Before I stared reading A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any Situation ($9.95, American Girl, ages 10 and up) by Patti Kelley Criswell, I couldn’t imagine how this book could actually be specific enough to help a slew of different young readers. Wow, was I surprised! In fact, where was this book while I was going through those awkward adolescent years?

This guide is divided into topics, such as, “Asking for what you want,” “Sad times,” “That hurts,” I’m embarrassed,” and others. Within each topic are descriptions of specific situations. For example, on the page entitled, “If a friend lets you down,” there are seven specific possibilities. If your classmates are chatting about a slumber party you’re not invited to, or if your friend takes something you said the wrong way, you’ll know exactly what to say to them.  The book has some colorful cartoon-like illustrations, by Angela Martini, and lots of speech bubbles, making it easy to read.

Obviously no single book can cover every awkward situation that may arise, but this one is sure to give an adolescent girl a good foundation for gracefully handling potentially challenging circumstances. Simply said, it is not only helpful, but it’s also quite entertaining. And let’s face it, even as adults we don’t always find the right words.

There’s a whole bunch of other Smart Girl’s Guides by American Girl, and I bet there are a whole bunch of middle grade readers out there who’d love to read them all.

NOTE: This book, winner of the 2011 National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) Honors Award, was reviewed by Debbie Glade.

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