Archive for the ‘Beth Kephart’ Category

I was thinking about this this morning. But it really started yesterday when I was chatting with Beth Kephart at Books of Wonder (which is a marvelous children’s bookstore–be prepared to buy when you get there…but that’s another post). Beth asked me how I liked a book by another author who was signing there and I said I liked the book, but it wasn’t literary.

That started me thinking. What made Beth’s book worth buying and having in my personal library while the other book was enjoyable but borrowed from my public library? Most of the authors I read tell you stories. By the end of the book you know what happened, have a good sense of the characters, their thoughts and feelings and come away satisfied.

With Beth’s books, though, you know more. You know what the characters look like, whether they have straight or frizzy hair, whether they comb it to the side, whether it looks like a bird’s nest or a waterfall. You know what the sky looks like, its color, texture, whether there are clouds and if so, what their shapes are and whether they are moving or static. You know what the trees look like, the sound the leaves make as they sway in the wind, the texture of the bark.

SmallDamagesOf Estela in Small Damages I wrote: “…perfection. The image of brusque, plump Estela, the cook who does not give love easily, but once she does it is with her whole heart and soul, is vivid.”

About Flow: The Life and Times of the Schuylkill River, I quoted “Blueback herring and eel, alewife and shad muscle in to my wide blue heart, and through… The stony backs of snapping turtles on the shore, muskrat, shrew, and from the unlanterned forest, the bark of a fox, the skith skith skith of snakes over leaves…..”Flow

One author uses pen and paper (do they still do that or is it keyboard and monitor?) to relate a story, a set of events. Another converts that electronic medium into a canvas, rich in color and texture. While there is room for both kinds of books, it is this latter kind of book that ends up in my bookcase.

I’ve described some of Beth’s books as ‘ethereal’ in texture. Some more so and some less. But they are all canvases upon which you will see a broad array of colors and textures, shades and lines through which you will visualize the world you are reading about.

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I have been a fan of Beth Kephart and her writing ever since I read House of Dance several years ago. I don’t even remember what prompted me to read it. However, since then I own and have read all of her young adult fiction and most of her adult non-fiction. As I said, I’m a big fan.

This virtual world of ours allows us to become “friends” with people without ever having met them in person or spoken one word to them. And so it has been with Beth and me for several years now. We have let each other into our lives a bit, gotten to know each other through “status updates” and emails and especially through Beth’s blog posts. I’ve come to admire Beth because of her marvelous books, tales of her teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, her ability to balance a crowded business life, writing life, dance life and family life and most of all for her obvious caring about family, friends and fans. All of this through online activity.BethKephart

Well, today I had the pleasure of meeting Beth in person and it truly was a pleasure. Many of us have had the opportunity of meeting someone we’ve admired from afar and that person has not lived up to the high expectations we’ve set for them. Not so with Beth. I found her to be charming and warm and it felt like we were old friends right from the beginning. Along with being a talented author, Beth nurtures other authors and seeing her banter today with A.S. King makes one understand why writers, both established and novice, seek out her guidance.

I don’t lavish praise often, Beth, but meeting you, finally, has been a highlight. You have made my life brighter through your writing and your friendship. Thank you! I hope our friendship lasts for many years and we meet often.

And for those of you who are uninitiated, while I love all of Beth’s books, I’ll admit that I have certain favorites. In the Young Adult arena, they are (in alphabetical order) Dangerous Neighbors, Nothing But Ghosts and Small Damages and in the adult arena Flow, Ghosts in the Garden and Still Love in Strange Places. Susan’s favorites are Undercover and You Are My Only.

Today was a very special day for me for many reasons, meeting Beth being just one of them. I hope everyone had something special happen to them today. More coming soon.

Goodnight to all.

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StillLoveIf you were to ask me what Still Love in Strange Places is about, I’d think for a minute and tell you it’s a family saga, a la James Michener’s Hawaii, but shorter and more succinct. I’d tell you it’s about a wife’s attempt to understand the pull of her husband’s native land, a war-torn, volcano/earthquake prone El Salvador, on him, his present, past and future. I’d tell you it’s about a mother’s desire to leave her son a legacy from a far off place, stories, relatives, knowledge. I’d also tell you it’s about the good people, people who care about others less fortunate, loyalty, and humanity. And I’d tell you that most of all, it’s about family.

