Switched at Birthday
Aside from the back and forth conversations between the girls that were sometimes hard to follow in terms of who was talking, since their voices tended to mesh together at times, the lessons learned as a result of the body switch are quite telling. There is certainly the most common idea of learning to literally walk in someone else's shoes and empathize with her on a level that one would never even think possible. Yet, there is also the concept of finding out that what you thought you knew about someone is really quite different, like how the way someone projects their life at school can be very different than the life she actually has at home.
The story is somewhat cliche, but sweet, and it provides a nice look into how it is worth getting to know someone at more than face value to determine how one really might feel about him or her. Friends aren't always what they're cracked up to be, enemies might not be quite so bad, and acquaintances might turn out to be your strongest allies. 'Switched at Birthday' does a fine job in capturing how terrifying and exciting middle school can be, no matter what end of the popularity spectrum one falls on, and prepares readers for the muddied waters that go along with pretending to be someone you're not, even if you don't have any control over what's happening in your life at any given moment.
At times, this book can be difficult to follow, since each chapter switches between the two girls, who are inhabiting one another's body. However, I found it to be much less so than expected, and the most important aspect of this story, which is learning how to see beyond the exterior of someone's life and appreciating what is inside, is not lost at all. Lavender learns to appreciate things that us girls who are not "the pretty ones" tend to make fun of, like having great hygiene and dressing well (things I definitely used to shrug off but now want to teach my girls--with care, of course), and Scarlet learns even deeper things; namely, that being popular should not come at the sacrifice of others' character or reputation. Just as The Secret Tree used the power of a great story to show children and tweens to look for the bigger picture, and in doing so, teaches them how to empathize with others and show compassion, Switched at Birthday does the same, yet in a rather hilarious manner. This is a great book I am going to share with the tweens in my life!