BOOK REVIEW: Just Sayin' by Dandi Daley Mackall

Just Sayin' tells the story of an almost-blended family that almost falls apart before it even begins. 11 year-old Cassie Callahan is staying with her grandmother while her mom, Jennifer, recovers from a difficult breakup from her fiance, Trent. Cassie, along with Trent's kids, Nick and Julie, are trying to figure out why their parents' relationship ended so abruptly and searching for a way to bring them back together. Meanwhile, the kids get caught up in a game show that encourages the "art" of insults, and learn along the way that our words have much more power than they think.

In a way that only Dandi can accomplish, this story weaves together, in a contemporary way, an old-time game show, letter writing, outstanding vocabulary, and reminders from God's word that taming our tongue is both difficult and important!

There was something about the idea of this book that reached out to me when I exploring options on the Tyndale site.  It looked interesting and different.  I'd peg this more to a middle grade reader than a young adult reader.  Though as a grown up I really enjoyed it!  It is a fun story about Cassie and Nick and their experiences as their parents don't marry and they finagle their way through the idea of insults and game shows and Cassie's aversion to the phone.  Cassie also spends a little more time at church, a built in approved way to avoid her Moms phone calls, and picks up a few tidbits of helpful knowledge.  And curbs her insult career a tad.

I didn't get the opportunity to read this with the Minions of Mischief but I really really think that both Moo and Munch would enjoy it for vastly different reasons.  It's a little mature, as far as the actual words, for Moo but she would enjoy the relationships cheesiness of the characters.  Munch, on the other hand, would devour it in an afternoon and I think would bury into the insults and the interplay and would greater grasp the 'power of words' thread more so than his younger sister.  Although some of the 'handwriting' in the book was difficult to read (Gram and Ma had such thin tight writing) but I have to wonder if the kids would struggle with that as well since it's cursive.  I know there's been this whole hoopla about cursive and school and whatnot.  My Minions are learning it so that won't be an issue.  But it's something to think about on a larger scale.  And also something to consider as far as limiting accessibility to this book to older middle grade readers who have been exposed to cursive.

The entire story was fanciful and partly so over the top that while it was not realistically believable it was embracing and endearing.  The idea of a famous person writing a couple of kids back?  Or Gram becoming besties with said celebrity?  Or two kids winning spots on a national game show?  Or? Or? ... There were lots of that will never happen moments.  And a beautiful massive red bow tied all around the ending.  It didn't bother me one bit.  I know, I am shocked too!  The author managed to build solid characters with a multilayered story line with letters.  Plain, old, post office delivered, letters.  And she managed to encompass faith for a young person that made sense without feeling preachy or fake or awkward.  The letter to God felt so real.  I highly recommend this book to any middle grade reader, young adult reader, adult reader, senior reader, just a reader.  It's quirky and entertaining and insightful and just there ya go...

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Tyndale.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.

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Just Sayin'

About Dandi Daley Mackall 
Dandi Daley Mackall is the award-winning author of over 450 books for children and adults. She visits countless schools, conducts writing assemblies and workshops across the United States, and presents keynote addresses at conferences and young author events. She is also a frequent guest on radio talk shows and has made dozens of appearances on TV. She has won several awards for her writing, including the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature, the Edgar Award, and a two-time Mom’s Choice Award winner. Dandi writes from rural Ohio, where she lives with her husband, Joe, their three children, and their horses, dogs, and cats.s.

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