The Popularity Papers: The Long Distance Dispatch Between Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang, written and illustrated by Amy Ignatow, 205 pp, RL 5

THE POPULARITY PAPERS BOOK 2 is in paperback!!

As I said in my review of The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang last year, I wish The Popularity Papers was around when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I needed Lydia and Julie to help me figure out how to be popular, what it meant to be popular, why you didn't really need to be popular and, most importantly, how to be a good friend. All by trial and error, of course. On top of that, the illustrations in the book would have been an awesome inspiration to me at a very impressionable and artistic age. Now that Lydia and Julie have are finally about to start at Hannibal Hamlin Junior High (thus the new rating of MIDDLE GRADE - there is one brief, illustrated kissing scene in the new book) it seems like they have the popularity thing and the friendship thing figured out. Until Lydia's mom throws a wrench into things and accepts the offer to spend six months in London working on a special project for her job.

The girls are devastated, but their parents set up email accounts for them and they carry on their friendship and their shared notebook with emails and snail mail. Lydia has this great pink lined stationary that has a little rose at the bottom and frayed edges from where she ripped it out. Because of the separation, Lydia gets a bit more page time in this new book and her illustrations are hilarious. When they find out she will have to wear a uniform to her new school in London, Julie draws her idea about what it might look like while Lydia supplies a picture of the real, horrible thing...

The girls each struggle with friendships the first semester of school. Julie is feeling alone with Lydia gone and her new field hockey friend, Sukie, moving to NYC. On top of that, her locker is right between two eighth graders, Jon Cravens and Della Dawn. Della Dawn is an 8th grader and leader of the clique who go by the name, the Bichons and Jon is the doodling skateboarder Della Dawn has a crush on. Unwittingly, Julie draws the attention of both. Jon recognizes her artistic skill and cheers her up when she thinks the art teacher is being hard on her. Della Dawn notices and the Bichons adopt Julie, making her their pet. Meanwhile, Lydia rescues a boy named Nabil from some bullies using her martial arts skill and the kids at school start calling her the Violent American and shunning her. Soon, she is left hanging with the oddball, banana peel eating Delilah and the stuttering Becca for friends.

A visit to London from the Graham-Chang family brightens things up a bit for the girls, but it also exposes some differences and potential rifts that have been brewing as the two go about their individual ways of solving problems and trying to find a group of friends.

While Lydia is still a bit bossy and Julie remains shy and unsure of herself at times, the two work through their difficulties without each other, much as they did in the first book when they had a falling out, and they both have quite a few things to cope with. From a new boyfriend and a new group of friends who seem to be mutinying (or is it really just expressing their own desires) to a critical art teacher, not making the field hockey team and the necessity of standing up for yourself, Lydia and Julie make it through the six months a little bit older and a little bit wiser. While Melody's advice at the end of the first book, "Your friends should be the coolest people you know," challenges both girls to think about what this really means, they have the added challenge in this new book to think about what it means to BE a friend as well.

In honor of the epistolary nature of this book, I would like to end my review with two brief letters and a really cool picture from Amy's blog she kept during her last book tour.

Dear Amy Ignatow, Thank you for writing two really, super awesome books about two really super awesome girls. 

Dear Lydia and Julie - I hope you have more research to do on the nature of popularity because I want to know what happens to you for the rest of Junior High!

Great news!!! 
Amy Ignatow is working on 
due out this fall!!!!

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