Sketched simply, this is a story about the year two best friends became quietly less so; painted fully, it's a portrait of a girl's (and an author's) intent obser-vation of the ordinary, and the power of language to make it art. The place is distinct but unspecified, the time is the early seventies: Dark Shadows is on TV, Three Dog Night is on the radio, a girl and her sister sleep "like two pearls sinking through Prell." Debbie and Maureen are best friends, but Glenna has entered the picture, and Debbie is at a loss as to how or why that is, or what to do about it: "Three is a lousy number in a lot of ways. One of those ways is that carnivals always have rides with seats that hold two people, so one person has to act as if she doesn't mind waiting by the fence or riding in a seat by herself or with some other leftover." No, it isn't shaping up to be a good summer for Debbie, and the ultimate betrayal comes when she realizes Maureen is going away on vacation with Glenna and her family. There's no noisy breakup here, just a drifting away that owes as much to fate as it does to summer and to growing up. Debbie's adjustment (a far too clinical word for the resolutely down-to-earth story) is painful but unmelodramatic, and her wry little pen drawings reveal a sense of humor and proportion that will serve her well. All along Perkins shows readers a world of friends waiting to be found, and so they are. One can't know, of course, where autobiography plays a part in this exceptional first novel (Perkins is the author-artist of two first-rate picture books), but Debbie's account of her trials is so rich with metaphors made manifest ("The house waited like a scraped knee") that you feel at heart this is a story of an artist being born. r.s.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
PW called this first novel about a 13-year-old girl's feelings of abandonment when her best friend finds a new buddy "a lively coming-of-age story filled with touching moments." Ages 10-up. (Mar.) n Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
Debbie and Maureen have been best friends since third grade, and Debbie would be very happy to keep it that way. But middle school brings many changes, one of which is the presence of Glenna who also wants to be Maureen's best friend. While Maureen doesn't understand why the three of them can't just get along, Debbie and Glenna jockey for position both literally and figuratively. An astute teacher helps Debbie understand that right there in her universe are many potential "best friends" waiting for her. The reader observes the slow disintegration of this long-time friendship through Debbie's eyes. Anyone who has experienced such hurt (and who hasn't?) will empathize with her. The author writes with honesty and lightens the story with delightful line drawings and bits of humor. She tackles the issue of growing up and outgrowing friendships in a meaningful and upbeat manner. A highly recommended book.
To quote KLIATT's Nov. 1999 review of the hardcover edition: Debbie and Maureen have been best friends since third grade, but now everything has changed. "As people who get hit by a truck sometimes say, 'I didn't see anything coming,'" Debbie moans. Maureen has taken up with dull Glenna, and Debbie is excluded. She feels "all alone in the universe," and mopes about all summer. It takes the wise advice of a kind gardener she meets, and that of the woman he works for, to help Debbie realize that she will have friends again. In the fall, a sympathetic teacher notices Debbie's plight, and sets her up with a new friend. And one of her neighbors, a tough teenage girl named Marie, as well as Debbie's supportive family, help her understand the importance of kind acts and people reaching out to help other people. This look at the nature of friendship from the perspective of a 13-year-old girl will appeal to young adolescents struggling with some of the same issues of fickle friends and making friends. It's illustrated with charming, fanciful pen-and-ink drawings by the author, and its light, funny tone will draw middle-school age readers in. A Booklist Top 10 First Novel and a 1999 NY Public Library Book for the Teen Age. KLIATT Codes: J*Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1999, HarperTrophy/Greenwillow, 146p, illus, 20cm, 98-50093, $4.95. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; March 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 2)
Gr 5-8-Debbie and Maureen are in middle school; they've been best friends since third grade. At least they were until Glenna Flaiber arrives on the scene and becomes a major threat to their relationship. Debbie is comfortable being "Frick and Frack," as her father calls them, and becoming like the Three Musketeers is not appealing to her. When Maureen and Glenna vacation together and begin to share secrets that exclude her, Debbie begins to feel "all alone in the universe." In truth, Maureen likes both girls, but Glenna's constant presence is hard for the jealous friend to take and Debbie is gradually pushed out of the picture. With the help of a caring teacher and some new adult friends, she realizes that Maureen, not Glenna, is ultimately responsible for ending their friendship, and that's what hurts the most. Debbie is gently guided along to reach out to some new girls, and finds that she can be friends with many different types of people. The ending is realistic. There are no magical solutions or potions that bring the former friends back together. As in real life, growth occurs, relationships change, and the girls move on. A poignant story written with sensitivity and tenderness.