Cover image for The Steps
Title:
The Steps
Author:
Cohn, Rachel.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
137 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
Over Christmas vacation, Annabel goes from her home in Manhattan to visit her father, his new wife, and her half- and step-siblings in Sydney, Australia.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
860 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.2 5.0 68147.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.2 9 Quiz: 34402 Guided reading level: U.
ISBN:
9780689845499
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

"If you think it's hard keeping track of all the Steps in my life, try being me.""The Steps" in Annabel's life are her "bazillion" stepbrothers, stepsisters, and half siblings. She is spending her Christmas vacation in Australia with her dad and his new family, and she hopes beyond hope that she can convince him to come back to the United States with her.But as Annabel realizes how much happier her dad is in Australia, she has to reconcile her jealousy of his new family with her desire to be a part of it. Can she share her father with them without losing him entirely?Annabel's account of her stay in Australia is funny yet tender, and is certain to ring true to anyone with a family that isn't quite traditional. Rachel Cohn, whose perfect grasp of teens' feelings came through so strongly inGingerbread,now proves that she understands preteens just as well.


Author Notes

Rachel Cohn was born on December 14, 1968 in Silver Spring Maryland. She attended Barnard College and graduated with a B.A. in Political Science intending to be a journalist. Instead she moved to San Francisco and began working at a law firm and writing. After moving back to New York City, her title Gingerbread was published. It was followed by several other books including: The Steps, Shrimp, Two Steps Forward, You Know Where to Find Me and Beta.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. As the book's clever cover shows, Annabel's Australian family has been blended to the max. Annabel and her mother live with Bubbee. Jack, Annabel's father, has moved to Australia with his wife, Penny; Penny's children from a previous marriage, Lucy and Angus; and baby Beatrice, Jack and Penny's child. Annabel is not very happy about any of this, and when she heads to Sydney to meet her new family, hostility is the word of the day, especially after she sees how Lucy and Angus have co-opted her dad. Wittily written, this follows a predictable path as Annabel's animosity turns to tolerance, then acceptance. The Australian setting makes a nice change, however, and a touch of holiday romance also adds appeal for the age group. Cohn uses pop-culture references that will soon date this, but until then, readers will identify with the mixed-up emotions that mixed families engender. --Ilene Cooper


