Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

One of the ways in which my daughter is very much like me is her love of reading. It seems she is always looking for something interesting to read, and consequently I'm usually on the lookout for books that are appropriate to her age and to her reading level that she would enjoy. Recently, we had the opportunity to read a fun, new book from Barbour Publishing Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story.
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Barbour Publishing grew from a small remainder bookseller called "Book Bargains" in 1981 to a prominent publisher of Christian classics at value prices. Today Barbour releases more than 150 titles per year, and has almost one thousand stock titles. The company strives to produce and publish books that are faithful to the Bible and to Jesus Christ.
Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story is the fun story of ten-year-old Emma Jean Payne (better known as E.J.). The storyline goes back and forth between E.J.'s diary with her adventures told in her own words, and a lively narration that includes what is happening in E.J.'s world and what is happening in her active imagination. Each chapter starts with a couple pages from E.J.'s diary, which look like they are hand-written complete with doodles in a lined-paper notebook. The narration picks up the story, with the portions that are E.J.'s day-dreaming in italics so it's easy to follow.
E.J. loves her 'Anne of Green Gables' costume,
but it's mistaken for the Wendy's logo!
How did we use it? Well, obviously, we read it! It was excellent timing that the book arrived in our mailbox just a few days before we went on family vacation, because it was a perfect piece of reading material for Kennady to take along for on the plane.

Kennady really enjoyed the adventures of spunky E.J., who gets herself into one awkward situation after another because she daydreams and pretends to be a race-car driver, or an astronaut, or a hairdresser. She said she liked that the book was funny and imaginative, and that it was different from a lot of other books she has read in the way the diary and imagination and story are combined. She also especially liked the diary portions, because "it's like E.J. is interacting with me when I read that part."

Although the title does say it's a true story, it really is a work of fiction, but it sure could be a true story, and I'm willing to bet a lot of these situations are based on true stories. As Kennady told me, many things that happened in the story happen at our house too, "like Dad falling asleep while watching TV and the kids trying to steal the remote out of his hand. And when they had the fall fair and everyone was trying to dunk the pastor in the dunk tank - we just did that at our church too!" E.J. has a loving family, and some special friends like her grandmotherly neighbor who encourage her to be who God created her to be, and to live for him. Although she gets into trouble, and things don't always go her way, she learns lessons about how to be obedient and forgiving, and to trust God. 

What we liked best:
  • lots of humor and fun
  • very "relate-able" - E.J.'s experiences with her family and friends are very true to life and most kids will be able to identify with her hopes and dreams and failings.
  • fun diary sections in a chapter book format
What I need to mention:
  • the diary portion is the first two pages of each chapter, and then when you turn the page, the narrative begins. However, that first paragraph isn't indented, so we often wondered if we had missed a page, because it looks like the narrative is starting in the middle of a paragraph. That is just a minor formatting issue that threw us a couple times.
  • this is one of those books that I'm not convinced would be a good read-aloud. I believe the reader needs to see those diary pages, and the difference between what E.J. is thinking or pretending and what is really happening around her for that to aspect to be effective. The short and sectioned chapters make it a great chapter book for younger readers though!
Our bottom line: Kennady read this book quickly and really enjoyed it, and I've overheard her talk to a couple of friends about it already. I think we will be very interested in Book 2: Church Camp Chaos when it is published in March 2014. I can warmly recommend this book for young readers for its wholesome and realistic portrayal of an imaginative young girl and her adventures in growing up.

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Would you like a glimpse into the diary of a Real Payne? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the publisher's website at:
See the description of Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story and read a sample chapter. The paperback book is 192 pages long, and is divided into 15 chapters.

Pricing: Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton is available for $5.99, but at the time of this review, it is on sale for $4.49.

Recommended Ages: This book is best for kids aged 8-12.

You can even follow E.J. Payne on Facebook! You can also follow Barbour Publishing on Facebook or on Twitter.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews. 

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Unknown said...

Kym, thanks for your (and Kennady's) review! And you're right -- some of the happenings in the book are taken from a chapter of my own life! :) Happy reading!

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