Alive and Well in Prague, New York

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Overview

Matisse Osgood is a New York City girl through and through. She buys her clothes at Andy's Cheapies, watches indie films at the Angelika, and wouldn't be caught dead on a hayride. But when her father gets sick and Matisse's parents decide to leave Man-hattan for a small town in upstate New York, her perfect world crumbles. As Matisse trudges through life in Prague, she dreams of waking up in her apartment on West 78th Street with a father who's well enough to walk with her in Central Park and a mother who doesn't...

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Overview

Matisse Osgood is a New York City girl through and through. She buys her clothes at Andy's Cheapies, watches indie films at the Angelika, and wouldn't be caught dead on a hayride. But when her father gets sick and Matisse's parents decide to leave Man-hattan for a small town in upstate New York, her perfect world crumbles. As Matisse trudges through life in Prague, she dreams of waking up in her apartment on West 78th Street with a father who's well enough to walk with her in Central Park and a mother who doesn't pretend that everything is okay. When rumors surround Matisse at school and her father's symptoms worsen, Matisse realizes that the friends she's making in Prague are the kind you can count on. They help Matisse find the strength to reach out to her father, who may not be as far from her as she thought. And one particular farm boy shows Matisse that country living is a lot more magical than she ever imagined.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Grab sets her debut novel in a sleepy upstate New York town (named, ironically, after the sophisticated Czech capital to which it bears no resemblance), where Manhattan native Matisse Osgood and her family relocate after her father's Parkinson's disease worsens. Embittered by the move, Matisse is often judgmental, and her preconceived ideas of country living prevent her from appreciating the new surroundings. Her new high school presents a cast of familiar characters: angsty outcast Violet, popular but goodhearted Marco, cruel cheerleader Jennifer and overalls-wearing but intellectual Hal, whom Matisse summarily dubs "the hick." When Jennifer spreads a vicious rumor about Matisse's dad, Matisse must confide in those she initially dismissed. Grab does not fully develop some of the more interesting aspects of the novel, such as the flirtatious lunchroom interactions between Violet and Marco, and Hal's troublesome relationship with his parents over his goals. Instead, she focuses tightly on depicting Matisse's withdrawal from those closest to her and the family tensions caused by severe illness. While predictable, Grab's sympathetic portrayal may comfort those affected by sickness and loss. Ages 12-up. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
This is Grab's first novel, and since she is from upstate New York herself, she describes the setting, as newcomer Matisse finds it, with acute understanding. Matisse is the daughter of successful artists and they previously lived in Manhattan together. But some years ago, her father fell when he was working on a large sculpture, which made his Parkinson's disease much worse. Now, as Matisse is finishing up high school, the family abruptly moves to little Prague, New York, to give her father a place to recover away from the sophisticated art society they know so well. Matisse tries to find a way to survive, making some new friends, but her larger problem, really, is facing the truth about her father's disabilities caused by his disease. She hides these facts from her new acquaintances and from her old friends in Manhattan, and worse, she hides the truth from herself, or tries to. This repression of her feelings makes for a total change in her personality, and it is essential that she find a way to process what is going on in her family, just as her father must accept his illness. The theme of learning to understand and accept a parent's illness is the most important one here; the resettlement issues are also interesting, but secondary to the larger dilemma for Matisse, of accepting her father's disabilities. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
VOYA - Kathleen Beck
Matisse's mother and father are both well-known artists, and Matisse has grown up in New York City attending gallery openings and shopping at trendy stores. Now as her father's Parkinson's disease worsens, her parents decide to move to a small town in upstate New York, where life may be less stressful. A city girl to the core, Matisse is sure there can be only hicks and homespun hokum in Prague, an impression that is strengthened by her neighbor Hal's penchant for wearing overalls to school. But when her father's symptoms worsen and cheerleader-queen Jennifer, fearing that Matisse covets her boyfriend, starts a rumor that her dad is a drug addict, Matisse finds that small-town friends can be the best. Family communication-or lack of it-is the heart of this story, which has a longer, more thoughtful book lurking in it. Her father's depression, her mother's denial of her husband's condition and Matisse's rejection of them both are telegraphed to the reader rather than allowed to grow out of the story. Small-town life is caricatured-Hal works for "Farmer Dalton" and a hayride is the biggest social event of the year. There are appealing secondary characters, such as would-be-rebel Violet; quirky, football-captain Marco; and gentle Hal, but the author leaves their stories dangling. The writing is above average, leaving the reader wishing for the more leisurely, less-predictable work that Grab is capable of producing. Reviewer: Kathleen Beck
School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up- Matisse Osgood is a Manhattanite with a superiority complex. When her father's illness necessitates a move to rural, upstate New York, she drips with contempt for her new town and its residents. Her initial reaction to her new high school is a bit clichéd as she surrounds herself with attitude and befriends the most radical and outrageous of Prague's students. But, after making a bad choice in a boyfriend, taking on the clique and emerging triumphant, and winning the respect of the entire school, Matisse becomes a likable, open-minded young woman. The story offers a change from the typical heartbreaking or depressing teen novels, but the ending is almost too good to be true. Still, the story provides a safe and positive alternative to teens who are hoping for happy endings in their own lives.-Debra Banna, Sharon Public Library, MA

