Awesome Orange Birthday (Party Diaries, book 1) by Mitali Banerjee Ruths, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

Published by Scholastic

Summary:  After Priya posts pictures of the party she organized for her little brother, Layla Aunty asks her to take charge of her upcoming birthday party.  She offers to pay Priya, but Priya asks for a donation to help quokkas instead (you’ll learn more about this endangered Australian animal if you read the book).  Priya gets to work, starting a party journal to help her stay organized.  Layla Aunty’s favorite color is orange, so that becomes the party’s theme.  Priya enlists the help of her best friend and Layla Aunty’s friends (including Prya’s mom) to make decorations, food, invitations, and a special present.  It’s a busy time, but everything goes off without a hitch, and Layla Aunty declares it her favorite birthday, making a generous donation to the quokkas.  After pictures are posted, Layla gets her second job, which is undoubtedly the subject of book 2, Starry Henna Night, due out in May.  80 pages; grades 1-3.  

Pros:  This is a typical Scholastic Branches series (and you know I mean that as a compliment) with a strong female entrepreneur as the main character and an appealing diary format filled with colored illustrations and cartoon bubbles.

Cons:  I kept waiting for something to go wrong–you know, conflict–but everything went perfectly, making this feel a bit more like a party-planning manual than a novel.

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