13 : Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen

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Overview

In this book, 13 stories capture the agony and ecstasy of being 13.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The authors of these 13 original entries (12 stories and one poem) have one thing in common: each understands what it is like to stand in that murky bog between childhood and adulthood. Their writings, all of which feature a 13-year-old protagonist, poignantly and often humorously capture the excitement, angst and uncertainty that mark the experience of growing up. Lori Aurelia Williams's impoverished and taunted hero Malik considers joining a reputedly violent gang because they will give him the high-status shoes he covets; and Ellen Wittlinger's heroine, Maggie, a budding writer, tries out a new identity under a pen name. Others tentatively test the waters of romance or plunge into infatuations. For example, Murphy Murphy ("Yeah, you read it right.... It's like a family curse," he says of his name), the blinded-by-love star of Bruce Coville's "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" agrees to act in a skit despite his terrible stage fright, in order to impress his beloved Tiffany; several embarrassments, one Heimlich maneuver and an accident later, he lands in the hospital with a broken leg. Howe (who previously edited The Color of Absence: 12 Stories About Loss and Hope) orchestrates a lively assortment of voices; what readers may enjoy most, however, are the authors' comments on their own adolescences-accompanied by photos of themselves at age 13. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Here are thirteen stories from some of the biggest names in young adult fiction, all centering on characters thirteen years of age—that awkward period of no-mans-land that separates youth and adulthood. The highlights are a story called "Thirteen and a Half," by Rachel Vail, in which a girl visits her new friend's house on the day her bird dies, and "Picky Eater," by Stephen Roos, in which a teen's perspective is forever altered by the sudden death of a schoolmate. Other stories run the gamut from sexual awakenings to peer pressures to self-awareness. The collection includes a poem by Maureen Ryan Griffin and a whimsical take on fairy tales by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin called, "Tina the Teen Fairy." Each story concludes with its respective author's reflections on growing up and a brief biography, accompanied by teen author photos. Teens will commiserate with the seemingly epochal crises facing their fictional counterparts: Grownups will smile and wince in turn, remembering themselves at thirteen. 2003, Atheneum, Ages 12 up.
— Christopher Moning
KLIATT - Stephanie Squicciarini
With contributions from some of the most recognized names in YA literature, including Meg Cabot, Alex Sanchez, Ellen Wittlinger, Bruce Coville, and Carolyn Mackler, James Howe brings readers a selection of stories that certainly do live up to their subtitle. As Howe explains in his introduction (that is as much fun as the stories that follow), anyone who is, looks forward to being, or has ever been 13 will relate to the characters experiencing this wondrous and confusing age. Each story comes from a different perspective, with characters engaging in self-discovery and exploring crushes, family and school dynamics, religion, budding sexual awareness, self-worth, and right and wrong. Author photos from their own 13th year, along with brief summaries of what that year meant to them, are included; and even by themselves are real treats. Often short story collections can seem unbalanced in their quality, but this one offers fairly solid consistency. Many of the stories could spark wonderful intergenerational discussions and should be considered for book groups.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Remember being 13? Ann Martin, Bruce Coville, Todd Strasser, Rachel Vail, Stephen Roos, Ron Koertge, and several other popular authors join Howe in writing about that awkward year. The stories are a mixture of humor, pathos, and poignancy, and most are based on personal experiences. Meg Cabot's "Kate the Great" deals with changing friendships and a first baby-sitting job that goes awry while Alex Sanchez's "If You Kiss a Boy" focuses on the awakening of sexuality. Ellen Wittlinger's "Noodle Soup for Nincompoops" is especially fun as Maggie becomes the advice columnist for her school paper and discovers what happens when people actually follow her suggestions. Lori Aurelia Williams deals realistically with the gang experience in "Black Holes and Basketball Sneakers." Howe has chosen excellent authors for this volume and they have written oh-so-true stories about that wonderful, terrible first year of being a teenager.-Janet Hilbun, formerly at Sam Houston Middle School, Garland, TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Just as 13 is an age with agonies and ecstasies, this collection ranges from the trivial to the powerful. The stories cover bar mitzvahs and brand names, emerging sexuality and death. Conflicts between growing desire for popularity and emerging moral and social consciousness dominate the collection. Howe's own "Jeremy Goldblatt Is So Not Moses" is a hilarious and moving tale of homelessness and social conventions. Conformity conflicts with eco-awareness in Todd Strasser's funny "Squid Girl." Stephen Roos's poignant and powerful "Picky Eater" explores the darker side of fitting in. Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin provide the weakest contribution, a trite paean to adolescence. Each contribution closes with a painfully awkward photograph of the author at 13, a wonderful reminder that the authors, too, shared the pain. Focus on change and growth gives strength to this offering. (Fiction. 11-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756967901
  • Publisher: Perfection Learning Corporation
  • Publication date: 9/26/2006
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 278
  • Age range: 11 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.70 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James Howe is the author of more than seventy books for young

