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*Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel* by Ruth Barshaw- young readers fantasy book review

Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel
by Ruth Barshaw
Ages 9-12 176 pages Bloomsbury USA May 2007 Hardcover    

Almost twelve-year-old Ellie opens up her life to us through her sketch journal.

Ellie dreads the thought of camping with her relatives. After all, it’s fake camping they do, and these particular relatives are not fun to be with. But her journal entries change after spending seven days with her aunt, her uncle, and her cousins. In her writings, Cousin Eric is no longer referred to as Er-ick, and he’s now drawn as a boy; not as a creature. Aunt Mug finally smiles- it’s documented in Day 6’s drawings. And readers start to see that cousins who started off annoying each other are now finding ways to enjoy being together. The illustrations show smiling cousins, helping cousins, even hugging cousins.

There are lots of surprises in store for Ellie in this trip. Some of Ellie’s journal entries come from secretly watching others; tables turn on her when she realizes someone is watching her. She finds a new friend in this quiet observer who eventually leaves a message for her in the rocks, one reason Ellie is looking forward to going home. She’s also discovered a new appreciation for family, and with more surprises coming her way this summer, she’ll be able to use the new sketchbooks she receives.

Illustrations accompany most of Ellie's journal entries. Black-and-white line drawings in her journal include homemade reference maps - one of mitten-shaped Michigan, and a more detailed map of the campgrounds around Higgins Lake. In addition, Ellie documents her activities and field trips while out in the country. Moments from her nature walks, her trip to the Fred Moose Museum, and her visit to the Trout Hatchery are all captured in illustration. Ellie and her relatives play quite a few games during their seven days together. She writes clear directions and draws supplementary illustrations for such games as Spoons, Blob Tag, Human Pretzel, Sardines, and the Alphabet Game. These games are great for families of all sizes, or for a group of friends.

Ellie’s journal encompasses a little frog mystery, a little Seaweed Sally intrigue, and lots of wilderness adventure and drama. Ruth McNally Barshaw’s first book for children speaks volumes with its words and its pictures. This record of a diarist is fun to read and recommended.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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