Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneA Bad Break
One Wednesday in early April Cricket Kaufman was walking home from school. It was just two days before the spring vacation. Even though Cricket loved school, she was delighted that the week's holiday was almost here. She had so much to look forward to.
One of Cricket's fifth-grade classmates, Lucas Cott, was walking home too.
There were days when the two of them got along just fine. After all, even though there were four sections of each grade at the Edison-Armstrong School, for some mysterious reason Lucas and Cricket had been in the same class every year.
There were some days, however, when Cricket wished she could say some magic word and just make Lucas Cott disappear. Today had been one of those days. He had belched, not once, not twice, but three times while she was in the midst of reading her book report aloud to the class. After the second belch Mr. Flores, their teacher, had scolded him. Lucas claimed it was because of the franks and beans he had eaten for lunch. Then he gave his third belch.
Cricket had serious doubts about whether *it was the food inside Lucas that had caused him to act that way. Lucas had a reputation for pulling pranks and being a pain.
"Hey, Cricket," Lucas yelled. "Wait up."
"Why should I wait for you?" asked Cricket in disgust.
"All right. Don't walk with me. See if I care," said Lucas. "Is it true that you're going to Washington, D.C., with Zoe Mitchell during the vacation?" he called to her.
At this Cricket had to stop. "Yes," she said, beaming proudly. "It was all arranged last night. Zoe's mother called my mother and invited me. Her father has to attend some sort of conference there, and Zoe and her mother andsister are all going along."
Zoe had hinted to Cricket that perhaps she could accompany them on their trip. But when the invitation actually came the evening before, Cricket had nearly burst with excitement. She had never been to Washington. There was so much to see and visit there: the White House, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian Museum. They all were places she had heard about. The invitation was one of the most wonderful things that had ever happened to Cricket.
"So how come you're going too?" Lucas wanted to know.
"Zoe's parents decided that Zoe and Halley could each bring one friend. They're going to get two hotel rooms, and the kids will sleep in one and the grown-ups in the other. I've never stayed in a hotel before. Have you?" she asked Lucas.
"Yeah. Once when I was a baby. But I can't remember it at all, so it doesn't count." Lucas looked at Cricket. "You're really lucky," he said. "I'm not going anywhere 'or doing anything during the spring break."
Cricket shrugged. "You'll probably be busy goofing off with Julio and the other guys," she told him.
"Yeah. Maybe we'll go to a movie or something, during the week. But I wish I could go away someplace special like you," he admitted. "Lucky duck."
"Well, when you think about people like Helen Keller, we're all lucky," Cricket pointed out. Helen Keller had been the subject of her book report. When Helen Keller was a little girl, she had gotten very sick and as a result had become blind and deaf. It had been very interesting to read about her. Everyone in their class had read a biography of someone famous. Lucas had read about a man named jean-Henri Fabre, who had spent his whole lifestudying bugs. That was just like Lucas, to find something gross to read and write about.
"What did you get on your book report?" she asked him now.
"A," Lucas said.
Cricket wondered if Lucas was telling the truth. Of course she had gotten an A. She almost always did. And Mr. Flores had even written at the end, of her report, This is an excellent job. Congratulations. She wondered if he had written anything on Lucas's paper.
The thought of the words on her book report and the anticipation of the super trip ahead of her put Cricket in a wonderful mood. She really felt like the luckiest person alive.
Turning toward Lucas, she said, "Did you ever think what it would be like if you were blind?" While she was working on her report, she had sat in her bedroom with her eyes closed and tried to imagine it. Pretending that she was blind like Helen Keller, she had even gotten up from the chair by her desk. She had walked all the way to the door of her room without bumping into anything.
"Yeah," Lucas admitted. "And deaf too. Which do you think is worse?"
"Deaf," said Cricket without a moment's hesitation. She had given the matter serious thought while she was writing her report. "If you're deaf, you can't hear voices or music or anything."
"Yeah, but if you're blind, you can't even walk without falling over things-unless you have a Seeing Eye dog, of course," said Lucas.
"I bet I could walk all the way home without using my eyes and without a dog" Cricket asserted. "If you know the way, it's easy."
"I bet you can't," said Lucas.
"Can too," said Cricket.
"Can't," said Lucas. "I'll bet you." He stuck his hand in his pocket and held out a nickel and three pennies and somelint. It wasn't very much. "I'll bet you my new wristwatch," he said, pulling up the sleeve of his jacket to show it off.
"You can't bet your watch," said Cricket.
"Why not? It's mine. And besides, you won't win it."
"Yes, I will," said Cricket firmly. "Watch me. Here I go....
It was going to be the best vacation ever...
