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Dancing in the Streets of Brooklyn

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For thirteen-year-old Judy Strand, summers in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, bustle with games of stickball played in the street, fun-filled outings to neighboring Coney Island, and her family’s yearly trip to the Catskill Mountains. But in July 1944, Judy’s carefree days and her innocence are shaken by a discovery: The man she’s always called Pa isn’t her real father. Even more shocking, Judy learns that the father she doesn’t remember was an alcoholic who abandoned his family. That’s why Judy’s mother emigrated to ...
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Dancing in the Streets of Brooklyn

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Overview

For thirteen-year-old Judy Strand, summers in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, bustle with games of stickball played in the street, fun-filled outings to neighboring Coney Island, and her family’s yearly trip to the Catskill Mountains. But in July 1944, Judy’s carefree days and her innocence are shaken by a discovery: The man she’s always called Pa isn’t her real father. Even more shocking, Judy learns that the father she doesn’t remember was an alcoholic who abandoned his family. That’s why Judy’s mother emigrated to America from Norway. Now Judy feels jumbled inside: She’s angry at her mother for keeping the truth from her–and she’s suddenly awkward around Pa. Nothing her parents say soothes the hurt.

At first, even the attentions of Jacob Jacobsen don’t make her feel any better. Judy likes Jacob; it’s just that his dad’s drinking binges hit too close to home. Ashamed, Judy doesn’t want anyone to find out her secret. But as misfortune befalls Jacob, Judy’s close friends, and her own family, Judy rallies to their side, and in the process recognizes that growing up encompasses forgiveness–of others and of herself.

From the Hardcover edition.

