Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker
Author: Kristina Springer
Published April 16th, 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books
Goodreads Summary: Middle school is a test, but Cici Reno has all the answers. She’s the go-to girl for advice. She’s cool, she’s funny, and she’s enlightened (thanks to yoga classes at her mom’s studio). So when her pretty BFF, Aggie, is too shy to speak to the boy she’s crushing on, Cici goes online and does the talking for her. The only problem is, Cici starts to fall for the guy herself! For the first time in her life. she doesn’t have a clue.
My Review: Cici Reno is a refreshing addition to middle grade romance. As a middle school teacher, I am always happy when there is a romance novel that actually features middle school kids instead of high schoolers. The thinking and feelings differ so much between 6th and 9th grade that sometimes the YA romance novels are a bit mature for the middle schoolers that want to read about crushes and dating. And Cici Reno is a book that middle schoolers will flock to not only because of the romance but because of the humor, Cici’s true voice, and the story of friendship.
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“Using Classic Retellings in the Middle Grade Classroom” by Kristina Springer
As readers, we love a good classic retelling. Renée Ahdieh reimagined The Arabian Nights in her #1 NYT Bestseller, The Wrath and the Dawn. The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse was inspired by Beowulf. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu offered a new look at Pinnocchio. My first young adult novel, The Espressologist, was a twist on Jane Austen’s Emma. (In my book, the main character is a coffee shop barista who discovers a talent for matchmaking her customers based on their favorite coffee drinks.) And of course, Romeo and Juliet has been remade again and again and again (my favorite being Gnomeo and Juliet!).
With my newest middle grade book, Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker, I decided to do a modern twist of the Cyrano de Bergerac story, set in middle school and with Twitter instead of balconies and bushes.
Cici Reno, is the 12 ¾-year old enlightened daughter of a Yogi. When she’s not helping out at her mom’s beloved Peony Lane Yoga Studio or taking a class herself, she’s solving all of the 7th grade’s problems, be it boy trouble or BFF drama. When her shy best friend Aggie asks for Cici’s help in getting the attention of the boy she likes, Cici goes online and does the talking for her. Only the more they talk, the more she falls for him herself. What’s a girl to do?
Studying a classic story and some of its retellings could be a fun and creative activity for middle grade classrooms. Here’s a suggestion of how you can approach this:
- Start with talking about the original classic tale. Let’s say you choose Cyrano de Bergerac as I did. Talk about the original play written by Edmond Rostand in 1897. Show pictures of the real Cyrano de Bergerac for which the play is based on. More info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrano_de_Bergerac_(play) And show this really cute 1 minute, 35 second YouTube Last Minute Book Report clip of Cyrano de Bergerac to get an overall sense of the story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u52OLtAws8
- Have your class read through a bit of the play together out loud to get a sense of the relationship between Roxane, Christian, and Cyrano. Perhaps the balcony scene in Act 3, Scenes 6 and 7 where we see Christian bumbling for his words and Cyrano stepping in to rescue him. You can find the play this here: http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/French/Cyranoact3.htm
- Talk about some of the movie adaptions of Cyrano de Bergerac over the years like Roxanne and The Truth about Cats and Dogs. If time and interest allows, show the 2012 Disney Original Movie, Let it Shine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_It_Shine_(film)
- Read my book, Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker, and discuss the similarities and differences between the original and this modern retelling. Consider having the students use a Venn Diagram to do this. Have them discuss why they think I, as the author, made certain changes and if those changes improved the story or not.
- Have the students try writing their own modern short story re-telling of Cyrano de Bergerac. And have fun sharing them with each other!
About the Author: Kristina Springer is the author of Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker (Sterling Children’s/April 19, 2016), My Fake Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours (Macmillan/FSG), a Scholastic Bestseller and 2012 YALSA Quick Pick book; The Espressologist (Macmillan,/FSG), a 2010 Society of School Librarians International Honor Book and 2014 Illinois Reads Book that has been purchased for film by Michael Eisner’s Vuguru; and Just Your Average Princess (Macmillan/FSG). She has a Masters in Writing from DePaul University and resides in a suburb of Chicago with her husband and children. Learn more about Kristina on her website: http://KristinaSpringer.com.
Flagged Passages: “‘Wow, you think of everything,’ Aggie says. ‘It sounds completely perfect. Only one thing.’
‘I can’t talk to him, Cici! You heard me at the bonfire. I go from zero to dork in 2.3 seconds.’
‘But you’ll be online,’ I tell her. ‘You can take your time typing, really form your thoughts.’
‘Yeah. I guess.’ She pauses. ‘Or you could talk to him for me. Please? You’re so much better around guys than I am. Always so relaxed and cool. And funny,’ she adds.” (p. 35)
Read This If You Loved: Cyrano de Bergerac, Camp Rolling Hills by Stacy Davidowitz, Audition & Subtraction by Amy Fellner Dominy, Drama by Raina Telgemeier