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December Stillness

December Stillness

4.4 15
by Mary Downing Hahn

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Sensitive and idealistic fifteen-year-old Kelly McAllisterfeels at odds with everyone around her. Her best friendhas suddenly turned boy crazy. Her talented mothercreates greeting card designs instead of real art, andher father never talks to her about anything exceptworking hard and getting ahead.

That's why Kelly becomes so involved in the plight of



Sensitive and idealistic fifteen-year-old Kelly McAllisterfeels at odds with everyone around her. Her best friendhas suddenly turned boy crazy. Her talented mothercreates greeting card designs instead of real art, andher father never talks to her about anything exceptworking hard and getting ahead.

That's why Kelly becomes so involved in the plight of ahomeless Vietnam vet who takes refuge in the libraryeach day. Interviewing him began as a Social Studiesproject, but it takes on new meaning after her offers offood and friendship backfire into a real disaster.What had the war done to destroy this man? And whathad it done to her own father, who had been to thesame war ... and refuses to speak of it?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A serious, troubling study of teenage rebellion and idealism is combined with a story about the harsh realities of the lives of the homeless and the legacy of the Vietnam War. Kelly finds herself at odds with everyone: her best friend has turned into a giggling shopper; Keith ``can't'' be her friend anymore because he's male; she is ashamed of her mother's career as a greeting card artist; and she's estranged from her combative lawyer father. Kelly wants to be a real artist and go to art school, but she won't even graduate from high school unless she completes a social studies paper. After seeing Mr. Weems, a strange bagman in the library, Kelly decides to tackle the issue of the homeless by interviewing him. Her growing obsession with him leads her straight into her father's own unacknowledged despair over his experience in Vietnam; Mr. Weems is also a veteran. And while Kelly learns that good intentions don't always change things for the better, she also contributes to the healing of both her father and herself in a sensitively rendered final scene at the Vietnam War Memorial. From the author of Daphne's Song and Tallahassee Higgins , among other titles, comes another fine novela realistic look at the ongoing pain in the aftermath of war. Ages 10-14. (September)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9 There are two climactic scenes in Hahn's new novel: one in which a homeless man is killed in a traffic accident after being barred from the library; and a powerful, moving, and convincing chapter set at the Vietnam War Memorial, in which the protagonist's father finally comes to grips with his war experiences. Yet there is no clear focus to the novel, and no direction to any of the myriad other issues that Hahn tackles: adolescent angst, individuality and conformity, the homeless, Vietnam veterans, library policies on vagrants, and more. None get the treatment that they deserve, and the story suffers as it meanders. An underachieving, show-off type high-school freshman who is trying to carve a niche for herself among her friends and her family, Kelly is concerned for a homeless, possibly deranged man whose troubles are a result of his experiences in Vietnam. This teen, who does well in an honors English class but almost fails other academic subjects and finds refuge in the children's section of the library, who abhors the shallowness of her friends' interests but acts smart alecky to gain their approval, comes across as being more inconsistent than three dimensional. The moments of great writing here serve only to underscore those too-abundant plot elements that do not work. David Gale, ``School Library Journal''

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.48(d)
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
11 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

When I left Mr. Poland's classroom, I saw Julie wring for me by my locker, but she was too busy fussing with her hair to notice me walking toward her. She had a little mirror in one hand, her comb in the other, and she was staring at her reflection as if she expected it to speak to her.

"You, my queen, are the fairest of them all " I whispered in the sort of voice I imagined a magic mirror might have.

"Kelly, where have you been? It's ten past three." Julie tossed her hair once more, fluffing it with her hands.

"Mr. Poland wanted to talk to me about my current issues paper. He says I can't prove God is dead, I have to write about something more concrete."

"I knew he wouldn't approve a topic like that."

I shrugged. "He said he wanted us to pick controversial subjects, didn't he?"

"He meant stuff like abortion and child abuse and drunk driving, and you know it." Julie peeked at her reflection one more time, frowned, and thrust her mirror into her other pocket.

