- Nikki and Deja: Election Madness
Third-graders and friends Nikki and Deja are back, and Deja’s got new ambitions. Their school has decided to elect a student body president, and she’s determined that the office will be hers. She quickly slots Nikki in as her campaign manager and guns for the position of class nominee; having secured the nod, she then girds her loins to compete not only against the other third-grade nominees but also fourth-graders and fifth-graders for the highest honor at Carver Elementary. The upcoming 2012 election makes this outing particularly topical, but it’s got the authenticity and sympathy that have made the earlier titles in the series such standouts. This time it’s Deja through whom the third-person narration focalizes, and English capably captures her drive and its negative aspects (“She thinks she can work well with others, as long as they don’t have a bunch of stupid ideas”), especially its effects on Nikki, whom Deja is basically using as a flunky. What’s interesting is that the book doesn’t resolve everything—there’s no big rapprochement wherein Deja’s sorry for using Nikki (in fact, she realistically assesses that Nikki’s likely to let offense go after a sulky interlude), and the friction between Nikki’s parents seems likely to recur in future. It’s also a particularly fine portrait of a kid whose leadership ambitions outstrip her abilities, and there’s a touch of poignancy when Deja realizes that the skills that may have allowed her to win the nomination of her classmate simply don’t stack up to the smoothness of the older kids. While Freeman employs a cartoonish streamlining in her figures that gives them a particularly contemporary air, her monochromatic illustrations are dense with shading and textural details that provide additional depth to the images. New readers can happily meet the girls for the first time here and then go back to fill in the picture, while fans will be glad to see them back in fine form.