Friday, December 7, 2007

Critical analysis of Carmen Browne Series

The Carmen Browne Series, written by Stephanie Perry Moore, is a wonderful set of books targeting the preteen age demographic. Stephanie Perry Moore writes children books with a Christian theme. The series that we’ve examined for this analysis has a four part installment. The two particular books that we will examine are the third and fourth installment in the series, Golden Spirit and Perfect Joy.

The events of these books take place with the course of a few months, from Mother’s Day through Thanksgiving. The message of these books is one of inspiration and encouragement for younger people. The inspirational message that appears is throughout the book is intermingled with family and personal issues that Carmen Browne and her family are having at the time. These books don’t deal with any overtly adult subjects at all. They are all approached from the standpoint of Carmen, a twelve year old middle school student. There are any issues associated with sex, drugs, alcohol or any other overtly adult issues.

The Carmen Browne Series deals with the life of a preteen named Carmen Browne. She is the middle child of a football coach and a freelance artist. She has a younger sister and an adopted older brother. These two books address Carmen’s life over her summer break from school and her first semester of middle school in the fall. The series addresses the normal adjustment issues that a young lady would have internally and externally. Life changes so quickly and as you age it is necessary to adjust your response to certain situations. These are just a couple of the lessons that Carmen has to learn in this series.

In Golden Spirit, Carmen is on her summer vacation from school. This book covers her entire vacation, good and not so good. The wonderful thing about this series is that it always ends on a prosperous note. Golden Spirit examines her relationship with her family and the family lives of her three closest friends. In Perfect Joy, Carmen is dealing with the struggles of adjusting to a new school. She also has to maneuver around issues within her friendships. Things just aren’t like they used to be in primary school. There is jealousy between the friends and a few lies told as well. Carmen must address this new test of her friendships and character.

There are two adult issues in the books that I must address. I can appreciate that they were handled from a child’s perspective. The adults in the book were used as more of a counselor and guide rather than an instigator of the situation. In Golden Spirit, the subject of domestic violence was addressed. One night during the early summer a neighbor of Carmen’s was rushed to the hospital as a result domestic violence. Later in the summer while at her aunt’s house she and her younger sister found themselves in the middle of a domestic dispute between her aunt and uncle. Her parents played an integral role in her understanding what domestic abuse is and what her response should be. In Perfect Joy, the adult situation was sickness. Her mother found a lump that she had examined. When her parents told Carmen what was going on, naturally she was afraid. The lump wasn’t cancerous, but waiting for the results of the exam was murder. Again her parents played the role of encourager. They helped her to understand what was going on, the severity, and what she could do to help.

The three most common elements of these books are family strength, sibling rivalry and prayer. Throughout this series, we see these strong parents. The Browne family isn’t perfect, but they are strong. It was so refreshing to read a cultural book that placed the parents in a positive light. Carmen’s parents were what parents should be. They were loving, encouraging and yet authoritative. They were the rock within Carmen’s life. It should be that way. These books were written for children, but I wouldn’t mind giving this book to a few adults as well. There some adults that could take parenting lessons from The Browne’s.

Sibling rivalry is present throughout both books. Carmen finds herself dealing with being a role model for her younger sister and yet accepting her brother as a role model for her. As a preteen, she must also adjust to handling situations differently than she did as a small child. She has the new found responsibility of dealing with life as a preteen and not a baby. Her siblings don’t make it easy for her at all. They are all struggling with their roles in the family as they grow and mature.

Prayer is the last recurring them within the book. The book is actually marketed as Christian children fiction. Carmen finds herself praying throughout both books. She also has to put her faith to work. She uses her faith and the power of prayer as the answer to many of her issues. Every time she encounters a new issue, her mother encourages her to pray. They pray as a family. There are open prayers throughout both books. What a joy to see children talk to God.

One section of each book catches my attention. In Golden Spirit, it was date night. Carmen’s father decided to take all three of his children on their own date night. Carmen’s parent periodically had a date night together. It was the kids turn. Carmen was the last child to get her night. It was so special to her. She dressed up in her best outfit. Her father rang the door bell and her mother told Carmen to open the door. Carmen was amazed to see her father there dressed to kill for their date together. He took her to an elegant restaurant for dinner. Over the evening, he had the opportunity to impart some parental advice upon his middle child. Later in the evening they went to a concert featuring her favorite artists. It was really the highlight of her summer. In perfect joy, the section that I hold dear was when she made up with all her friends. Her friends and Carmen hadn’t had the best of semesters. Jealousy crept into their friendship. Carmen became the popular girl from the very start of middle school and her friends weren’t excited for her at all. As a result of her new found popularity and interest in boys, her grades dropped. When the quarter ended and her parents saw the grades, it was a new day for Carmen. Her priorities were put back in place for her. She realized that she could be happy within herself. She also learned that friends and popularity don’t make you who you are. It wasn’t until she got herself together that her friendships worked out.

The Carmen Browne series is a wonderful series that can be enjoyed by any age group.

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