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Out of Control (#3) and New Beginnings (#4) Review by Susan K. Marlow

Rachel Yoder; Always Trouble Somewhere series
By Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719
Uhrichsville, OH 44683

"Always trouble somewhere!" is the tagline for a new series featuring spunky ten-year-old Rachel Yoder. She's your typical high-spirited, act-first, think-later girl with a twist: Rachel is Amish. Her escapades revolve around her life in an Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where horses and buggies are the order of the day, and the simple life of Amish farmers overshadows our modern culture. Each 5x7 inch paperback book is about 160 pages long and packed full of trouble for Rachel. The print is large and easy to read for kids who are past the easy-chapter books but not quite ready for middle-grade novels.

In Book 3, Out of Control, Rachel's lack of patience brings her trouble at every turn, from sledding into a creek, to flunking a test in school, to ruining a special pie. Each chapter brings another humorous (or not so humorous) example of the consequences of Rachel's lack of self-control.

Book 4, New Beginnings, focuses on forgiveness. Rachel has been down in the dumps ever since her best friend, Mary, moved away. Then Audra, the "new girl," takes over Mary's seat in school. When Rachel finds herself with a stinky sandwich, a mud-splattered dress, a sore nose, and a horrible attitude, she blames everyone (especially Audra) instead of herself.

These two books are fast, easy reads. I like how Rachel eventually learns her lesson by the end of each book. She prays to God and asks forgiveness for her attitude, which gives the reader hope that maybe... just maybe... she won't make the same mistakes again. Young girls will enjoy reading about Rachel's cat, Cuddles, Rachel's extended family, and the simple farm and school life of the Amish people.

I did find the books very similar in plot. Not a chapter goes by without Rachel getting into another fix of her own making. Her bad attitude, especially in New Beginnings, became tiresome. I also got weary of the constant bickering and name-calling between Rachel and her older brother, Jacob. I was disappointed that their mother did not take stronger action to curb this bad habit. It kept popping up in the next book.

Each book includes an extensive glossary of the Pennsylvania Dutch (very similar to German) words used freely throughout the books. Kids may well delight in learning these new words or they may simply skip over them. Because the reading level is aimed at 7-10 year-olds, I suspect most will prefer to move on with the story. Luckily, all of the words are given their English meanings in the text [in brackets] the first time they are used.

All in all, the Rachel Yoder series is trustworthy reading for younger children, who can easily relate to feeling like they are always in trouble. Older readers, on the other hand, may find the books repetitive.

Product review by: Susan K. Marlow, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2008