Kissing Tennessee: and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance

Kissing Tennessee: and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance

4.4 5
by Kathi Appelt

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Mason and Carrie Marie can't get up the courage to ask each other to dance. Russ's girlfriend has died, and now he's just trying to live without her. Peggy Lee has grown up with Tennessee—how can she ever think of him as more than a friend?

In these moving tales and others, Kathi Appelt captures the sometimes amusing, sometimes touching missteps of some


Mason and Carrie Marie can't get up the courage to ask each other to dance. Russ's girlfriend has died, and now he's just trying to live without her. Peggy Lee has grown up with Tennessee—how can she ever think of him as more than a friend?

In these moving tales and others, Kathi Appelt captures the sometimes amusing, sometimes touching missteps of some unforgettable students, who come together one last time for the most memorable night of their young lives.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Powerful."—School Library Journal

"This satisfying book will grow on the reader. So mix the punch and start the glitter ball revolving—the Stardust Dance is about to begin."
VOYA (5Q, highest rating)

Children's Literature - Children's Literature
You are cordially invited to the Stardust Dance, Friday, May 31 at the Dogwood Junior High to honor all graduating eighth graders. As the students enter the glittering, decorated cafeteria, they are filled with all the excitement, hesitancy, and expectations that accompany these events. For a few hours, we the readers, join them and are privy to their most intimate secrets and fears. The dance is the common thread that binds not only the stories but also the tangled and complex lives of these young teens. There is Russ Mills emerging from the grief of his best friend's death, Mary Sarah Tanner daring to leave an abusive home, Becca Scott cowering in the bathroom after a brutal assault, Cub Tanner questioning his attraction to another boy, and Mason Hatfield and Carrie Jorgensen who cannot summon the courage to ask one another to dance. Shattered lives, broken promises, and wounded psyches, common themes in young adult novels, are given fresh treatment due to the thoughtful and eloquent writing of the author. While angst might seem to be the central plot motivator, it is in fact hope--hope and a belief that each youngster has in himself. Individually each story is touching and poignant, read as a whole they are a fitting tribute to the resiliency and courage of youth. 2000, Harcourt, Ages 12 to 14, $15.00. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
The junior high cafeteria is decorated for the Stardust Dance, and the eighth graders are getting ready for their graduation celebration. Tim searches his closet for just the right shirt to wear, while in her trailer, Tawny tries on her mama's unlikely dancing shoes. The interrelated stories in this collection serve as snapshots of some members of the class. Gentle, quiet, sometimes humorous, the tales sneak in some serious issues. Cub comes to terms with his sexuality; Becca's high school boyfriend talks her into sneaking out of the dance and then rapes her; and Mary Sarah remembers leaving her parents' home after her father beats her sister for wearing lipstick. In a more lighthearted piece, Peggy Lee discovers a new side to her lifelong friend, Tennessee. Blues musician Mason gives a good idea of Appelt's approach when he says to classical violinist Carrie, "It's not that I can't [play the notes as written], it's that there are so many more interesting notes in between." Appelt uses a variety of styles and voices, making the personalities of the characters come alive. The reader moves from preparations for the evening to the thoughts of the dancers on the floor to a subtle wrap-up in the last dance. Stories are told in first, second, and third person and range from straightforward narrative to stream of consciousness. This satisfying book will grow on the reader. So mix the punch and start the glitter ball revolving—the Stardust Dance is about to begin. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, Harcourt, 144p, $15. Ages 12 to 15.Reviewer: Kathleen Beck

SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)

School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Readers may be surprised by the powerful literary mix that they encounter in this short-story collection. In interrelated selections, individual students prepare for their eighth-grade dance, and every story shifts imperceptibly through a broad spectrum of teen issues. Rachel's religious father is abusive and volatile; Becca is the victim of date rape. Cub wraps himself in the scent of his father's old shirt hoping to protect himself from "The Question"-a private doubt about his sexuality that is taunting and terrifying him. The title story is equally fulfilling with a more traditional romantic flavor. The various moods are caught with immediacy and intimacy, and the resolutions occur in precious little time. This collection will spark conversation in contemporary literature discussions, will quietly unsettle readers, and will elevate the quality of short-story collections.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.36(d)
820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Dance with Me

Magic happens, see. It's just like on those bumper stickers, the ones that say MIRACLES HAPPEN, or JESUS HAPPENS. I never really took those too seriously. Imean, they're bumper stickers.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. Miracles? Right. Jesus? Maybe. But magic?

I wouldn't have believed it myself before tonight, even though I loved all those fairy tales that my mom used to read to me when I was a little kid.

