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Karen's Big Weekend (Baby-Sitter's Little Sister, No. 44)

by Ann M. Martin

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1043209,431 (3.17)None
Karen visits New York City for the weekend and is sure she will find great Christmas presents for Hannie and Nancy, but when the weekend is almost over she still doesn't have any presents.

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  lcslibrarian | Aug 13, 2020 |
GL: 3.3
Lexile: 490L
  Infinityand1 | Aug 3, 2016 |
Martin, Ann M. Karen’s big weekend (babysitters little sister #44). (1993). New York: Scholastic.

This book was written for lower elementary students who can read on their own. It tells the story of Karen Brewer’s family weekend in New York City a few weeks before Christmas. Karen and her “little-house” family, including her mom, step-dad, and little brother, travel there from their town, Stoneybrook, by train. They see all the usual sights, including Rockefeller Center, Brentano’s Bookstore, Macy’s, the display windows at Lord & Taylor, and the lions outside the New York City Library. They eat pretzels and hot chestnuts, skate at Rockefeller Center, and take in a show at Radio City Music Hall. Karen also visits with her pen-pal, Maxie, who takes her to help bring donated toys to a homeless shelter. Karen is surprised to see so many mothers and fathers and children there who have no home. The conflict of the story is that she can’t find Christmas presents from New York for her two best friends. Everything she likes is too expensive. When the family is ready to travel home, Karen is sad because she never found the presents. At the train station, however, she sees a Santa with a donation box labeled “For New York’s Neediest, and, thinking of the homeless families she met, decides not to buy presents for her friends but instead to donate it to homeless families. She has learned how lucky she is to have her own bed in her own home and realizes her money is best spent helping those families who don’t have homes.

This book is written in a very clear and simple style. As a realistic fiction book, it is has a low level of realism that’s suited for its intended audience primary students, but it doesn’t address the realities of life particularly insightfully. It presents Karen’s family life as idyllic. Even though she has two sets of families and two homes, she only mentions in passing that this can be difficult. Her “little-house” family always gets along well, even on a tiring trip to New York. The book does tell the reader about the problems of homeless families, but it doesn’t do this in very much depth. It presents a sanitized version of life, but it does tell about Karen’s parents’ diversity and remarriages. Karen briefly tells the reader that she has a stepsister and stepbrother who are her father’s wife’s children and that she has a younger adopted sister, who was born in Vietnam. Karen is a believable character to some extent. The author shows her excitement at being in the big city and her worry at not being able to afford presents for her friends. What’s not believable is her even temperament; I can’t see children walking for hours shopping and sightseeing and not becoming cranky. What the book is best at is telling readers about homeless families, as well as showing them a non-traditional family.

There are a handful of illustrations that add to the story only because they show what the characters look like, something the text doesn’t go into. ( )
  TeacherLibrarian | Aug 7, 2010 |
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Karen visits New York City for the weekend and is sure she will find great Christmas presents for Hannie and Nancy, but when the weekend is almost over she still doesn't have any presents.

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