I, like Ms. Kephart, grew up in suburban America and the family stories and history I can leave my children are scant. They never really knew their grandparents who were born here, let alone my grandparents who were eastern European transplants. There were never stories passed down to me that I can pass along to the next generation. So I understand Ms. Kephart’s desire to give herself and her son something more. And it’s quite a family that Ms. Kephart married into: extensive, successful, caring, loving.

Still Love provides some history for context, but it’s mostly impressions and feelings. Being a shy person myself, I can’t imagine her first visit to El Salvador, plunked in the midst of a group of Spanish speaking family she’d never met and not understanding the language. Add onto that, its violent history and abject poverty, and any suburbanite would be  ‘out of his/her element’, to say the least.

Beth brings all this together in a wonderfully written, entrancing memoir. El Salvador becomes real. The family becomes real. Ms. Kephart’s photos at the beginning of each chapter add vision to what the mind imagines as you read the book. However, there are photos one would love to see that aren’t there. She mentions a time when she and Bill are sitting in a tree and someone took their picture. Or the beautiful girl, Ana Gabriella, Beth’s niece by marriage, whose mother has disappeared.

The one thing I can understand is the El Salvadorian’s ties to the land. She describes the painstaking process her in-laws went through to buy farmland and get it ready for planting coffee. I can understand the draw of growing crops, the beauty as they mature and bear fruit. Spending a lot of weekends in farm country, the beauty of rolling hills, of black dirt, of row upon row of growing things is overwhelming and, were I to own a piece of that, I would do everything in my power to keep it. So it is no surprise that after an earthquake destroys their farm, the first thing Bill’s mother thinks about is rebuilding.

I just realized how much I’ve rambled, so I’ll end by saying Still Love in Strange Places will take you to far off places and bring you back home again, all the wiser for the journey.

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Are you in the mood for just the right amount of magic and puppetry and suspense and thievery? SplendorsAndGloomsIf that’s the case, then you’re in the mood for Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, whose previous book, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village was a Newbery Award winner. Splendors and Gloooms is no slouch either, being a 2013 Newbery Honor Book.

Since I’m having trouble these days describing books, I’ll take the description off of the Association for Library Services to Children website: “Lizzie Rose, Parsefall and Clara are caught in the clutches of a wicked puppeteer and a powerful witch in this deliciously dark and complex tale set in Dickensian England, where adventure and suspense are interwoven into nuanced explorations of good versus evil.” It is deliciously dark and scary. You can feel the London fog wherever Lizzie Rose and Parsefall travel.

Parsefall is the perfect Dickensian ragamuffin and Lizzie Rose is his prim and proper, although poor, partner in crime, both dominated by greasy, master puppeteer Grisini–a perfect name for him. When these three perform at Clara’s twelfth birthday party and she  disappears soon thereafter, the plot thickens. How the bigger than life Cassandra, the powerful witch in her remote castle, enters into the story is for readers to find out. Even Ruby the spaniel is adorable.

Readers will feel like they are living through an 1860s London winter.They’ll certainly feel like they are part of the story, not merely reading it. They might find themselves shouting out loud, “No Parsefall, don’t do that!” or “Watch out. Grisini’s hiding there!” Even I was afraid of Grisini.

My daughter recommended this book to me, before it was voted an honor book, indicating her good taste in books. For some reason, Splendors and Glooms, to me, was a middle school version of Night Circus because they had that same foggy aura (although their subjects are somewhat different).

So, my 2013 has started off with a bang. I’ve finished Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool and now Splendors and Glooms. Next up is Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone which is getting great reviews and The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver which has gotten great reviews. And then coming down the pike soon is Beth Kephart’s Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent, a prequel to Dangerous Neighbors. I know, also, that Susan Campbel Bartoletti’s new book, Down the Rabbit Hole: The Diary of Pringle Rose, is due out in March.  If my reading keeps up at this pace, 2013 is going to be a banner year.

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I’m not one of those people who keeps track of the number of books I read. To me, it’s not a contest. And many times, by year’s end, I forget the books I read at the beginning of the year and wonder whether I’ll have to scramble to come up with 10 books. So it was a nice surprise that I had 9 books which I gave the top rating of 5 in Librarything. What was even nicer, was that there were even more 4s, so 2012 was a darn good reading year from my perspective.

