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Just Like Me
by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
April 5, 2016
Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery and Becca, my “Chinese Sisters,” that’s who. We’re not really sisters—we were just adopted from the same orphanage. And we’re nothing alike. They sing Chinese love songs on the bus to summer camp, and I pretend like I don’t know them.
To make everything worse, we have to journal about our time at camp so the adoption agency can do some kind of “where are they now” newsletter. I’ll tell you where I am: At Camp Little Big Woods in a cabin with five other girls who aren’t getting along, competing for a campout and losing (badly), wondering how I got here…and where I belong.
Praise for Just Like Me
"Tween readers will find much to identify with in this charming and refreshingly wholesome coming-of-age story. . . Filled with slapstick humor and fast-paced action, the novel will engage reluctant readers, while offering fuel for deep contemplation by those ready to tackle questions of identity and belonging." says School Library Journal
"From pillow fights to pinkie promises, sock wars to s’mores, a red thread connects this energetic summer-camp story with Julia’s deeper journey to accept herself." Megan McDonald, award winning author of the Judy Moody series and Sisters Club trilogy
Julia is off to Camp Little Big Woods for a week with her “Chinese sisters”, Avery and Becca. The three girls aren’t really sisters, they were all just adopted from the same orphanage in China. The adoption agency that handled their adoptions has asked that the girls spend the week bonding and record their feelings and thoughts in a journal, for an article. Avery and Becca, who embrace their Chinese heritage, couldn’t be happier, but Julia rather be at home with her own BFFs. And things only get worse when the three girls arrive at camp and don’t get along with their bunk mates, causing them to keep losing points in the big cabin competition.
Nancy Cavanaugh’s Just Like Me is a tender, heartfelt story about friendship, family, and discovering who you are and where you belong. Cavanaugh infuses Julia’s story with a great deal of humor, heart, and sensitivity and explores topics like adoption, culture, family, wanting to belong, etc, with care and finesse. Told through traditional prose and Julia’s journal entry, Just Like Me captivates and entertains. Camp Little Big Woods makes for a fresh, summery setting that offers an adult presence, but allows the young characters to remain the focus of the story and shine. The girls of White Oak cabin (Julia’s cabin) experience many laugh-out-loud mishaps and embarrassing moments, as they compete in the cabin competitions, that readers will find amusing and relatable.
Though Just Like Me is told from Julia’s perspective, the story really belongs to all the girls of White Oak cabin: studious Avery, athletic Becca, funny Gina, bossy Vanessa and her tag-along friend Meredith, and, of course, endearing Julia. Young readers will really enjoy getting to know this engaging, eclectic bunch, celebrating in their triumphs and rooting for them in their trials, and will be inspired and encouraged by the girls’ journey throughout their week at camp.
my final thoughts: Sweet and sassy, funny and heartfelt, Just Like Me is fun, thoughtful middle-grade novel that will touch readers and leave them happy.
What three words best describe your book, Just Like Me?
Fun Camp Story
Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Just Like Me a try?
Hop on the Camp Little Big Woods bus for a front row seat to this funny and fun summer camp story about unlikely friendships and finding your place in the world.
Grab a copy of Just Like Me and answer the following:
favorite chapter? Chapter 17 is my favorite because it is the dish room water fight. It was fun to write, and I hope readers think it’s funny to read.
favorite page? Page 10 is a favorite of mine because it describes Avery and Becca eating Cheetos with chopsticks on the camp bus. This is enough to make Julia wish she could jump out the emergency exit and avoid going to camp altogether.
favorite setting? The cabin is my favorite setting because as a camper, I loved the cabins at camp – sleeping in a bunkbed, having a cubby for my stuff, trying to contain our giggles during silent rest time, and whispering late at night when we were supposed to be asleep. Camp is the only place you get to do all those things, and they all happen in the cabin.
flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser?
Read page 52 for a look at the corniest camp counselor around.
What inspired Just Like Me? How did the idea come to be?
My daughter, who is adopted from China, and her “Chinese Sisters,” the girls adopted from the same orphanage she was, were the real inspiration for this book. These girls began their life together in China and are now still friends. They also went to summer camp together as the girls in the story do. Though my daughter’s experience is unique in many ways, it also embraces many truths that are universal for all middle grade readers.
Can you tell us a bit about your characters Julia, Avery, and Becca? What makes them unique, what do you love about them?
I love all three characters for different reasons – Julia is reserved and longs to figure out a way to make sense of her uniqueness. She does all of this while being afraid to let others know what she’s going through. It’s only when she is honest with herself and those around her that she is able to make sense of the things that she is struggling with. I like this about her. Avery works hard to use her intellect to keep herself and everyone else together. Throughout the story she learns to let go of that a bit, and we begin to see a different side of her. I appreciate her for her attempts to keep everyone happy, but I love her even more when she realizes she doesn’t have to be so perfect. Becca is the boisterous one, and on the outside she acts as if there couldn’t be anything that bothers her except her need to win, but by the end of the book, we see a glimpse of her tenderness, and I hope this makes readers love her even more.
What do you hope readers will walk away with after reading Just Like Me?
What I want to say to readers with this story is – Be Just Like You! Be the best you that you can be and be proud of it.
What is your all time favorite middle-grade book and/or character?
It has to be Ramona Quimby. When I was in elementary school and was learning to love reading, Beverly Cleary’s books were some of my favorites. Her characters were so real and were the kind of kids I wanted as friends. At times I even wished I could actually be Ramona or Beezus, and I would’ve loved to live next door to Henry Huggins.
What do you love about writing middle-grade novels? Why do you think middle-grade literature is so popular and important?
I love middle grade books because they have so much heart and soul. Middle graders are at the age where they are figuring out so many things about themselves. I love that books can help them do that.
Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at keeping my desk organized. It makes things look neat, but sometimes I do it when I should be writing. ☺
I’m really embarrassed to admit that I kind of like watching “Dance Moms.”
The last great book I read was The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold about a girl who has an imaginary friend. The author does an amazing job of mixing reality and fantasy.
If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Just Like Me, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
It would have to be the Camp Little Big Woods Campfire Cupcake – It would taste like s’mores, and it would have to be JUMBO-sized for sure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy J. Cavanaugh spends her winters in Florida enjoying the Gulf Coast and her summers eating pizza in her former hometown of Chicago. She loves reading middle grade novels. Her secret? She hasn't read an adult book in years.
Like her main character, Ratchet, Nancy is pretty handy with a ratchet and is able to take apart a small engine and put it back together.
Like her main character, Abigail, Nancy often struggled while growing up to find the courage to do the right thing. She also fell in a HUGE puddle, just like Abigail did.
Nancy has been an elementary and middle school teacher as well as a library media specialist. One of her favorite parts of writing for children is being able to say "I'm working" when reading middle grade novels.Website * facebook * twitter
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