Main Street: Welcome to Camden Falls by Ann M. Martin (audio version)
Growing up, The Babysitter’s Club was one of my favorite series. Well, that and Sweet Valley High. Even when I began to outgrow the writing style and no longer required an introduction to the major characters at the beginning of every installment, I still enjoyed the innocuous hijinks of Kristy, Dawn, Claudia, Stacey, and (my fave) Mary Anne. When, as an adult, I rediscovered Ann M. Martin in A Corner of the Universe and Belle Teal, I felt immensely justified in my juvenille reading habits. She simply rocks.
I read the first book in her Main Street series a while back but recently listened to the recorded version. Because the book is almost 200 pages long, with smallish text, and very few illustrations (mostly decorative), it wouldn’t be my first choice for a reluctant reader. The audio version, however, is another story. It is narrated by Ariadne Meyer, who does a convincing job of bringing to life a large and diverse cast of characters.
The story begins with a very sad car trip in which 11-year-old Flora and her younger sister Ruby are traveling with their grandmother to start a new life in Camden Falls, Massachusetts. After a terrible car accident kills both their parents, Flora and Ruby’s grandmother, Min, moves in with them while they finish out the school year. Although the girls would much prefer staying in their hometown among their lifelong friends, Min runs a business back in Camden Falls and decides to sell the house and bring the girls back with her. Flora and Ruby are still heavy with grief and are now forced to find their place in a new town.
The characters are likable- people you would want to have as friends. And Camden Falls is the type of town that exists only in literature- a place where everyone knows your name, neighbors are like family, and Main Street is the lifeline of the community. While the diversity of the cast of characters seems a bit contrived (to us cynical adult readers), any attempt to populate children’s series with more diversity is always welcome. I’d recommend the audio version to reluctant girl readers in the 10 to 12ish age range.
A small note on format: I listened to the audio version on a Playaway. I like these devices for reluctant readers (and lazy people like myself) since you just need a pair of headphones and a working index finger. No CDs to worry about being scratched up or fussing with uploading it into your iTunes. Just plug and play. But. The sound quality isn’t as good as the CD version. It’s a bit tinny at times, but overall, a small price to pay for the convenience.