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Friday, December 26, 2014

Connecting with Characters

My friend and reading workshop collaborator often laments how difficult it is to teach readers to make true connections with characters. "I'm tall, and so is my character" is not an example of what we hope readers will share about their books! As I read Heather Vogel Frederick's new novel Absolutely Truly, I thought about why l loved the main character Truly Lovejoy so much. She's tall, and I'm short. She likes books, but they do not hold the same passion for her as they do for her younger sister Lauren (or for me). She often feels like no one in her family truly listens to her (not so much for me). She loves swimming (not me). But her deep interest in birds - and her life list of those she has seen - fascinated me. Truly even classifies the people she meets into bird species! She says, "Mom I've always thought of as a robin. They're such cheery, dependable birds. And Dad's an eagle for sure, what with his strong jaw, piercing gaze, and prominent nose." (p. 37)

As a narrator, Truly lays out both the faults of others and herself. She accepts her lot in life, learns to adjust to the town of Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire, embraces a mystery presented to her in the pages of a first-edition copy of Charlotte's Web, and is open-minded enough to accept the classmates in her new, small school. Because the Lovejoys are there to run the family bookshop with Truly's namesake, Aunt True, literary references abound, especially at story time (which I would love to attend!) in the shop.

The book's subtitle - a Pumpkin Falls Mystery - leads me to believe I will get to join Truly and her family and friends in another adventure. Until then, I will content myself with making a batch or two of Aunt True's Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (served every afternoon, recipe provided on the final pages of the book).

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