|The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls by Elise Primavera.|
Oh, I have a treat for you today! Have any of your heard of this book? I'm shocked to say, I had not. It's an Oz-inspired modern day fantasy, written by the author/illustrator of the Auntie Claus picture books! And it's been out since 2006! How did I miss this? I think I may have been buried deep in magazines at the bookstore at that time.
The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls was such a fun read. I will be happy to hand it over to Big Sis when she's ready -next year, perhaps? Four girls live on Gumm Street in the dreamy town of Sherbet. [Fun fact: Judy Garland's birth name was Frances Gumm!] Three of the girls have already established their dislike for each other. Cat is smart, can play the piano perfectly, and she can turn a perfect cartwheel. (Oh - she also has a touch of ESP.) She lives in a series of rooms built in a huge historic tree! Pru is also very smart. She plays the piano, although she has to work harder than Cat. She is a bookish worrywart, and although she can also turn a cartwheel, she prefers to makes lists of safety tips. Franny isn't as book-smart as the others and she can't turn a cartwheel at all, but she loves her lookout tower on top of her wedding cake-shaped house. From her tower, she spies Ivy moving into the creepy house next door. Ivy and her ex-beauty pageant contestant mother have inherited Aunt Vi's decrepit house. It's actually a lucky break. Almost seven years ago, a mirror broke, and a Jinx has been tailing Ivy ever since. Her father disappeared, and she and her mother have had a string of bad luck. The seven years is almost up, though, and Ivy hopes the Jinx will soon be a thing of the past.
Also living on Gumm Street is the stern, mysterious piano teacher, Mr. Staccato, who may be 115 years old. He has two dogs, Fred and Ginger, who seem to possess an otherworldly intelligence. He also has a huge collection of old movie memorabilia, including several ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.
Things are shaken up when a storm blows a mysterious, fabulous woman in fishnet stockings and a lampshade hat onto their street. She is looking for a pair of shoes...
Needless to say, the four girls find themselves on an adventure, one where they learn to overlook their differences in order to work together. The book doesn't require much more than a passing knowledge of the Oz books or even the 1939 movie, although it does make things more fun. I found myself frowning a couple of times, correcting tidbits of Oz trivia here and there, but then I reached the last page of the book: Primavera's letter to "Oz experts," where she humorously shrugs off the changes. Well done.
You can read more at Elise Primavera's website or the book's Wikipedia page. (I also notice that Amazon has a bargain hardcover available for a steal...)