Kirkus Reviews
A Manhattan teen lives upstate while adapting to her father's illness. Sixteen-year-old Matisse Osgood's father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease five years ago, and she quickly grew tired of the false sympathy and prying questions from her Upper West Side classmates. After her family relocates to upstate New York, Matisse embraces dual strategies of denial and repression regarding her dad's condition. The high-school rumor mill soon starts up, leaving Matisse to evaluate both school friendships and familial relationships. Coupling City love with awkward rural adventures, Grab creates a teen-driven Green Acres dramatic comedy. Equally concerned for her parents and for herself, Matisse allows readers to feel both sick for her and of her. Touching reminiscences establish the father-daughter relationship while accommodating the natural tension between adolescents and adults. Secondary characters are thinly developed, however, and Matisse's quick dismissal of neighbor-boy Hal comes across as cheap plot manipulation. These flaws notwithstanding, an excellent narrative voice, touching emotional connection and playful rural activities will take readers on their own relaxing hayride. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061256707
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/3/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 13 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 760L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Daphne Grab grew up in a small town in upstate New York. She has worked at a number of jobs, including teaching high school history, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, and teaching English in China. She also earned an MFA in creative writing at the New School. In 1998 she moved to New York City, where she discovered that she has always been a city girl at heart. She lives there now with her husband and children.

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Read an Excerpt


Alive and Well in Prague, New York


By Daphne Grab
Balzer & Bray
Copyright © 2008

Daphne Grab
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-0-06-125670-7



Chapter One "Okay, honey, this is it!" My mother's voice rang with false cheer, too loud inside the little Honda she was still figuring out how to drive. She hit the brakes and the car slid slightly on the wet pavement.

I grabbed at the door for safety but accidentally opened it. Rain sprayed in, splashing on my dress.

"Damn," I muttered, slamming the door. I wasn't used to being a passenger any more than she was used to driving. "Even the weather here sucks."

"It did rain back home, too, sweetie," she said. Her hands played absently with the silk scarf looped around her neck. She plucked at one of the splatters of paint that stuck to its fringe. "I know the first day is hard, but I'm sure you'll make friends fast."

I pulled a napkin out of the glove box and began blotting my dress. "I can't even say the name of the stupid school." I glanced out the window, through the gloomy wet, to the blue letters on top of the ugly brick building: Miloslsv High.

"I'm sure there's a great story about how the school got such an unusual name," she said.

I snorted.

"Seriously, honey! I bet you'll come home laughing about it."

"Yeah, that's what's gonna happen," I muttered. I crumpled the napkin and put it back in the glove compartment.

"Matisse, small-town living might surprise you. There really is a lot happening here."

"What, is there a gallery opening I missed in the Prague Post?"

"Well, it's what Dad needs right now," she said. I looked down at the water stains on my dress as silence filled the car. I willed my mom not to make this morning worse by reminding me of the real reason we'd moved here. I didn't need to think about that before my first day at the lamest high school in existence.

"You know-" she started.

I grabbed the messenger bag at my feet and snatched the black umbrella lying next to it. "I'm out of here," I said, opening the door and trying to push open the umbrella to protect myself from the downpour. I succeeded only in poking my cheek and spraying water into the car. "I'll walk home," I said as I shut the door.

Her "'Bye, sweetie" was muffled by the rain pelting down around me.

I took baby steps up the path toward the main entrance, trying to keep my shoes dry. For the millionth time I considered the terrible irony of moving to Prague, a town named after one of the coolest cities in the world, yet pretty much the most pathetic place I'd been to in my entire life. I still couldn't believe my parents had chosen to leave our home in New York City to live here. We'd been in Prague three weeks and I still kept expecting to wake up in our condo on West Seventy-Eighth Street, with the best movies, restaurants, museums, and galleries a short subway ride away. Instead I woke up to the thrilling possibility of seeing one of the two second-run movies playing in town or eating at the local pizza place, where they didn't even have sun-dried tomatoes as a topping. And the nearest museums and galleries were back home in New York City, about four hours away. It was like moving from downtown paradise to the suburbs of hell.

Once I got inside the cramped school lobby, I shook out my umbrella. The walls were a pukey shade of green, and the dim fluorescent lights made me feel like I was stuck in a warehouse. My old school, Upper West Side Friends, was in a gorgeous brownstone, with a big fireplace in the lobby and couches where we hung out before school. You know things are bad when you long for a school lobby.