-Roxanne Burg, Thousand Oaks Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-Debbie feels that she is "all alone in the universe," when her best friend Maureen suddenly starts spending all her time with their classmate, Glenna. As Debbie mourns her changing relationship with Maureen, she slowly begins the process of forming new friendships. This touching story by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow, 1999) of friendships lost and made, told through Debbie's first person point of view, is deftly narrated by actress Hope Davis. Davis believably portrays Debbie's confusion, sadness, and general moping about. The only downside to this audiobook is that listeners don't see the appealing illustrations by the author that appear in the book . This excellent audio version will appeal to upper elementary and middle school girls.-Lori Craft, Itasca Community Library, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In a quiet, introspective novel, Debbie, 13, faces one of the worst things that can happen to the young; she's lost a best friend, Maureen, to a boring, rather unpleasant classmate, Glenna. With carefully observed details and moments, picture-book creator Perkins (Clouds for Dinner, 1997, etc.) shows why Debbie can believe that she'll never have a happy day again. Of course, there are others around, such as her new neighbor, the worldly Maria, and girls from school, but none of them is as wonderful as Maureen. Debbie finds herself hating Glenna, but a kindly teacher helps her realize that Glenna didn't "take" MaureenMaureen left. It all adds up to a just examination of one of the small but piercing sorrows of growing up, with a cast of arresting characters, freckles of humor, and black-and-white drawings that enhance the muted tale; Perkins gives the significance of friendship its due, and then some. (Fiction. 10-12)
Read an Excerpt
Where I Live
Our town is called Seldem.
My dad likes to add, "If ever."
The bronze plaque in Memorial Park says that our town was founded by Lord Henry Seldem, from England, in 1846. No one knows who he was or why he came here. The next town west is Hesmont, also named after a lord. It's hard to imagine any lords living here now, though. The biggest house in town probably has four bedrooms. Maybe Lord Seldem's house was torn down when they put in the Seldem Plaza or the Thorofare. Or maybe he never lived here at all; maybe he just founded the town, and the next day he looked around and decided he'd be better off in Deer Church or River's Knob.
Memorial Park is a tiny green triangle on Pittsfield Street. Besides the bronze plaque, which is bolted onto an oily slab of coal from the Hesmont Mine, it has a flagpole, a war monument, a bench you can sit on to wait for the bus, and enough grass for one dog to lie down on under the sign that says WELCOME TO SELDEM! A COMMUNITY OF HOMES. When the dog stands up, it might want to trot two blocks south to the river and wash off because the grass (and everything else here) is coated with a light film of fly ash from the power plant in Birdvale, to the east. The dog would be kidding itself, though, because the river itself is fly ash (and who knows what else) mixed with water.
My dad says that we are descendants of Peter Stuyvesant, who started New York City, and Lord Baltimore, who used to own Maryland. My mother doesn't believe this, but my dad says, "That and twenty-five cents will get you a cup of coffee." So we would seem to be up to our armpits in royalty and nobleheritage, not to mention real estate. Nothing has made it all the way to 1969, though, except for some names. And names don't mean that much. if you think about them in a certain way, they can mean anything.
For example, my dad told me the other day that the stuff on the outside of our house is called Insul-Brick. It's supposed to look like bricks, but it's just a brick pattern, printed somehow onto thick sheets of a tar-papery, shingly-type material. No one would be fooled into thinking it's really bricks, but it looks all right. It keeps the rain out.
Now pretend you don't know that, and listen to the word: Insul-Brick. "Insulbrick." It sounds like a royal name, a name for a castle in Scotland or England.
I can picture it in gold, shining letters on a paperback book, with the gorgeous couple in flowing robes falling in love at sunset on horses in a garden with the castle, Insulbrick, in the background....
Debbie of Insulbrick is not the gorgeous woman, though. Debbie is the girl up in the tower who has to finish ironing all the flowing robes before she can send carrier pigeon messages to her friends. That would be me.
in the first chapter, Debbie of Insulbrick's mother would be saying, "Why do you always send the first carrier pigeon message? Why doesn't Maureen ever send one to you, first? They have pigeons, too, don't they?"
Debbie would breathe an inward sigh of exasperation with her mother for expecting Maureen always to do the same things that ordinary people might do, like make phone calls. I mean, send carrier pigeon messages. But aloud Debbie would just say, "She does, sometimes."
Which I think was true, before last summer. Before last summer Maureen and I were best friends.
I know we were in May.
I'm positive we were, in April. At least I think we were. I don't know what happened exactly.
As people who get hit by trucks sometimes say, "I didn't see anything coming." All Alone in the Universe. Copyright © by Lynne Perkins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.