Friday, January 18, 2013

Short Story Spotlight: Cheer We Go! by Laura Dower

"Cheer We Go!" by Laura Dower. from American Girl, September/October 2012

"Cheer We Go!" is a short story by Laura Dower, one of the authors in Scholastic’s Candy Apple series. (She wrote The Boy Next Door.) Like many of the Candy Apple books, this is a story about the highs and lows of female friendship in middle school. Wendy and her best friend Elle have always planned on being cheerleaders together, but when Wendy bombs at tryouts, Elle is the only one who makes the squad. Wendy is bummed, but she tries her best to be supportive, attending every game and cheering from the bleachers. Klara, a nonconformist with great fashon sense, also attends the games and she and Wendy become good friends. This causes Elle to question whether Wendy is her friend anymore. Things are complicated until all three girls find common ground and form a trio.

Branching out and making new friends is one of the most stressful parts of middle school, and this story captures those feelings perfectly. What I like is that the story remains upbeat and positive. Wendy is disappointed by her failure to make the cheerleading squad, but she never lets jealousy or sadness overpower her feelings for her best friend. Though Elle is at times unsure of their friendship after Klara comes along, Wendy never falls into the cruel, cliquey dramatics that are so common in middle school stories and novels. Wendy, Elle, and Klara have to make room for their new friendships in their lives, but they do so in a very natural and realistic way that results in personal growth for all three.

I also love that this story introduced me to the artwork of Cathi Mingus. She has a perfect tween-friendly style, which I realized I recognize from the cover of Friends for Keeps? and the Forever Four series. Each of her figures’ facial expressions is a story unto itself, and she uses bright colors and cartoonish features that definitely appeal to middle school girls. (My favorite picture from this story can be seen on the author’s website. ) I will keep an eye out for more of her illustrations - I love them!

American Girl is a great source of positive and life-affirming fiction for tweens that speaks to them on their level, but also models strong character and level-headedness. "Cheer We Go!" can be found in the September/October 2012 issue.

I read this story at my local public library.

Visit American Girl online here.

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