Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sunrise was at 5:49, sunset will be at 8:41, 2 minutes and 49 seconds less daylight today than yesterday and I can feel every second of it.

Some crazy man, I'm hoping he was, anyway, was yelling outside our bedroom window at 3:50 am. I could only hear whooping and then, "Look at my leg! What's hanging on my leg? Help me, help me!" A quiet woman's voice shushes between the words and then absolute silence as 4 police cars and a fire truck filled with medics arrived. One other person on the street at that hour told the police that he "went that way" and off they rolled.

A few minutes' searching for a man with something hanging from his leg and the medics pulled themselves up our hill and into the truck (hard to open those heavy doors when parked engine-uphill). A last police crew searched the street with their huge flashlights, flicking light into the blackberry bushes and along the hidden parts of yards, and then they were gone. Quiet, soft air, warm flannel sheets, and then the first of the day's airplanes overhead.

I finally fell asleep just after my alarm went off at 5. The best sleep of the night always comes after the alarm goes off.

It's cool this morning, and foggy. It's easy to remember that Seattle is an ocean front town when the weather is like this.

I have been reading, reading, reading this last week. I am on a book awards committee and we meet in a couple of weeks to make our decision. Almost everything I've read has been great, all local authors, some old friends, and it will be hard to choose just one picture book and just one book for older readers.

I can't really talk about the 6 books I've read this week that are up for the award but I can talk about the one that isn't!

As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth, by Newbery Award-winner Lynne Rae Perkins, is one of the very best books I've read in months. It's funny, it's sweet, it's a little unrealistic but it could happen.

Ry is on a train, heading to summer camp, when he finally reads the last letter sent from the director that says that camp has been canceled, don't come, there won't be anyone or anything there. The train slows for some reason, technical difficulties, cows, maybe, and Ry steps off to find some sort of reception for his phone- obviously he needs to go home and his Grandpa is the only one there. His parents are on a second honeymoon so grandpa is the go-to man for any emergencies.

As Ry climbs a hill to get better exposure to whatever satellites will find his phone, hoping the single bar will stay on the screen, he watches his train begin to leave. He throws himself at it, running and rolling down the hill, as it picks up speed and leaves him in the dust.

At this point, Ry has no idea what to do. No one is answering phones, he doesn't know how far that little town he saw from the top of the hill is, and his luggage is still on the train. What to do? His only option is to walk to the little town, wherever and whatever it is.

What happens after that is true quest material. Ry finds Del, a mechanic with a magic touch for all broken things, who helps him out when he finally gets to that little town. After trying Grandpa again, getting fed, waiting for an answer, Del decides to drive Ry home. He has some errands he can run and some people he'd like to see, so they embark on a trip that starts in Montana, should have ended in Wisconsin, but eventually ends up in the Bahamas, a classic buddy road trip.

I just LOVED this book. Ms. Perkins weaves other stories through the main story so we do find out why Grandpa doesn't answer his phone, why his parents are incommunicado, and where the dogs are. She fills in the white spaces with details that let us believe this could happen to someone who was just a few hours from home.

There is a scene involving a cat and a cat door that made me laugh out loud, snorting and tearing up, and still, three days later, pops into my head and takes me by surprise.

I have read almost everything Lynne Rae Perkins has ever written, I thought Criss Cross was brilliant, and one of my favorite picture books is called Home Lovely. Most picture books rely on pictures to tell the story, to compel the buyer to take it home, but, in her case, the writing is so good, you don't need the pictures-although they are PERFECT for the books. I just went to her website (http://www.lynneraeperkins.com) and see that she does her own illustrations! Hulloo Hullay!

Anyway, AEAFOTFOTE, is a great summer read. I forgot it at home one morning, running late for the bus, and my entire day was slightly off. It was as if the secret whatever I was looking forward to enjoying later was missing when I wanted it. I was so disappointed that it wasn't in my bag.

Adults will love it, kids will love it. You should read it. (12 and up. HarperCollins. Available now. Hardcover, $16.99.)


  1. Thank you for introducing Lynne Rae Perkins to me. I am eager to check her work out!

    Pragmatic Mom
    Type A Parenting for the Modern World

    I blog on children's lit, education and parenting.

  2. You're welcome, more people should know her work! Criss Cross is both her best known and most controversial book. It is a difficult book for kids but one that encourages them to think "outside the box". I think it's a great kid's book for adults. Thanks for your comment!