It's 1924, in the tiny town of Babbs Switch, Oklahoma. When her teacher announces parts for the annual Christmas Tree Celebration, Ruthie isn't surprised to be chosen as soloist. Except for Elden Larrs, folks are always telling her she sings like a canary. Elden, the most disgusting boy in School District 42, says Ruthie can't sing worth a lick. But Ruthie doesn't care what Elden thinks - or does she?
Suddenly Ruthie's parents won't allow her to sing the solo. The problem is her sister, Daphne. At sixteen, four years older than Ruthie, Daphne still carries around her one-armed, bald-headed rag doll. It's her love of stroking soft things, though, that now has the family in trouble - big trouble.
Ruthie is horrified. It isn't her fault that Daphne is different. Why does she have to share her life - her room, even her bed - with such a "daffy" sister? Why does she have to sacrifice her solo?
The Christmas Tree Celebration arrives, and along with it a present from Elden, an icy blizzard, and a tragic event that leads Ruthie to discover what her sister really means to her.
Based on a true story that made national headlines, Darleen Bailey Beard's novel, about mental illness and tragedy, is filled with warmth and humor, and told in the sparkling voice of a spunky, irreverent heroine.
Colorful, period-flavored dialogue keeps this tale moving at a fast clip as it explores the complexities of friendship, family dynamics and the awkward but exhilarating steps toward first love. Darleen Bailey Beard's evocation of the jumbled feelings of adolescence are timeless. --Publishers Weekly
Basing her story on a real tragedy in the town of Babbs Switch, Oklahoma, Beard enlivens and enlarges events by using 12-year-old Ruth Ann's voice. Surprisingly lighthearted... Ruth Ann's gutsy intensity creates a lively tone and an appealing character. --Kirkus Reviews
Hardcover: 176 pages Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st ed edition (April 10, 2002) Language: English ISBN: 0374304750 Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
In 1924, in Babbs Switch, Okla., 36 people died when fire broke out at a Christmas party in the town's one-room schoolhouse. As a note makes clear, the event inspired Beard's (The Flimflam Man) novel, but the incendiary relationships not the fire fuel it. Twelve-year-old Ruthie Tillman tires of the idiosyncrasies of her older sister, Daphne, who is "not right in the head" (she seems mentally retarded) and whose "uncontrollable passion for soft things" has resulted in her unintentionally suffocating the family's kittens. When Daphne comes close to killing the Larrses' baby, Elizabeth, Ruthie and her parents are appalled and worried, and Ruthie is kept from performing in the Christmas Tree Celebration. But at that fateful party, Daphne escapes with Elizabeth, saving the life she nearly extinguished. Colorful, period-flavored dialogue keeps this tale moving at a fast clip as it explores the complexities of friendship, family dynamics and the awkward but exhilarating steps toward first love. "I'd rather kiss the south end of a northbound mule!" Ruthie tells pesky Elden Larrs, yet by book's end, Elden's kiss makes her "spine tingle like a hedgehog." Beard makes plentiful references to the '20s (George Gershwin, Bessie Smith, scandalously bobbed flappers); at the same time, her evocation of the jumbled feelings of adolescence both loving and hating a sister (or a pesky boy) are timeless. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Click here to read The Babbs Switch Story: Oklahoma Reads, August 2006 Metro Family Magazine.