Reading’s a personal thing, as you know and there are a myriad of factors that go into enjoying a book: your mood when you read it, your favorite author, impeccable wording, an engrossing plot, believable characters. These top 10 books have it all: I was in the right mood, it was my favorite author (or singer, in one instance), the plots ranged from family, to heroism, to illness and the characters were pretty much all people I would like to meet. So, here goes:

SmallDamagesAlthough the top 5 are all magnificent books, I’ll always put a Beth Kephart book on the top of the list. She’s an incredible author whose words, many times, are poetic and lyrical and she outdid herself in Small Damages about a young pregnant girl who finds out that the true meaning of family isn’t always biological. If you read one of Beth’s books, you’ll find you have to read them all.

John Green’s Fault in Our Stars takes us through the harrowing ordeal of cancer but the love and friendship and perseverence that its characters exhibit is incomparable. It might just make you shed a tear. I described it as a book of strength, of philosophy, of humor and determination. It is all of those and more.

At the end of Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Mr. Tushman, Director of Beecher Prep School, Wonderaddresses the 5th grade/6th grade classes with a quote from J. M. Barrie’s The Little White Bird: “Shall we make a new rule of life…always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” That is the theme of this gem of a book. It is the realistic story of a boy born with a serious facial deformity, overcoming the odds by mainstreaming into the local school. Told from various points of view, once you start it, you won’t put it down.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein comes in at number 4. It is a touching story about two young girls during World War II, one a pilot and the other a spy behind enemy lines in France, if you will. Their heroism and their friendship, while to them small, is huge. It is not like any other war story you’ve read. It is captivating (no pun intended) from the beginning.

LeaveYourSleepRounding out the top 5 is Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep. A five year labor of love, Merchant put to music children’s poetry written from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s and released a wonderful CD of the same name. She then, with illustrator Barbara McClintock, published a book with some of the poetry and beautiful illustrations. I’ve heard Merchant sing these poems several times in concert and have the CD, and as she said ““Poetry speaks of so much: longing and sadness, joy and beauty, hope and disillusionment…But poetry on the page can be difficult to penetrate; sometimes it needs to be heard.” But once heard, reading it and seeing the colorful illustrations adds a whole new perspective.

Since this is getting long, I’ll briefly mention the next 5:

The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale: if you’re the “grunt” who gets picked on, you want to find the Bully Book and destroy it. Bullying seems to be an epidemic and Gale tries to reverse the tide in this excellent book.

Period 8 by Chris Crutcher: Crutcher seems to have found his stride again in this honest book about honesty and relationship. Not as ‘in your face’ as Whale Talk or Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes (my two favorites), it’s still up there with his best.

Stay With Me by Paul Griffin: Violence is a fact of life to some people. Some people are good and some aren’t and what happens to them doesn’t always make sense. Stay With Me had me rivited and, it indeed, did bring on a tear or two.

NoCrystalStairNo Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson: A marvelous picture book and more about Nelson’s great-uncle Lewis Michaux, a driving force for educating Blacks in Harlem. Michaux started out with nothing and built a tremendous bookstore in Harlem that attracted the likes of Malcolm X.

Almost Home by Joan Bauer: Bauer is one of the foremost writers for middle school readers and her stories are uplifting. In Almost Home Sugar Mae Cole survives her mother’s depression and a foster home by spouting the words of her grandfather, King Cole. A must read–plus the dog on the cover is adorable.AlmostHome

And the last of them are:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Ask the Passenger by A. S. King

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

I read so many more great books in 2012, but this is the best of the best, to me. I hope you enjoy some of them.

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My last post was about an anthology of pulp mysteries from the 1920s-1950s. What, you are wondering, does this have to do with a Beth Kephart book? A good question. One of the things you realize as you read pulp mysteries is the authors’ abilities to tell a story in a small space. Some of the stories are 10 pages, some 20. But they all have one thing in common. Through the spare use of words, the right words, they’ve told their tale and captured the readers imagination.

And so it is with Beth Kephart’s works. Every word is thought out, is necessary. In a spare 120 pages, Beth has transmitted to us her musings as she wanders the Chanticleer Gardens near her home. But first, a word must be said about the photos in the book. As you as gaze at them, some are vividly clear. Some have a focused foreground with a blurry background and some, vice versa. But, isn’t that life? Some things in our life are crystal clear, some have moments of clarity amidst a misty, blurry background. As I read Ghosts in the Garden, I felt that that’s part of what the author was trying to say.  William Sulit, her husband, has created a wonderful counterpoint to Beth’s words. (I won’t tell you about the poem he wrote to her which is included in the book!)