In 1944, a thirteen-year-old girl grapples with the discovery that "Pa" isn't her biological father, experiences her first romance, and faces hardships dealt to friends in Brooklyn's Norwegian community.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Likable 13-year-old narrator Judy Strand describes life in a Norwegian community in 1944 Brooklyn in this disjointed first novel. In the first chapter, the strange behavior of Jacob Jacobsen, son of the neighborhood drunk, triggers Judy's thoughts about her own recently discovered secret: she is adopted, and she had a baby sister who died. In the process of uncovering the facts about her real father, who is also an alcoholic, and in sorting through her feelings, Judy withdraws from her mother and adoptive father and grows closer to Jacob. Unfortunately, many themes are introduced and then dropped: early on, Judy says of her best friend, Annette, for instance, "There was something different about us-deep down where you couldn't see," yet the narrative never plumbs these differences. Jacob joins Judy's family for a summer vacation during which they become romantically involved, yet, back in Brooklyn, a rift abruptly develops between them, and readers get only a glimpse of the cause. The author packs a lot into this ambitious novel, but the plot lines wind up competing with one another. The narrator's often detached voice distances readers from the events, too. At one point Judy mentions how much she likes her youth group leader, "but I never let on about what was really happening inside me." The audience may well feel the same way. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
The setting is New York during WW II, and while the battle in Europe rages, 13-year-old Judy Strand is fighting her own personal battles. The eldest child of Norwegian immigrants, Judy is on the verge of becoming a young woman. She begins to suffer the pangs and humiliations of first loves and secret crushes. The boys with whom she has played stickball are now potential romantic interests. Leading the group of her admirers is Jacob Jacobsen. Judy likes him very much, but she is wary of associating with him because his father is an alcoholic. Adding to Judy's confusion is the sudden revelation that the man she calls Pa is not actually her biological father. Furthermore, she learns that she had a sister who died of pneumonia as an infant. Resentful of all the secrecy, Judy becomes angry and withdraws from her father. She struggles to find her place within her own family while also fighting to find her niche in the world around her. This coming-of-age story would be useful in a classroom because it covers a wide range of topics. It addresses the WW II home front experience. It also offers a glimpse of the immigrant experience in the first half of the 20th century, and it shows what life would have been like in New York in the 1940s. Ultimately, what is a curricular advantage for this book is a recreational weakness. The book has a slightly fractured feel because it is jumps so rapidly from one historical experience to another. Despite Judy's editorial commentary throughout the text, we are never 100% sure what prompts her repeated changes in behavior and attitude. This novel is an optional purchase. It is best suited for libraries and schools that have a specific need for books about WW IIand the immigrant experience. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2002, Random House, Dell Yearling, 194p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Heather Lisowski
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-A fresh, engaging novel set during World War II in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, then an enclave for Norwegian immigrants. Judy, 13, uncovers an unsettling secret about her past as she sorts through some old family papers: the man she has called "Pa" all these years is actually her adoptive father. Her mother explains that her biological father was an alcoholic who abandoned the family in Norway, and that she had a baby sister who died of pneumonia on the boat trip to America. Stunned and confused, Judy feels betrayed by her mother and awkward around the man she has always considered her father. Being around Jacob Jacobsen, who is sweet on her, only makes things worse as Jacob's dad, another alcoholic, is a constant reminder of the painful past. When his mother requests that he accompany Judy and her family to the Catskills to keep him away from some neighborhood bullies, the protagonist is initially resentful, but by summer's end, the two teens develop a romantic attachment. Readers get a glimpse into Norwegian-American culture along with some realities of life on the home front: yellow and blue stars in front windows, food rationing, older brothers lost in battle, older sisters working to support the war effort, and, finally, when the Japanese surrender, dancing in the streets. Lurie beautifully captures an adolescent's voice and concerns as well as a nostalgic Brooklyn childhood filled with stickball, candy stores, and trips to Coney Island.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Exploring the life and times of a 13-year-old girl living in Brooklyn near the end of WWII, first-time novelist Lurie offers a story about Judy Strand, daughter of Norwegian immigrants living in the Bay Ridge section. Judy's ordered world, blessed with a close-knit circle of family and friends is shaken when she discovers that the man she has always regarded as her beloved Pa is, in fact, not her real father. This man, from whom Judy now feels estranged, adopted her upon marrying Judy's mother. More troubling is the discovery that Judy's actual father was an alcoholic who abandoned his family in Norway, prompting Judy's mother to emigrate to America in order to make a new life with her small children. Judy goes to great lengths to conceal what she believes is her shameful secret from everyone. Her relationships with family and close friends become strained. Even a budding romance with close friend Jacob becomes tense because his father is also an alcoholic and this strikes uncomfortably close to home. How all this is resolved, how Judy learns to handle family and friendships under difficult circumstances, and how she develops understanding and self-acceptance in the face of various misfortunes that befall her and her friends makes for interesting if not arresting reading. A competent debut that captures the time and place. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385900669
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 10/8/2002
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

This is April Lurie’s debut novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

my block

Ma says it's a good thing we can't see too far down the road, 'cause we'd never take the journey. I found this true--and my journey was filled to the brim with trouble. It all started the day Jacob walked headfirst into a lamppost on my block.

"Judy's doing a dance on second base!" Harold yelled from the pitcher's mound. Second base was an imaginary square next to Mr. Johnson's front tire, and the pitcher's mound was a sewer cap. I knew it was stupid to play stickball in bare feet. It was a blistering afternoon in July, and my toes felt like sausages on a hot griddle.

"Time-out," I called to my friends. "I need shoes." I ran inside, grabbed my Keds, and plopped down on the stoop to tie my laces. Harold's Doberman pinscher, Bruiser, had been watching our game, and during this time-out he lifted his leg and christened second base.

Harold looked at me and laughed; then he scratched Bruiser behind the ear and said, "Good boy."

Great, I thought. Now I'd have to breathe hot asphalt mixed with dog pee while we finished our game. I closed my eyes for a minute and thought about the Catskill Mountains. In just a few weeks I'd be running barefoot in the cool grass and breathing in wild honeysuckle.

"Come on, Judy. We ain't got all day," Harold said. His hands were on his hips, and his jaws chomped hard on a piece of gum.

"All right, all right." I think the only reason I put up with Harold was that he let us use his Spalding ball. It was 1944, and the war was still on. Rubber was scarce and Spaldings were hard to come by.