readers, including the popular and award-winning series about Bunnicula

and his friends. Among his other books are the Pinky and Rex series,

The Misfits, Totally Joe, and the Sebastian Barth mysteries.

James did not enjoy camping when he was a boy, but he did always wish he

had a pet skunk. He still does wish this at times, but for the most part

he's happy with the dog and two cats who share his home in New York State.

James Howe says:

"Back in the Olden Days, before there were such things as cable television

or DVDs, I loved staying up late at night to watch old horror movies on TV.

My favorites were the ones about hollow-eyed vampires and torch-bearing

peasants, or those with mad scientists whose accents fell somewhere

between Upper Mongolia and the Bronx. Nighty-Nightmare came out of

the affection I still feel for those movies and the laughs — along with

the chills — they gave me. Chester's story of how Bunnicula traveled from

Transylvania to America is a spoof of just about every old horror movie

I ever saw!"

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Read an Excerpt

From: What's the Worst

That Could Happen?

Bruce Coville

If thirteen is supposed to be an unlucky number, what does it mean that we are forced to go through an entire year with that as our age? I mean, you would think a civilized society could just come up with a way for us to skip it.

Of course, good luck and I have rarely shared the same park bench. Sometimes I think Murphy's Law — you know, "If something can go wrong, it will" — was invented just for me. I suppose the fact that my name is Murphy Murphy might have something to do with that feeling.

Yeah, you read it right: Murphy Murphy. It's like a family curse. The last name I got from my father, of course. The first name came down from my mother's side, where it is a tradition for the firstborn son. You would think my mother might have considered that before she married Dad, but love makes fools of us all, I guess. Anyway, the fact that I got stuck with the same name coming and going, so to speak, shows that my parents are either spineless (my theory) or have no common sense (my sister's theory).

I would like to note that no one has ever apologized to me for this name. "I think it's lovely," says my mother — which, when you consider it, would seem to support my sister's theory. Anyway, you can see that right from the beginning of my life, if something could go wrong, it did.

Okay, I suppose it could have been worse. I could have been born dead or with two heads or something. On the other hand, as I lie here in my hospital bed trying to work out exactly how I got here, there are times when I wonder if being born dead might not have been the best thing.

To begin with, Iwant to say here and now that Mikey Farnsworth should take at least part of the blame for this situation. This, by the way, is true for many of the bad things that have happened in my life, from the paste-eating incident in first grade through the bogus fire-drill situation last year, right up to yesterday afternoon, which was sort of the Olympics of Bad Luck as far as I'm concerned. What's amazing is that somehow Mikey ends up coming out of these things looking perfectly fine. He is, as my grandfather likes to say, the kind of a guy who can fall in a manure pile and come out smelling like a rose.

The one I am not going to blame is Tiffany Grimsley, though if I hadn't had this stupid crush on her, it never would have happened.

Okay, I want to stop and talk about this whole thing of having a crush. Let me say right up front that it is very confusing and not something I am used to. When it started, I was totally baffled. I mean, I don't even like girls, and all of a sudden I keep thinking about one of them? Give me a break!

