Cover image for Grass angel
Grass angel
Schumacher, Julie, 1958-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
196 pages ; 22 cm
Rather than go to a spiritual retreat in Oregon with her mother and brother, eleven-year-old Frances insists on staying in Ohio with her odd aunt, but she soon begins to worry that the retreat may really be a cult.
Reading Level:
630 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.0 6.0 76662.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.1 13 Quiz: 39512 Guided reading level: R.
Geographic Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Frances Cressen has the perfect summer planned. She's going to Camp Whitman with her best friend, Agnes. But Frances's mother has something else in mind for the family: Mountain Ash, a spiritual retreat in the middle of nowhere. Frances can't think of anything worse than Bible class and baby-sitting for eight long weeks--that is, until her mother drives away with her younger brother, Everett, and leaves Frances behind. Now a stranger is renting Frances's house while she's stuck living out by the graveyard with her odd aunt Blue. And Camp Whitman is a disaster. The boys in Frances's group say that weird things are happening at Mountain Ash, and Frances begins to worry and to wonder. Everett doesn't sound like himself anymore, and her mother never talks about coming home. Are they happier without Frances?

Author Notes

Julie Schumacher received an undergraduate degree from Oberlin College and an MFA degree in fiction from Cornell University. She is a professor of English at the University of Minnesota. A short story she wrote while attending Oberlin College was reprinted in The Best American Short Stories. She is the author of several books for adults and younger readers including The Book of One Hundred Truths, The Chain Letter, Grass Angel, and Dear Committee Members.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-8. When her mother and younger brother, Everett, head off to Mountain Ash, an Oregon spiritual retreat, Frances Cressen is left to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Blue and to attend camp with her best friend, Agnes. Over the summer, Frances comes to love her aunt, but she becomes convinced that her mother doesn't want her and may not return for her. When her brother goes missing, Frances' part in the search helps her to realize what readers will understand all along: that she is smart, resilient, and lovable. With the exception of Frances' mother, characters are carefully, lushly drawn, particularly unconventional, delightful Blue. Readers will connect with this poignant yet occasionally lighthearted novel, which touches on many children's greatest fear: abandonment.\b --Frances Bradburn Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Anyone who has ever felt abandoned will relate to Frances Cressen, the 11-year-old heroine of Schumacher's (The Body Is Water) introspective and funny first novel for young people. While Frances's widowed mother seeks spiritual fulfillment at a retreat in Oregon (and takes Frances's seven-year-old brother Everett with her), Frances insists on staying behind to attend day camp in Ohio with her best friend Agnes. Her mother arranges for Frances to stay with her eccentric Aunt Blue in a cottage on the edge of a graveyard. At day camp, Frances is tormented by a bully named Chip, who accuses the girl's mother of joining a "cult," "where everyone gets brainwashed." Inevitably, his words plant seeds of doubt. The author paints a humorous picture of Frances becoming plagued by questions about her mother's real motive for going to Oregon and if Everett is being held prisoner. Will he and her mother stay in Oregon forever? Schumacher convincingly depicts the not-always-rational, up-and-down emotions of preadolescence with humor and compassion. Frances's close relationship with her brother comes through in their brief exchanges ("If I bring [the telescope] to Oregon I can see you with it," Everett says), and readers will pick up on the endearing qualities of the girl's eccentric aunt before Frances does. The protagonist's moods are as changeable as the world she perceives around her. Moments of contentment seems as fleeting as the imprint of her body when she makes "grass angels." Nonetheless, Frances does find something permanent to grasp: the steadfast love of her immediate and extended family, glimmers of which readers will subtly detect throughout the novel, but which come to light for Frances at the book's uplifting conclusion. Ages 10-14. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-School is just about finished for the year in Whitman, OH, and 11-year-old Frances is looking forward to long days of freedom and two weeks at a local camp with her best friend. However, her mother wants to spend the summer at a spiritual retreat in Oregon so Frances agrees to stay with Aunt Blue, her mother's sister and emotional and physical opposite. Before long, Mom and Everett, Frances's younger brother, head off to the West Coast, and even though she doesn't want to go, Frances feels left behind. Aunt Blue's place is messy and disorganized and the Camp Whitman experience is a disaster. When some of the boys hint that her mother and brother are with a cult and Frances begins receiving unusual messages from Everett, her imagination goes into overdrive, and she is sure they are in danger. Then, Everett runs away. This is the story of a girl learning her first real lessons about life. Frances is beginning to experience the complexities of relationships, to see the necessity of give and take, and to realize what is most important to her. Most of the book deals with her emotions, and the plot builds very, very slowly. Although the novel is well written, it lacks punch, and there is not enough action to grab and hold young readers' attention.-Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



