Clay

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Overview

Elsie and her brother have been kidnapped -- by their mother

Eleven-year-old Elsie McPhee and her younger, autistic brother, Tommy, live discreetly with their mother; they are home-schooled and constantly cautioned not to converse with strangers. It's a lonely existence for Elsie, and right when she's finally decided to skirt her mother's rules and make a friend, Mom whisks the kids off to another nondescript furnished apartment in a different...

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Overview

Elsie and her brother have been kidnapped -- by their mother

Eleven-year-old Elsie McPhee and her younger, autistic brother, Tommy, live discreetly with their mother; they are home-schooled and constantly cautioned not to converse with strangers. It's a lonely existence for Elsie, and right when she's finally decided to skirt her mother's rules and make a friend, Mom whisks the kids off to another nondescript furnished apartment in a different state. This latest sudden move spurs Elsie to remember the events of four years ago, when her mother abducted her and Tommy, who were in the sole custody of their father. Then Tommy becomes ill and Mom won't consult a doctor. Elsie must weigh the meaning of past wrongs and use all her courage to make a decision that could change things forever.

Colby Rodowsky has written a novel that will bring readers to the edge of their seats.

After their parents divorce, eleven-year-old Elsie and her younger brother Tommy, who is mentally "different," must deal with a terrible secret that causes them and their mother to move from place to place and stay in hiding.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this contemporary story, the 11-year-old narrator gradually makes it clear that she and her autistic brother have been stolen away from their father by their emotionally unstable mother. "Readers' eagerness to discover how and when the children will be rescued is sure to keep pages turning," said PW. Ages 8-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060006181
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/6/2004
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Colby Rodowsky is the author of many books for children and young adults, including Not My Dog, an ALA Notable Book, and Spindrift, which School Library Journal called a "well-paced, affectionate story" in a starred review. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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First Chapter

Clay

Chapter One

The truck was pulled up in front of the A building, across the mingy plot of grass that separates it from the B building, which is where I was. It was a moving truck. Not one of those mile-long, shiny green moving-van types with pictures of the world splashed over it, but it was a truck, open and sort of square with mattresses and chair legs sticking out the top. And the people standing alongside of it were obviously moving into the A building.

I wasn't all that interested in the beds and chairs and lamps and even the monster-size TV that were piling up on the sidewalk, though I have to admit they were a lot better looking than the stuff in our already-furnished apartment. Already-furnished means filled with a bunch of left-behinds that various tenants through the years hadn't bothered to take when they'd moved out of Garden View.

It was the people with the truck I cared about now. Cared about enough to unsmudge a corner of the window with my T-shirt and drag a wooden stool over with my foot. I settled down to watch.

"Hey, Tommy, there're people moving in across the way. Real people, with children. Come here and look."

He didn't, of course. Come to look I mean. I think that's mostly because my brother lacks what I heard somebody on Oprah once call "intellectual curiosity."

"Come here," I said again. "There's a girl looks like is my age and a boy about the same as you and a mother with spiky hair and a guy who's maybe the dad or maybe just the truck driver. I'm not sure which. Tell me what you think."

He didn't. I shot him a quick look, just long enough to see that he was swirling stones, before I went back to my window watching.

Tommy spends a lot of time swirling stones, or salt, or sugar, or sometimes just plain old dust, stirring whatever it is in circles, round and round. When we go outside, he collects tons of tiny stones and brings them in and stores them in a red Folgers coffee can. And when he doesn't know what else to do, he dumps them out on the table and swirls them with his fingers.

It drives Mom mad. My mother's name is Jude, and she works as a waitress at Nifties Fifties, which is a sort of diner, and mostly leaves me to take care of Tommy. Except when she drags us along and we get to sit in the far back booth by the kitchen door and eat french fries and ketchup and play the jukebox nonstop.

The Tommy-size boy across the way must have said something funny because all of a sudden the guy put down the chair he was carrying and pretend-swatted at him. Then he caught him in a giant bear hug and swung him around.

"He's the dad," I said to Tommy, but without looking at him. "On account of if he was just the truck driver, he wouldn't act so really interested." I watched as the father picked the chair up again and carried it inside. Tommy eventually came to stand beside me. (He's like that sometimes -- doing what I asked once I've stopped asking.) We watched together as the girl and boy struggled with getting an empty bookcase inside, as the mother took an armload of boxes and then came back for another. As the dad lifted a mattress as if it were a feather and disappeared through the open door with it.

Tommy went back to swirling stones, but I kept standing there until all the belongings -- the chairs and tables and boxes and bags and the monster TV -- were taken inside. I stood there until the door to the A building was shut tight and the windows of one of the downstairs apartments were thrown open. I was still there, ages later, when the girl and the boy came back out, eating apples and carrying skateboards.

"Okay," I said. "That's it. Come on, we're going."

"Where?" said Tommy.

"Outside."

"Why?"

"To meet the new kids. Come on." Tommy didn't say anything, so I went on in my best I'll-explain-this-one-more-time voice. "There's a girl and a boy moved into the other building. I told you, and now they're out front, and if we go out kind of casual and make like we're going to the store for milk or something, then we can say 'hey' and they'll say 'hey' back to us, and we'll know them. Okay?"

Tommy didn't answer. He lined the gray stones down one side of the table and the white stones down the other.

"The boy might maybe let you play with his skateboard," I said to the top of my brother's head. "And you know what else, I'll bet he has a ton more stuff inside just waiting to be unpacked. I'll bet he has a soccer ball and a deck of Uno cards and maybe even a bike." I hadn't actually seen those things, but I said it anyway. "I'll bet he has an army truck and a dozen yo-yos and if we get to know them they'll ask us in someday to watch their big TV. And I'll bet the girl has a karaoke machine that I'm really gonna want to play with. Anyway, you have to come on account of Mom said I'm in charge and now I say so."

Tommy swooshed his stones, gray and white together again, with one hand and swirled them around and around.

"If you come, I'll help you find more stones," I said in my sticky-nice voice ...

Clay. Copyright © by Colby Rodowsky. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2006

    Good, cute little story but different.

    It Kind of reminds me of Al Capone Does my Shirts. It made me think about why Elsie's Mom was the way she was, what was wrong with her etc. I felt so sorry for Manda when she got yelled at. The ending was good.

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