Not Your All-American Girl
by Rosenberg, Madelyn; Shang, Wendy Wan-Long

Trying out for the school play to spend more time with her actress bestie when their sixth grade year puts them in different classes, Lauren is devastatingly cast into a lesser part because of her mixed-heritage appearance, despite having a fantastic audition. Simultaneous eBook.

Wendy Wan-Long Shang is the author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, which was awarded the Asian/Pacific American Award for Children's Literature; The Way Home Looks Now, an Amelia Bloomer Project List selection and a CCBC Choices List selection; and This Is Just a Test, which she cowrote with Madelyn Rosenberg and which is a Sydney Taylor Honor Book. She lives with her family in the suburbs of Washington, DC.

Madelyn Rosenberg is the coauthor of This Is Just a Test, a Sydney Taylor Honor Book, which she wrote with Wendy Wan-Long Shang; Dream Boy, cowritten with Mary Crockett; and many books for younger readers, including the How to Behave books and Nanny X books. She writes books, articles, and essays for children and adults, and lives in the suburbs of Washington, DC. You can visit her online at

The friendship of sixth-graders Lauren and Tara (The Royal We) hits a snag when Tara is cast as the lead in the school play, leaving Lauren relegated to the ensemble because the director tells Lauren (half-Chinese, half-Jewish) that she doesn't look All American. Tara relishes the spotlight and seems oblivious to her white privilege, while Lauren chafes at the many microaggressions aimed at her, at one point literally silencing her voice in the chorus. Set in 1984-85, this companion to This Is Just a Test (2017) is told from Lauren's perspective, with older brother David and their two grandmothers taking prominent roles in the narrative. While focusing on serious themes (racism and prejudice), the overall tone remains light, and several scenes (including Lauren's disastrous attempt to lighten her black hair, resulting in orange stripes) will elicit laughter. By the end Tara realizes her mistakes, Lauren learns to stand up for herself, and the friendship survives, stronger than before. References to Walkmans and vintage TV shows remind readers that this is a period piece. Grades 4-6. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Music, friendship, and the definition of "American" are humorously and realistically explored in this companion to Rosenberg and Shang's This Is Just a Test (2017). Sixth grader Lauren and her best friend, Tara, audition for the school musical. A natural-born singer, Lauren has a stunning audition, but the director casts Lauren in the ensemble and blue-eyed, freckle-faced, milky-skinned Tara as the "all-American" lead, implying that Jewish, biracial (Chinese/white) Lauren and her straight, black hair, brown eyes, and tan skin are the opposite. Lauren tries to be supportive of her best friend, but her jealousy and discontent grow as she struggles to process overt and subtle racism at school, in the community, and in media. Lauren's mostly white friends don't understand why she's upset, and even Tara makes off-handedly racist comments. Luckily, Lauren has just discovered a lifeline: the country music of Patsy Cline (even as a case of mistaken spelling leads her to believe "Patsy Klein" is a Jewish country singer). Whether familiar with or new to the Horowitz family, readers will be drawn into Lauren's first-person narration, filled with wi tty observations and droll character development. Set in Virginia in 1984, the book weaves accessible and engaging historical markers into the plot. Illustrations of buttons with funny sayings, Lauren's trademark, punctuate the text, adding a humorous counterpoint. An unnecessary subplot about a theatrical ghost feels tacked on but is easily overlooked. With so many references to singers, musical groups, and songs, readers may wish for a playlist! A nearly pitch-perfect middle school exploration of race and friendship. (Fiction. 10-13) Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

"Look at Tara," said Mrs. Tyndall. "When people see her, they won't have a hard time imagining she's an all-American girl from Pleasant Valley. It's our job in the theatre to make it easy for the audience to imagine they are right there with her."

She made it sound so reasonable.

She said: Tara looks like she's from Pleasant Valley.

She meant: You look like you're from someplace else. Someplace that isn't Pleasant Valley. Someplace that isn't even in the United States. Why hadn't I sung the Star-Spangled Banner for my tryout instead?

"You'll do a great job in the group numbers. You'll help everyone stay on pitch," said Mrs. Tyndall. "Don't forget, every role is important or it wouldn't be there. Most girls would feel extremely lucky to make the ensemble."

I would have felt extremely lucky to be in the ensemble, too. If Mrs. Tyndall hadn't said what she'd said. And if Tara wasn't poised to be the peanut butter. Again.

"Won't the audience wonder why there's one Chinese-Jewish girl in Pleasant Valley?" I asked, just to show her that I got her point about sticking out. Though there was only one Chinese-Jewish girl at Dwight D. Eisenhower, too.

"You're Jewish?" said Mrs. Tyndall. "Are you sure?"

I wanted to say I wouldn't have spent so much time being bored out of my mind in Hebrew School if I wasn't Jewish, but I decided against it. The Chinese part of me was the part she could see, but the Jewish part of me was always there, too.

Mrs. Tyndall made a little sweeping motion with her hand. "Anyway, that's the ensemble. They'll barely notice."

Because I was an apple. A French fry. A green bean and macaroni and cheese and corn. I was the side dish. I didn't have reddish brown hair or blue eyes. I had black hair and brown eyes like my mom and a dimply smile like my dad's. Some girls in my grade liked to put their arms against mine and say how tan I was, even at the end of winter. I had thought that was a good thing. Until now.

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