Last year, my library started subscribing to a digital service called hoopla. As I was browsing through the children’s audiobook selection, I found a 2009 Cybils finalist – from before I started following the Cybils, but had wanted to go back and catch up on. My daughter and I started with that one, and went on, over the course of several months, to the whole series.
The Willow Falls series by Wendy Mass.
Welcome to Willow Falls, a small all-American town. Everything is pretty normal here, except that children really never have to go to the hospital after they’re born. Oh, and be careful if you run into an old woman with a duck-shaped birthmark on her face. Especially if you meet her around your birthday…
This is fun, contemporary fiction with a fantasy touch that varies from nearly undetectable to large from book to book.
Eleven Birthdays by Wendy Mass. Scholastic Audio, 2010. In this first book in the series, we meet Amanda and Leo, who were best friends, even celebrating their birthday together, until a horrible event that happened at their tenth birthday party. Now they’re turning 11 – a mysterious old woman named Angelina keeps turning up. And Amanda keeps reliving the same day, including being startled awake by a giant Sponge Bob Square Pants balloon. This was charming, and while I found the plot a little predictable, it was still very much enjoyable.
Finally by Wendy Mass. Scholastic Audio, 2011. Now that she’s finally 12, Rory begins to check off the list of things her parents will finally allow her to do. Each and every one of them goes horribly and painfully wrong. At the same time, she strikes up a friendship with the cute young movie star who’s filming his newest movie at her school. The magic here isn’t really obvious, and I couldn’t understand why it should be necessary for Rory to go through so much pain for wanting things that seemed age-appropriate to me. My daughter and a young friend of the target age both thought it was hilarious, though.
13 Gifts by Wendy Mass. Scholastic Audio, 2011. Tara has never been to Willow Falls – until she gets in trouble at school and is sent to live with her aunt and cousin for the summer while her parents go to Madagascar. Rory is her cousin Emily’s babysitter, and for the first time in her life, Tara finds herself welcomed as part of a community, nearly all of whom know just what it’s like to have Angelina DiAngelo pay special attention to you around your birthday. The one diverse note in the series comes as she falls for David, a boy who’s been practicing for his bar mitzvah in her cousin’s swimming pool hole. This one got my daughter excited both about Judaism and Fiddler on the Roof.
The Last Present by Wendy Mass. Scholastic Audio, 2013. David’s best friend Connor has a little sister named Grace. On her 10th birthday, she falls into a coma. The story turns back to our original characters, Amanda and Leo, as they journey in time to different birthdays in Grace’s past, trying to stop the magical mistake that will cause the coma.
Graceful by Wendy Mass. Scholastic Audio, 2015. Now it’s Grace’s turn for the limelight, as she tries to figure out what’s causing the magic in Willow Falls to run haywire. The only sour note in this otherwise sweet series closer was the epilogue, which featured the girls having visions of the future involving important events happening to the boys in their lives with their own futures mostly side notes. Only Amanda got a vision where she and Leo were equally important.
If only my library had her Candymakers series on audio…