The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski
Age Range: 10 – 14 years
Grade Level: 4 – 8
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (January 7, 2014)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
About the Book:
Eighth grade never smelled so bad.
Rachel Lee didn’t think anything could be worse than her parents
splitting up. She was wrong. Working for her mom’s new house-cleaning business
puts Rachel in the dirty bathrooms of the most popular kids in the eighth
grade. Which does not help her already loser-ish reputation. But her new job
has surprising perks: enough dirt on the in-crowd to fill up her (until
recently) boring diary. She never intended to reveal her secrets, but when the
hottest guy in school pays her to spy on his girlfriend Rachel decides to get
her hands dirty.
Find the Book:
“”Confidently addressing a number of common tween troubles that include
bullying, parental divorce, and peer pressure, Staniszewski introduces a
determined eighth-grader desperate to get her separated parents back
together in this humorous problem novel.” ” – Publishers Weekly
neatly captures the pain of a shy young girl with newly separated
parents . . .The quick pace and creative storyline will attract those in
the mood for an undemanding, light read.”” – Kirkus
situation and feelings ring true . . .This realistic read is likely to
appeal to middle schoolers and reluctant readers.” ” – School Library Journal
“”It’s laugh-out-loud funny and one of the most fun books I’ve read all year.”
“an inspiring book for anyone who has ever been bullied.”” – Justine
voice is entirely teen authentic in its self-centeredness . . .there is
still heart and humor here, so readers looking for a heroine as flawed
as themselves will commiserate with Rachel.”” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
About the Author:
Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at www.annastan.com.
Anna Staniszewski’s Most Embarrassing Moment in Middle School:
In my novel, The Dirt Diary, the main character, Rachel, has a cute boy come to her rescue when she drops her lunch money in the trash. To be honest, Rachel got off easy. Because when this situation happened to me in middle school, it did not end with a cute boy swooping in.
Like Rachel, I accidentally threw away some money during lunch. But it wasn’t just a few dollars. It was an envelope of cash for tickets to the school concert which had been in the bottom of my lunch bag when I’d tossed it in the trash. And the worst part? I had to get that money back or my parents would kill me.
When I told the lunch ladies what had happened, they chuckled as they handed me a pair of plastic gloves. I was mortified. Thankfully, my saintly friend offered to help me as the lunch ladies pointed us outside to where the trash barrels waited.
My friend and I held our breaths and started digging through ketchup-stained napkins and milk-soaked tater tots. As we burrowed and cringed, kids peered out of nearby classroom windows with laughing eyes.
Finally, after many disgusting minutes, we struck gold. The envelope was all in one piece and the money inside was still dry! My friend and I cheered with relief and ran to our next class, hoping no one had noticed we’d been gone. But it was too late. The whispers that circled the room had already labeled us as “trash pickers.”
I’m sure Rachel is forever grateful that I didn’t choose to write that scene into her story.
Rachel is a young girl trying to deal with the destruction of the world
as she knows it. Her parents split up, she’s desperate for money, and
now she’s started cleaning houses. It wouldn’t be so bad if the houses
she cleaned didn’t belong to the kids she goes to school with.
I feel like Rachel’s character is very accurate for a girl that is going
through all the life changes that she experiences. Like most teens, she
is pretty self-centered and mostly concerned with how all these changes
affect her own life. Only later does she stop to think about the
effects on others. She is an interesting character that many girls will
be able to relate to. Her super shy personality is quirky, lovable, and
I really liked the idea of her keeping a dirt diary, and I wanted more of the story to center around that. I wanted her to be a bit more
devious and put some of the information she collected to use.
The snowballing lie story has been done a thousand times before, and it
is hard to put a new spin on it. I didn’t particularly like that part of
the book, mostly because I’ve seen it so many times already. The best
friend that never lies was another cliche that I’ve seen too much of. However, the
book was still a lot of fun to read. Tweens and younger teens especially will
enjoy this book.
The Cover: I love the cover. It is super cute and promises a light, yet kind of serious story. The title font is really fun!