Cassie Binegarby Patricia MacLachlan
After her grandfather's death, Cassie longs for an orderliness to life -' a pattern -' that doesn't exist among her raucous, loving family. But during an eventful summer by the sea, she begins to learn that some things do not stay the same forever. Colorful characters [and] Cassie's continuing and believable growth in understanding herself and others [make] this… See more details below
After her grandfather's death, Cassie longs for an orderliness to life -' a pattern -' that doesn't exist among her raucous, loving family. But during an eventful summer by the sea, she begins to learn that some things do not stay the same forever. Colorful characters [and] Cassie's continuing and believable growth in understanding herself and others [make] this novel so distinctive." 'C.
Author Biography: Patricia MacLachlan was born on the prairie, and to this day carries a small bag of prairie dirt with her wherever she goes to remind her of what she knew first. She is the author of many well-loved novels and picture books, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal; it's sequel, Skylark; Three Names, illustrated by Alex Pertzoff; and All The Places To Love, illustrated by Mike Wimmer. She lives in western Massachusetts.
In Her Own Words...
"One thing I've learned with age and parenting is that life comes in circles. Recently, I was having a bad time writing. I felt disconnected. I had moved to a new home and didn't feel grounded. The house, the land was unfamiliar to me. There was no garden yet. Why had I sold my old comfortable 1793 home? The one with the snakes in the basement, mice everywhere, no closets. I would miss the cold winter air that came in through the electrical sockets.
"I had to go this day to talk to a fourth-grade class, and I banged around the house, complaining. Hard to believe, since I am so mild mannered and pleasant, isn't it? What did I have to say to them? I thought what I always think when I enter a room of children. What do I know?
"I plunged down the hillside and into town, where a group offourth-grade children waited for me in the library, freshly scrubbed, expectant. Should I be surprised that what usually happens did so? We began to talk about place, our living landscapes. And I showed them my little bag of prairie dirt from where I was born. Quite simply, we never got off the subject of place. Should I have been so surprised that these young children were so concerned with place, or with the lack of it, their displacement? Five children were foster children, disconnected from their homes. One little boy's house had burned down, everything gone. "Photographs, too," he said sadly. Another told me that he was moving the next day to place he'd never been. I turned and saw the librarian, tears coming down her face.
"'You know,' I said. "Maybe I should take this bag of prairie dirt and toss it into my new yard. I'll never live on the prairie again. I live here now. The two places could mix together that way!" "No!" cried a boy from the back. "Maybe the prairie dirt will blow away!" And then a little girl raised her hand. "I think you should put that prairie dirt in a glass bowl in your window so that when you write you can see it all the time. So you can always see what you knew first."
"When I left the library, I went home to write. What You Know First owes much to the children of the Jackson Street School: the ones who love place and will never leave it, the ones who lost everything and have to begin again. I hope for them life comes in circles, too."
- HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date:
- Age Range:
- 8 - 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
Cassie Binegar (whose name rhymes with vinegar) sat on a sand dune by the sea, being angry. I AM ANGRY, she wrote in big letters in the sand. "What's written becomes truth," her fourth-grade teacher had once said, and Cassie believed him.She carried a lined-white-paper list of complaints and angers, now numbering twenty-two and ranging from too many relatives to dry skin to this lonely place where she now lived. Cassie sighed and smoothed over the letters with a sweep ofher hand and wrote I Am Infinitely Angry. Cassie liked the word infinity. It was a big word with a big meaning. It was an i-n-f-i-n-i-t-e word.
A sea wind came up, and a tiny land crab walked sideways through the tail of the Y in Infinitely. Cassie frowned and watched the sea. The sand and water stretched out as far as she could see. The spring sky, the color blue of her mother's garden irises, was huge and cloudless. There were no neat fenced-in yards or sidewalks or boundaries in this new place. After one sand dune, there was another. After one wave, another came behind. Even the birds moved endlessly, the gulls wheeling above, the sanderlings darting before the waves below, always running just out of the way of the white curls of water. Cassie had tried running from the waves herself, but she was almost always caught by the water, sometimes in her good shoes.
The thought of shoes made Cassie frown again, for shoes had been one of the reasons they had moved to this lonely place.
"Can't afford to shoe the family," she had heard her father complain. "Boots for James, growinglike sourweed. Boots and foul-weather gear for John Thomas. School shoes for Cassie." And her parents had moved here to Snow Shore from their house inland. It was closer to her father and brothers' fishing boat, and her mother could tend and rent the cottages that spread about the house like seeds sown from an apron.
Cassie turned her back on the sea and looked up at the new house. New house! It was old and gray and weathered, with only one scrub pine in the side yard a tree so wind-wild and stunted that it didn't even reach the roof. The garden was scattered, a clump of irises here, a nest of nasturtiums there, and beach plums and sea roses everywhere.
Cassie thought longingly of the order and pattern in her mother's old garden inland. And her old tree house, built on the low limbs of a huge maple tree. It had been her space. Here there was no space for her. Even her own room was not hers. There was faded wallpaper cabbage roses, her mother said hung there by those who had lived there before. And there were worn places on the wooden floors that someone else had patterned.
In the beginning, when they had first come, the old attic had been Cassie's space. There was a small round window there, and if Cassie lay on her stomach she could see the water, the sand, and the winding sea roads. She had arranged her books there her dictionary, her thesaurus, and her notebooks-hidden from the rest of her family. She began her poem "Spaces" there.
Except for tops that spin And books and poems And my father's grin, I like spaces best of all, Inside, outside, upsidedownside, Narrow spaces where I can crawl.
She had searched through her dictionary for words to describe the new house. She had found three so far, all D words: dreary, depressing, decadent. She had become strangely content in her attic space. But soon, piece by piece, furniture and trunks and old suitcases tied with string took over the attic, moving her out.
Then Cassie found a door hidden under the back stairway, with a bare hanging light inside. She spent hours there, reading and writing.
Inside my house Under a chair, Behind a door In my lion's lair;
Pausing, whisperlike, on a stair,
I listen, bear, and stop to see,
And no one ever knows it's me.
"Hush, " says my mother. "Is that a mouse?" When it's only me, hiding in my house.
But before Cassie could make this space her own, her older brothers and her father began to use it for their boots and fishing gear. Then the smell of the sea invaded and swept her away.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are," called her laughing brothers, allowing her no privacy. And they pulled her into the kitchen, where they would spin another tale of a fish lost.
"Good!" Cassie would cry adamantly, her heart with the escaped fish.
"Another one for Cass," her father would say, reaching over to take her hand. "Another Big Jim" his name for every big fish that got away.
Cassie moved into each cottage then, one by one, taking her pen and notebook and books. The cottages were private and scattered, some hidden between grassy dunes, one high on a bluff so that Cassie could watch for the intruders that were her family. But slowly, her mother came behind her to scrape and paint and put up new curtains. "To get ready for the summer people next year," she said.
"But I need a space!" cried Cassie. "A space ofmy own.
Her mother, tall and lean and out of sorts, took her outside and waved her arm. "Cass, there's space here. Space for everyone!"
But Cassie shook her head. It's not my space, she thought.
Her new friend Margaret Mary lived in a shiny house that had lots of spaces for Margaret Mary.
Cassie had visited her and seen that at least she fit in her family. She had neat braids and matching dresses and socks. She had a very neat dollhouse, neatly arranged, with matching sets of furniture.
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