J.R. Silver Writes Her World by Melissa Dassori and illustrations by Chelen Ecija
Format: E- ARC
Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books/Little Brown BYR
Number of pages: 272
Publishing: July 19th, 2022
Opening Line: "That one, said Violet as she stepped so close to the railing that a blue-suited guard waved her back."
It's the summer before sixth grade and Josephine Rose Silver, J.R. for short, is visiting the MET or Metropolitain Museum of Art with her best friend, Violet. Violet and J.R. are kindred spirits for the classics, sharing a love for Little Women and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, they've even acted out scenes from the book while visiting the museum. They know each other's likes and dislikes, and both their moms are even best friends who work together at the museum. However, ever since Violet returned from summer camp things have been strained. Violet has been constantly distracted by her phone, texting, social media, and Ava Arls, the most popular girl in their grade, who also happened to be at the same summer camp as Violet. J.R.'s parents are stricter than Violet's, they haven't even agreed to let her walk home without parental supervision and said no to her getting a phone. J.R. feels like her and Violet don't have as much in common anymore. Then J.R.'s teacher, Ms. Kline takes out her collection of Gothamite magazines and assigns them a creative writing assignment utilizing the iconic covers as a writing prompt. J.R. pours her heart and dreams into her short stories, and when one of them actually comes true, she's overjoyed but plays it off as just a coincidence, but the more she writes things into reality, the more she believes that she can use her writing assignments as a tool to fix her and Violet's relationship. But like all magic it's important to remember to be careful what you wish for.
J.R. Silver Writes Her World poses the question, what if you could write your dreams into reality with the stroke of a pen? Man was this such a wonderful read, I just devoured it, and it's one of my favorite reads so far this year. It included so many of my favorite things, a main character who wants to be a writer, bookstores, shout outs to other authors and books (Rick Riordan, Linda Sue Park and Jacqueline Woodson) and is also set in New York and parts of it take place at the Metropolitain Museum of Art (MET). I so would've loved this book as a kid, not only for the creative writing assignments using magazine covers but also for the getting words out and onto the page. I love that the author drew inspiration for the story from her own fourth grade teacher who used the New Yorker magazines for their creative writing assignments. It was an especially special read for me because I also used magazine covers, Norman Rockwell's in my own speech therapy practice and it brought back some happy memories.
While reading, I so related to J.R.'s feelings and felt the story wonderfully captures the awkwardness of a friend having moved on, and the feeling of being left behind. Which happened to me quite a few times as a kid. The pains of watching Violet making new friends and not including you in her plans. I so felt for J.R. and was happy that she eventually was able to convey her feelings to Violet. Having those tough conversations are never easy, especially when it involves your friend, but the message here shows the importance of being honest and having that tough talk.
Anyone who knows me also knows that I love stories with wonderful teachers. Teachers who inspire, find all the great qualities in their students, or ones that just support them achieve their dreams. J.R.'s teacher, Ms. Kline was absolutely wonderful. I'd agree she felt similar to Mary Poppin's, and I just adored her. She never provides J.R. all the answers about her stories coming to reality, but gently guides her to improve her stories to get a better outcome. I've always had a soft spot for teachers, and I'd put Ms. Kline up there with Ms. Bixby from John David Anderson's Ms. Bixby's Last Day. Overall, this was a fabulous debut that focuses on language arts and captures the ebbs and flows of friendships. I'd highly recommend this to an aspiring writer, and this would make a wonderful read aloud.