But two days before her trip to Washington, D.C., with her best friend Zoe's family, Cricket Kaufman trips on a curb and winds up on crutches. Worse still, Zoe invites Sara Jane Cushman to go to Washington in Cricket's place! Now Cricket's friendship with Zoe seems as injured as her ankle. All she has to look forward to are seven days stuck indoors. It's going to take some serious creativity to turn this woeful week into a lucky break!
About the Author
Johanna Hurwitz is the author of over five dozen books for young readers. She is the recipient of many state awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet Award, the Kentucky Bluegrass Award, and the Garden State Children's Choice Award. She lives in Great Neck, NY.
Johanna Hurwitz always knew she wanted to be a writer. She started by telling stories to her brother, who is six years her junior, and she's been making up stories ever since. Born and raised in New York City, she earned her B.A. degree from Queens College and went on to receive a master's in library science from Columbia University. She embarked on a career as a children's librarian, but she never forgot that one day she wanted to write books, too.
She worked at the New York Public Library and in a variety of other public and school library positions. She also taught graduate courses in children's literature and storytelling at Queens College. When she and her husband, Uri -- a college teacher and writer -- and their children, Nomi and Beni, moved to Long Island, she continued her library work.
Although she had told original stories to her children, it was not until they were well along in school that Mrs. Hurwitz actually began to write down her stories. That's why, when children ask her how long it takes to write a book, she replies that her first, Busybody Nora, took her whole life.
But since then she has been writing with regularity, portraying with humor and sympathy the everyday incidents that are so important to children. She is particularly fond of seven- to nine-year-olds, because they are "so very open and get excited about small things," and she enjoys writing realistic fiction for and about them.
That these youngsters are equally fond of Mrs. Hurwitz's books is obvious. She has received many child-chosen state awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet Award, the Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award, the Kentucky Bluegrass Award, the Garden State Children's Choice Award, the West Virginia Children's Book Award, and others.
In recent years, Johanna Hurwitz has crisscrossed the United States from Juneau, Alaska, to Jackson, Mississippi, and from San Diego, California, to St. Albans, Vermont. She has even spoken abroad, from Morocco to Mozambique and from Portugal to Nicaragua. On these trips she has met and spoken to schoolchildren, teachers, librarians, and parents. She has made many new friends and has often brought home new ideas for her next book.
In her own words...
I've been writing ever since I was a youngster. I told stories to my little brother and I wrote stories in blank notebooks that I kept under my bed. I've saved one of my early stories because a classmate illustrated it for me. Looking at it now, I see all my spelling mistakes and repetitious writing style. Luckily, my writing improved as I grew older.
When I was ten, I wrote a poem that was published in a Connecticut newspaper.
For me to read a book is still
And always will be quite a thrill.
For me to read a book is like
A boy when he rides his new two wheel Pike.
And when a bird comes north in spring
It's natural for him to sing.
I like to read books of science, fiction and mystery,
Books of poems, nature, and history.
And what is more, I'll read until I'm grown,
And then I'll write books of my own.
I was paid 50 cents. And my writing career had officially begun.
My parents told me that I should plan a second career as well. I decided to become a children's librarian. That way I was surrounded by books at work as well as at home.
BUSYBODY NORA was published in 1976. Since then, I've been writing one or two books a year. My ideas come from everywhere: my husband, children and cats have all given me ideas even when they aren't aware of it. But I also get ideas from keeping my eyes open: when I worked as a school librarian, I discovered that the third graders were studying about the food chain. That gave me the idea to write MUCH ADO ABOUT ALDO about Aldo Sossi who becomes a vegetarian to protest the consumption of crickets by the chameleons in his classroom; on vacation in Vermont, I met a woman who owned a llama and I began writing about Adam Fine who had A LLAMA IN THE FAMILY. My son was in a class with several boys named David and I wrote about David Bernstein who changed his name to Ali Baba Bernstein. My daughter started babysitting and I wrote about TOUGH-LUCK KAREN and her babysitting experiences. THE RABBI'S GIRLS is based on stories my mother told me about her childhood as one of a family with seven sisters. ("Seven sisters? No one Will believe that," my editor said. And so to make my story more realistic, I lopped off one of my aunts when I wrote the book.) An acquaintance told me that her two grandchildren were coming to spend the summer with her in our community and I got the idea for THE HOT &COLD SUMMER.
I never thought my stories would develop into so many series of books. However, once I create a new character they take on a life of their own. I find them talking to me in my imagination and telling me things that I should write about them. That's why after I wrote FARAWAY SUMMER, I suddenly felt the need to write DEAR EMMA. And now still another book about Dossi Rabinowitz and her friend Emma Meade is taking shape in my head. What's going to happen? What will the book be called? Those are surprises waiting for me to discover.