April Book Group Read: Isabelle

Hi everyone!!!  Are we ready to talk about this month’s book group read?  Let’s get started!

This months book was Isabelle by Laurence Yep.  In case you didn’t know, Isabelle was the Girl Of The Year for 2014.  She’s a dancer who has recently been accepted in a performing arts school where her sister attends, and unfortunately, finds herself living in the shadow of her big sister, also a talented dancer.

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t read this book prior to this, probably because the subject matter didn’t interest me. I wasn’t a dancer when I was younger, and I didn’t have any friends who were either, so it was a story I couldn’t relate to at all. However, there were some aspects to the dance side of the story that I did really like! I especially liked the positive idea of how everyone is an individual and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others when it comes to our talents. As I read the book, I was continually thinking about the 80’s TV Show “Fame”, picturing the busy hallways and all of the different kids throughout the school, developing their artistic talents. And I loved the Washington DC references! My husband and I have been to Washington many times, and the descriptions of the different places were easy for me to picture in my mind as I read because of that. Washington DC is a wonderful place to visit, and I have to admit that I have always been a bit envious of anyone who lives in the area and can visit on a regular basis. So much to see and do, and I thought that was well represented throughout several parts of the book.

What I didn’t like–how the book started with a negative encounter between Isabelle and Renata. I would have rather had more development about Isabelle and Luisa at the beginning with the issues between Isabelle and Renata occurring later on. I also didn’t like how the book ended with Isabelle questioning her ability yet again. I realize it was probably done that way to encourage the reader to make sure they picked up the second book, but I didn’t care for the way it was presented.  Too much emphasis on negativity, and that bothered me.

I was also very surprised, in our politically correct culture to find that Isabelle’s sister and her group were going to be dancing as “gypsies”. Gypsy is one of those words that has a negative connotation in regards to a certain group of people known as the Romani, and for some members of that group, can be considered highly offensive. When I got to that part of the book I have to admit that I was a bit stunned. There were so many cultural and ethnic references throughout the book, not sure how this one got through.  They could have made the group as something else that wouldn’t have offended anyone. Not one of the best decisions on the part of whoever greenlights the books at American Girl.

My final take on the book is that I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I felt sort of middle of the road about it and I definitely did not enjoy it as much as I have some of the other American Girl books. I doubt I will take the time to look for the 2nd book in the series, although if I come across it at a yard sale or thrift store in my travels, I might pick it up.

What did you think of Isabelle?

Next month we will be discussing Meet Marie-Grace. June we will read Lea and July will be Rebecca.


17 thoughts on “April Book Group Read: Isabelle

  1. While I like Isabelle the doll, this is not one of my favorite books. Loved the D.C. references, and Tutu was a lively animal character for me. I guess for me the books like Lea, Isabelle, and Grace all have kids with amazing opportunity and parents with amazing jobs, and I feel like it is hard for me to be sympathetic to their trials.
    I prefer Lanie, or Nicki’s stories … kind of regular kids with regular parents but they manage to strive for something great.
    I am excited for Marie-Grace because it’s one of the few I haven’t read.

  2. I lgave this one four out of five stars because it lacked location details and a few other things. Usually the GOTY books I would get and read right away and I waited a couple of months to get to them but then read all three right away.

    The Isabelle books followed a standard formula, it’s one we are still seeing and it’s troubling. I don’t understand why AG thinks their readers will not catch on to this.

    I wad not thrilled with Renata as the “mean girl” and found Isabelle a bit whiny, but was happy her whining was mostly internal. Couldn’t you hear her muttering “Jade, Jade, Jade” in Jan Brady Style.

    The girls all had different thoughts on this one. If interested, our book review from 2014 is here:

  3. I was excited to read Isabelle because it was written by Laurence Yep. He also authored the AG GOTY Mia series, and I really liked those books and the Mia character.

    Isabelle was OK. I liked the emphasis that you can’t compare yourself to someone else. You just have to try to outdo yourself.

    I also liked Isabelle’s discussion with her dad and how he didn’t pursue music as a career. Sometimes our passion is not indicative of our talent. Learning that there may be things we love to do, but can’t make a living from it. Accepting that. But still being able to do something we enjoy and share it with others. Strive for personal improvement. I like how that was handled.

    I think it was interesting that Isabelle, and not Jade, was the main character. Highlighting some of the trials of being a sibling of a high achiever. I think a lot of kids would find that relatable. Hopefully Isabelle finds something she excels at in future books.

  4. Okay, I am finally going to get around to reading this book! I’ve been incredibly busy, but I’ve also been like you, not overly interested in the book for its subject matter. I was never interested in dance, and I didn’t think that I would relate to a book about it. But I will try it out anyway. I will let you know my thoughts!

    ginnie / http://www.fakingitmostly.com

  5. Finished the book! Hooray! Here is my review:

    I have no affiliation to the dance world. My daughter dances, but I myself have no desire for it. That being said however, I really enjoyed this book, not for the dance aspect, but from a fellow writer’s perspective. I was pleasantly surprised at the descriptive methods that Laurence Yep uses to paint Isabelle’s world. From the water lilies on the pond of her mother’s dreams, to describing the movements of the dancing itself, to the interesting people who colour her life, the author has a real knack for capturing the imagination of the reader.

    For me, not being a dancer, I could still relate to many of the scenes in this book that were not at all about dancing, but instead about the beauty of art in general. Some examples include her mother’s love for creating fine things, her father’s talent and enthusiasm for music, the lazy Saturday spent at a busy flea market searching for treasures, watching her mother sew, all of these things made the book that much more relatable for someone like me who would never want to be a dancer. In truth, the book was not what I thought it would be at all, but in a good way. I wasn’t expecting to like it, and I had put off reading it for that reason, so I am glad that I was wrong. 🙂

    ginnie / http://www.fakingitmostly.com

  6. 🙂 Yes, I still wasn’t highly interested in the dance plot. It didn’t much matter to me if Isabelle was successful at the Autumn Festival, or not, but I think that the book still kept me reading to the end anyway regardless of my apathy to dance, so for that I give it a plus.

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