16 June 2011

True (...Sort Of)

True (...Sort Of) is the second novel from Katherine Hannigan. In it, Hannigan introduces us to Delly Pattison, a spirited girl with a sense of adventure. Unfortunately, from the time she is six-years-old and releases all the chickens at the County Fair, it becomes clear that the adults around her don't quite "get" her. Delly's desire to live life fully and to embrace the joy she sees in the world leads her to be labeled "bad." Heartbreakingly, in time, Delly begins to believe that label and to tamp down her exuberance and by the time she is in fifth grade, she is regularly truant and acting out. She really wants to be "good," especially because she doesn't want to make her mother cry, but she isn't sure how to keep control.

Ferris is the new girl in school. She doesn't speak at all and keeps to herself and refuses to be touched. Delly notices that animals are drawn to Ferris and comes up with a plan. If she follows Ferris and becomes her friend, maybe she can keep herself out of trouble and keep from breaking her mother's heart. As their relationship deepens, Delly begins to realize that there is something terribly wrong that has rendered Ferris mute and has to figure out a way to help.

The characters in True (... Sort Of) are memorable and complex. Besides Delly and Ferris, you will fall in love with Delly's little brother, RB - who is desperate to help his sister however he can - and Brud - a shy young stutterer who longs to be a star basketball player and forms a friendship based on playing the game with Ferris after observing her skillful solitary play (and mistaking her for a boy).

Highly recommended for both boys and girls, True (...Sort Of) is populated with characters who will touch your heart and stay with you long after you have finished reading.

(Incidentally, for some reason I read the acknowledgements to this book pretty early on and was interested to find Hannigan's mention of Torey Hayden. I first read her books as a very young child - probably inappropriately so; I was about 8 or 9 years old - and she was instantly a hero. The way she worked with children who were cast aside by so many others made me feel less alone and really shaped the populations I chose to work with as an adult.)

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