Around me girls shrieked and guys slapped one another on the back. People glanced at me as I strode past. I heard a girl mutter, "Nice dress," and then laugh with her little group of friends. My black vintage Jackie O style was nice; much too nice to be appreciated in this dump.

I turned a corner and was practically trampled by a hefty blond hick wearing overalls. He looked like he belonged in a performance of Oklahoma!

"Sorry! Hi there," he called, as he clomped past me, his thick hair sticking out absurdly.

I made a wrong turn but finally managed to find my locker. A girl next to me with perfectly curled hair was standing in front of her open locker. I noticed she was taping up pictures of girls with their arms around one another and guys in football gear. She secured the last one, slammed her locker shut, and then caught sight of me.

"Hello there," she chirped, bouncing slightly on her toes. "You're the new girl. We haven't had one of those in a while. I'm Sherry. Welcome!"

She paused, then skipped off down the hall, leaving a cloud of perfume behind.

I sighed as I set my stuff inside my tiny puke-green locker. It was going to be a long day.

Sure enough, by sixth period I felt like I'd been locked in Miloswhatever High for half my life. I dragged myself into the art room and sat at the only empty table, a flimsy, paint-splattered contraption that teetered when I put my bag on it.

The teacher was a plump woman with frizzy curls. She hugged a few kids before walking to the desk to call roll, another quaint tradition we didn't have at Friends. When she got to my name, instead of tripping over it like my other teachers today had, she looked up and gave me a big smile.

"Matisse, what a beautiful name! Did you know there's a famous artist with that name?"

Obviously I knew that-I was named after him! And if she'd had any shred of art knowledge, she would've been more impressed by my last name. Osgood was a name that sent art lovers across the world into a frenzy. But it blew right past this woman, who was still smiling at me.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from Alive and Well in Prague, New York by Daphne Grab Copyright © 2008 by Daphne Grab . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 14 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2009

    A uniquely, gently poetic first work!

    Superb and yet it operates within the confines of the possible. I hope that next time this very promising writer will try to reach out beyond her grasp.

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  • Posted October 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

    Matisse Osgood is the daughter of two well-known New York City artists. Life is good for Matisse. She's a city girl through and through. Then her father gets diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and is told that he should avoid working on the sculptures that he loves, for fear that he may fall off of a ladder at some point. <BR/><BR/>After much consideration, Matisse's parents decide that the best thing for the family is to get out of the city. To remove all reminders of what her father can't have anymore. So off they move to Prague, New York. Yes, it's named after the famous European city. The only problem is that Prague, NY, is nothing like its namesake. Hayrides and pep rallies are the excitement Matisse can expect in her new town. <BR/><BR/>It takes a while, but finally Matisse finds a friend in loner Violet. They have similar tastes and personalities, and the friendship forms quickly. Other quirky characters in Prague enter Matisse's life. At first, she has a hard time letting anyone in. <BR/><BR/>Matisse is dealing with her own grief and guilt over her father's diagnosis. Life at home is hard and Matisse has always been reserved when it comes to dealing with private issues. <BR/><BR/>Through the help of her new friends, her father's acceptance of his diagnosis, and the quaint setting of Prague, NY, Matisse slowly opens up and becomes a better person in her new surroundings. <BR/><BR/>Ms. Grab writes a tender story of a girl's struggle to accept the life she's had thrust upon her. Matisse's life is thrown upside down with the move and her father's illness, and slowly she learns that there are some things she can control, and others that she has to learn to accept and live with.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2008

    Liv's Book Reviews

    The one thing that surprised me about this book was how it was marketed for a younger audience than I expected. The print is large, the plot line is basic, and nothing 'naughty' happens. But, of course that's not a bad thing. I think it added to the overall warm charm the book had. Each character was whimsical and fun, and even though their actions may have not seemed realistic at some points, they were still fun to read about and you felt as if you knew them well. I also liked how the romantic aspect of the story played out. I loved Hal and I think that him and Matisse make one of the cutest couples I've read about in a while. There's just something so innocent about the high maintenance city girl falling for the hokey farm boy. I adored it! Another thing that really brought the book to life for me was the strong female lead. Even throughout her boy troubles and the issues with her family, Matisse was able to stay sane and competent. I loath books that place females in weak and inferior positions, so for that reason alone, I loved Alive and Well. I'd definitely recommend this book to everyone. It is sure to warm your heart and leave you wanting to read more of Daphne Grab's smooth and clear writing. I'm definitely looking forward to more books from her!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2008

