rissa's narrative is peppered with humorous musings, and the supporting characters are distinctive as well (Rissa's mother feels less useful as her daughters grow up, and Rissa's friend Beth vacillates between being spoiled and sensitive as she, too, tries to find herself). An accident involving Brian-he is injured and Rissa is suspended-teaches Rissa that independence doesn't necessarily mean going it alone. Her conflicts should resonate with middle-school readers. Ages 9-12. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Joyce Rice
Beth and Rissa have been best friends since first grade. It was not that they had picked each other so much but that they had been picked by their mothers. Beth's mother and Rissa's mother had been best friends in elementary school and when they discovered that they lived close to each other and that the girls were in the same class, it just seemed to be fate that the girls be best friends. Things are working out pretty well so far. Beth is one of the most popular girls in school so Rissa is a part of the popular crowd by default. Beth likes pretty things and pretty clothes and is always willing to share her clothes, especially after she has outgrown them. When Rissa objects to having to wear the "homemade" clothes that her mom makes for her, Beth's mom begins giving Rissa hand me downs from Beth. Now, after six years, the girls are both entering middle school. Beth is focused on boys and parties but Rissa has not found her focus yet. She wants to do some things on her own but is afraid that she might fail and then have no friends. Rissa can remember all of the lessons she has learned in school about being true to yourself, but that seems to be a big risk to take in middle school. Rissa will learn that change is a good thing and that other people, at all ages, deal with the fear of change. This chapter book will remind readers that it is okay to be afraid and it is okay to be different. Sometimes in life, the very best things are gained by taking a risk. Reviewer: Joyce Rice
School Library Journal

Gr 4-7

Even though her family encourages her to "Be true to yourself" and "Dare to be different," Clarissa Bartholomew is finding it difficult to do so. With a clear, middle-school sensibility, her narrative is refreshingly innocent and believable as she describes the struggles she faces as she tries to be independent without being left alone. As the school year opens, Rissa is faced with the changes happening to her "herd" of friends, some seeking new images, some more interested in boys, and some just plain irritating. She has many lessons to learn about how to find new friends, keep the old ones, and develop her own identity. While her story is a familiar one, Rissa's voice is fresh and entertaining.-Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD

Kirkus Reviews
No longer comfortable with her old friends, Rissa breaks off with them just before sixth grade and has to make her way through the social minefield of their new middle school on her own. This friendship story captures the discomfort of that awkward stage of life. Not yet interested in boys and clothes-at least expensive clothes-Rissa isn't quite sure what she wants. Violet, new in town, seems a possible companion but is immersed in medieval fantasies. To avoid ballet, where her clumsiness would be exposed, Rissa takes up the violin, but barely gets beyond holding the bow. Even her body has changed, but she can't ask her mother to take her shopping for a bra. Told in the first person, each incident has the appropriate drama but also humor for the reader who can see beyond the page. True to real life, Rissa gradually comes to terms with her new self. In her first book for young readers, Comerford, a former teacher, demonstrates a clear understanding of the sixth grader's world. (Fiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545050586
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,141,097
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Allison Fraclose for TeensReadToo.com

    In the summer before starting middle school, Clarissa (Rissa) Bartholomew begins to realize that she and her friends don't have much in common anymore.

    Her best friend, Beth, whom she has been friends with since preschool, now insists on being called "Bethany," and talks incessantly about clothes and hairstyles. The other girls in their group seem to be heading in that same direction, while Rissa is stuck dealing with Beth's castoff clothes for a wardrobe and unmanageably curly hair.

    On the day of her joint 11th birthday party with Beth at a local pizzeria (Beth's idea, even though Rissa's allergy to tomatoes forces her to order fried chicken instead), it dawns on Rissa that her friends just don't understand her anymore, nor does she them. When they begin to tease her about a boy they know, Rissa decides that the time has come to expel herself from "the herd" and declare her independence.

    But being an independent individual turns out to be much more difficult than Rissa could have guessed. Apparently, telling off every friend she has just before the start of middle school is enough to turn her into a social outcast right off the bat. Even her strained attempt to become friends with a quiet, fantasy loving girl named Violet proves to come at a price, since the rest of the students have already pegged her as "weird."

    The pressure that Rissa feels from her mother, who seems desperate to reconcile the friendship between Rissa and her friend's daughter, doesn't help at all. Rissa keeps wondering if she will ever find a way to show people who she really is, so that she can stop blending in to the background and letting people make her life decisions for her.

    The strong, humorous voice of the main character leads the reader through this younger voyage of self-discovery. I loved following Rissa's journey, and I'm sure any young girl who has ever felt a need to be herself will feel the same way.

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