I hopped off the porch, and that's when I saw Jacob Jacobsen walking toward us, his face turned down and his hands in his pockets. I thought it was strange for him to be coming up our street. We all knew Jacob; he was Norwegian, like us, and we saw him at school and at church. But in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, your block was your territory--outsiders were not really welcome. If you hung out with other kids, it was on common ground like Eighth Avenue, the schoolyard, or Sunset Park.

He continued along, avoiding our stares. Annette got up to bat, and after she slammed a home run, Jacob bashed his head right into the lamppost.

We stopped our game and watched as he doubled over and let out a huge moan. I took a few steps in his direction while everyone else laughed. Jacob looked up and fixed his eyes on me. He opened his mouth to say something, but then he turned and bolted down the street.

I looked at my friends. "Gee, that's really nice," I said. "Jacob smashes his head, and you guys laugh."

"Come on, Judy, we couldn't help it," Olaf said.

Harold spit into the street. "What was he doing coming up here anyway?"

Olaf reenacted the scene. "Uh . . . which way did he go, George, which way did he go?" Then he boinked his head into an invisible pole.

"Maybe he was drunk like his old man," Harold said, pretending to put a liquor bottle to his lips.

My face burned and a lump swelled in my throat. "Shut up, Harold!" I said. "Annette, let's get out of here. I've got ten cents--I'll buy you an ice cream." I grabbed her arm and yanked her down the street. Two nickels clinked together in my pocket. I had retrieved them from the gutter that morning with a wad of old bubble gum pressed onto the end of my stickball bat. "I'm sick and tired of those boys," I said.

"Well, I don't see what the big deal was," Annette said. "It was kind of funny."

I looked at her and sighed. Annette and I had been best friends for most of our thirteen years, but there was something different about us--deep down where you couldn't see. Once, when I had spent an entire morning in Ma's little garden, sketching some lily of the valley, I picked a cluster and showed it to Annette. She said, "Yeah? So? Little dinky flowers. Come on, Judy, let's go to the schoolyard and play handball or something." I didn't bother to show her my sketch.

I thought about Jacob as we walked to the candy store. When Jacob and I were little, our mothers would meet at the ice cream parlor; they'd buy us malteds and then talk over coffee. Afterward, we would run along Eighth Avenue, jumping over cellar doors, while the two of them shopped in the Norwegian stores.

When we got older, we drifted apart. We each had our own set of friends and we didn't mix much. I knew about his father because Ma would whisper things to Pa and say what a shame it all was.

But a few months before, I'd discovered the truth about my own family. It had happened when Pa was away on his tugboat and I was snooping around in Ma's closet. Seeing Jacob made me think about this, and I didn't like it one bit. I'd been trying so hard to forget.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

my block

Ma says it's a good thing we can't see too far down the road, 'cause we'd never take the journey. I found this true--and my journey was filled to the brim with trouble. It all started the day Jacob walked headfirst into a lamppost on my block.

"Judy's doing a dance on second base!" Harold yelled from the pitcher's mound. Second base was an imaginary square next to Mr. Johnson's front tire, and the pitcher's mound was a sewer cap. I knew it was stupid to play stickball in bare feet. It was a blistering afternoon in July, and my toes felt like sausages on a hot griddle.

"Time-out," I called to my friends. "I need shoes." I ran inside, grabbed my Keds, and plopped down on the stoop to tie my laces. Harold's Doberman pinscher, Bruiser, had been watching our game, and during this time-out he lifted his leg and christened second base.

Harold looked at me and laughed; then he scratched Bruiser behind the ear and said, "Good boy."

Great, I thought. Now I'd have to breathe hot asphalt mixed with dog pee while we finished our game. I closed my eyes for a minute and thought about the Catskill Mountains. In just a few weeks I'd be running barefoot in the cool grass and breathing in wild honeysuckle.

"Come on, Judy. We ain't got all day," Harold said. His hands were on his hips, and his jaws chomped hard on a piece of gum.

