Ella Diaries: Double Dare You & Ballet Backflip
Meredith Costain & Danielle McDonald (2015)
Lindfield: Scholastic Australia
Ella is in year five. She likes ballet, reading and writing, especially poems! Her parents give her a diary for Christmas, so she decides to try it out. In Double Dare You, Ella recounts the difficulties she has settling into her new year five class with a different teacher and shifts in playground dynamics. Ballet Backflip focuses on some problems Ella encounters at ballet school when a new craze for gymnastics begins, and Ella is left feeling like the odd one out. Through Ella, the reader is introduced to some of the many possibilities of a diary. In order to keep a log of things which happen to her throughout the day, Ella’s diary includes lists (many of them quite entertaining), poems, drawings and doodlings, diagrams, hopes and ideas, verbatim dialogue written as a script, comparisons and copies of letters.
The Ella Diaries is recommended for confident lower primary and some middle primary readers. It is aimed at girls, with a focus on female characters and their friendships. The layout and typeface make the books interesting to read. There are regular font changes, as well as many cartoons, diagrams, lists and other text changes which help to break up the narrative. While mostly black font, each book contains one other colour which is used in both drawings and some text. Double Dare You uses red in contrast to black, and Ballet Backflip uses purple. Diary entries are of irregular length which will also suit different attention spans.
However it is the connections made to student writing which is perhaps of most interest. At times, there is some evidence of Ella’s editing as words are crossed out and others are added in their place. Fully or partially misspelled words are sometimes shown corrected, although the author occasionally leaves an ‘error’ in place, which is humorous if recognised by the reader. For example in Ballet Backflip, ‘worserest’ is crossed out and replaced by ‘badderest’. In a learning context, these examples could lead to interesting discussions about the purpose of editing and strategies students can use to edit their own and others’ writing.
Ella also demonstrates other writing techniques. She generally begins her entries in a variety of ways, including a number of variations on ‘Dear Diary’. Ella is confident enough to experiment with language and writing in her diary, especially through her poems. She explains why she likes poetry, and includes several of her own examples, including a haiku (in Double Dare You), rhyming poems and other rhymes, a shape poem (in Ballet Backflip), songs and several simple parodies. The reader is encouraged to experiment with diary or poem writing at the end of each book. So, in true Ella style, here is my suggestion to students: Roses are red, violets are blue, try keeping a diary, it might just suit you!
Nicole Tainsh – Relieving Assistant Principal, Granville East Public School, New South Wales