Rules of the Road

About a year ago, I was writing an article of book recommendations for families to read aloud together.  I asked my friend if she had any ideas of great family books.

“Oh yes,” she said. “You should write about that book you read last year to your kids.  The one about the young driver.”

“Which one?”  I wracked my brain, trying to figure out which book she was talking about.

“You know!  It was like Driving Miss Daisy, but with a young girl.”

“I don’t even remember which book that is!  I kind of remember the story… do you remember the title?”

“Me?  I’m not the one who read it.”

I came up with plenty of ideas for the article, and have been trying to remember which book I raved about so much that my friend remembered it more than I did.  (In my defense, I have read my children hundreds of books over the past eight years.  I cannot remember them all!)

This year, when I pulled out the school books for my younger two kids, I found the book!  The Driving Miss Daisy book, except with a young girl!  I was so excited I called my girlfriend.  And I re-read it over the weekend.

And I remembered why I adore Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer so much.

Sixteen-year-old Jenna Boller may be tall, but she is not a basketball star.  She’s a good student, but she’s even better at selling shoes.  She excels at selling shoes – and she loves it.  Then one day, her alcoholic father wanders into the shoe store and makes a scene.  Jenna is mortified.  Of course, the chain’s owner, Mrs. Gladstone, happens to be in the store that day!  Instead of losing her job, as she expected, Mrs. Gladstone hires her to drive her around the Midwest, visiting other Gladstone Shoe Stores, on their way to the annual shareholder’s meeting.

Along the way, Jenna and Mrs. Gladstone learn many life lessons from each other as they fight for the future of the company.  Jenna also worries about her grandmother, mom and sister, left back in Chicago – how can they cope with her dad without her?  Jenna learns to let go, and come to peace with her father and circumstances.

Rules of the Road is full of wonderfully corny puns focused on selling and shoes, and heartbreaking situations.  I laughed, and cried, my way through Jenna’s journey – and even though my life circumstances in no way mirror Jenna’s, I feel I learned from them too.

Highly recommended for ages 13 and up.  Children 9 and up would enjoy listening to it.

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