Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Rottman, S. L.
New York : Viking, 2002.
ISBN 0670035424

(2 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

It was NOT a day to remember. I had taken a dare/bet to earn ten badly needed dollars, promising to get us out of a end of period quiz. Unfortunately, the first-year, smiley-faced Ms. Pepper had taken my antics harder then I'd anticipated. I guess the dead mouse I left on her desk must have sealed it.

I stopped at the office on my way out, and as Mr. Johnson was in a meeting I told Mrs. Beard that I was suspending myself for the rest of the day and the next and that I'd meet with the principal at 8:00 when I got back the day after that.

I went over to Jason's Salvage Yard where I worked in my 'spare' time and started stripping the latest additions to the lot down to their component sellable parts. Jason was the closest thing I had to a parent...or friend. I was pretty much a loner, and liked it that way.

My mom left when I was little, and I never heard from her since. Dad did his best to take care of me, but the older I got, the less his best became. He had degenerated from a laughing, caring parent into a drunken slob with matching beergut. We had a big fight after he got trashed at Mac Gregor's celebrating my first day of junior high and threw up on me. That was the climax, and he hasn't done anything positive since.

He never finished school and it bugs him that I'm still going and may actually graduate. He's been trying to get me to quit and work full time with him at the mill. I'm the one who buys the groceries. His money all goes for beer.

Then, there's my car. I got it two years ago and spend every spare minute and penny on it. Its almost totally reconstructed, and I won't let dad touch it and won't drive it myself until I'm finished. It drives dad nuts. Of course, he hasn't had a license for some time with his drinking problem.

Today, Jason has a Honda civic with a full set of good wheels that he knows I've been searching for my car. He tells me that when I've finished with the four new cars, I can have the wheels. After finishing two of them, its time to head home, so I set off with two of them for the day's pay. Jason offers me a ride, but I know its out of his way, and I don't mind the exercise.

I notice that John Stevens's truck is parked between the shed and trailer, meaning dad probably borrowed it for something. Then, I hear dad's bellow, demanding that I get in the trailer. After setting the wheels inside the shed and relocking it, I head into the trailer. I stop in surprise as I enter the trailer. The curtains, always shut, are wide open and the room is actually somewhat clean. And, there is a girl in a t-shirt and miniskirt sitting on the sofa.

"I'm Kayla. Who are you."
"I'm Stet."
"Stetson," dad corrects.
"Why are you here?"
"My mother died last week. No one else would take me."
Yeah, I was sorry about her mother, but "...why are you here?"
Dad's smirking, enjoying the show.
"So Dad came and got me this morning and brought me back here."
"...that makes her your sister," Dad says.
I have a sister??!!

Sam Marsh  (Colorado Blue Spruce Children's Award)

Booktalk #2

Stetson was in a desperate situation. His alcoholic father gave him no financial or emotional support, his mother had abandoned him 14 years earlier, and he was quickly alienating anyone at school who could have helped him. He thought he wanted to graduate, but wouldn’t or couldn’t get the homework done. Maybe the GED was his only chance after the “prank for pay” he pulled in Ms. Pepper’s class was defined as sexual harassment and grounds for expulsion.

Could his life get worse? Yes, Kayla arrived. No one knew that Mom was pregnant when she left. After her death, Kayla had no where else to go. She needed a family, a parent who could enroll her in school, feed, protect and guide her, but all she had was Stet and his irresponsible Dad.

The only positive thing in Stet’s life was his part-time job at the salvage yard. Tearing apart wrecked cars for parts gave him something to do, some cash, a, his boss and friend Jason, and the resources for building his own car from parts.

S.L. Rottman draws strong characters in Stet, Kayla, and Jason. Stet’s problems are realistic. Stet seems like a loser, but Rottman moves the reader from disdain to admiration for his strength and determination as he struggles to overcome adversity.

Marge Erickson Freeburn  (Colorado Blue Spruce Children's Award)

SUBJECTS:     Brothers and sisters -- Fiction.
                        Alcoholism -- Fiction.
                        Automobile graveyards -- Fiction.
                        High schools -- Fiction.
                        Schools -- Fiction.


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