Rules of the Road
|Publisher:||Putnam Publishing Group|
Meet Jenna Boller, star employee at Gladstone’s Shoe Store in Chicago. Standing a gawky 5’11’’ at 16 years old, Jenna is the kind of girl most likely to stand out in the crowd—for all the wrong reasons. But that doesn’t stop Madeline Gladstone, the president of Gladstone’s Shoes 176 outlets in 37 states, from hiring Jenna to drive her cross country in a last ditch effort to stop Elden Gladstone from taking over his mother’s company and turning a quality business into a shop-and-schlock empire. Now Jenna Boller shoe salesperson is about to become a shoe-store spy as she joins her crusty old employer for an eye-opening adventure that will teach them both the rules of the road—and the rules of life.
Funny young adult writers are a rare treasure, and Joan Bauer is one of the funniest. Critics and young readers rejoiced at her three previous novels—Squashed, Thwonk, and Sticks—and with Rules of the Road, she has written a story that is wise and touching as well as comical. Jenna Boller is too tall for a sophomore and she’s not much good in school. Her sister Faith got all the looks in the family, but boy, can Jenna sell shoes! She’s supremely happy at her after-school job at Gladstone’s, where the big white sign over the door says “We’re Not Just Selling Shoes, We’re Selling Quality.” When elderly Mrs. Madeline Gladstone, the crusty president of the company, chooses Jenna as her driver on a business trip to visit other Gladstone’s stores, Jenna goes reluctantly—with trepidation at driving the huge Cadillac, and at the prospect of leaving her alcoholic father behind. But on the road, Jenna learns “great road truths” such as “Never eat at a place called Mom’s, because it’s a safe bet Mom’s been dead for years.” She also proves to be indispensable (possessing an eagle eye for shoddy quality and sloppy service), and soon learns to admire and love the irascible Mrs. Gladstone as well as her old friend, “World’s Best Shoe Salesman” Harry Bender. When Harry dies suddenly, Jenna realizes that she wishes he had been her father. Trouble looms in the form of a company takeover by Mrs. Gladstone’s sleazy son, Elden, “Shoe Rodent,” but Jenna summons courage from Harry’s memory and saves the day for quality shoes. Rules of the Road is a treat that will utterly delight readers. (Age 12 and older) —Patty Campbell