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The Dirt Diary
Cover of The Dirt Diary
The Dirt Diary
Dirt Diary Series, Book 1
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Eighth grade never smelled so bad Rachel can't believe she has to give up her Saturdays to scrubbing other people's toilets. So. Gross. But she kinda, sorta stole $287.22 from her college fund that...
Eighth grade never smelled so bad Rachel can't believe she has to give up her Saturdays to scrubbing other people's toilets. So. Gross. But she kinda, sorta stole $287.22 from her college fund that...
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Description-

  • Eighth grade never smelled so bad

    Rachel can't believe she has to give up her Saturdays to scrubbing other people's toilets. So. Gross. But she kinda, sorta stole $287.22 from her college fund that she's got to pay back ASAP or her mom will ground her for life. Which is even worse than working for her mother's new cleaning business. Maybe. After all, becoming a maid is definitely not going to help her already loserish reputation.

    But Rachel picks up more than smelly socks on the job. As maid to some of the most popular kids in school, Rachel suddenly has all the dirt on the 8th grade in-crowd. Her formerly boring diary is now filled with juicy secrets. And when her crush offers to pay her to spy on his girlfriend, Rachel has to decide if she's willing to get her hands dirty...

    "Holy fried onion rings! Fun from beginning to end." —Wendy Mass, New York Times bestselling author of 11 Birthdays and The Candymakers

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    Chapter 1

    "Rachel, what are you doing with that toilet brush?" Mom calls as she comes out of the house with a mountain of paper towels in her arms.

    "Um, practicing?" I say, realizing I've been absently twirling the brush like a baton. I give it one more dramatic spin before chucking it into the back of our dented minivan. Really, I was distracted while calculating how much money I need to earn in the next month ($287.22) to keep from getting in huge trouble, but that is definitely not something I can admit to Mom.

    "All right, are we ready for our first day?" she says as she slides the minivan door shut. She's grinning so widely that the skin by her ears is wrinkling.

    I nod and try to smile back. I can't believe I actually volunteered to give up my Saturdays to inhale bleach, but my efforts will all be worth it in the end. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed.

    We pull out of the driveway and head toward one of the fancy housing developments across town. To stop my feet from nervously tapping in my sneakers, I focus on my baking plans for the weekend. My mission is to create the ultimate to-die-for brownie. If that doesn't get everyone's attention at the Spring Dance bake sale next month, nothing will.

    "I'm so glad you changed your mind about working with me," Mom says, pushing her honey-colored bangs off her forehead. "It'll be nice to spend some time together again."

    "Yeah, it'll be fun," I say, my voice high and squeaky. "I looove Windex!" I find myself doing what could be a cheerleading hand motion to show her just how excited I am.

    Mom's eyebrows scrunch together, and I tell myself to calm down. Mom miraculously accepted that I'd suddenly changed my whole attitude about her new cleaning business in the span of two days. She cannot know the reason why.

    "Just remember that we need to make a good impression today, so try to be friendly, all right?" she says, glancing over at me.

    Something stabs at the pit of my stomach. "You mean, try to act normal."

    Mom sighs. "Rachel, why do you have to be so down on yourself? You're going to be in high school next year. It's time to get some self-confidence." Mom has never had an awkward day in her life, so she thinks being freakishly shy is just something you can switch off like an infomercial.

    "I do have confidence," I insist. At least, I do in my ability to make an amazing dessert. Dad always says my recipes are a little piece of heaven on a plate. I just hope heavenly is enough to get the most votes at the bake sale this year.

    Thinking about Dad makes a familiar ache spread through my chest. Ever since he moved to Florida two months ago-right before Valentine's Day, no less-nothing has felt right. Even Mom, who usually tries to smile and plan her way through every crisis, has been acting totally weird for weeks. That's why I have to make my Get-My-Parents-Back-Together Plan work, even if it means scrubbing every toilet in town. Our family just doesn't make sense without Dad.

    A few minutes later, Mom and I pull into a neighborhood of gigantic houses. All the lawns and bushes are blindingly green, even though it's only the end of April. For some reason, I imagine the neon grass tasting like kiwi. Would a kiwi brownie be too weird?

    We stop in front of a stone monstrosity with two towers, one on each side of the house. I can almost imagine archers camped out in the towers, on the lookout for intruders. A tiny brook winds around the house and under a bridge at the end of the driveway. That's right: these people...

About the Author-

  • Anna Staniszewski lives outside of Boston with her husband and an adorably crazy dog. She was named the Boston Public Library's 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Discovery Award. When she's not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and not cleaning her house. Visit her at www.annastan.com.