But onto the words themselves. Who would have described a garden as a symphony? Certainly not I. But, in Beth’s hands, “After that, to the right, are the strut and tempo of the cut-flower and vegetable garden. The flowers in rows. The vegetables in an enclosure. The upraised arms of espaliers–apples, pears–because something has to conductd this orchestra.” Can you not picture the branches raised, holding a baton?

Or “Now when I went to the garden I’d sit at the bottom of the hill with a book on my lap–sometimes reading, sometimes just looking out on things: a gathering of bees, the sleepy drooping of big leaves, the geometry of the pebble garden that cascaded away from the so-called ruins, down toward the pond.” I can’t count the times I’ve stared at ‘nothing’ while sitting under a tree.

There’s the old cliche about ‘taking time to smell the roses’ and while we all agree its a necessity, here’s someone who did, the result of which is this marvelous book…and hopefully a clearer picture of the life she wants to lead. Ghosts in the Garden is a must read.

P.S. Beth. You say you “…would like to write a book (a page) that is an acorn only. That ripens from green to brown and supposes a tree, yielding something like a garden.” I think you have.

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Flow by Beth Kephart

If you have never read a memoir of a river, then Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River by Beth Kephart is a must. In my mind, Kephart is known for two things: writing wonderful Young Adult novels and loving Philadelphia and its surroundings. (Just took a break to sit outside under the porch overhang, listening to the rain and Natalie Merchant, sipping Kahlua. Very enjoyable! I’m back now.)

Although not novels in verse, her books have a poetic quality to them. So it is with Flow, which is not classified as YA, but may appeal to teens. The River begins its memoir by describing its youth. “Blueback herring and eel, alewife and shad muscle in to my wide blue heart, and through… The stony backs of snapping turtles on the shore, muskrat, shrew, and from the unlanterned forest, the bark of a fox, the skith skith skith of snakes over leaves…..” Poetry in motion, literally, as the River winds its way from it source to the Delaware River.

The River conveys to the readers the joy it feels as people stroll its banks and see their reflections in its clear, blue waters. It conveys its frustration and dismay as its waters get diverted to Philadelphia homes, as it becomes the receptacle of all the detritus and refuse from the stockyards, smelters, anthracite processors that supported the Philadelphia populace. It is angry as its route gets altered to serve the needs of the population. As if human, it is disheartened with its inability to save a drowning person and becomes joyous when it, indeed, does get a struggling swimmer to the opposite shore.

Emotions are a funny thing. The beauty of nature can elevate us and the ugly results of our neglect can deflate us. The River is perplexed that something man-made can be seen as more beautiful than what nature has provided us. (I would feel the same way.)

Flow is not only a tribute to a beloved river but it is a tribute to Ms. Kephart’s writing ability. She has truly brought a river to life. I’m tempted to tackle her book Ghosts in the Garden next. Hmmm!

P.S. Ms. Kephart has put footnotes at the bottom of many pages so that you get a sense of historical context of the region as you read the memoir.

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Knowing how Beth Kephart agonizes over every word, every phrase, I started Small Damages with the intention of identifying some of the imagery that I thought particularly descriptive. I soon abandoned that because I became so engrossed in the story. I realized that it’s not one or two phrases that make a wonderful story, it the whole, the continued  visualization, the constant perfect phrasing that makes you want to read, non-stop. That’s how I felt with Small Damages.
Eighteen-year-old Kenzie is shipped off to a ranch in rural Spain outside Seville, by an ashamed mother, to live with people she’s never met, in a country she’s never been, to give birth to an unexpected child. The child’s father is taking no responsibilty and Kenzie’s father, who she adored, died of a heart attack several months prior. Small Damages is Kenzie’s story to her unborn child.
I’ll admit, I was dubious about reading a story about a teenager going to Spain to give her child up for adoption. But that was silly. Beth Kephart is the author and “beautifully written, ‘can’t put it down'” stories is her middle name. From the beginning, the reader internalizes Kenzie’s loneliness and feelings of abandonment by those who supposedly love her. This is enhanced by Kephart’s description of the isolation of the ranch, Los Nietos, where Kenzie will live, assisting the cook. You share with her the muddle of emotions about the adotpion, as she starts talking directly to her unborn daughter, describing the sights and sounds around her.
Small Damages’ characters are perfection. The image of brusque, plump Estela, the cook who does not give love easily, but once she does it is with her whole heart and soul, is vivid. The shy teenager, Esteban, who is more comfortable with his birds and horses than with people, is spot on. The Gypsies, to whom life is song, add a unique color to the tapestry of this story. The ancillary characters and plot lines are buttercream icing atop the tasty seven layer cake of Small Damages. If I were ever to set foot in Los Nietos, I would never leave.
The themes–family need not be biological, home is the place where people love you, regrets cannot be undone–are exquisitely illustrated in Small Damages
Small Damages by Beth Kephart is Printz Award and National Book Award worthy, without a doubt. However, Beth, there is one thing you did leave out of Small Damages…the recipes for some of Estela’s dishes, like that paella for instance (you can smell the aroma from the description in the book)! I read Small Damages in a day because I couldn’t put it down. I’ll read it again, slowly, to savor it.

