Books by Ellen Conford

Released: July 1, 2002

Cute and lightly amusing though not as funny as its predecessor (Starring in Just a Little Extra, 2000, etc.), this time Annabel, Conford's can-do budding actress heroine, is offered a part in an interactive mystery play. Annabel, who lives by the motto "no part too big or too small," is thrilled at the opportunity, but when she arrives at her first rehearsal, isn't happy to discover that she'll be sharing the stage with Binky, a gigantic dog who drools by the bucketful. Ever game, Annabel comforts herself with the notion that her favorite star, Winona McCall, had to deal with wild rhinoceroses and leopards in her last movie, while she just has "to work with a huge dog the size of a Jeep." Aptly illustrated by Andriani's droll black-and-white drawings, the humor in this series is fueled by Annabel's comic obsession to perform no matter what obstacles are thrown her way. And Conford piles them on, having her young heroine cope not only with Binky, but a ridiculous bunny costume and finally, on the night of the performance, heckling from her hateful classmate Lowell Boxer. But Annabel, who is intelligent and resourceful, proves to be a "real trooper," and her quick thinking saves the day. Particularly good is that Annabel's idea is both credible and childlike, the kind of save that an actual kid could come up with. Sadly, despite the fact that the Conford's production is smooth and professional, it's also rather hollow, technically on point but lacking her special brand of energized sparkle. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Conford's (Crush, 1999, etc.) wit twinkles in her delightful new chapter book that chronicles the return of Annabel, the aspiring actress who is about to get her "Big Break." "I've been waiting to be discovered for years," the ten-year-old tells the director of Day After Doom, a television movie that plans to use local citizens as extras. The movie is a scary thriller and Annabel, who desperately wants to be cast, spends the night practicing her "screaming, choking and fainting" so loudly and convincingly that she drives her father from the living room and gives herself a headache and a sore throat. On the big day, Annabel, along with her best friend Maggie and Maggie's older brother, join the throngs of people waiting to be cast as well as those hoping to get a glimpse of actress Winona McCall, who is starring in the movie. When the high-spirited Annabel finds out that her acting job is not the sure thing she thought it was, she stages a scene of her own, winning for herself if not a speaking part, then at least a screaming one. Annabel is an appealing creation, sassy and sunny, and Conford gets plenty of comic juice out of her gung-ho off-center perspective. The book also has a good time poking gentle fun at the acting community—when the director asks Annabel if she's eight, for example, Annabel tells him that she's ten, but that she "dressed young." Enhanced by Andriani's charming black-and-white drawings, younger girls in search of a funny, fast-paced chapter book need look no further.(Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
CRUSH by Ellen Conford
Released: Jan. 31, 1998

From Conford (The Frog Princess of Pelham, p. 638, etc.), a mediocre collection of stories about dating. Characterization is paper-thin in most stories: Amy and her boyfriend Batso, whose distinguishing characteristics are that they are devoted to each other; the unfortunately designated ``Princess Di,'' who uses up boys ``like Kleenex''; and Linda, who is a fraud and a liar. ``The Gift of the Mangy,'' attempting to echo O. Henry, features two shallow kids who make sacrifices (she clips her nails, he gets a haircut) before trading gifts (a manicure kit for her, a hairdryer for him); in ``Have a Heart,'' Linda creates fraudulent charities and raffles before getting her comeuppance. When some girls decide to boost Robert's confidence in ``Metamorphosis,'' he becomes unbearably suave and licentious; for B.J., making a wish for a date in ``Two Coins in a Fountain'' is more complicated than she can predict. Conford's glibness comes through in observations that don't always match their teenage protagonists' sensibilities—``his build was slim to none''—but the real trouble is the book's stubborn lack of substance. Each piece is more of a one-joke concept than a fully rendered story, and doesn't even qualify as brain candy. (Short stories. 12-14) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1997

From Conford (Get the Picture, Jenny Archer?, 1995, etc.), a lighthearted, somewhat hollow read. Poor little rich orphan Chandler turns into a frog when Danny Malone kisses her on a dollar bet. So what do they do? Go on talk shows, of course. Sly references to some real and imaginary bits of pop culture from Oprah to Fabio, and every possible variation of ``it's not easy being green'' will have readers giggling through Chandler's trials, especially if they don't question the story's logic too closely. Chandler finally sheds her froggy skin in front of the CIA, the National Institute of Science, and a few X-Fileslike characters. Cotton candy for middle-school brains. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1994

Jenny Archer (Can Do, Jenny Archer, 1991, etc.) is disappointed when her grandfather's ballyhooed surprise for her turns out to be nothing but a used camera. When she sees an ad for a photography contest in Kid Talk magazine, however, she decides to give the camera a try. Her first roll is a disaster, but she reads the instruction booklet and tries again, looking for the perfect ``candied'' shot for the contest. She takes a picture of what she believes is a neighbor, Mrs. Katz, strangling her dog, Kiss-Kiss, and almost takes one of a plastic-covered car in neighbor Mr. Munch's driveway. Imagining that Kiss-Kiss is in danger and Mr. Munch is a car thief, Jenny writes anonymous letters of warning. The neighbors storm Jenny's house in a rage: Mrs. Katz accuses her of libel and demands the incriminating picture—which actually shows, not Mrs. Katz strangling Kiss-Kiss, but a large tear in the seat of Mrs. Katz's pants. Mr. Munch tells how Jenny spoiled his surprise birthday present for Mrs. Munch. Jenny apologizes, her parents give her a lecture on jumping to conclusions—she had also thought her mother was having a baby because of a baby-naming book she saw in the garbage—and there the story thankfully ends. Convoluted and dull. (Fiction. 7-9) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1994

