Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, April 9, 2012


It is said that variety is the spice of life; different experiences make life more interesting.  But change is not necessarily a good thing; a change not wanted or unexpected can alter your sense of normal so much so, nothing seems to make sense any longer.  The road to a new normal is fraught with detours, wrong turns, potholes, and yes, maybe even another accident. 

For those that are loved unconditionally by family members and one or two steadfast friends, the destination, though painful and slow, can be reached.  Author Phoebe Stone,  has scripted a story of such a journey in The Boy on Cinnamon Street (Arthur A. Levine Books).  Louise Terrace, a seventh grade student, has lost her normal.

From the Prologue we read:

My name used to be Louise but it's not anymore.  I had a T-shirt made that says across the front NO LONGER LOUISE.  I changed my name because Louise rhymes with cheese and fleas and sneeze.  So now I'm Thumbelina. 

Before this two page introduction ends our initial reaction of Thumbelina? is answered.  Louise is only four foot seven inches tall; small for a seventh grade student.  And her friend, Henderson, wise beyond his years, says one day as they are walking along the river,

"Actually everybody has a story, a fairy tale in their heart that they adhere to.  That's why Hans Christian Andersen is so awesome."

As a reader I know hardly anything about either of these characters, yet, but being too short, too tall, too anything at that age creates immediate empathy.  Henderson, by his very observations, is intriguing.  When the final two sentences mention placing an order for pizza and cosmic wheel I, as a reader, am completely hooked.

Louise lives with her maternal grandparents in a condo in South Pottsboro.  Her family home on Cinnamon Street in North Pottsboro is empty.  Selling her most prized possession, her balance beam, Louise, the star of her gymnastic team, has quit.  Her grandmother acts out-of-character when Benny McCartney, a ninth grader, delivers the pizza.  Thelma & Louise happens to be a movie that her grandparents watch repeatedly.

So many questions to be answered but the most urgent is who left the note under the mat for Louise reading:

I am your biggest fan. 

Reni, Louise's best friend, Henderson's sister, knows it must have been Benny McCartney. When a huge pink heart done in chalk appears on the front steps, Louise races over to Reni's house; a home she wishes was her own so full of warmth, vibrancy, the requisite family members.  Their plans, items left for Benny at his locker, another gift given to Louise, a dress and a special evening do not equal success.

Trying to decipher the case of the crush, Reni and Louise inadvertently unravel more than either of them are prepared to face.  Aching truths surface.  Poignant moments so tender, weeks between them, will leave readers breathless.

As the pages in this book are turned Stone weaves a web that surrounds her readers, a fabric spun with words; words describing characters so memorable readers will be unwilling to leave them even when the covers are closed.  Dialogue is true to life and in keeping with each character's personality.
The deep and abiding love her grandparents have for one another and Louise is a never wavering strength throughout this story.  These are just a few examples:

When we're walking in the door of the apartment, Grandma throws her purse on the couch and says to Grandpa, "You know what I discovered in the basement today while I was down there sweeping?"
"What?" says Grandpa.
"Asbestos," says my grandma.
Grandpa raises his eyebrows and looks over at me like he and I are a unit, like a washer and dryer set, and Grandma is a stove way on the other side of the room. "Where, baby doll?" he says, still smiling.
Grandma gives Grandpa a you-didn't-take-out-the-garbage-so-now-I'm-going-to-have-you-arrested- look.

He stands there looking tall and un-Hendersonly quiet leaning his head against the wall and staring at me like I'm a puzzle with a piece missing.

They're in their little cliques.  I know those circles and how they seal over, leaving no room to beg, steal, or borrow for an entrance.  I know.

Vivid depictions of the weather and seasons form a keen sense of the passage of time; a reflection of Louise's emotions and memories.

Outside my window, the snowstorm is whirling and raging like white anger and when I push my face against the glass, I can see millions and billions of snowflakes dancing and diving past my window.

The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone, a book about being lost and found, offers readers a vivid view on the value of pure friendship and the potency of unconditional love.  This is a remarkable read and one of the best of 2012.

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