Lotus Lane #1: Kiki: My Stylish Life (A Branches Book) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-08-18 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 27 user ratings

"This review was originally written in April 2013.

Kiki lives on Lotus Lane, where she and her friends, the members of the Lotus Lane Girls Club, participate in a full schedule of activities every week. Kiki documents these events along with her passion for fashion and her rivalry with the new girl in town, Mika, in her diary.

I am excited, generally speaking, about Scholastic’s new line of early chapter books called Branches. After serving on the Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book panel for Cybils two years in a row, and starting a beginning reader story time at my library branch this Winter, I have developed a real affinity for books for new readers. Though this is the first Branches review I am posting, I have read five of the books in all, and I don’t want the fact that I didn’t enjoy this first book to give all the others a bad name.

That said, Kiki: My Stylish Life posed a number of problems for me, and I didn’t particularly care for it. Kiki has a spunky, conversational tone, and a clearer voice than many chapter book heroines. In fact, a lot of chapter books are written in the third person, so this book’s first-person diary narration makes it stand out. Unfortunately, as a character, Kiki doesn’t have a lot of depth. Her diary entries focus mostly on her looks, and her hatred for the new girl who shares her interest in fashion. Her writing style, while lively, is also superficial, filled with elongated words like “soooo” and “hoooorrrayyy” and focused almost entirely on herself and her selfish desire to be more fashionable than anyone else. Reading this book was almost physically painful, as Kiki’s tone is like nails on a chalkboard.

I don’t like to condemn kids’ books for annoying me, or for having one-dimensional characters, because for some kids, those books are important stepping stones to a love of reading. I read nothing but paperback series books for a number of years in elementary school, and it turned me into a librarian. Still, I think about books like the Rainbow Magic series and Magic Tree House series, which bore my adult mind to no end, and I can still see their value. Kids are comforted by predictable story structures and familiar characters. Though I don’t love Rainbow Magic and Magic Tree House, I feel justified suggesting them to kids and defending them to parents. I can explain that the simplicity of the writing helps to support their new readers, and that the repetitive and predictable storylines help kids develop a sense of story that will help them analyze more difficult works of literature later on. I don’t have that same sense of confidence in Kiki: My Stylish Life. Rather, this book is like candy. Kids will be drawn to it, and they will have fun reading it, but their teachers and parents will desperately wish for something with a little more substance.

Girls who aren’t yet ready for Popularity Papers or Dork Diaries might be willing to read this book instead. Girls who are into fashion, or who have a club with their friends might see themselves in some parts of the story, but it seems more likely that they will like the characters because they are cartoonish and light, not because they remind them of anyone in their real lives. Reluctant readers might be drawn to the fluffiness of this book, but I am having a hard time picturing a reader who will not find Kiki annoying and unpleasant.
" said.

" A really cute book. I imagine reading it as a school girl and it is a fun read. " said.

" This is a good beginning chapter book about friendship and not jumping to conclusions. " said.

" Thank you mom for buying this book for me. I just can't really force my heart from loving books. " said.

" Cute story. Cute characters, each character is from a different part of the world and the author gives little facts woven into the story about their heritage. I think I’ll order the whole series for the elementary library I run. Perfect for 2nd-3rd grade girls. " said.

"Not my favorite, but okay. Will be popular for girls, especially girls not old enough for Dork Diaries. There's a teeny bit of cultural appropriation with the kimonos which is somewhat addressed. But the friendship themes are good. Two of the other characters that will have their own books later in the series seem to be non-white (at least shaded in stick figures and one Japanese grandmother) but lots of European flavor (Italy and France).

Overall not my favorite, but a solid recommendation for beginning chapter books. Would encourage to buy in library. Will recommend to kids.
" said.

"Kiki writes about her life in her journal, sharing about her best friends on Lotus Lane, the new girl who has moved in next door and seems mean, and the art project due at school next week.

This has a lot of cutesy appeal for lower grade girls. The illustrations and style, as well as the topic of real life relationship problems are things that many readers crave. I found the resolution quite sudden in this and not super satisfactory, but I do realize this is not super sophisticated writing and the readers are just starting in their reading too. If you're trying to get reluctant readers in lower grades into reading and they love fashion and girly stuff, give this a try.
" said.

" Fun format for early readers. A good crossover book for girls not yet ready for chapter books. " said.

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