    Short But Meaningful

    Matisse Osgood is the daughter of a painter and a sculptor, so it's no wonder she's named after an artist. But tragedy strikes her family when her father topples from a ladder and gets a concussion. It turns out that he has nerve damage and is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. That prompts the family to move from New York City to small town Prague, which breaks Matisse's heart because she has to leave behind the city she loves. And moving doesn't seem to help anything at all. Her father is still sick, her mother pretends like nothing is wrong, and Matisse is worried someone will find out her family's secret. In the process, Matisse manages to make one true friend, Violet. They are similar in so many ways they both hate Prague and can't wait until they can finally get away from the small town. There's also her friendly neighbor Hal, who seems dorky at first but grows on Matisse. But not everyone is so welcoming. There's the nasty popular girl Jennifer who seems determined to make everyone hate Matisse. The false rumors start to fly, and Matisse still can't deal with her father's sickness she compares it to a wound. And eventually, all secrets have to come out. Alive and Well in Prague, New York is a beautiful story about a young girl learning to cope with her father's illness. It was interesting to watch Matisse grow and find out what really mattered to her. In some ways, Prague was stereotyped as other backwards small towns with its hayride and seemingly stupid traditions, but the setting wasn't as important as the characters. I have to say that Matisse and Violet are probably two of my new favorite fictional characters they have so much style and I'm not just talking about clothes. At first, they only have each other, and they are perfectly content with that that is something to be admired. They might not seem like it in this small town setting, but they are truly kick-butt heroines. I also appreciated the romance, even though it was only added in at the end. I recommend Alive and Well in Prague, New York if you like a shorter but meaningful read. There's a lot that can be learned from this novel about family and friendship.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2008

    Great Book for Boys Also

    I was a little surprised to find myself enjoying this book since I assumed it was for girls but I started reading a few pages and couldn't put it down. Yes, there was some discussion about vintage clothing shopping and kissing but it disappeared behind strong dialogue, a good plot and too funny descriptions of human thinking and interaction. It totally worked for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2008

    OUTSTANDING

    I was hooked from the first page of Alive and Well in Prague, NY. Matisse is a teen both kids and adults can relate to. Her struggle to fit in after leaving NYC for small-town Prague, her reluctance to tell others about her father's Parkinson's Disease, and her rollercoaster ride of new relationships make this story interesting, heartfelt and realistic. Five stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2008

    Lovely, sensitive, incredibly relatable book

    This is the kind of book you can read again and again, and I'm sure I will . . . Daphne Grab's debut novel describes a daughter's experience with her father's illness -- but even though it deals with sickness, it is never melodramatic. It is just extraordinarily real. The narrator, Matisse Osgood, is a displaced city girl who finds friendship and romance in her new upstate NY town, and comes to terms with her dad's Parkinson's disease. I wanted to be Matisse's friend -- I'd even hang out at Milo High to get to meet her! -- and I highly recommend this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2008

    Buy this fantastic book!!

    This book is a real gem! I could not put it down, yet I never wanted it to end. The writing is fantastic and the story is incredibly engaging. The main character, Matisse, is a hip, cool New Yorker who reluctantly moves with her family to a small, uncool town in upstate New York. At first Matisse misses Manhattan's vintage clothing shops and sushi restaurants so much that she cannot see the hidden beauty in rural New York. But with the help of some interesting classmates, and a few unexpected surprises, Matisse learns that there is more to life than being cutting-edge. This debut novel from Daphne Grab is truly incredible! I highly recommend it to everyone. This book is going to be a real hit!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2008

    Prague, New York Isn't All That Dreay

    New York City girl Matisse Osgood, named after a famous painter, thought she¿d never leave the city. Until her parents decided to move the family to a small town. Now she¿s stuck in deary Prague, New York where the theater does not even have the current flicks. The town is a total bust in Matisse¿s eyes compared to the frequent shopping trips and exotic restaurants back in New York City. Though her life starts to look up as Matisse makes a few friends, thinking that maybe, just maybe, Prague isn¿t that bad after all. Alive and Well in Prague, New York is a fabulous read that is impossible to put down. A truly heartwarming novel that fills one with a sense of cheer and hope as Matisse struggles through not only adjusting to small town life, but learning how to open her heart to those who matter the most. This finely crafted debut novel from Daphne Grab surely strikes a reader¿s heartstrings through and through.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2008

    Good fun read

    This book is definitely one of my favorites now. It has you hooked from the beginning when Matisse Osgood ( named after the famous artist that brought her parents together)is starting at her new school in Prague, New York. She has moved from NYC because her father has Parkinson's disease. Her mother just ignores this problem like nothings wrong and Matisse can not bring herself to talk about to no one. This book deals with growing up and facing your problems. Also it has romance and hummer. This authors first novel is heartwarming leaving me wanting more. I can not wait for her next book. I would suggest it to anyone. 5 stars

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    Posted April 11, 2011

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    Posted January 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2012

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