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Van Draane, Wendelin
New York : Knopf, 2003.
IL 3-6, RL 5.6
ISBN 0375925958

(4 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Do you have a best friend?  Someone you would do anything for?  Someone who you share your secrets with?  Joey and Rusty are that kind of friends.  Joey tends to get into a bit of trouble and Rusty follows right along.  When things go wrong, Joey always makes Rusty swear to howdy never to tell anyone what happened.  Like the time he went skinny dipping and a fish decided to bite him in a very tender area.  Or the time he put bugs in the drinks.  But, Rusty is truly tested when one of their pranks goes tragically wrong. 

Booktalk #2

Joey and Rusty are friends, have been since Rusty's family moved next door to Joey's.  They do everything together, mostly what Joey thinks up though.  Rusty goes along because they're blood brothers, the real deal, cut thumbs, mixed blood and taking an oath.  It sometimes means thinking up excuses and covering up and swearing to secrecy.  But shoot, Joey is more fun than anyone.  He thought up the bugs in their "annoyable" sisters' sodas to put them in their place, and putting that huge frog Tank in his sister's underwear drawer knowing that it would make a green mess in there.

But Rusty begins to realize that even though they are as close as real brothers, their families are a world apart when it comes to how they treat one another.  Joey's dad is really mean and quick to strike and Joey lives in constant fear of making his Dad angry enough to make Joey go looking for his own switchin' stick.  When a prank goes tragically wrong and Joey tries to take his own life, Rusty has to break the blood brother pact or suffer lifelong consequences of conscience.  What would you do if it was your best friend, your gut was talking to you, but you had "sworn to howdy"?   (New Hampshire Great Stone Face Committee, 2004-05)

Booktalk #3

                        Do you and your best friend have secrets that you've sworn never to tell anyone?  My best friend, Joey, and I have so many pacts not to tell about scrapes we've been through that I can't count them all.  Joey is a great friend with a flair for fun, but if the fun goes just a little too far Joey always repeats to me, “Rusty, I swear to howdy, if you tell a soul…”  Then, I promise him that I will never tell anyone, and we hammer our fists and bang our knuckles together.  Once this is done, we seal the pact forever by nicking our fingers with a knife and mixing our blood.
                        Our sworn secrets have kept us both out of trouble when we've put bugs in people's drinks, a frog in his sister's underwear drawer, or accidentally killed the family pet.  But, now something truly awful has happened because of one of our pranks.  I feel in my gut that I should tell someone, but I swore to Joey that I wouldn't.  What should I do?
                        Find out what Rusty and Joey's prank caused and what Joey will do by reading Swear to Howdy.  (Carolyn Davis,, Sedgefield Intermediate Media Specialist, Berkeley County)

Booktalk #4

Growing up, I was always traveling with my 2 best friends, getting into all the trouble I could.  At the end of each adventure we felt would be too much for my parents to handle, we would swear each other to secrecy, promising to “cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”  Rusty and Joey have their own way of sealing a pact… (read the Kidsread excerpt.)
“Seems like Joey and me were always making pacts. Lots of pacts, leading up to that last one. "Rusty," he'd say to me. "I swear to howdy, if you tell a soul . . ."
"I won't!" I'd tell him. "I swear!" Then he'd put out his fist and we'd go through the ritual, hammering fists and punching knuckles. And after we'd nicked fingers and mixed blood he'd heave a sigh and say, "You're a true friend, Rusty-boy," and that'd be that. Another secret, sealed for life.
Joey and Rusty get involved in several adventures and pranks over the course of the summer, until one prank ends with horrible consequences.  When is it okay to keep a promise?  When do you have to tell?
Read Swear to Howdy by Wendlin van Draanen.  You’ll enjoy it.  I swear to howdy, you will.  (Heidi Lewis,  South Carolina Book Awards, 2006)

SUBJECTS:     Friendship -- Fiction.
                        Brothers and sisters -- Fiction.
                        Family problems -- Fiction.


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