Monday, February 22, 2010
"Why do the things we care about have to change?" Annie asks her grandmother Louisa. Annie is starting high school in the fall and she just isn't ready. Everyone else in her class seems so grown up and she feels like she is still a kid. Worse, she and her best friends Genna and Zoe seem to be growing apart. Maybe working at her grandmother's teashop, the Steeping Leaf, will help make things better. Annie loves all things tea and the Steeping Leaf is her favorite place in the world. It will be her first job and a step toward growing up. Working at the Steeping Leaf could also bring her, Genna, and Zoe closer. They used to have afternoon tea together every Wednesday and called themselves the Teashop Girls. It doesn't hurt that the other barista, Jonathan, is really cute.
But Annie discovers that the Steeping Leaf might close down because of the competition from the coffee chain across the street. She devises plans that will save the Steeping Leaf, bond her friends, AND get the attention of her barista boy crush!
The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer (Paula Wiseman Books, reprint edition 2009) has a leisurely tone and pace that is charming but makes its climax unconvincing as not a lot of dramatic tension had been built up to that point in the novel. And the novel has an ending that is a little too neat and happy. But The Teashop Girls has oodles of charm. Annie, Genna, and Zoe are likable and believable characters. The way they think, speak, and act feel authentically "middle school." (More points for characterization: the novel has different characters of color. Zoe, for example, is half Indian.) The Steeping Leaf is a wonderful setting - warm, cozy, and inviting. And there is much to learn about tea from the novel.
Each chapter in The Teashop Girls begins with a lovely spot illustration from Sujean Rim and a quote about tea. (My favorite from the book is: "Find yourself a cup of tea; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things." - Saki) Each chapter ends with information about tea (Did you know that iced tea was invented by Richard Blechynden in 1904?), an old tea advertisement, or a tea recipe (Traditional chai iced tea, anyone?). Of course Annie muses much about tea and talks about tea with her family and friends all throughout the novel. The book ends with a fun guide to hosting tea parties (themes, games, etc.). Even coffee lovers will find themselves tea lovers by the end of The Teashop Girls!
Click here to read the Into the Wardrobe author interview of Laura Schaefer. :o)
[My hardcover edition of the The Teashop Girls was provided by the author. I bought the paperback edition and this review is based on the paperback edition.]