"SAIGE," by Jessie Haas, American Girl, $6.95, 128 pages (f)
“Saige” by Jessie Haas is one of the best American Girl stories yet.
The author and the fictional heroine both love horses. Saige, a 9-year-old living in Albuquerque, N.M., is the girl of the year for 2013. Her father is a balloon flier, which is why they live in the hot air balloon capital of the world.
The book begins on Saige’s first day of fourth grade as she is packing supplies for her favorite part of school: art class.
As she is walking in the morning, she notices a new family has moved in to her neighborhood. That’s exciting, but when she gets to school, she is disappointed to learn there is no art class because of money problems. Not only that, but her old friend has turned into “a music freak” and is leaving her out.
So Saige makes friends with the new girl, Gabi.
After school, Saige goes to her Grandma Mimi’s ranch, where she and her grandmother develop a plan to raise money for the art program: they will have a fiesta. But before they can make it happen, Grandma Mimi gets in an accident and Saige is left on her own to continue with the plan.
But Saige's new friend, Gabi, volunteers to help. They work together to plan some of the fiesta’s events, such as a parade and a show.
"Saige" also has a companion book called “Express Yourself,” which uses art to explore emotions. It explains how to do different projects, such as getting index cards and writing an emotion on one side (such as "happy" or "proud") and drawing a picture of what that emotion looks like on the other side. When you can’t quite tell what emotion you are feeling, look at all of the pictures and decide which one looks the most like you right then. Turn it over and identify the feeling.
The art book also demonstrates how to do self-portraits without even showing your body or your face, which was a little crazy.
I read “Saige” in one day; it was my first time reading a chapter book in that short a period of time.
The art projects in "Express Yourself" were fun to do as well, as was learning to identify my feelings.
There is yet another book that goes along with these two called “Saige Paints the Sky.” Also available is an 18-inch American Girl doll, complete with clothes and accessories, such as a hot air balloon and a horse.
All of the products will be featured for just one year at American Girl stores around the country.
Ellie De Groote is 9 years old and in the fourth grade.