Saturday, December 1, 2012

Main Street series, books 1-3 by Ann M. Martin

I picked up secondhand copies of Welcome to Camden Falls, Needle and Thread, and 'Tis the Season by Ann M. Martin for my young cousin (the one I've been reading Narnia with), and decided to read them before passing them along. I was a big fan of the Baby-Sitters Club books when I was a pre-teen, so I was interested to see what this new series was like.

When Flora and Ruby's parents die in a car accident, the girls have no choice but to move to Camden Falls to live with their grandmother. They're not excited about leaving their home and friends, but they soon embrace small-town life, with the help of a couple of new friends.

This series doesn't have the structure and focus of the BSC series -- though the girls do embark on projects, often involving their grandmother's sewing and crafting store, the stories meander a bit more. That's not a criticism, just a comparison. Martin does tackle some heavier issues than one might expect for a middle-grade series by including a character whose parents are alcoholics, and whose father is verbally, and possibly physically, abusive. To an adult reader, the series seems almost too neat in its construction -- the prefect small-town business district with its collection of unique shops, the carefully balanced neighborhood diversity, the range of issues encountered by the girls, through which they learn the appropriate lessons . . . it's remarkably tidy, and feels almost sanitized. The characters are a little flat: Flora is the arts-and-crafts loving homemaker type, Ruby is a performer, Olivia is smart, Nikki is an artistic animal-lover . . . and that's about all there is to say about them.

Will I still pass these books on to my cousin? Of course. The issues I've mentioned are ones unlikely to bother the young readers for whom the series is written. So, while I feel no desire to read more in the series, I can still appreciate that it will hold some attraction to young readers. I can also see why it has not been as wildly successful as its predecessor.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copies.)

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