Publisher's Weekly Review

Cohn does for Sydney, Australia, what she did for Los Angeles and Manhattan in Gingerbread, while once again creating a funny and feisty narrator caught in the middle of a complicated family situation. Twelve-year-old Annabel calls her father Jack and her mother Angelina, and her lively voice keeps this story rolling along. When the seventh grader travels to Sydney for Christmas break to stay with Jack and his new family (aka "The Steps"), Annabel plans to "win my dad back" and escort him to New York. Her sadness translates into brattiness, especially toward Lucy, her stepsister who's also 12, but Annabel occasionally lets her guard down (such as when she realizes that Lucy misses her real dad, too). Of course, when Annabel finally asks her father to return, he explains why he cannot. Just then, Angelina phones to tell her she's getting married, creating a whole new set of Steps. Annabel's feelings will be easy for readers to connect with (e.g., "Jack... looked taller, broader, more confident. Like he had found his place in the world. Without me," she says of her transplanted dad), and her plans for winning Jack back are credibly unclear. The conclusion, in which all of Annabel's family and Steps appear in Sydney for a big reconciliation, may be a bit tidy, but Annabel's hyperbolic tone makes nearly anything seem plausible. Readers will wait with bated breath for Cohn's next novel. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Annabel's parents, Angelina and Jack, met in New York City, fell in love, moved in together, had their daughter, and then, much later, became adults. Annabel's fresh and funny narration begins after Jack and Angelina no longer live together. In fact, he has moved to Australia, remarried, and started a new family. Angelina is involved with the divorced father of "the dorkiest kid in the whole of the seventh grade" in Annabel's school on Manhattan's Upper West Side. During Christmas break, the 12-year-old is sent to visit her father in Sydney. Her jealousy of the "steps," Lucy and Angus, gradually erodes as her understanding increases. When Lucy and Annabel run away to Melbourne to see Lucy's grandmother and her friends, the girls have a "moment"-that memorable, pivotal instant that changes relationships and sparks lasting friendships. In the end, Annabel realizes that both of her parents love her, and she begins to call them Mom and Dad. In spite of the confusing family configurations with the "bazillion stepbrothers, stepsisters and half siblings," the narrative is fast, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and gradually reveals insight into families and individuals. Though Annabel uses contemporary references and present-day language, her concerns and emotional responses are timeless. Other characters, adults included, are well drawn, developed through interaction with Annabel and her own wry observations. A breezy, compelling, humorous glimpse of families trying to cope as they transform.-Maria B. Salvadore, District of Columbia Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 If you think it's hard keeping track of all the Steps in my life, try being me. The Steps are the bazillion stepbrothers, stepsisters, and half siblings my parents keep laying on me. Follow this. First, there are Angelina and Jack, my parents. I've called my parents by their first names for as long as I can remember. Maybe if they were normal parents who stayed together (or even bothered to get married), or maybe if they had regular day jobs, I would call them Mom and Dad, but that would be, like, so Brady Bunch, and we are so not Brady. Besides, Angelina and Jack were the ones who taught me to call them by their first names. Angelina said Mom was "too uptight a word" for her to hear, and Jack said being called Dad made him feel like an "old coot." Angelina's an actress and Jack was a comedian. They met when they were both waiters at a hip restaurant in Manhattan. They were "young, dumb, 'n' in love," according to Bubbe, my grandma. They moved in together and had me. I'm Annabel Whoopi Schubert and I'm twelve years old, but I'm "going on thirteen with a vengeance," as Bubbe says. After Angelina and Jack finished being "young, dumb, 'n' in love," they became yelling and fighting adult folks. After a couple really bad years being miserable all the time, they split up when I was nine. Then Jack met Penny and moved to Australia to be with her. Penny has a daughter, Lucy, who is the same age as me, and a son, Angus, who's in kindergarten. They call it "kindie" in Australia. Jack thinks it's clever that those people in Australia are always cutting off words and adding ie to them, like noodies for noodles and brekkie for breakfast. I don't think it's clever. I think it's lazy. My baby half sister, Beatrice, who is the daughter of Jack and Penny and also the half sister of Lucy and Angus, will end up talking like that one day. Imagine that, my own blood sister, and she's going to speak with an Australian accent and cut off her words and end them in ie. Please. Back to Angelina, my mom, who got way too into her role as PTA treasurer and started dating the president of the PTA, Harvey Weideman. Harvey is the divorced father of Wheaties, only the dorkiest kid in the whole seventh grade. I don't even remember Wheaties' real name. That's what we call him at our school, the Progress School on the Upper West Side. Wheaties is short and scrawny and goes around singing folk songs. He's the last boy you'd ever see on a cereal box. Now Angelina's pregnant, and she and Harvey are getting married, so I'm going to have another half sibling and another step. I wonder if I will be the first girl in the world with a stepbrother called Wheaties. The other step is Lucy and Angus's former stepbrother, Ben. He's not my step technically, so I think it's okay that I kissed him once. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back to Christmas break. It all started because Lucy stole my dad. Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Cohn Chapter 2 I didn't want to go to Sydney, Australia. I wanted to spend Christmas break in Manhattan with my best friend Justine. We had planned to go ice-skating at Rockefeller Center every day and shopping at the after-Christmas sale at Bloomingdale's. We were going to make prank phone calls to Wheaties and his geek friends and try on makeup at Sephora and then go scream with the TRL crowd at MTV in Times Square. Then Justine bailed. Her parents decided to go skiing for the holidays. Wheaties stopped answering his phone. Angelina decided she was "so over" Jack moving to Australia and it was time for me to go see my dad. Angelina was going to some luau paradise in Hawaii with Wheaties' dad. Even Bubbe bailed on me. She went to Florida. I had been so excited about hanging with Justine over the vacay that I hadn't considered going to see Jack or my new half sister, Beatrice. I didn't especially care about meeting the Steps for the first time. I wanted to stay home in New York City, the greatest city in all the world. Well, I guess I really did want to see Jack, and I kinda wanted to see Beatrice because I wondered if my actual blood sister looked like me, but I totally, absolutely, completely did not want to go all the way to the Steps' turf in Australia. But I was stuck. That whole plane ride to Australia I couldn't even watch the movies. I was too busy remembering what Lucy had done. Jack was still living with us when I was nine, but he and Angelina fought all the time. One night Jack didn't come home at all after a late-night comedy gig. Angelina thought I was sleeping and didn't know, but I was awake and I heard her crying into the phone all night. When he finally came home early in the morning, I could hear him telling her over and over, nothing happened. Whatever didn't