"Those are all so boring." I grabbed her comb and ran it through my hair. Why, I don't know. les so short and curly it looks the same no matter what I do to it.

"So? That's what school's all about, doing boring things over and over." Julie snatched her comb and watched me rum the dial on my combination lock. "It prepares you for real life," she went on. "You know, getting a job and going to the same old place every day, cooking the same old meals every night,watching the same old shows on TV till you fall asleep,

"That may be the kind of life you're preparing for but not me." Yanking open my locker, I jumped back as an avalanche of books,papers, gym shoes, and umbrellas spewed out.

"When are you going to clean that locker out, McAllister?' Mr. Gleicher, the principal, appeared out of nowhere, one of his specialties. "les a safety hazard."

He was making it sound like a joke, but I could tell he wasn't pleased. Picking up my scattered belongings, I said, "I know it looks like junk, but it's for a project I'm working on in art, sir. Miss Young wants us to make collages of our most cherished personal belongings, so I'm saving all my old homework papers for it."

Mr. Gleicher frowned which didn't surprise me. A senior might have been able to get away with a little impudence but not a lowly ninth grader, especially one he'd just called a super underachiever in our last interview. Nudging a wizened apple with the toe of his shiny loafer, he said, "What's this?"

I picked it up by the stem and watched it slowly revolve. It gave off a faint odor of decay. "My shrunken head;' I cried. "I thought Id lost it forever! My greatuncle Stanley, the famous explorer, brought it back from the Amazon. les good luck, you know, like a rabbit's foot."

"Quit clowning and throw it in the trash, McAllister" Mr. Gleicher scowled at me. "Im going to inspect this locker tomorrow, and if it isn't in good shape, you can spend an hour in my office after school."

Turning his attention to Julie who hadn't opened her mouth once, he said, "And you, Sinclair. If you find this so entertaining, you'd better make sure your locker is clean too."

As he walked away, Julie stared at me. "Kelly, are you crazy?"

I crossed my eyes and danced around her, giggling. "Who, me? Me crazy? Me?"

She laughed then and helped me clean out my locker. That's why she's been my best friend since kindergarten -- she puts up with every wacky thing I do and never gets mad at me, at least not for long.

"You have four umbrellas, Kelly" Julie held them up. "A red one, a blue one, a big black bumbershoot, and what looks like your dad's golf umbrella."

"You know me. I'm so into fashion I have to color coordinate everything, even my umbrellas."

I struck a pose with the golf umbrella. My dad had just missed it last week and was still searching for it. During his cross-examination, I'd claimed complete ignorance of its whereabouts, having conveniently forgotten I'd been forced to take it to school the last time it rained. What else was I supposed to do? Every other umbrella was already in my locker.

Julie, who of course is truly into fashion, ran a practiced eye over my paint-splattered sweatshirt, faded jeans, and worn-out running shoes. She watched me pull on my father's old army jacket and wrap a long striped scarf around my neck "Right," she said. "Color coordination explains it all. "

As we left school, we cut across the soccer field to take a shortcut home through the woods. One of the nice things about a planned community like Adelphia, maybe the only nice thin& is the open space concept , the brainstorm of one of its developers. The builders had to set aside areas of woods and fields for tot lots and footpaths, and, as a result, you can walk for miles with nothing around you but trees and squirrels and an occasional groundhog or possum.

"So what are you going to write about, Kelly?" Julie turned up the collar of her jacket to shield her face from the cold.

"I don't know." I watched the November sun and wind play with Julie's hair, tossing it and making it shine red-gold.

"Didn't Mr. Poland give you any ideas?"

"Are you kidding? I don't think he'd recognize an idea if it fell out of the sky and hit him on die head." I opened the bumbershoot...