My favorite was the one about Snow White. Those funky little guys with the beards. The poisonous apple. And that cool mirror the evil stepmother used to talk to. You know, she'd ask it all these questions: Who's the nicestWho's the sweetest...Who's the fairest of them all? And for a while, everything was hunky-dory. The mirror always said: You are, O fair one. But mirrors never lie, and so one day the mirror told her the truth: Hey, there's this new girl in town, and sorry, witchie, but she's got the edge in the nice, sweet, and fair categories.

Of course, it was all make-believe. That's what I thought, anyway. But now I'm telling you, I'm not so sure.

See, there I was at the Stardust Dance.

And there was Lucy White. (Yeah, I know, coincidence.) I swear she was glowing in the candlelight.

The whole cafeteria was full of glitter. The decorations committee had hung these paper moons and cutout stars from the ceiling. All those stars and moons were covered with glitter, and every time the air conditioner blasted them, they spun around and around and glitter drifted down on top of everyone. The glitter and the candles...they made the place look like a fairy castle or something. And right in the middle of the ceiling hung a giant mirror-ball.

Anyway, there was Lucy White. She had on this short white skirt and a blue blouse, and she had her black hair pulled back in this long ponytail that came down to the top of her waist. She had those fairy-tale princesses beat. Even Snow White. I mean, if the witch had popped her question then, Lucy White would have won big time.

So there we were-Lucy on one side of the cafeteria and me on the other. And man, all I wanted to do was dance with her. That's all. Wanted to wrap my arms around her slim waist, pull her close, dance her across that cafeteria floor beneath the stars and moons.

And I know for a fact that she wanted to dance with me, too. All year long I had sat behind her in our first-period English class, watching that black ponytail swish across her back. And every once in a while, her hair would fall onto my desk. I loved to pull it, and when I did, she'd look back at me and smile. Man, that girl can smile. But that was all. She hardly ever said anything. She's the quiet type.

So I was really surprised last week in school when she passed me that note. Me, Tim Hernandez. The note that said, "Ask me to dance. Love, Lucy." I've still got it. In fact, it was tucked into my back pocket during the dance. I could feel its heat through my pants. All I had to do was ask her. Simple, right?


See, this afternoon before the dance, I had stood in front of my bedroom mirror practicing the words: "Dance with me, Lucy." I mean, I wanted to get them right. I even changed clothes and practiced.

First, I tried saying them in my old faded jeans and T-shirt. But I thought the words seemed sort of faded, too. So I put on the black slacks and white oxford shirt I have to wear for choir concerts. But then the words seemed too stiff. So I took those clothes off and threw them on my bed.

I went to my closet to look for something else, but almost all my regular clothes were on the floor in a heap.

Ever since my mom had her "big revelation," I've been doing my own laundry. Man, that was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. One afternoon I was playing this new video game, Blood and Guts. I was controlling Gruesome Gus versus the Crimson Menace, and I had totally waxed the guy. It was this really complex sequence of moves, and I was so excited about conquering the game that I wanted to show it to someone. Unfortunately, the only one home at the time was Mom.

But hey, an audience is an audience, right? So I dragged her out of the laundry room to witness my dexterity.

"My God!" she exclaimed when Gus decapitated the Crimson Menace and red video-blood coated the screen. "You can do that?"

Uh-oh, I'm thinking, here it comes. I was sure, after all that carnage, my mom would banish the game forever. I could almost see the little wheels turning in her head.

But then she said, "If you can do that, I know you can operate something as simple as the washer and dryer."

So I've been in charge of my own clothes ever since. Which means, most of the time, my clothes are...Well...see, I figure that whatever's been on the bottom of the heap has had the longest time to air out, so I always try to choose stuff from the bottom. But that was before I got the note from Lucy.


Dark eyes and darker hair. So quiet. So pretty.


She takes up all the space inside me. For the past week I've found myself waiting at corners until she's passed and then I've followed her down the hall. I've found myself daydreaming about her. I've even found myself sitting beside her at lunch.


Who wrote me a note: "Ask me to dance. Love, Lucy."

So there I was, standing in front of my bedroom mirror in my Fruit Of The Loom underwear, with not one clean shirt. I sniffed my armpits and decided to use both my own Arrid Extra Dry and my dad's Old Spice deodorant for extra protection.

Dad! There was the answer. I'd borrow a shirt from Dad. I didn't think he'd mind. The one I picked out was red-blue-and-green plaid, the one he'd bought from the new Eddie Bauer shop at the Dogwood Mall. Okay, it was a couple of sizes too big. But that just made my shoulders look broader. If I didn't tuck it in, it looked okay. I thought Lucy would like it.

So I looked at myself again in the mirror, with Dad's shirt on, and I thought, Fine, this is fine. And I started practicing some more: "Dance with me, Lucy." I tried it with all these expressions. See, my choir teacher, Mrs. Applegate, is always telling us to stand in front of a mirror when we're practicing a song.

