Friday, October 25, 2013

Barbour Publishing- Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story (a TOS Review)

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We had the opportunity to review the book Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton. This book is published by Barbour Publishing.  To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure if this book was going to be too far over the girls' heads as it is recommended for children ages 8-12, so I was a little hesitant while signing up for the review. Tabitha is the one who insisted I ask to review it as she really liked the sound of the book from the description and from the sneak peak of the first chapter. She was thrilled when we found out we were going to get to review it and now that we have finished the book, I am so glad we had this opportunity. 

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We weren't sure if she was going to read it independently or if it was going to be a read-aloud for our rest and bed times, as even though we knew the age recommendations, I wasn't exactly sure what the actual reading level was. We started out with Tabitha taking off with it and trying to read it on her own.

On our way to grandma's house, her nose was stuck in the book. I had to grab a shot.

Unfortunately, though I wanted her to be able to read it on her own and I loved seeing her with her nose stuck in a book, she was reading it a bit too slow for the review. I had thought about letting her continue reading on her own and just snitching it to read it myself for review purposes. However, I decided we would enjoy it together, a chapter at a time, so I could know how she was going to respond to the book and so that we could include Amelia. 

So, what is this book about that has captured both my 6 year old's and my 5 year old's attention? 

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story is about Emma Jean Payne (who prefers to go by the name EJ) and her antics as she starts the fourth grade. Her father is a pastor and her mother is an elementary school teacher, along with teaching children in kid's church. She also has a little brother, named Isaac (or the Space Invader) who is 5 years old and just starting kindergarten. Oh, and I can't forget to mention her dog Bert (short for Matthew Cuthbert T-Rex Payne). Now, the name of the dog may have gone over the head of my girls, though it is explained in the book, but this mom's attention was grabbed. Matthew Cuthbert is a main character in the book Anne of Green Gables. Two of EJ's four favorite books are Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie, which happen to be a couple of my favorites too. If you know anything about Laura Ingalls and Anne Shirley, they weren't perfect little angels, and tended to get into some interesting predicaments themselves.  Like EJ they are both full of curiosity and spunk, and they love adventure. And yes, EJ finds herself in quite a bit of interesting situations. So, how does she find herself in these predicaments? Well, it has a lot to do with her inability to do as her parents say and "be where you are when you're there, EJ." 

When I asked Tabitha what she would like to tell others the book was about, she said, "Daydreaming." One of the things EJ loves is dreaming, and by dreaming she means imagining or "traveling to another time and another place with just the creativity in my mind." She is stuck in what she considers the most boring town of Spooner, Wisconsin and she has dreams of growing up, moving out and doing BIG things, figuring there is no way anything big will happen in her rinky dink town. (Yes, we live in a rinky dink town, probably smaller than she lives in, so we can relate).

Each chapter is introduced with a 1 to 2 page diary entry in which we really get to see her opinion and feelings on what is upcoming in the chapter. The chapters, written in third person, go on to tell of the adventures she mentioned in her diary. As the chapters unfold EJ suddenly finds herself inadvertently daydreaming with just a seemingly insignificant prompt which usually results in near-disastrous consequences as she acts it out in real life. For example, in the first chapter she finds herself in one of her vivid daydreams as the youngest race-car driver ever all because the black-and-white checkered design on the chessboard in the toy section of the store resembles a checkered flag.  I mean, just think what could happen if you were driving a shopping cart through the store as you daydreamed being a race-car driver. It seems to take quite a bit to snap her out of these daydreams too, as in the above instance her mom had to use her yellow scarf as a yellow caution flag to bring her back to reality.

Tabitha's favorite chapter was "My Life as a Space Cadet." EJ had been called a "space cadet" by her rival, CoraLee McCallister after CoraLee discovered EJ is still using her imagination, or "playing pretend" as she called it. It is their first day of 4th grade and it is not going quite as EJ would have liked it to go. During recess, while playing on the new monkey bars with her friend Macy, EJ is suddenly imaging herself in space preparing for a space walk.  You can imagine what EJ is actually doing on those monkey bars as she is floating into space in her daydream.

Throughout the book we find EJ both losing focus on reality and learning the realities of life. Though things don't always go as she would like them to go, she learns valuable life-lessons. At the beginning of the book the chapters at times felt a bit disjointed as we go from her first day of school, to Family Camp during Labor Day weekend to a chapter on hair cuts.  However, by the end of the book I could see how they all worked together to help EJ to grow and learn these lessons. She has to learn to deal with disappointments, but then realizes these pale in comparison to other people's dilemmas. She learns about being kind, even to those who are mean. And she learns that all may not be as it seems.

I love the way faith in Jesus is so important in their lives. She figures she won't be able to do anything important in such a boring community, but her mom tells her, "And I also believe that God has plans for EJ Payne that are better than even her amazing imagination can dream up." By the end of the book EJ learns that her mom is right.

The only thing I really took issue with was the way EJ treats her little brother Isaac at times. I was disappointed that she would call him such names as baby and say he had boogers for brains. I would prefer my girls not think it okay to treat each other like that and EJ never really got reprimanded for such things. Besides the fact that I was hoping they would be taught to be Christ-like toward each other, Amelia is the same age as Isaac and Tabitha is just a year older and they would probably end up being seen as pests to EJ too. Fortunately the girls didn't pick up on that. Probably because they are seeing themselves as the older sisters with a younger brother.

If your children are like mine and can't get enough of EJ and her antics, you will be happy to hear Book 2- Church Camp Chaos will be releasing in March of 2014. Furthermore, you can follow EJ on Facebook. You can keep up with her "latest antics, diary entries, contests, and more!" Just click here.

You can purchase Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story from Barbour Publishing. It is regularly priced at $5.99, but right now it is on sale for $4.49, perfect timing for Christmas shopping, right?

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  1. This sounds like a really good book! Thanks for the review!!

  2. Karen, thanks for your review! So glad you and your girls enjoyed EJ's adventures!


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