December Stillness. Copyright � by Mary Hahn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Mary Downing Hahn is the best-selling author of more than twenty award-winning books for young readers, including Stepping on the Cracks, which won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Anna on the Farm is the follow-up to Anna All Year Round, both based on the author’s mother’s memoirs about growing up in Maryland pre-World War I.

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December Stillness 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whoever thinks that this is not a good book, or are leaning toward believing that, please understand that this book is not "still" or "boring" as someone has put, it is just well explained. It is a good book , that I found worth reading. I have read 19 Mary Downing Hahn books. this is not her best, but it still really interesting. You should definitaly give her other books a try (especially the ghost ones, because those are my favorite from her. Although you may not like mysteries as much as me.) anyways, PLEASE, GIVE THIS BOOK A TRY AND READ OTHER MARY DOWNING HAHN BOOKS. :)
LVHTP More than 1 year ago
The title of my review might seem a little far-fetched for most, but it's true. I had tears in my eyes when I finished. This book opened my mind a little bit if how selfish I was and always thinking I deserved better. After reading Mr. Weems ordeals, I realized I had to appreciate life for how it was and try my harderst to make the best of it. I also thought of all those people out there who, just because of a little bad luck, had to live their lives homeless and forgotten. I hope you find this book interesting as much as I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a great book. I could feel sympathy on how Mr. Weems felt too. I could really relate to kelly too, i thought this book was a very sad, but some how happy too. You should really read this book. It's very touching..
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so good! I normally hate reading books and this is the second book that i think was good (out of many)! I could actually relate to Kelly with her father daughter problems! I would highly recomend this book to anyone that has a heart!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a simple 7th grader, this is the first book I read in my school library. I know it's hard to believe but i swear it's true even ask my mother. I've never been interested in a book before until now, now after I read more books I still think that December Stillness is the best one ever!!! I hope more kids will read this book. I can relate to the main charcter my dad and I don't get along that well but now and again we do. At the end was happy and the middle was just heart-breaking becuse Mr.Weems's death and how Kelly blamed herself of Mr.Weems's death. The start of the book was a great way for a reader to get into the book. I hope more people read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think December Stillness is an interessting book. It has different emotions, and has many details. It is explained very full out, and makes you feel the way the narrator is feeling. I think that the author made a good decision writing a book like this, because there are some shocking things you don't expect to happen. It is also written very clearly. The book makes you want to hop in the book and help Mr. Weems, but you can't, cause it's not reeeal. So I would give this book 5 stars.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that December Stillness was a very good book. I liked it because I think it shows great courage, and it kind of reminds you to stick up for your beliefs. In the book Kelly is very unique and she's not the typical girl who always worries about her looks, but her uniqueness causes drama with her best friend. Kelly feels hurt but she sticks up for herself and they way she wants to be. The book also shows how difficult it is for Kelly to get along with her father. Throughout the book Kelly is trying to find answers to questions about her father and while she's sticking up for her beliefs and trying to help a homeless Vietnam Vet. I think i can relate with Kelly for several reasons, one reason is the relationship with my father. I'm also not very close with him. Overall, I really liked this book and I would recomend it to anyone who can read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
hey i had to do a book report on decmber stillness ithought it was another boring book report but i really had fun reading it and i can realted to kelly a lot great book
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was awesome ! I very much enjoyed this book , though it had a very emotional ending . I recommend this book to readers of any age . I feel there is no age limit to reading this book .
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best books I have ever read in my 7 years I school. I recommend it to anyone over the age of 12.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We just finished reading this book as part of my eight-grade language arts class. I thought it was well written and the ending was very emotional. I would not recommend this book for anyone under the age of 12.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i personally liked this book because it was very emotional and always kept me entertained and alive. it also had a surprising twist ending which i thought was a wonderful way to end the novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
So its about a girl named Kelly and a homeless person Mr. Weems. I personally didnt like this book. As for the title it says 'Stillness' which i think this book was very. Still. Some parts of the book arent even neccesary on reading. It was ok at times but other parts you kinda drifted off.