In case it hasn't happened to you yet, let me warn you. Based on personal experience, I can say that while there are many bad things about having a crush, just about the worst of them is the stupid things you will do because of it.

Okay, let's back up here.

I probably wouldn't even have known I had a crush to begin with if Mikey hadn't informed me of this fact. "Man, you've got it bad for Tiffany," he says one day when we are poking around in the swamp behind his house.

"What are you talking about?" I ask. At the same time, my cheeks begin to burn as if they are on fire. Startled, I lift my foot to tie my shoe, which is a trick I learned in an exercise magazine and that has become sort of a habit. At the moment, it is mostly an excuse to look down.

What the heck is going on here? I think.

Mikey laughs. "Look at you blush, Murphy! There's no point in trying to hide it. I watched you drooling over her in social studies class today. And you've only mentioned her, like, sixteen times since we got home this afternoon."

"Well, sure, but that's because she's a friend," I say, desperately trying to avoid the horrible truth. "We've known each other since kindergarten, for Pete's sake."

Mikey laughs again, and I can tell I'm not fooling him. "What am I going to do?" I groan.

He shrugs. "Either you suffer in silence, or you tell her you like her."

Is he nuts? If you tell a girl you like her, it puts you totally out in the open. I mean, you've got no place to hide. And there are really only two possible responses you're going to get from her: (a) She likes you, too, which the more you think about it, the more unlikely it seems; or (b) anything else, which is, like, totally, utterly humiliating. I'm sure girls have problems of their own. But I don't think they have any idea of the sheer terror a guy has to go through before any boy-girl stuff can get started.

I sure hope this gets easier with time, because I personally really don't understand how the human race has managed to survive this long, given how horrifying it is to think about telling a girl you like her.

Despite Mikey's accusation, I do not think I have actually drooled over Tiffany during social studies class. But it is hard not to think about her then, because she sits right in front of me. It's the last class of the day, and the October sunlight comes in slantwise and catches in her golden hair in a way that makes it hard to breathe.

It does not help that eighth-grade social studies is taught by Herman Fessenden, who you will probably see on the front of the National Enquirer someday as a mass murderer for boring twenty-six kids to death in a single afternoon. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

I spend the entire weekend thinking about what Mikey has said, and I come up with a bold plan, which is to pass Tiffany a note asking if she wants to grab a slice of pizza at Angelo's after school. I am just getting up my nerve to do it — there are only five minutes of class left — when Mr. F. says, "So, what do you think the queen should have done then, Murphy?"

How am I supposed to know? But I blush and don't hand the note to Tiffany after all, which wouldn't have been so bad, except that Butch Coulter saw I had it and grabs it on the way out of class, and I have to give him the rest of my week's lunch money to get it back.

Tuesday I try a new tactic. There's a little store on the way to school where you can pick up candy and gum and stuff, and I get some on the way to school and then kind of poke Tiff in the back during social studies class, which is about the only time I see her, to ask if she wants a piece of gum. Only before she can answer, Mr. Fessenden comes up from behind and snatches the whole pack out of my hand. So that was that.

Then, on Wednesday, it's as if the gods are smiling on me, which is not something I am used to. Tiffany grabs my arm on the way out of social studies and says, "Can I talk to you for a second, Murphy?"

"Sure," I say. This is not very eloquent, but it is better than the first thought that crosses my mind, which is, "Anytime, anywhere, any moment of the day." It is also better than, "Your words would be like nectar flowing into the hungry mouths of my ears," which was a line I had come up with for a poem I was writing about her.

She actually looks a little shy, though what this goddess-on-earth has to be shy about is more than I can imagine.

She hands me a folded-over set of papers, and my heart skips a beat. Can this be a love letter? If so, it's a really long one.

"I wrote this skit for drama club, and I thought maybe you would do it with me next Friday. I think you'd be just right for the part."

My heart starts pounding. While it seems unlikely that the part is that of a barbarian warrior prince, just doing it means I will have an excuse to spend time with Tiffany. I mean, we'll have to rehearse and...well, the imagination staggers.