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For a while, I thought I’d be hard pressed to come up with a 2011 Top 10 list for YA books. It was only in the past two weeks that I heaved a sigh of relief. Late reads solidified my list. So, here goes:

Topping my list at Number 1 is You Are My Only by Beth Kephart. I commented that, “As always, Kephart chooses her words with care, and while the language is not as ‘ethereal’ as in some of her recent books, her images and descriptions and wording remain essential in understanding the characters and surroundings.  There are secrets that need to be unearthed and things to ponder.  There are relationships that you are jealous you are not a part of and those you are glad you have not experienced.  You can read You Are My Only quickly and enjoy the story or you can read it slowly and savor every word and nuance and description.  Either way, you must read Beth Kephart’s latest addition to Young Adult literature.”

Night Circus by Erin Morganstern may or may not be considered a YA book, but I’m sure it will appeal to teens, so it comes in at number 2. It takes place in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Night Circus is dream-like.  Celia and Marco are unwilling pawns in a competition between two magicians, one that will last years, if not decades.  The competition’s only rule: there are no rules and neither player knows what to do and how a winner is determined. Erin Morgenstern has written a dream-like book similar to the dream state of the book’s Circus of Dreams.  It’s indescribable.  A must read.

Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet, a late comer to my 2011 reading, lands the number 3 slot.  Peet masterfully merges two stories, the first about England during WW II and and the second about the Cuban Missile Crisis into a book you can’t put down. His language, his sarcasm, his observations, his stories keep you reading way past bedtime.

Any Top 10 without a Brian Selznick book is lacking, so I must include Wonderstruck. Ben lives in Gunflint, Minnesota in 1977.  Rose is a lonely deaf child, living in Hoboken, NJ, overlooking the Hudson River, in 1927. Similar to Mal Peet, how these two stories, taking place 50 years apart, converge is one of the wonders of Wonderstruck.    There are more, such as the fact that Ben’s story is primarily written while Rose’s story is presented entirely in illustrations.  Selznick’s illustrations entice the viewer to scrutinize every line, every object, every picture, they are just so amazing. While you’re at it, reread The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I’m sure you’ll find something new in each drawing.

You know how much I love Joan Bauer and Close to Famous was as good the second tiem around as it was the first time. Number 5 on the list, it’s got great characters, a good story, and luscious sounding baked goods. It teaches you how to overcome adversity.

Coming in at nubmer 6 and 7 are Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver and Widsom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, two wonderful fairy tales with amazing characters, wonderful writing and absorbing stories. Liesl and Po is geared more for upper elementary or lower middle school while Wisdom’s Kiss is for slightly older audiences.

Eona: The Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman is an action adventure with roots in Chinese astrology. The sequel to Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, it is action packed. This will attract boys and girls since there are  protagonists of both sexes. It is a marvelous way to introduce teens to the 12 astrological signs.

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine got great reviews and rightly so. Twleve year old Caitlin has to deal with the death of her mother from cancer two years earlier and the recent middle school shooting death of her older brother Devon.  It’s a lot to contend with even if you don’t have Asperger’s.  While her father understands her, he must deal with his grief, and is unable to translate that to Caitlin.  It was Devon who really understood her and explained the world to her.  Caitlin’s special nature comes through loud and clear; her drawing ability, her affinity for dictionaries and the meanings of words, the comfort she feels when she puts her head under the couch cushions to feel closer to those people who sat on it.  Erskine doesn’t downplay the socialization difficulties Asperger children have because of their unique nature.  What you come away with after reading Mockingbird is a real sense of who Caitlin is–she is a real person and you want to get to know her, to be her friend.  There is a love and warmth that emanates from Erskine’s writing…you get the feeling she really loves Caitlin, not an emotion you often get when reading a book.   I had picked up Mockingbird back in mid-September and put it down within a chapter.  I guess I wasn’t ready for the book.  This time, I read the book in one day; that’s how much I liked it.  Mockingbird is a book for all age groups.  It is beautifully written, tender and informative as well.  It is worthy of its award (not something I can say about every award winner).