"Dance with me, Lucy" isn't exactly a song, but I still wanted to get it just right. First I went "dancewithmelucy," almost in a whisper. But I could hardly hear it myself. Then I tried it with this movie star face. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no movie star, but I'm not that hard to look at, either.

I kept trying it over and over, probably a hundred times, from a hundred different positions-one foot in front of the other, both feet firmly planted, legs crossed, arms crossed, hands on my hips, hands behind my neck, one hand over my heart. You'd have thought I was auditioning for a play or something.

Well, here's where the magic started up. See, that mirror must've gotten sick and tired of me saying those words, "Dance with me, Lucy," because on about the one-hundred-and-first try, I felt them come flying back at me from the mirror's surface and jam into the back of my throat.

No kidding. I thought I was going to choke. All I could do was stand there, paralyzed. I swear I could hear that stupid mirror laughing. Like maybe it was trying to say, "Hey, Romeo, get a life!"

I turned away from the mirror, sweating from head to toe. I kept trying to swallow, but I could still feel those words stuck right at the back of my tongue, pushing up against my soft palate. I felt queasy.

When I got downstairs, Mom already had dinner on the table, but I just sort of waved to her. She said something like, "Oh, I guess there'll be refreshments at the dance." I nodded. I was afraid if I opened my mouth, I might lose it all over the kitchen table.

Then I thought, Geez, I can't go to the dance like this, but as soon as I thought that, I remembered the note in my back pocket: "Ask me to dance. Love, Lucy." It was the love part that got me. "Love, Lucy." I had to go.

So I swallowed hard, and when Dad dropped me off at the school cafeteria, without even once mentioning the fact that I was wearing his new shirt, I thought the words had come unstuck. I was actually all right for a few minutes.

The cafeteria was decorated, the lights were low, the band was already playing. Everything seemed great. Great. Wonderful. But then I saw Lucy.

There she was, standing against the wall on the other side of the room. As soon as I saw her, those stupid words boiled back up, clogging my mouth like the wad of cotton my dentist uses when he fills a cavity. I reached up to wipe my chin, just to make sure I wasn't drooling.

Quickly I found an open spot along the opposite wall, leaned against it, and concentrated hard on not throwing up.

Now here's where I became a real believer in magic. Lucy didn't know I was strangling on those words or that the note in my pocket felt like a branding iron on my rear end. She must've thought I was just being a jerk, ignoring her the way I was. I tried hard not to look at her, but I couldn't help it.

Finally I looked up instead, and right at that instant, the mirror-ball began to spin. Diamonds of light spilled across the room. Now this sounds cuckoo, but I swear, one of those tiny panes of glass caught Lucy's reflection and twirled it around the room-across the metal chairs lined up against the wall, across the crackling ice in the punch bowl, over the acoustic tiles in the ceiling and the waxed vinyl tiles on the floor-until it dashed right across my lower jaw, where it paused for the merest, fleetingest flash of a second, hardly long enough to notice but long enough to sear through the skin and bone. Long enough to send just enough heat to thaw my frozen tongue and melt that clump of words.

That was all it took.

Next thing I knew, Lucy was snuggled up against me, her ponytail falling over the back of my hands, gold and silver glitter in her hair-the fairest of them all.

Yes sir, get me one of those bumper stickers: MAGIC HAPPENS.

Copyright © 2000 by Kathi Appelt

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address:
Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Meet the Author

KATHI APPELT is the author of many acclaimed picture books, including the Bubba and Beau series, illustrated by Arthur Howard, and Oh My Baby, Little One, illustrated by Jane Dyer. She lives in College Station, Texas.

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Kissing Tennessee: And Other Stories from the Stardust Dance 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I checked this book out thinking it would be stories of first loves and how sweet and nice it was, but ended up being a bunch of regular stories about the people's lives that went to the dance which really didn't have anything to do with 'Kissing Tennessee' except for a little bit. I would not recommend this book at all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hello, my name is Susan, I'm a University of Wyoming graduate, happily married to the love of my life, Bill. We have two twin boys Michael and Matthew, who are a handful, but I love them just the same. I enjoy croquet, cooking pasta, and knitting scarves. I also like to read this little ol' book right here. This is one of the best books I have read since Cooking with Marie! And that, by the way is a very excellent book and you should read it if you haven't already! Of course I wouldn't imagine why you wouldn't want to read it! I've cooked some very good pasta using that cookbook. Dear me, that book is one swell puppy! But I'm getting a wee bit off track. What I wanted to say was, Kissing Tennessee is a bomb-diggety (I've heard Michael say that word) book and you should really go out and borrow it from the local town library!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book that tells short stories of teens at their school dance. It's great for all ages. It shows everybody that people are in love with someone and can not go up and and tell them the truth. From a boy who lost his girlfriend, to a girl who was raped by her boyfriend. It tells great stories of love and horrer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The stories in this book are great. Plus it's up to date. I loved it!! (I think it deserves more stars!!)