"Yes!" I say, ignoring the facts that (a) I have not yet read the script and (b) I have paralyzing stage fright.

She gives me one of those sunrise smiles of hers, grabs my arm and gives it a squeeze, and says, "Thanks. This is going to be fun." Then she's gone, leaving me with a memory of her fingers on my arm and a wish that I had started pumping iron when I was in first grade, so my biceps would have been ready for this moment.

Mikey moves in a second later. "Whoa," he says, nudging me with his elbow. "Progress! What did she say?"

"She wants me to do a skit with her."

He shakes his head. "Too bad. I thought maybe you had a chance. How'd she take it when you told her no?"

I look at him in surprise. "I didn't. I said I would do it."

Mikey looks even more surprised. "Murphy, you can't go on stage with her. You can't even move when you get on stage. Don't you remember what happened in fifth grade?"

As if I could forget. Not only was it one of the three most humiliating moments of my life, but according to my little brother, it has become legendary at Westcott Elementary. Here's the short version: Mrs. Carmichael had cast me as George Washington in our class play, and I was, I want to tell you, pretty good during rehearsals. But when they opened the curtain and I saw the audience...well, let's just say that when my mother saw the look on my face, she actually let out a scream. She told me later she thought I was having a heart attack. As for me, my mouth went drier than day-old toast, some mysterious object wedged itself in my throat, and the only reason I didn't bolt from the stage was that I couldn't move my arms or legs. Heck, I couldn't even move my fingers.

I couldn't even squeak!

Finally, they had to cancel the performance. Even after the curtains were closed, it took two teachers and a janitor to carry me back to the classroom.

"This time will be different," I say.

Mikey snorts.

I know he is right. "Oh, man, what am I gonna do?" I wail.

"Come on, let's look at the script. Maybe all you have to do is sit there and she'll do all the acting."

No such luck. The script, which is called "Debbie and the Doofus," is very funny.

It also calls for me to say a lot of lines.

It also calls for me to act like a complete dork.

Immediately, I begin to wonder why Tiffany thinks I would be just right for this role.

"Maybe she imagines you're a brilliant actor," says Mikey.

He is trying to be helpful, but to tell the truth, I am not sure which idea is worse: that Tiffany thinks I am a dork or that she thinks I am a brilliant actor.

"What am I gonna do?" I wail again.

"Maybe your parents will move before next week," says Mikey, shaking his head. "Otherwise, you're a dead man walking."

I ask, but my parents are not planning on moving.

I study the script as if it is the final exam for life, which as far as I am concerned, it is. After two days I know not only my lines, but all of Tiffany's lines, too, as well as the lines for Laurel Gibbon, who is going to be playing the waitress at the little restaurant where we go for our bad date.

My new theory is that I will enjoy rehearsals, and the excuse they give me to be with Tiffany, and then pray for a meteor to strike me before the day of the performance.

The first half of the theory actually seems to work. We have two rehearsals — one at school and one in Tiffany's rec room. At the first one she is very impressed by the fact that I know my lines already. "This is great, Murphy!" she says, which makes me feel as if I have won the lottery.

At the second rehearsal I actually make Laurel, who is perhaps the most solemn girl in the school, laugh. This is an amazing sound to me, and I find that I really enjoy it. Like Tiffany, Laurel has been in our class since kindergarten. Only I never noticed her much because, well, no one ever notices Laurel much, on account of she basically doesn't talk. I wondered at first why Tiffany had cast her, but it turns out they are in the same church group and have been good friends for a long time.

Sometimes I think the girls in our class have a whole secret life that I don't know about.

Time becomes very weird. Sometimes it seems as if the hours are rushing by in a blur, the moment of performance hurtling toward me. Other times the clock seems to poke along like a sloth with chronic fatigue syndrome. Social studies class consists of almost nothing but staring at the sunshine in Tiffany's hair and flubbing the occasional question that Mr. Fessenden lobs at me. Some days I think he asks me questions out of pure meanness. Other days he leaves me alone, and I almost get the impression he feels sorry for me.

