Sunday, January 22, 2006

Criss Cross

Perkins, Lynne Rae. 2005. CRISS CROSS. New York: Greenwillow. ISBN 0060092734 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-9]

In this 2006 Newbery medal novel, multiple teen protagonists muddle their way through a summer of wondering, wandering, and trying new things. Pivoting around a mix of boy and girl characters, this meditative study of life in a small town weaves a variety of character sketches into a patchwork of adolescent longing and belonging. Each vignette moves the story forward quickly, with tidbits of drawings, photographs, dialogues, and poems sprinkled in for good measure. A handful of laugh out loud moments add leaven to the mix. One feels a sense of voyeurism, as if we are reading the diary entries of our childhood friends who are suddenly blossoming into “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” material. Each character is trying on a bit of a new persona, helping a neighbor, taking guitar lessons, building a pig roaster. As one character muses, “it’s a good thing to get out of your usual, you know, surroundings. Because you find things out about yourself that you didn’t know, or you forgot. And then you go back to your regular life and you’re changed, you’re a little bit different, because you take those new things with you.”

Readers may enjoy experimenting with mixing art and writing as Perkins has done, creating graphic journals or visual/textual short stories.

In the story, a necklace gets lost and then turns up repeatedly throughout the story. How might that be significant? Readers can share their own stories about unusual lost or found objects they’ve encountered.

Other books with multiple YA protagonists:
Creech, Sharon. WALK TWO MOONS. ISBN 0064405176
Konigsburg, E.L. THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY. ISBN 0689817215

Also by Perkins:

By Sylvia Vardell

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