Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Weeks, Sarah
New York : Laura Geringer Books, 2004.
IL 5-8, RL 5.2
ISBN 0066236231

(5 booktalks)

Click on the book to read Amazon reviews
Booktalk #1

"If truth was a crayon and it was up to me to put a wrapper around it and name its color, I know just what I would call it--dinosaur skin. I used to think, without really thinking about it, that I knew what color that was. But that was a long time ago, before I knew what I know now about both dinosaur skin and the truth." (pp. 3)

                    The truth about her mother's background and past is as totally unknown to thirteen year old Heidi as is the true color of dinosaur skin. That is due to the fact that her mother is capable of expressing only twenty-three words, sounds, or short phrases. While most of those twenty-three words are common ones, Heidi's mom has one unique word--soof. And, that is the one that Heidi most wants to understand.

                    When vital clues to the mystery of her mother's past appear, Heidi embarks upon a lone cross-country trip to search for the elusive truth. Like other great award-winning stories in which young characters embark on a journey to discover who they are, Heidi's solitary quest is one force that drives this story. The other is clearly unconditional love.  (sharon schneeberger, schneebergers@missouri.edu, University of MO. Columbia, MO)

Booktalk #2

My name is Heidi So B. It. My Mama speaks 23 words for everything and sometimes says, “soof”. Nobody knows what it means, not even the librarian, but it is in Mama’s head. Our friend Bernie told me, “All the basic parts are there, and she looks like she should work just fine, but inside there are lots of mysterious little pieces busted or bent or missing altogether, and without them her machine doesn’t work quite right”. And I knew, it never would, but I still wanted to know where we came from. One day I found a camera and had the pictures developed – there were 23 and this began my quest. My quest to know who I really was, and where we came from. Maybe my grandmother was in one of the pictures, but I would never know unless I took my journey from where we were to where my Mama began. (Prepared by: Kelly Brown , SCASL Junior Book Awards)

Booktalk #3

Do you ever think your mom is retarded? Well, in So B. It, the mother really is. 12-year-old Heidi lives with her mother in an apartment that joins Bernadette’s -- their neighbor. Bernie has been taking care of her practically since she was born, since her mom is mentally disabled & can hardly even take care of herself. As a matter of fact, her mom only knows 23 words, including her name, which she says is So B. It. The mystery is: how is it that Heidi & her mom came to live in the apartment in the 1st place, & why doesn’t anyone ever bother them for rent? One day when Heidi is cleaning out a closet, she finds an old camera with film still in it. She has the film developed, & there are pictures of her mother w/someone who is probably her grandmother. They’re standing outside a building that says “Hilltop Home, Liberty, New York.” Bernie & Heidi keep calling Hilltop Home, but aren’t able to get any information. By now, Heidi is obsessed with finding out who her mother really is. She decides to take a bus from her home in Reno, Nevada to New York. When she gets there, she finds that Hilltop Home is for the mentally disabled. Turns out that her mother used to live there, & got pregnant by the owner’s son, who is also mentally disabled & still lives there. So immediately she found her father & grandfather. Her grandfather tells her that when her mom got pregnant, he gave her grandmother (who was the person in the pictures) a monthly allowance (which is how their apartment has been paid for all these years) on condition that she go away. So he’s curious what happened to her grandmother, & searches Reno records to find out that she was killed by a bus almost 13 years before – the same day that Heidi & her mother showed up on Bernie’s doorstep. Heidi is so excited & happy to finally find out about her past. Until she talks to Bernie & finds out that her mother has died while she was gone. It was so sad that I almost cried. But life became a whole lot easier for Heidi after she found her family.
(By Cathy Genato, http://booktalkingcolorado.ppld.org, Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2009) 

Booktalk #4

Heidi, the 13 year old main character, knows that her mother is severely disabled and dependent on their neighbor and caretaker Bernadette. Mama knows only 23 words, and slearns new skills only through simple directions and repeated guided practice over long periods of time. Heidi’s curiosity about her own history is sparked by a word that Mama says but cannot explain: soof. Heidi discovers a few clues in the twenty mysterious photographs from a long forgotten camera that she finds in the back of a drawer. These clues lead Heidi on a cross-country trip to Hilltop Farm where she learns the hidden secrets of another life and another family. All the pieces of the puzzle come together in this story of human kindness, acceptance, and eventual justice.
(Marge Erickkson Freeburn, Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2009) 

Booktalk #5

One day Bernadette heard a cry in the hallway outside her apartment door. Cautiously opening the door a crack she discovered a young woman dressed in a raincoat, her legs spattered with mud, holding a crying baby. The infant was Heidi, and they had come from the apartment next door for help. Heidi's Mama couldn’t tend her week-old child because she had a disability so Bernadette stepped in and cared for them both lovingly. Mama said her name was "So Be It," but with her twenty-three-word vocabulary, this was all the information she could give Bernadette. Twelve years later this strange but loving household was still together. But Heidi wondered who she was and where she and Mama had come from. While she searched through some old photos in a cupboard, she discovered where to go to find out. This led her on a long cross-country bus journey. Gradually the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. Readers will be intrigued as they travel along with Heidi.  (Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards nominee, 2008-2009)

SUBJECTS:     Identity -- Fiction.
                        Mothers and daughters -- Fiction.
                        Mental illness -- Fiction.


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