Mikey and I talk about the situation every night. "No meteor yet," he'll say, shaking his head.

"What am I gonna do?" I reply, repeating the question that haunts my days. I can't possibly tell Tiffany I can't do this.

"Maybe you could be sick that day?" says Mikey.

I shake my head. "If I let her down, I will hate myself forever."

Mikey rolls his eyes. "Maybe you should run away from home," he suggests, not very helpfully.

Finally, we do come up with a plan, which is that Mikey will stay in the wings to prompt me in case the entire script falls out of my head. I don't know if this will really do much good, since if I freeze with terror, mere prompting will not be of any use. On the other hand, knowing Mikey will be there calms me down a little. It's like having a life jacket.

Ha! Little do I know what kind of life jacket he will turn out to be.

To my dismay, I have not been able to parlay my time working on the skit with Tiffany into anything bigger. This is partly because she is the busiest person in the eighth grade, with more clubs and committees and activities than any normal person could ever be involved with. It is also because I am stupid about this kind of thing and don't have the slightest clue how to do it. So I treasure my memory of the two rehearsals and, more than anything else, the sound of her laughing at some of what I have done.

Despite my prayers, Friday arrives. I don't suppose I really expected God to cancel it, though I would have been deeply appreciative if he had. I go through the day in a state of cold terror. The drama club meeting is after school. Members of the club have invited their friends, their families, and some teachers to come see the skits. There are going to be four skits in all. Tiffany, Laurel, and I are scheduled to go last, which gives me more time to sweat and worry.

Mikey is backstage with us, but Tiffany does not know why. I tell her he came because he is my pal. Getting him aside, I check to make sure he has the script.

At 2:45, Mrs. Whitcomb, the drama club coach, comes back to wish us luck. She makes a little speech, which she ends with, "Okay, kids — break a leg!"

This, of course, is how people wish each other luck in the theater. According to my mother, the idea is that you're not going to get your wish anyway, so you wish for the thing you don't want and you may get the thing you do want instead.

I suddenly wonder if this is what I have been doing wrong all my life.

On the other hand, Tiffany is standing next to me, so that is one wish that is continuing to come true.

"Are you excited?" she asks.

"You have no idea," I answer, with complete honesty.

Laurel, who is standing on the other side of me, whispers, "I'm scared."

"Don't worry, you'll be fine," I reply.

Copyright © 2003 by Bruce Coville

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
What's the Worst That Could Happen? 7
Kate the Great 29
If You Kiss a Boy 49
Thirteen and a Half 75
Jeremy Goldblatt Is So Not Moses 89
Black Holes and Basketball Sneakers 115
Picky Eater 161
Such Foolishness 181
Noodle Soup for Nincompoops 187
Squid Girl 213
Angel & Aly 229
Nobody Stole Jason Grayson 251
Tina the Teen Fairy 267
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2006

    Omg

    This book has help me get over thing and i thought i was alone with my feeling but i was not and by reading this book i learned that other kid just like every one else are going though the same things i was and it made me feel a lot better You Should deff read this book i dont like to read but this was one but that i really wanted to when my teacher was talking about book that we should be reading because we have to read a book ever mounth and do a review about the book... so when we went into the class and he had a lot of book there that he was going to talk to us about and i thought it was going to be so borning but then he started talking about this book and he read one of the storys in the book and i was thinks wow i was going thought that last week...and then i tought i want to take this book and read it but so did a lot of kids in my grade so i had to wait but i could no i just had to get it so i went to barnes & Nobles and i got it right away and when i had a problem i took the book and did not but it down because it mabe me not feel alone and thats what grate about this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2004

    Middle School Teachers gives two thumbs up!

    If you work with preteens or have one, this is definitely a book to share! I read stories with my class that foster discussions about how we treat one another and getting through life! As a 6th grade teacher, this book has helped my classes come together and share with one another! Many of the stories are funny, and all of the stories are realistic (and approachable because they're not 'preachy.') I highly recommend this book to any middle school teacher!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2009

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