A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
JUNE 8:

  • Happy birthday Carolyn Meyer (The True Adventures of Charley Darwin, White Lilacs), Judy Sierra (Wild About Books; Tell the Truth, B.B.Wolf), Penny Dale (Ten In the Bed, The Jamie and Angus Stories).
  • It’s the birth date of Ivan Southall (1921-2008), Ash Road.
  • In 793, the Vikings begin to invade England. Read Viking Ships at Sunrise by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca and Yo, Vikings! By Judy Byron Schachner.
  • In 1949, George Orwell's 1984 is published. Read George Orwell: Battling Big Brother by Tanya Agathocleous.
  • It’s World Ocean Day. Read The Day The Ocean Came to Visit by Diane Wolkstein, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, and Hello Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella.

Today marks Best Friends Day, a time to celebrate the BFF in your life. Nothing can be so wonderful in the life of a child as a best friend. And, conversely, nothing can be more terrible than a rift between them. I still wince with pain when I think about my “breakup” with my BFF in seventh grade. The exploration of best friends—and what happens when you stop speaking to each other—forms the premise of the book of the day, Wendy Mass’s 11 Birthdays.

Born on the same day, Amanda and Leo first meet in the hospital nursery. Then, a year later, they accidentally celebrate their first birthday together when both of their parents rent the same hall. From then on, the two form an incredible bond, and they delight in having joint birthday parties. Until they turn ten. Then, in a horrible incident, Amanda hears Leo tell some boys that she has no friends. She flees the party, and for an entire year the two do not talk.

All this background forms the prelude of what seems, at first, like a simple saga of friendship gone awry. Told from Amanda’s point of view, she narrates her eleventh birthday, horrible from beginning to end. She and Leo are not speaking so they have planned separate birthday events. And everything that can go wrong in Amanda’s day does: she tries out for but doesn’t make the gymnastics team; her mother gets fired; and all her friends leave her house early so that they can attend Leo’s much ritzier affair. But as her mother assures her, you only turn eleven once in your life.

Then both the reader and Amanda get a big surprise. The next day, she turns eleven again, with a repeat of the events. In fact, Amanda’s going to turn eleven, eleven times. And so does Leo. As Amanda makes choices for the do-over day, she begins to see how some produce better results. But the main choice involves Leo. Not until our two protagonists start talking, join forces, bury the wounds of the past, and become BFFs again does their curse lift. (An old woman, a fairy godmother of sorts, has been involved all along.)  In the process of learning to be true friends to each other, they also learn how to take the right action for themselves.

With great humor and profound understanding of the emotions of eleven-year-olds, Wendy Mass spins a page-turning story. Absolutely beloved by readers eight through twelve and the recipient of many awards selected by children, including Vermont’s Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, 11 Birthdays combines realistic fiction with a touch of magic and provides a totally satisfying ending. Readers have no doubt now that Amanda and Leo with be BFFs forever—if only not to repeat their birthday again and again.

So I hope you have time for your best friend today—and to read, or reread, this delightful novel.

Here’s a passage from 11 Birthdays:

Hurrah! I’m awake and my alarm didn’t go off! I woke up all on my own, which means it must be Saturday! Whatever happened yesterday is over and done with and I can put it behind me. It must still be early because it’s still dark in my room, and I’m too happy to go back to sleep. Might as well open those presents! I swing my legs off the side of the bed and bump directly into SpongeBob.

NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

I grab him, stick him back in the closet, and slam the door. I hold my breath and peer into the trash can next to my desk where I threw my costume last night.

Empty.

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Originally posted June 8, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Birthdays, Family, Holidays, School
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for 11 Birthdays
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COMMENTS

  1. John says:

    Wendy Mass appeals to a wide range of readers. My school library owns three copies of 11 Birthdays. Most readers cannot return it without stopping to chat. It is the perfect book club selection.

    Thank you for celebrating this delightful novel.

  2. Sarah says:

    We had this on our Golden Dragon list this year. (gr 4/5) It came in second place, just after “Smile.” I was pleased to see many boys reading this one!
    Great choice for Best Friends Day!

  3. Mindi says:

    Loved 11 Birthdays when I read it last summer. It’s one of those books with a great storyline that just pulls you in. I fell in love with the characters, and wanted to know more about them even after the book ended. Wendy Mass is one of my favorite authors (and my students’ too).

  4. Jen says:

    I love that the kids are reconnected with each other and also realize what they need to be true to themselves at the same time. The Sponge Bob balloon was so funny to me…when I was at the party store for my 4-year-old’s birthday in May to get a Buzz Lightyear balloon I was on the lookout for a Sponge Bob balloon. I love how books stick with you and pop up in day-to-day life.

    I’m rereading The Babysitter’s Club with some Twitter friends this summer and I remember loving how the girls in that book were such great friends even though they were so different. Celebrating best friends on Best Friends Day is fun but also important!

  5. Erica S. says:

    This looks like a great one to put on the “suggested summer reading” list at my school (5th/6th graders). Thanks, Anita!

  6. Anita says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Erica: Your students will love you for putting this book on a summer reading list. (I know they love you already, but this will help.)

  7. Jamie says:

    I absolutely love, love, love this book!

  8. Tanya says:

    Love this wonderful book! (Actually, Wendy Mass is pretty hot at my school library.) Finally and Thirteen Gifts have also been very popular this past school year.

  9. Anita says:

    Tanya: Thanks for the feedback on what is popular in your school library. I never tire of these reports!

  10. lalibrarylady86 says:

    I agree with Tanya – this series never stayed on the shelves this year. Ordering more Wendy Mass titles since the kids definitely enjoy her stories and style.

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