Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Popularity Papers, by Amy Ignatow (ages 8 - 12)

The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-ChangI need to be honest. The title of this book - The Popularity Papers - turned me off. I was never, ever, ever close to being popular in elementary school, certainly not in middle school. But my fourth grade daughter took this book off my desk, and has read it, laughed over it, passed it to her older sister, then read it again and again. It's a book that has gone around my elementary school, being passed from one friend to the next. It's a book that speaks to kids, makes them laugh, makes them feel good about being a good friend. It's a book you'll love sharing with your child, whether they're popular or not. Because, really, it's a book about friendship.
The Popularity Papers
Research for the social improvement and general betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang
by Amy Ignatow
NY: Amulet Books / Abrams, 2010
ages 8 - 12
available on Amazon and at your local library
Lydia and Julie have been best friends forever, and they've decided that this year they're going to figure out how to be popular. You know - part of the in group, part of the cool kids, part of the group that always goes to sleepovers at each other's houses. Lydia and Julie are in 5th grade, and they know that Junior High will mean a whole lot of changes. So they've decided that they better figure out how be popular now, before things get weird.

So here is The Plan: Lydia and Julie will keep a journal observing the girls who are already popular. That way they'll be able to figure out exactly what these girls do to be popular, and then Lydia and Julie will do the same things. Ta Da!

Lydia and Julie pass the journal back and forth, sometimes writing in it together, sometimes pasting in notes they wrote in class. The whole book is written in their handwriting, with plenty of illustrations like those above. It's in diary format, much like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and appeals to kids in a similar way, combining humor in the every day experiences kids can relate to.

My children and students have loved reading The Popularity Papers because Julie and Lydia are characters they can connect to. As Betsy Bird, at Fuse #8 wrote, "There’s something about how they crack jokes together, or know each other’s stories that feels real." Kids love the two voices, the handwriting, the drawings. But really, they love it because they can relate to the characters, their frustrations, their hopes, and the emotional roller coaster these two friends go through.

Julie and Lydia are both supported by their families. I particularly loved how Julie's two dads support these friends, taking them out to the craft store when Julie wants to start a new hobby, suggesting a silly song when Lydia wants to sing in the musical, and being there with a hug when things go wrong. The Popularity Papers is really noteworthy for the way it portrays two gay dads, not in an issue-oriented way, but as parents who are an integral, supportive part of Julie's life. I was pleased that The Popularity Papers was recognized by the 2011 ALA Rainbow List Top Ten, honoring books that represent GLBTQ experience for young people.

Life is not easy for Julie and Lydia. They do become friends with different popular girls, but their own friendship is tested as they try to figure out how to balance new and old friends. Below, Papa Dad and Daddy try to comfort Julie in the midst of this drama.
So what did Julie learn during 5th grade? "Even though I had friends, I still missed writing notes and talking with Lydia, because I never had to explain jokes to her." and "Being mean just makes me feel worse." (pp. 202-3) And what have I learned as a mom and a librarian? Remember that old saying: Don't judge a book by its cover (or title). Hand it to a kid, and see what they think. In the case of The Popularity Papers, they loved it!

My daughters were thrilled to learn that a sequel is coming out next month:  The Popularity Papers Book Two: The Long-Distance Dispatch between Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang

Another book we really enjoyed last year that combined well developed characters, realistic setting, and compelling artwork was Smile, by Raina Telgemeier.

All artwork is ©Amy Ignatow, 2010, shared with permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support!


  1. i loved the first and the sequel to the popularity papers i cant wait till the third one comes out

    1. The third one did come out and let me say it was so funny I can't use words to describle it's uniqueness. Is that even a word? Well, it is now!!

    2. The third one did infact come out and let me say it was funny. So funny I can't use words to describe it

  2. We loved it too! The first book just came out in paperback - hooray! The third book will be released October 1st, 2011.

  3. I LOVE this book!!! I Wonder When The 4 Book Is Coming Out

  4. Hi Brianna - our students love them too! I think #4 is due out on April 1st. Very exciting! Mary Ann

    1. How about the 5th 1, when is it coming out? cuz i already read all of em'.
      They're rly rly rly good!!!!

    2. I think the exact same THING omg!!!