Marty McGuire does not do princesses. She doesn't do frilly dresses or tiaras or waltzes. She'd much prefer to be playing outdoors, rescuing imaginary chimpanzees like Jane Goodall and pretending to win the Nobel Peace Prize. But when it comes time for the third grade play, "The Frog Prince", Marty is called upon to be the princess, and she's not happy about it. Eventually she gets into the whole acting thing, with the help of a wonderful teacher, and even finds herself having fun, learning to improvise and looking forward to the performance. But there's just one thing wrong: the stuffed frog taking the place of the enchanted prince is limp and silly looking, and after one particularly enthusiastic throw from Marty, missing a leg. So Marty and her friend Rupert come up with an ingenious plan to spice up the play, just in time for performance night.
It's hard to be different sometimes, but the refreshing thing about the title character of Kate Messner's Marty McGuire is that she finds being different not much of an issue at all. So what if she doesn't like princesses and dancing and other girly things? Marty is just fine with herself the way she is, and though she does learn to compromise, she doesn't change to be like the other girls. There is a subplot to the story that involves Marty's best friend Annie going over to the side of filly things and making new friends at dance class, and this obviously causes some jealousy on Marty's part, but again, doesn't have her running to "fit in" in order to get Annie back. She takes her mother's advice, and lets Annie come back on her own. It's nice to have a heroine like Marty, who is practical, in a third grade kind of way, and has the humor and sensibility to go with the bumps of life, even if it takes some talking to bring her around.
A note on the illustrations: Brian Floca does a wonderful job (surprise, surprise) of capturing little quiet moments, such as Marty listening through the door, with her favorite stuffed animal Bob the lion at her side, along with the bigger louder moments. The black and white illustrations are very lively. I love how the cover image catches Marty with her sleeves rolled up, in the process of doing a very un-girly thing. It's a perfect moment of stillness right before the action starts.
Marty McGuire by Kate Messner (ill. by Brian Floca)
2011, Scholastic Press