happen, Jack and Angelina were never right again. He moved out a month later. Soon after that Angelina and I moved into Bubbe's massive apartment, which overlooks Central Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was kind of cool for a while. Even though he lived in Brooklyn, I actually saw more of Jack once he and Angelina split. Probably because he and Angelina weren't always tired from constant fighting. He met me every day after school, and sometimes we'd go in-line skating in Central Park and other times we'd hang out at a coffee shop, talking and reading until dinnertime, and he coached my soccer team, and every Saturday we went to a movie together. Then one Saturday he told me about this woman who had changed his life. Her name was Penny, and he'd met her when she was visiting from Australia. He loved her. He wanted to start a new life with her. He told me Penny had this ultimate, fantastic incredi-daughter named Lucy, who was just like me, and he knew I would love Lucy to death. He was moving to Australia to be with Penny and Lucy and Penny's son, Angus. That's when things got bad. Maybe he said he was moving to Australia to marry Penny, but part of me suspected he was moving to Australia to be with Lucy, too. Like she was a better daughter than me. Why else would a dad move ten thousand miles away to be with a new family? The day Jack told me about his new family, he said, "Do I have your blessing?" I nodded and said yes because he's such a nice dad with the cutest face you ever saw and he looked so happy, but I crossed my fingers behind his back when I hugged him and really I was thinking no. Really I was thinking, Lucy can borrow you until I figure out how to win you back. Things were really hard after Jack left. I cried alone in my room almost every night when Bubbe and Angelina thought I was sleeping. In my dreams I saw Jack wearing a Crocodile Dundee hat, holding the Steps' hands, with a koala bear hanging from his shoulders, and the Steps singing, "He's ours now, he's ours now, na-na-na-na-na." Not even the fact that Jack called me every week and sent letters and little presents from Australia could fill the huge black hole in my heart created by his leaving. Eventually I got used to missing him and I stopped crying alone at night, but I refused to talk to the Steps on the phone, and when Jack came to visit me a year later, before Beatrice was born, I pretended not to be interested when he tried to tell me about Sydney, Australia, and about Penny and the Steps. But now I was stuck going to Australia for Christmas break. Bubbe and Angelina wanted me to go. Jack had sent me E-mail every day for weeks before my trip, telling me what clothes to pack and describing all the things he wanted us to do together, with the Steps. While the plane taking me to meet the Steps floated over gray clouds and endless ocean for what seemed like forever, I stared at the pictures of Lucy and Angus and plotted the ways I was going to aggravate them so much that they would become such terrible children that Jack would return home to New York City with me, where he belonged. It was true, what Jack had said -- Lucy did look a little like me. She had light blond hair, only mine was longer and curlier and she had bangs and I didn't, and she had blue eyes and rosy cheeks and braces. Her braces were multicolored, which made her mouth look like a lollipop, I thought. I'm a traditionalist (that's what Bubbe says about me, because I like to watch old movies with her and look at all her old clothes from the '50s), so my braces are solid silver. I think multicolored lollipop-looking braces are too flashy, and I should know. One day I'm going to be a famous fashion designer. Just looking at her pictures, I knew that Lucy was a fashion no-no. Angus, I could see from his pictures, was also hopeless. He had a mop of wild, curly blond hair and thick glasses, and -- get this -- in his picture he was wearing neon-colored striped pants with a paisley-print T-shirt that had a picture of a fish on it! I knew my first order of business when I got to Australia would be to speak with Penny about properly dressing Angus. I know what happens on the playground to kids who dress badly, because I have been torturing Wheaties about his fashion sense since nursery school. I admit, all the time on the plane that I was thinking of ways to torture Lucy and Angus -- like Plan A, accidentally spitting my bubble gum into their hair and then trying to take it out but really getting it gooed thick and impossible throughout their head, or Plan B, teaching them to make Jack's favorite "Famous New York-Style Spaghetti" with a whole cup of salt and a whole jar of olives (Jack's most hated food) -- I was also worried. Jack had been living with Penny, Lucy, and Angus for two years. Beatrice, our new baby half sister, was almost a year old. Jack had been back to America to visit me in the two years since he'd moved to Australia, but I had still never met them, and I knew that in those two years they would have developed a secret family language only they could understand. Bubbe, Angelina, and I have our own special understandings, how we know one another's feelings and thoughts without having to say them. Like how Bubbe knows when I did bad on a math test by the way I hug her when she meets me after school and how she'll make me turn the television off later in the evening and go over fractions and equations while we bake cookies, or how Angelina knows when I have been crying secretly in my room from missing Jack and she'll cancel an audition to take me to a half-price Broadway show or to a baseball game, like Jack used to do before Penny, Lucy, and Angus took him away. Or how I know when Angelina is bummed because she didn't get an acting part and I will make her a cappuccino, turn on the stereo, and put on what I call the sad-lady music -- all these really cool ladies from like a million years ago with names like Dinah, Billie, and Etta, who sing about love and loss and what a difference a day makes. Then there's my Bubbe. I can tell she is thinking about my dead grandpa when it's raining and she goes and sits on her plush chair and stares out the windows looking onto Central Park for hours and hours. When I see her like that, sometimes I'll curl up on her lap and nestle my head on her shoulder, and she'll tell me stories about my dead grandpa, about how they met when they were both campaigning in the 1950s for some guy called Adlai Stevenson (Adlai!) who wanted to be president, about their first date riding a boat on the Hudson River, circling Manhattan, and how they drove to Maryland a week later to get married and never looked back. "Grandpa sure wanted to see you grow into a young lady," she'll say. Bubbe likes to hear the sad-lady music too. Two years had passed without me there to crack the secret family code that would have developed among Jack, Penny, Lucy, Angus, and Beatrice. I wondered if Lucy had figured out that on cold nights Jack loved to drink real hot chocolate not made from a mix, or that when he performed a bad set and the audience never laughed, that afterward, to cheer up, he liked to eat peanut M&Ms and watch Nick at Nite shows like The Odd Couple and Bewitched, but never ever I Love Lucy. How I was going to figure out their secret family language and still manage to steal Jack back, I really, truly did not know. That's right, I, Annabel Whoopi Schubert, middle-namesake of Whoopi Goldberg, seventh-grade class president at the Progress School on the Upper West Side, future fashion designer whose clothes will one day be featured in every important fashion mag in the whole wide world, did not know how to win my dad back. Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Cohn Excerpted from The Steps by Rachel Cohn All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.