Dose of wisdom for teenybopper dreamers
My Sister’s A Pop Star
I’m So Not A Pop Star
By Kimberly Greene
Usborne, £5.99 each
Sparkly and pastel-covered, Kimberly Greene’s two books about pony-mad Samantha’s experiences as sister to teen pop-star Danni are enormously appealing to nine-to-12-year-olds. But these books have added value — and we’re not talking a tacky plastic bracelet on the cover.
Living in LA and teaching child actors in a film studio, Greene became uneasy at her pupils’ attitude — “I’m gonna be famous, I don’t need to put in the work.”
TV talent show American Idol made this worse, she says — as did the coverage of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in young girls’ magazines: “these were not role models, but you can’t just say to kids ‘don’t read this’. There had to be a way for kids to figure out that being rich and famous doesn’t make your life perfect, you need to be the best you can be.”
So Greene set out to write a TV series — but it turned into a book.
My Sister’s a Pop Star focuses on how little sister Samantha manages to stay real, despite her sister’s transformation into a diva whose world collapses if she is served a real-milk coffee instead of a soya latte. Sam even fights to keep her mucking-out job at the stables, although her sister’s career could pay for her to ride there.
I’m So Not a Pop Star continues the story of Sam’s reluctant life in the spotlight (and part of a reality TV show), but takes a surprising turn with the discovery of her Jewish grandpa, a refugee from the Nazis.
As a volunteer with the Shoah Foundation, Greene helped record survivor testimonies and was moved by how people who’d lost everything had rebuilt their lives and retained their humanity. Sam’s grandpa “has lived through the worst but is still kind and respectful”.
Currently LA-based, 42-year-old Greene, mother to 11-year-old Jake and baby Grady, describes herself as “basically the entire Jewish population of my home town, Sioux City, Iowa. The first writing award I ever won was the What Christmas Means to Me competition for the Sioux City Journal! We never had bagels unless Uncle flew them in — his suitcase would reek like a deli.”
Sam, too, explores her Jewishness in the context of haimishe food — for this age range, the Holocaust was, says Greene, somewhere she “didn’t want to go”.
Greene hopes that Sam will be “inspirational to the kid who’s not the queen bee”. For those who are tired of the “mean-girls” American high-school scenario, these books will be very welcome.