Cover image for This is Graceanne's book
This is Graceanne's book
Whitney, Polly.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
298 pages ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
1140 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.7 13.0 59984.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 9 21 Quiz: 19195 Guided reading level: NR.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The story is told by a nine-year-old boy, Charlie, who observes with an encompassing awe a pivotal year in the life of his older sister Graceanne. She's loud, intellectual and a ruthless physical and psychological daredevil, a girl whose ferocious exploits are the stuff of local legend and the stuff of all that her brother aspires to be. Charlie narrates Graceanne's painful passage into her teens, a passage made tempestuous by their violent mother.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Growing up is always hard, but even more so for Whitney's young protagonists who live in the tumultuous 1960s, on the wrong side of the tracks, with an abusive mother. Charlie, a quiet, club-footed, nine-year-old boy, narrates this story of his creative, smart, and wild older sister, Graceanne. He watches her become a teenager through beatings and other punishment and shares her innermost ideas and pain by reading her diary. After their mother confiscates the diary, he continues to keep her stories in his head. Graceanne incurs their mother's wrath for a number of reasons--the friendship of their next door neighbor (a black girl named Wanda), ice sculptures of a mixed-race baby Jesus, baseball games, and a college boyfriend named Collier--and yet, grows up a survivor. It is the unbreakable spirit of both Charlie and Graceanne that keeps this story afloat. While hurting along with them through the abuse, readers will cheer for them as they struggle to grow up. --Ellie Barta-Moran

Publisher's Weekly Review

Small-town life in 1960s Missouri is conveyed with elegiac grace in this poignant coming-of-age tale. Nine-year-old Charlemagne "Charlie" Farrand, who wears corrective shoes and hence is nicknamed "Thumper," narrates the complicated antagonisms and triumphs within his troubled family and within Cranepool's Landing, a town on the banks of the Mississippi. Charlie and his two older sisters, sweet-singing Kentucky ("Tucka"), the oldest, and multi-talented 12-year-old Graceanne, move with their mother, Edie, when she divorces their soldier father and takes them to live in an apartment in a mostly black neighborhood. Disturbed to find herself at the edge of the poverty line, Edie lashes out violently when headstrong Graceanne becomes best friends with an African-American neighbor, the smart and feisty Wanda. Whitney nicely details small-town events (cardboard box races, Christmas services and a scarecrow contest), and offers an appealingly off-beat brilliance in precocious Graceanne. The three siblings alternately protect, terrorize and tease each other in a frank and bittersweet defense against the rage of their desperate mother, who feels as threatened by her children's insouciant intelligence as by their reliance on her. Graceanne is writing a book, a diary/collection of poems and manifestoes, which she shares with her admiring brother, and in which she weaves fantasies of revenge with quirky, hilarious notes to herself that keep her pride and spirit relatively intact. When Edie discovers it, Graceanne would rather destroy her work than turn it over to her increasingly malicious mother. At such moments, Whitney's handling of young Graceanne's fiery rebellion is unpersuasive; the girl's survival strategies are so valiant, and her intellectual and physical gifts so vast, that Edie comes off as a monster whose random beatings will never defeat her magnificent daughter. The major detriment to credibility, however, is Charlie's voice, preternaturally sophisticated and mournful even for an unathletic, bookish boy. Whitney's humor and sympathy carry the tale, however, and the scenes of sibling bonding may raise a tear or two. (May) FYI: Whitney has written mysteries under the names Hialeah Jackson and Polly Jackson. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

YA-Graceanne's brother, nine-year-old Charlie, narrates this tale of life in small-town Missouri in the 1960s. Graceanne, 11, is the sole recipient of her mother's brutal beatings, sometimes for offenses committed by her older sister, or by Charlie. Graceanne is admittedly a handful: bright, independent, loud, sometimes foulmouthed, physically agile, and a daredevil. Her "book" is a collection of notebooks of poetry, stories, and observations about life. Charlie naturally finds and reads those notebooks and they help him relate her story. When the children's father, a military man, walks away from his family, they are forced to move to the poor part of town. Edie goes to work, sparing the family her presence much of the time. This is fine with Graceanne who, against her mother's wishes, becomes best friends with the black girl next door. Much of the book describes Graceanne's advents and the brutal punishments her mother metes out. YAs will be intrigued by these timeless, true-to-life characters and their ingenious escapades. Always in the background is the mighty river, thick, brown, and sometimes menacing. The descriptions of small-town life are dead-on, and the descriptions of the perils of growing up with an unpredictable, abusive mother are gripping. Much can be learned about life and growing up from Graceanne's book.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.