Second Fiddle

Gr 5—8—Growing up in military families in the 1990s has its unique challenges and expectations for Jody, Giselle, and Vivian. These girls must deal with living out of the country, moving frequently, changing schools, and forging new peer relationships. At the same time, high-ranking parent figures provide a level of pressure to perform well and succeed. Based in Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reuniting of the East and West, the girls become best friends through their classical strings music lessons with maestro. After a much-anticipated music competition in Paris, the girls' families will leave for new assignments. The week before the trip, Herr Müller becomes ill and cannot attend, leaving the girls disappointed yet determined to go. Simultaneously their discovery and secret rescue of a Russian soldier beaten and left for dead has the girls devising a plan to smuggle him to Paris on their unsupervised weekend trip. Suspense, intrigue, and a series of fortuitous circumstances conveniently blend to bring amateurish espionage and adventure to the girls' escapades. Working around their gullibility and innocence, these eighth graders attempt to solve numerous problems from the theft of their passports and money, to working for their meals and way home, to interfering in a possible international incident. Parry introduces some colorful, artsy characters as second fiddles to her three main protagonists led by Jody's first-person narrative. Fast paced and appealing, with a tidy conclusion.—Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI
Giselle, Vivian, and narrator Jody, eighth-grade students at an American army-base school in 1990 Berlin, find themselves caught in international intrigue while making a sub rosa visit to Paris for a chamber music competition. There are some exciting moments, but the plot is unconvincing at several turns, and the amalgam of school-and-friends story and outwitting-the-KGB thriller doesn't really work.

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