Reviews-

  • DOGO Books Taylor max453 - Lol, I don't think anyone remembers me anymore. Well, I'm hereee XD. And without further ado... here is the book review. We can all relate to Rachel Lee. She's an underconfident, self-conscious girl- just like all 8th graders. Well, maybe except for the fact that she's a "house-worker" to the most popular kids in the school- the kids that bully her. So, what does Rachel Lee do, exactly? First off, she most OBVIOUSLY wants to sneak a peek at her enemy's room and secrets. I mean, who doesn't? But then, Rachel's intentions go bad, after the most popular girl's boyfriend.. weeell, decided to "bribe" Rachel into spying on his girlfriend. Messed up? Well, the only reason Rachel got into this mess was a plane ticket. YES, a plane ticket. The plane ticket held hope for Rachel; hope that her parents would someday get back together... and all her problems would go away. Instead, she got herself into a big, big mess. And now, I command you to read this book. Ta-ta! :D
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 21, 2013
    Confidently addressing a number of common tween troubles that include bullying, parental divorce, and peer pressure, Staniszewski (the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series) introduces a determined eighth-grader desperate to get her separated parents back together in this humorous problem novel. It isn’t the love of bleach and toilet brushes that drives Rachel Lee to help her mother with her weekend cleaning business. Rachel needs money fast to replace the $300 she borrowed from her college-fund account in order to visit her father in Florida and “talk some sense” into him, hoping to persuade him to come home. One unexpected bonus of her new job is gaining access to the homes of some of her classmates. While cleaning up their messes, Rachel discovers a few dirty little secrets—ammunition that could bring her extra cash, win her the notice of the boy of her dreams, and take down her A-lister nemesis. Predictably, Rachel’s schemes cause more pain than gain, but readers will likely forgive her errors in judgment as she sincerely attempts to make amends. Ages 10–14. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2013
    What could be worse than cleaning other people's toilets on the weekends? Cleaning the toilets of the two most popular girls in eighth grade, that's what. Rachel Lee needs to raise $300 fast, having stolen it from her college fund to buy a ticket to Florida to convince her father to return to the family. In order to pay her fund back before her mother finds out, she enlists as a helper in her mother's new cleaning business. As she gains access to the bedrooms of some key people in her middle school, Rachel makes some decisions that come back to haunt her, escalating the very problems she is trying to solve. After causing untrue rumors to start and accepting money to spy on someone, Rachel finally learns that honest conversations with parents and true friends seem to be the best tonic. And yes, the mean girls are really mean--but Rachel discovers reasons for that as well. Although most of the issues that confront Rachel seem two-dimensional, Staniszewski neatly captures the pain of a shy young girl with newly separated parents. Written in Rachel's voice, the plot is predictable and the language simple. The quick pace and creative storyline will attract those in the mood for an undemanding, light read. (Fiction. 10-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2013

    Gr 5-8-Fourteen-year-old Rachel's parents separated, her father moved to Florida, and she stole from her college fund to pay for a plane ticket to visit him. She hopes to win the hundred dollar award at the Spring Dance bake sale, but as another way to earn back the money she volunteers to help her mother with her new business, cleaning houses. When Rachel realizes that their first client is Briana, the most popular girl in her class and Rachel's enemy, things feel as if they can't get much worse. Writing notes in her diary about "the dirt" she learns about her classmates while cleaning their homes makes her feel better, as do baking and creating new recipes. Despite Briana's weekly creative cleaning tortures, Rachel finds herself developing a relationship with the girl's twin brother, Evan. Her friend Marisol, a fashion whiz, provides much-needed emotional support, but when they have a fight and rumors start flying that could only have come from the diary, she has to figure out how to stand up to Briana and come to terms with some unhappy truths about her family. Although Rachel's situation and feelings ring true, she often comes across as selfish and whiny. Her character is redeemed when she finally faces the truth about her parents, makes amends with Marisol, and finds a way to face Briana. This realistic read is likely to appeal to middle schoolers and reluctant readers.-Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL

    Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    January 1, 2014
    Grades 5-8 Rachel, 14, has a secret. She has taken money from her college savings to buy a plane ticket to Florida, where she hopes to convince her dad to return home. To cover up the expense, Rachel begins accompanying her mother to clean houses, many of which turn out to belong to her classmates' families. As Rachel learns that everyone has secrets, she starts keeping The Dirt Diary. Rachel is a naive, likable girl who loves to bake and is prone to startling exclamations such as, Oh my goldfish! Her story teeters on the outlandish while covering some truly painful events. As Rachel stubbornly ignores the signs that her father has gone for good, she comes to realize that none of her friends has a perfect life. The secondary characters are nicely developed, as is Rachel's natural emergence from simplistic, wishful thinking to a more nuanced understanding of life. Staniszewski, the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life books, begins another appealing series that promises more goofball humor blended with the real issues of early adolescence.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

  • Publishers Weekly ""Confidently addressing a number of common tween troubles that include bullying, parental divorce, and peer pressure, Staniszewski introduces a determined eighth-grader desperate to get her separated parents back together in this humorous problem novel." "
  • School Library Journal ""Rachel's situation and feelings ring true . . .This realistic read is likely to appeal to middle schoolers and reluctant readers." "
  • The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books ""Rachel's voice is entirely teen authentic in its self-centeredness . . .there is still heart and humor here, so readers looking for a heroine as flawed as themselves will commiserate with Rachel.""
  • Writing Against the Wind "Anna Staniszewski, author, has done a magnificent job of creating a wacky yet serious character, Rachel, an eighth grader whose hokey expressions stick to your brain long after you're done reading the book... [The Dirt Diary] has secrets, heartbreak, romance, and humor-a great mix."

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