Seven entertaining, mostly funny stories with themes that include first love, troublesome siblings, aggravating parents, and horoscopes. Most are in a female first-person voice; one exception recounts a first-day-of-school confrontation between a disillusioned teacher and a student whose brother's reputation has preceded him. A particularly clever vignette, ``Body Wave,'' is a one-sided conversation between a girl and her hairdresser, climaxing in a disastrous—but well-deserved—perm. The prolific author knows her young-teen audience; she keeps the tone light, barely suggesting a serious problem when two reluctant about-to- be stepsisters must spend a day and night together (``Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite''). Only one story (``Arnold Bing, the Carpet King'') suffers from silliness. Otherwise, thoroughly enjoyable. (Fiction. 12-14) Read full book review >
DEAR MOM, GET ME OUT OF HERE! by Ellen Conford
Released: Nov. 1, 1992

A lightweight farce with a daffy but resourceful cast and a surprise climax. When 13-year-old Paul's parents take an extended business trip, they leave him at ramshackle Burnside Academy, where, as roommate Orson says, ``the strange meet the deranged.'' Introduced to quirky classmates and even quirkier teachers, headed by sinister Dudley Pickles, Paul wants out, but his frantic letters go unanswered. When a TV show about wanted criminals convinces Chris Bishop—writer, editor, publisher, and printer of the Burnside Banner—that Pickles is actually maniacal family killer Dwight Popper, Paul joins the surreptitious investigation, meanwhile chasing the headmaster's beautiful but oblivious stepdaughter. Inspired by Hamlet, the boys decide to force Pickles into the open with a dramatized version of the murder, presented at the Founder's Day celebration. Amazingly, it works. Chris is right—or nearly: it turns out that it isn't Pickles who's the culprit but his twin Bucky, Burnside's custodian. ``Evil twin brother,'' says Orson in disgust. ``That is so trite.'' Send Conford fans who enjoy this on to Gordon Korman's books. (Fiction. 11-13) Read full book review >
CAN DO, JENNY ARCHER by Ellen Conford
Released: Dec. 2, 1991

The school is buying video equipment with the proceeds from a scrap-metal drive, and the student who collects the most cans will get to direct the first film! Suddenly discovering that she's always wanted to make movies, Jenny springs into action- -plundering her neighbors' recycling bins, nagging her sitter and parents to buy more canned goods, even recruiting everyone in her grandparents' apartment building. It's not that easy—classmate Beth has turned from best friend to rival, and even the indomitable Jenny is temporarily discouraged when two big bags of her cans are inadvertently thrown away. Though little Wilson Wynn is the surprise contest winner, Jenny regains both friend and self-confidence by the end. A generous number of amiable b&w illustrations echo this light story's cheerful humor. Sixth in a popular series. (Fiction. 9-11) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1991

After her family's fortune collapses, Holly goes to work for the nutty, elderly Brewster sisters. Earning money for college by working as a domestic companion, she is expected to perform duties others have always done for her. Holly has good intentions but no skills; still, she is determined to stick it out, if only for the frequent contact with the Brewsters' handsome, wealthy nephew Avery: Holly hopes to marry him and save her family. Conford offers plenty of humor, but the utter predictability makes the high jinks feel worn. No, Holly doesn't get Avery, but a poorer boy named Pete; and, yes, she does become less materialistic. Worthy ideals, to be sure, but all part of the formula. (Fiction. 11+) Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1990

Conford sticks to her proven formula in this fifth "Springboard Book" about the irrepressible Jenny. Jenny's latest enthusiasm, inspired by a news article about a "Young American Hero," is first aid. Her parents maintain their customary bemused stance, buying Jenny a first-aid kit and commenting gently on her futile efforts to find someone to rescue, which culminate in the usual discouraging disaster. After calling the fire department to put out a harmless trash fire, Jenny moves on to her next interest: becoming a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. Though the pattern is becoming worn, Jenny herself is still an endearing character in this reliable series of easily read chapter books. Read full book review >

The ever-reliable Conford turns in another funny yet thoughtful story, this time concerning the dangers of making wishes—especially when they come true. Jeannie Warren is hardly thrilled with her aunt and uncle's 15th birthday present—a lamp that looks like a teapot with a candle stuck in it. Nor is she delighted when she lights the candle and a genie ("Arthur"), who looks like Groucho Marx, appears. Arthur is cheerfully willing to grant wishes, but the results tend to be catastrophic, since Jeannie omits important points from her requests—like asking to have her homework done without specifying accuracy. After a series of comic, sometimes suspenseful adventures, it turns out that the lamp has been given to the wrong Jeannie: her aunt was the intended recipient. Though this begins as a familiar plot, Conford gives it a slick twist, and Arthur is a particularly amusing creation, granting wishes by saying "Okey dokey." Not one of Conford's best but good of its kind, with something to say about the tree value of wishes. Read full book review >