The Society of School Librarians
International Honor Book Award:
Hillary De Baun has received the distinguished Society of School Librarians International Honor Book Award for 2013.
Hillary De Baun contemplates the meaning of friendship in its many guises. A poignant parallel plot involving Arabelle’s volunteer work at a local nursing home elevates this story beyond the traditional quirky-girl-conquers-high-school scenario. Arabelle’s blossoming friendships with several memorable residents ultimately transform her perspective on life and herself. Effervescent and optimistic, Arabelle demonstrates that on stage or off, everyone should take a starring role in her life.
School Library Journal
Arabelle Archer is just starting high school. She wants an exciting life and new friends but she faces awkward moments and tiring battles with upperclassmen. She escapes by daydreaming and reading racy romance novels. Her friend, practical Erna Sue Comstock, suggests that Alex volunteer for community service so that she can get into a good college, and then her guidance counselor asks her to volunteer at the Heavenly Rest Nursing Home. Alex reluctantly agrees, but finds herself becoming attached to some of the residents. Her heart is set on Drama Club and performing in the school play but senior Bonnie Atwood is determined to crush her dream. In a heartwarming ending, Arabelle becomes a star in her own way, but learns that there is more to life than a starring role. The protagonist is a likable, well-developed character whom most readers will relate to as she muddles through some experiences but shines in others. Readers will relate to her high-school jitters, and drama-club fans will enjoy the numerous cast scenes.
~ Lisa Gieskes, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC
Cynthia Levinson (Author of “We’ve Got a Job”)
This book is not just a hoot. It’s an exemplar of masterful writing. Arabelle Archer, a lowly ninth-grader with twelfth-grade aspirations to play a major role in the school play, is spunky, funny, and melodramatically romantic—all wrapped in a petite five-foot package. But, when it comes to getting along with her best friend, Erna Sue, “who made a habit of never being wrong,” Arabelle can also be impulsively brash. Each character, including Boris (the visiting student from Ukraine), Jeff and Chip (the school heartthrobs), and all the loony residents of Heavenly Rest nursing home where she volunteers, is distinct and fully drawn. And, in various ways, they all crash into Arabelle, yet, ultimately, support her as she achieves her dream and figures out the meaning of friendship. Best of all, the rollicking tone of the school play, “You Can’t Take it With You,” is mirrored in Arabelle’s real life at Heavenly Rest, making for an old-fashioned, laugh-out-loud, warm-hearted novel.
Pat Sherman (Author of “Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation”)
If you were ever stage-struck when you were a teen, or know a kid who is now, this is the perfect book. Arabelle Archer (aka Alex) is thrilled when she, a lowly freshman, gets a role in the high school play. It’s her chance to shine. What she doesn’t know is that her life off-stage is about to supply more drama than any playwright ever could. A volunteer job at a local nursing home that she assumes will be tedious and boring proves to be anything but. Of course, being a teen-age girl, she also has a crush on a super cute guy. But does he return it or does he think they’re just friends? On top of all that, the school play is almost cancelled at the last moment, and when it does go on (as the show always must) a not-so-secret enemy tries to sabotage Arabelle’s moment in the spotlight. There’s a lot going on here and it all happens at a lively and entertaining pace. Arabelle is a warm, funny, and realistic character. She’ll really grab your heart and leave you longing for a sequel.
This thoughtful story explores serious issues of death and friendship, but the infusion of humor keeps it from being too heavy a read.
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
All in all, it’s an inconspicuous little book with a whole lot of heart and much fun to be had along the way. You’ll blush at Arabelle’s brush with a crush, thrill at her first taste of young love, be excited for and with her as she follows her passions, all the while discovering that everyone is good at something and it’s our differences that make us the stars of our own shows. Three cheers for Arabelle AND friends! A book deserving of a standing ovation … (read the full review here)..
Starring Arabelle is a first-time novel for Hillary Hall De Baun, who has a hit with a working plot and great cast, especially the lovable, well-developed Arabelle Alexis Archer. Alex begins freshman year at James Madison Regional High School determined to follow her aspirations and dreams of a theatrical future… In heartwarming fashion, Arabelle becomes a star while also learning that there is more to life than a starring role. Readers will relate as Alex muddles through some experiences while shining in others, and drama club fans will enjoy the numerous cast scenes in this rewarding read about Arabelle’s trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows, all staunchly faced, and with a don’t-ever-give-up, be-yourself theme.