chapter one Summer camp, Frances Cressen understood, was for kids--not for their parents. Parents were supposed to send their kids away for a couple of weeks in July or August and miss them a lot while they were gone. And even though the kids might get lost out in the woods, or almost drown in a marshy lake, or get mosquito bites and poison ivy all over their bodies, they wouldn't miss their parents. Not very much. Their parents were supposed to be missing them. But Frances' mother seemed to have the whole thing backward. She was going to camp. She had signed up for a retreat in Oregon. Two weeks of adult camp at the end of July. "I don't get it," Frances said. "I thought I was going to camp. Here in Ohio." "You are, but that's earlier. Yours starts on July sixth." Her mother was speaking with a certain determination, a quiet patience. When her mother sounded patient like that, Frances knew that her patience was actually wearing very thin. "Why are you going?" "I am going because it's my turn. And because I have the opportunity. You and Everett are coming with me." Frances' mother was a high school English teacher. She always spoke in full sentences. In only eight days, she and Frances would both be out of school for the summer. "So what kind of camp is it again?" Her mother sighed. She was doing laundry. She seemed to hate doing laundry. She often accused Frances and her brother, Everett (correctly, of course), of throwing perfectly clean clothes into the hamper to be washed, just so they wouldn't have to put them away. "It isn't a camp, Frances. I already told you. It's a retreat. A spiritual retreat. It's called Mountain Ash." "So it's just like church." Frances picked up a clump of dryer lint and squeezed it. "No, it isn't just like church. If it were just like church I could do it at home." Frances sneezed. Little puffs of lint were floating around in the air in front of her. "I think you should do it at home. I want to stay here. I already have my summer planned." "It isn't too late to change your plans," her mother said. "You need to be flexible." "I think you should be flexible," Frances mumbled, low enough that her mother couldn't hear. "I thought you might like a change of scenery." Her mother slammed her hip into the dryer, which made it start. "You always tell me that we never go anywhere." Frances sulked. It was true that she sometimes complained about being stuck in Whitman, Ohio. She had been to Maine once, to see the ocean, and she had been to Washington, D.C., but almost every other day of her life had been spent inside a small red dot on the map, one hundred miles south of Cleveland. "Two weeks at the end of July?" she asked. Mentally she subtracted fourteen days from her seventy-eight and a half days of summer. Her mother nodded. "We'll drive there," she said. "We'll see the country. It'll be nice." Frances subtracted six more days. Fifty-eight and a half days left. "How much Bible study is there?" She had gone to a Bible camp the previous summer. For two hours every afternoon, during the hottest part of the day, she and a dozen other kids had sat in a dusty basement and read aloud from the New Testament. Frances had fallen asleep during the birth of Jesus. "None. It isn't a Bible camp. It's ecumenical. Nondenominational." "What?" "There's no Bible reading," her mother said. She tossed some clothes into the washer, then poured a cup of snowy powder on top. "Okay, good," Frances said. "But what do we do all day? For two whole weeks?" "For heaven's sakes, I can't tell you hour by hour, Frances. I'll show you the information. I have some pamphlets. There's a Learning Center, and they have a lake, and there's a children's program that goes up to the age of ten." "I'll be twelve in September," Frances reminded her. "They also have a junior baby-sitting program for people your age." Frances didn't like the way her mother said "people your age," as if Frances was only an acquaintance, one of a large number of eleven-year-olds whom her mother had met. "I don't want to baby-sit all summer. I already baby-sit for Everett." Using her toe, she carved an F for Frances into a little pile of soap flakes that had landed on the floor. "You very rarely baby-sit Everett," her mother said. "Besides, that doesn't count. He's your brother." "If it doesn't count, I guess I don't need to do it, then," Frances said. Her mother rested both hands on the edge of the dryer and looked down at its metal surface. Frances knew she was counting--at least to ten, and probably twenty--so that she wouldn't shout or say something she might later regret. Frances thought about taking back what she had said. Sometimes she felt as if a small and terrible person lived inside her and spoke with an ugly voice and had only ugly things to say. "I think we should talk about this later," her mother said. Frances said she didn't care if they ever talked about it at all. They didn't for several days. But the subject came up again on Sunday, when Frances' mother wasn't home. She had been gone for only fifteen minutes when Frances' aunt Blue slammed through the door. "Tell me about Oregon," she said. Frances looked up from the kitchen table, where she was reading the comics. Her mother had left her a note asking her to empty the dishwasher and sweep the floor, but she had tucked it under the sugar bowl and ignored it. "What about Oregon?" she asked. She wasn't particularly happy to see her mother's sister. Aunt Blue was clumsy and weird, and she sometimes said rude things about Frances' mother. She came over only on Sundays, when Frances' mother was at church. Everett and Frances used to go to church, too, but they had changed congregations so many times in the past few years that their mother had decided to let them stay home to avoid being confused. "I heard you were going there this summer," Blue said. "I just wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth." She set a white paper bag in the middle of the page that Frances was reading. Whenever Blue visited, she brought donuts, which Frances knew her mother wouldn't approve of. Her mother hadn't bought or eaten anything with sugar in it for several years. At the sound of the bag opening, Everett raced into the kitchen in his truck-and-train pajamas, his straw-colored hair sticking up in tiny haystacks. He tore at the white paper sack and stuffed part of an enormous chocolate Žclair into his mouth. "There's got to be something to tell me," Blue said. "Are both of you looking forward to the trip?" She began unrolling a cinnamon roll with her fingers. Blue lived alone in a sagging house behind Whitman's graveyard, and made a living doing something with computers. She worked at home. She was "brilliant. Amazingly bright," Frances' mother always said. "But awkward with people. She's very shy." "It doesn't matter if we're looking forward to it or not," Frances said. Excerpted from Grass Angel by Julie Schumacher 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.