"All right, all right." I think the only reason I put up with Harold was that he let us use his Spalding ball. It was 1944, and the war was still on. Rubber was scarce and Spaldings were hard to come by.

I hopped off the porch, and that's when I sawJacob Jacobsen walking toward us, his face turned down and his hands in his pockets. I thought it was strange for him to be coming up our street. We all knew Jacob; he was Norwegian, like us, and we saw him at school and at church. But in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, your block was your territory--outsiders were not really welcome. If you hung out with other kids, it was on common ground like Eighth Avenue, the schoolyard, or Sunset Park.

He continued along, avoiding our stares. Annette got up to bat, and after she slammed a home run, Jacob bashed his head right into the lamppost.

We stopped our game and watched as he doubled over and let out a huge moan. I took a few steps in his direction while everyone else laughed. Jacob looked up and fixed his eyes on me. He opened his mouth to say something, but then he turned and bolted down the street.

I looked at my friends. "Gee, that's really nice," I said. "Jacob smashes his head, and you guys laugh."

"Come on, Judy, we couldn't help it," Olaf said.

Harold spit into the street. "What was he doing coming up here anyway?"

Olaf reenacted the scene. "Uh . . . which way did he go, George, which way did he go?" Then he boinked his head into an invisible pole.

"Maybe he was drunk like his old man," Harold said, pretending to put a liquor bottle to his lips.

My face burned and a lump swelled in my throat. "Shut up, Harold!" I said. "Annette, let's get out of here. I've got ten cents--I'll buy you an ice cream." I grabbed her arm and yanked her down the street. Two nickels clinked together in my pocket. I had retrieved them from the gutter that morning with a wad of old bubble gum pressed onto the end of my stickball bat. "I'm sick and tired of those boys," I said.

"Well, I don't see what the big deal was," Annette said. "It was kind of funny."

I looked at her and sighed. Annette and I had been best friends for most of our thirteen years, but there was something different about us--deep down where you couldn't see. Once, when I had spent an entire morning in Ma's little garden, sketching some lily of the valley, I picked a cluster and showed it to Annette. She said, "Yeah? So? Little dinky flowers. Come on, Judy, let's go to the schoolyard and play handball or something." I didn't bother to show her my sketch.

I thought about Jacob as we walked to the candy store. When Jacob and I were little, our mothers would meet at the ice cream parlor; they'd buy us malteds and then talk over coffee. Afterward, we would run along Eighth Avenue, jumping over cellar doors, while the two of them shopped in the Norwegian stores.

When we got older, we drifted apart. We each had our own set of friends and we didn't mix much. I knew about his father because Ma would whisper things to Pa and say what a shame it all was.

But a few months before, I'd discovered the truth about my own family. It had happened when Pa was away on his tugboat and I was snooping around in Ma's closet. Seeing Jacob made me think about this, and I didn't like it one bit. I'd been trying so hard to forget.


From the Hardcover edition.

Copyright 2002 by April Lurie
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2007

    I loved this book!

    I think that this book could be considered one of the best I've read.... And I've read a lot of books. I really enjoyed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    Best I hv Best I have read

    This book is amazing I love how the authors really describes everything 100 out of 10

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2012

    Great book!

    I really loved this book i liked how she made it so that u kinda were in everyones life they all had problems in a differant way and it is a great love story i reall recomend it

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2008

    A reviewer

    thats all i have to say to explain it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2005

    Cool!!

    I liked this book because I love learning about WWII. It was also a great story, but did not have much of a plot.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    best book i have ever read

    i loved this book with a passion! normally i am interesteed in teen MODERN day love storys and stuf. this book was about this one girl who has a friends jacob butt they become more then friends and about conflicts with life during the 1940's

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2002

    Exciting New Novel

    I loved Dancing in the Streets of Brooklyn. I couldn't put this book down for a second! The characters in this book were so realistic and I really became wrapped up in each of their lives while reading it. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an enjoyable and exciting read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2002

    Awesome

    This book is great even from the start I would highly reccomend this book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2011

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