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"The Romeo and Juliet Code" and "The Boy on Cinnamon Street" by Phoebe Stone

You wouldn’t know from the covers of these two books that Phoebe Stone writes more than tween romances. And that’s a shame. Because despite the old adage, we do select books by their covers, among other things, and the jackets on these books could be turning away readers.

The more egregious cover of the two is that for The Romeo and Juliet Code. This book takes place during World War II and, while I’m sure some kids did wear tennis shoes and jeans then, this cover has too much of a contemporary look. Also, there is no tween romance in this book. None. Nada. Felicity Bathburn Budwig, the 11-year-old heroine of the novel, has come from England to live with her father’s family in Maine. While there she learns more about her family and her place within it. She also discerns that her parents may be spies (hence the title). It’s a great novel about displaced children during wartime, family secrets, and finding one’s true home.

The Boy on Cinnamon Street suffers from both a bad cover and a bad title. Yes, there is a bit of romance (and even a chalk heart). And there is a boy on Cinnamon Street. And, for much of the novel, Louise, the 7th grade heroine, thinks the two are linked. But this story is really about a tragic event in Louise’s life and the memories she suppressed because of it. The titular boy is both an impetus for recovering her memory and a distraction while those painful memories resurface. More important is the boy who helps Louise when she needs it the most. It is a terrific book about love and loss, and how we react to those feelings. It is not, however, about a tween romance, unless you count crushing on Justin Bieber. (Also, the characters ages should have been bumped up a little. Louise is not a 7th grader, and her friend Reni’s sister is not a 9th grader. Bump the ages up by two years and it reads better.)

The publishers of Stone’s books should rethink the covers before the paperback editions come out. Stone is also an illustrator. Why not ask her to do the covers?


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