Forgotten by Cat Patrick was an unexpected find. Each night at precisely 4:33 am, while sixteen-year-old London Lane is asleep, her memory of that day is erased. In the morning, all she can “remember” are events from her future. London is used to relying on reminder notes and a trusted friend to get through the day, but things get complicated when a new boy at school enters the picture. Luke Henry is not someone you’d easily forget, yet try as she might, London can’t find him in her memories of things to come. When London starts experiencing disturbing flashbacks, or flash-forwards, as the case may be, she realizes it’s time to learn about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.

I hope you pick up a few of these books and enjoy them as much as I did.

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I debated about the topic of my first post but since we decided that telling you about ‘orphan authors’, those wonderful authors who don’t get enough attention, I realized that I had my first post had to be about Beth Kephart, a marvelous Young Adult author.  Beth is an online friend (we’ve never met), but we became friends because I read one of her books and loved it.  I don’t remember how we connected, but we did.  If you love literature, you’ll love her books.  (You should also read her blog: beth-kephart.blogspot.com.  It is smart, literate, lovingly written.

Without further adieu, my review of her latest book, You Are My Only:

You Are My Only, the latest gem from Beth Kephart, is about family, losing one and gaining one.  Sophie is fourteen, home-schooled and alone.  Her mother works at the local diner all day, leaving Sophie home and cautioning her to lock the doors and not venture out.  She has her home-school assignments, the current one being creating the perfect icosahedron (look it up, if you don’t know what it is).  But there’s a whole world next door that Sophie sees as she peers out her attic window.  She watches Joey, the same age, play catch with his dog, Harvey.  She sees his aunts Cloris and Helen, one physically strong and the other weak, lovingly tend to each other and their nephew.  Sophie can no longer abide her isolation, and willing to accept the consequences if caught, ventures outside, only to be embraced into the next door family.  She partakes of custard and lemonade and readings from Willa Cather, the total opposite of her Spartan, hermit-like life.

Conversely, Emmy, not much older than Sophie, puts her infant in the backyard swing and realizes the blanket she wants to lay on is indoors.  In the split seconds it takes to run up the thirteen steps to the bedroom and back down those thirteen steps, Baby is kidnapped.  She searches and calls out, but to no avail.  The police aren’t successful either.  Her abusive husband, Peter, berates her.  She follows the railroad tracks trying to find Baby and is on the brink of letting an on-coming train hit her in her grief when she is saved by a wanderer, Arlen.  Together they search, with no luck.  When Emmy thinks she sees a woman carrying Baby at the train station, she causes a scene.  The police arrive and once Emmy is in custody, Peter has her committed.  No one will help her, except her roommate Autumn, who plans their escape to find Baby.

To tell you any more of the story would be to tell too much, if I haven’t already done that. In some books, it’s the story that captures you and in some, it’s the characters.  In You Are My Only, it is that rare combination of story and character.  Kephart has created two (almost) separate but equal stories, both intriguing and engrossing.  In addition, she has created the perfect characters.  I defy anyone not to fall in love with Sophie, Joey and Aunts Cloris and Helen or Emmy and Autumn and even Harvey, the dog.  I defy anyone not to hate (maybe intensely dislike) Sophie’s mother or Peter.  As always, Kephart chooses her words with care, and while the language is not as ‘ethereal’ as in some of her recent books, her images and descriptions and wording remain essential in understanding the characters and surroundings.  There are secrets that need to be unearthed and things to ponder.  There are relationships that you are jealous you are not a part of and those you are glad you have not experienced.  You can read You Are My Only quickly and enjoy the story or you can read it slowly and savor every word and nuance and description.  Either way, you must read Beth Kephart’s latest addition to Young Adult literature, You Are My Only.  More than likely, after you’ve read it once, you’ll go back and read it again.  I know I will.

Other books by Beth include: 

Dangerous Neighbors (my personal favorite)






Nothing But Ghosts












House of Dance






The Heart is Not a Size






Susan here… this is Ed’s post, but I just have to butt in (and no I didn’t ask his permission) here because I love the way Beth writes.  I truly can’t say enough about the truth of her characters and the beauty of her prose.  She truly is a must read and an “orphan author” that needs to find a home in your heart.

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