Wow! It's hard to believe that Marissa Moss's creation, Amelia and her composition book/diary, first hit the shelves 20 years ago! Amelia was not new to me, having just started as a children's bookseller, and having a daughter and a collection of American Girl dolls. Amelia and her notebooks have had a variety of publishers, starting with Tricycle Press. After publishing an excerpt from the original book in their magazine and getting great reader response, American Girl bought the backlist of four titles and went on to publish 11 more before being bought by Mattel. The Amelia series was then sold to Simon & Schuster. However, Amelia's Middle-School Graduation Yearbook has a very special publisher - Creston Books, founded by Marissa Moss! Creston Books is a brand new publisher of children's books, which is dedicated to publishing a wide range of creative, quality picture books, filling a void left by major publishers.
In 2010, I reviewed Amelia's Notebook, when she was starting 6th grade at a new school, and several other titles in the series, noting that this very successful series, with sales of over 5 million copies and translations in six languages, was a forerunner to books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, and Amy Ignatow's awesome Popularity Papers, as well as graphic novels. Moss said regretfully in an article in Publishers Weekly that she just didn't think she could "bring Amelia to high school." She went on to say, "It's sad, because she is a real part of me. But at the same time, I've been handwriting these notebooks for 20 years, and that hasn't gotten any easier with time. I draw everything, including the notebook lines and the splotches on the cover, so my hand is very tired!" That said, Amelia's Middle-School Graduation Yearbook a peek at the cover of her new notebook, titled, Amelia's Summer Before High School Notebook.
Being a momentous book, both for graduations and anniversaries, Amelia's Middle-School Graduation Yearbook is both reflective (Amelia is making the same face she made on the cover of the first book, this time with a mortar board on) and filled with the same kind of everyday life problems that (middle class) kids face. And it is actually a yearbook, since Amelia's mom refuses to buy her one, saying yearbooks are an expensive waste of money. Carly, Amelia's best friend since the middle of fourth grade, shakes anxious Amelia's world by telling her that she will be going to a different high school next year. And, when she asks to visit her long-absent father in Chicago (in part to get out of summer school) he surprises her with the hope that she will go to Hebrew school so she can be bat-mitzvahed, even though her mother has not raised her in the religion. In the midst of all this, Amelia and Carly are planning a Graduation BBQ Celebration Extravaganza that Amelia, sweetly and secretly, turns into a going away party for Carly.
Maybe there will be more Amelia in the future, maybe not. Either way, I am grateful to Moss for being a forerunner of what has become a new genre in kid's books - the notebook novel - and for creating her thoughtful, imaginative, funny character, Amelia, a kid you wouldn't mind your own child emulating.
Source: Review Copy