<b>About the books</b>
<br> Two-income families. Hour-long commutes. Latch-key kids. Grandparents living three states away.<br>Modern life means mobility -- physical, social, professional. And with mobility comes transience and a feeling of impermanence. Nobody seems to stay in one place for very long anymore, actually or figuratively, and as a result, the traditional neighborhood is shrinking or all but withered away.<br>Perhaps that's why television series with regular, continuing, predictable characters can be so comforting. We turn on the television and there they are: all those families who seem a lot like ours, grappling with the same problems, sorting through the same value systems, and in the end, loving each other the best way they know how.<br>The situation comedy <i>Full House</i> has been extremely popular with young viewers since its debut in 1987. Perhaps it's because the Tanner household is so big and so crowded with people of various ages -- sort of a modern equivalent to the traditional extended family. In the beginning, there was Danny Tanner, a widower living with his three daughters, D.J., Stephanie and Michelle. He was soon joined by his brother-in-law Jesse, a musician, and his old college friend Joey, an aspiring stand-up comedian.<br>Over the years, this makeshift family expanded further. Jesse married a woman named Rebecca, and they had twins. Fans of the series have also seen the children age. When the show began, D.J. was 10, Stephanie was 5, and Michelle, only 6 months old. Now D.J. is in college, Stephanie is entering eighth grade and Michelle is in third grade. No doubt, young viewers feel as if they know the Tanners better than their own neighbors, and perhaps they do. Reading stories involving familiar characters like Michelle and Stephanie is a little like dropping next door for a short visit with a friend.<br>Novels featuring Michelle are written with younger readers in mind and focus on the responsibility that comes with growing up. Like all eight-year-olds, Michelle doesn't want to be considered "a little girl" anymore. In <i>The Great Pet Project</i> by Jacqueline Carroll, she hopes to prove she can handle the care of a puppy by baby-sitting two mice from school. In <i>The Super-Duper Sleepover Party</i> by Megan Stine, she decides to have a sleepover party like the kind her big sister Stephanie has had. In both cases, Michelle learns she needs to grow up a little bit more.<br>Older sister Stephanie's problems are those of adolescence: building self-esteem, maintaining good and loyal friendships, beginning relationships with the opposite sex. Often she is quick to make assumptions that she soon discovers are very wrong. Readers belonging to the same age group will identify with her struggles to learn that success and popularity sometimes carry too high a price tag (<i>Phone Call From a Flamingo</i> by Devra Newberger Speregen; <i>The Secret's Out</i> by Katie Kimball) that people can't always live up to your expectations (<i>P.S. Friends Forever</i> by Devra Newberger Speregen); that relationships require sensitivity to the other's point of view (<i>The Boy-Oh-Boy Next Door</i> by Rita Miami; <i>Hip Hop 'Til You Drop</i> by Devra Newberger Speregen) and that in the end, all you can be is yourself (<i>Here Comes the Brand-New Me</i> by Jacqueline Carroll.)
<br>1. Stephanie and Michelle appear as supporting characters in each other's novels. What might <i>Hip Hop 'Til You Drop</i> be like if it were told from Michelle's point of view? Or <i>The Super-Duper Sleepover Party</i> from older sister Stephanie's perspective?<br>2. Critique Stephanie's finished article that appears near the end of <i>Here Comes the Brand-New Me</i>. Why do you think it won her a place on the staff of the school newspaper?<br>3. Encourage your students to collaborate on a new story featuring Stephanie, Michelle or both. Try to include such continuing elements as the other members of the Tanner family, Stephanie's friends Darcy and Allie, and her continuing feud with the Flamingoes.<br>Conduct a discussion group on <i>Phone Call From a Flamingo</i>, <i>P.S. Friends Forever</i> or <i>The Secret's Out</i>. Are the situations realistic? Do the students agree with her decisions? Might her problems be resolved in another way? Ask your students what advice they might offer if Stephanie came to them for help.