Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Runaround by Helen Hemphill, 2007
Miss Dallas takes care of 11-year-old Sassy and her beautiful older sister Lula. She runs their household and is a sort of mother figure as their own mother died of cancer soon after Sassy was born, or so the family story goes.
Sassy reads Love Confessions magazine. Her father is reserved and never talks about their mother so she questions Miss Dallas about romance and her parents' relationship. Miss Dallas tells Sassy, "You're in love with love," and indeed, that is the heart of this jewel of a story.
Snips of advice and passages from Sassy's magazines begin many of the chapters. When Sassy encounters handsome Boon Chisholm at the grocery store she develops a head over heels crush on him even though he is much older than her and is from the wrong side of the social tracks.
There are some wonderfully funny and painful moments as Sassy and Lula learn about guys and life. You do not want to get into a haircut fight with these sisters.
Hemphill evokes the time, 1964, and place, Falls of Rough, Kentucky, beautifully. Cherry Cokes-to-go are served in paper cups, screen doors slam and Elvis sings on the record player. The details are part of the story and never forced. The cover art is an old Benday dot style, romance comic illustration.
Sassy and Lula, their father, Miss Dallas and even Boon are characters the reader cares about. In their own way all the players in this story are sorting out their lives and hoping for relationships that give meaning to life. (It is nice to see a story with a loving father too.)
I think middle schoolers will find much that resonates in this sweet sweet story.