Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

Main Page
Author List
Title List
New This Month
Interest Level
Subject List
Booktalking Tips
Book Review Sources
Reading lists
Nancy Keane's Children's Website


Click on the book to read Amazon reviews

Trueman, Terry
New York : HarperCollins, 2000
IL 5-8  RL 6.7
ISBN 0060285184

(4 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Neutral:  state or position of disconnected or loosened gears or other connecting parts.

Shawn McDaniel is stuck in neutral.  Shawn is an extraordinary, intelligent and witty fourteen year old.  He lives in Seattle with his mother, brother Paul, and sister Cindy.  He loves Rock Music and potato chips.  At the age where he's just beginning to like girls, Shawn has a major crush on Becky, an aide in his classroom at school.  By the way, Shawn has Cerebral Palsy. CP is a condition that sometimes happens to newborns during the birthing process.  In Shawn case, a tiny blood vessel burst inside his head at exactly the WRONG spot.  It completely wiped out his muscle control.  He can't move anything, Fingers, hands, legs, head, he can't even BLINK! He can think though..., he can read...If you ask him a question he knows the answer. But he can't tell you the answer, he can't communicate at all. PERIOD.  Oh, and did I mention Shawn’s father Sydney E. McDaniel, a Pulitzer prize winning author of a poem about Shawn, and a famous TV media personality. Shawn knows that despite his parents divorce, his father loves him very much.  BECAUSE of this love, or maybe IN SPITE of it, Shawn thinks his father wants to kill him, dead. And there's not a thing Shawn can do about it.  (Kim Patton, Young Adult Specialist, Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence, KS

Booktalk #2

Fourteen year old Shawn McDaniel is a genius with some other pretty impressive gifts, only no one knows it.  He has Cerebral Palsy, a disease that prevents him from having any control over the muscles in his body.  He can’t speak, can’t walk, or voluntarily move any part of his body and if that is not bad enough, he also has seizures on an almost daily basis.  He can also remember everything that he has ever heard, but has no way to communicate that to anyone.  Despite his challenges, Shawn is happy to be alive and finds joy in most parts of his life.  Lately, however, he begins to suspect that his father is planning to kill him!  How can he tell his father that he is happy with his life and that he wants to live?  Will he ever be able to communicate this to his father who is convinced that his life is torture?  Will he be able to tell him in time to save his life?  Read Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman.  (Lanora Rogers,, Westview Elementary School)

Booktalk #3

My name is Shawn. I want to tell you that my life is like one of those "good news-bad news" jokes.

The good news is: I've spent my entire life on planet earth, all fourteen years, living in Seattle. Some people gripe and moan about the weather, but I love Seattle. Even the rain.

I'm the youngest kid in the family, 3 years younger than Cindie, and 2 years younger than Paul, who, although I'd hate for them to know I admitted it, are pretty cool for a brother and sister.

So what's the good news, you ask? Well, you see, I have this weird gift or power, you might call it. The thing is, I can remember everything I ever hear, perfectly, total recall. I mean EVERYTHING. PERFECTLY. TOTALLY. I don't know of anybody else, anywhere, who can do this. It started when I was three or four years old, and by the time I was five, everything I heard just stayed in my head: commercials, every melody I've ever heard, even MUZAK music, lines from movies, and overheard conversations from my family and even from strangers. EVERYTHING.

But it's not like this so called gift has made me rich or famous or anything. I just happen to have this one SPECIAL talent - yuck! I hate that word special .when it's applied to people. Especially when it's applied to me!

Well, I could go on and on about the good news forever, but you probably wan to hear the punch line - my BAD news.Right?

Well, there isn't much, really. My parents got divorced ten years ago because of me. My dad didn't divorce my mom, or Cindy, or Paul - he divorced me! He couldn't handle my condition. My condition? Well, that brings us to the guts of my bad news.

In the eyes of the world I'm a real retard .real in the same way that total means total. As in Total Retard. Everyone will tell you I'm as dumb as a rock. Dumber. The doctors say my brain doesn't work. But they're only half right.

The deal is: I have cerebral palsy. It's not a disease. It's a CONDITION. When I was born a tiny blood vessel burst inside my head and as luck would have it, the blood vessel was in exactly the 100% perfectly wrong spot. It wiped out all my muscle control - all of it: my fingers, my hands, my left foot, my stomach, my tongue, my throat. So how could anyone possibly know about my "gift".

So that's the bad news, except for one little detail I neglected to tell you. It's difficult to explain. I told you about my dad leaving and all. He really loves me, I know that. And he HAS become rich and famous on account of me - because of a poem he wrote about me. I like the poem and all, but I don't think he really knows me. Anyway, that's not the bad news. In a nutshell, the bad news is that my dad - because he loves me, I'm sure - well, I'm pretty sure that my dad is planning to kill me. And there's nothing I can do about it.
Susan Bartel for The Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award

Booktalk #4

14 year old Shawn is bound to a wheel chair and has no control over his muscles. He can not talk or communicate in any way. Shawn has Cerbral Palsy. This book is a story about Shawn’s life though his eyes in his perspective. Shawn’s dad always has wanted what is best for his son, Shawn to be out of pain. Shawn’s dad’s alliterative to this, is death for Shawn. Will Shawn’s dad go through with his plans and kill him? Shawn wants so badly to just tell his dad how much he loves him, but he can not. Read this thrilling and emotional novel, and see what Shawn’s story in tales. Read Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman.
(Eilish Roberts,, college student)

SUBJECTS:     Cerebral palsy -- Fiction
                        Physically handicapped -- Fiction
                        Euthanasia -- Fiction.


Permission is granted for the noncommercial duplication and use of this resource, provided it is substantially unchanged from its present form and appropriate credit is given.