Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Hesser, Terry Spencer

New York : Delacorte, 1998
ISBN 0385323298

(3 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Hi, my name is Tara, and I am eleven years old. Today I heard a phrase that changed my life forever. “Step on a crack, break your mothers back.” Now because of my reaction to this stupid phrase, I have to count the cracks on the sidewalk, and if I lose count or step on a crack I have to go home and start counting all over again.  Before I heard this phrase, my life was pretty good, and fairly normal too. I got good grades; I have a younger sister named Gretta, and two parents. I also have a lot of friends and my own room, which is good for me. My mom has always accused me of being somewhat of a worrywart, but despite that everyone thought I was fairly normal, smart, funny, and busy. Getting back to the “step on a crack” business,  soon I wasn’t even able to cross the street safely, because I would be so worried about stepping on a crack and breaking my mothers back that I just had to count the cracks. If anyone ever saw me doing this they would surely know something was wrong with me.  Read the book Kissing Doorknobs, and find out what other weird things happen to me, my friends, my family, and what my whole life ends up being like. (Kaitlyn H. 8th grade student, Rundlett Middle School)

Booktalk #2

How would you feel; how would you react, if you were in the grip of some irrational fear and the only way you could lessen that fear, the only way you could alleviate that fear is to perform some bizarre ritual over and over again? You repeat the ritual because your brain does not recognize the completion of a thought until it is repeated over and over and over again maybe 100 times. If you're looking for a little quiet read, don't read this book. I you are looking for something intense and at times unusual read Kissing Doorknobs. Kissing Doorknobs, is the story of Tara Sullivan who at the tender age of 11 hears the phrase -- step on a crack, break your mother's back-- and then cannot stop counting cracks in the sidewalk even if there are 495 of them. When she loses her place or is interrupted, she has to start from the beginning all over again, and she is furious and belligerent with anyone who interrupts her even her closest friends who, because of this behavior she is starting to lose.
                    From there, her obsessions escalade into praying and religious devotion. She prays and makes the sign of the cross constantly. Whenever a curse word is said she makes the sign of the cross and recites Our Fathers and Hail Mary's obsessively. Finally, the unexplainable practice of kissing doorknobs begins. On her way out the front door one day on her way to school she stops in front of the doorknob and freezes. She places all 10 fingers on the doorknob in a little circle applying the exact same amount of pressure to each finger. Being concerned with physical balance also known as a symmetry compulsion plagues Tara's thoughts and actions. Then she brings her fingers to her lips and kisses them. She repeats this ritual 33 times before the thought goes away.
                    That is what OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, does to the mind. OCD affects the part of the brain, right above the eyes, which is where worry is registered. Brain scans show that people with OCD have a lot of activity in this part of the brain. Somewhere on the top of the brain lies the basal ganglia. It functions as a gate for thoughts. With most people it opens and closes after each thought is completed. A person has a thought. A person completes an action. The thought is gone. But, for people with OCD, the gate doesn't function right. The gate stays open a little and that is why they do things over and over. It's like their brain isn't quite sure that the thought or action was done or was done right or done enough. So it just keeps thinking the same thought over and over and they keep doing the same action over and over. Will this madness ever stop for Tara? Find out by reading Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser.  (Suzanne O'Hara,

Booktalk #3

All of her life Tara has been a worrier.  In kindergarten she cried because she was terrified that something would happen to her mother while they were separated.  In grade school, she had panic attacks during fire drills.  One day she heard “Step on a Crack and Break your Mother’s Back” and the demons in her head told her that she must count the cracks between home and school every day both to school and back home again.  No one could understand what was happening to Tara until the answer comes from an unusual source.  Can she stop kissing door knobs?  (Ruth P Savinda,

SUBJECTS:     Obsessive-compulsive disorder -- Fiction
                        Mental illness -- Fiction
                        Family life -- Fiction
                        Friendship -- Fiction


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