Pieces of Georgia

Pieces of Georgia

4.0 14
by Jen Bryant

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Like her mother, Georgia McCoy is an artist, but her dad looks away whenever he sees her with a sketchbook. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like when her mother was still alive . . . when they were a family . . . when they were happy. But then a few days after her 13th birthday, Georgia receives an unexpected gift–a strange, formal letter,

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Like her mother, Georgia McCoy is an artist, but her dad looks away whenever he sees her with a sketchbook. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like when her mother was still alive . . . when they were a family . . . when they were happy. But then a few days after her 13th birthday, Georgia receives an unexpected gift–a strange, formal letter, all typed up and signed anonymous–granting her free admission to the Brandywine River Museum for a whole year. And things begin to change.
An accessible novel in poems, Pieces of Georgia offers an endearing protagonist–an aspiring artist, a grieving daughter, a struggling student, a genuine friend–and the poignant story of a broken family coming together.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Through Georgia's artwork, noticing details others miss, learning about painters like O'Keeffe and Wyeth, and reaching out to others, the fragmented pieces of this steely, gentle heroine become an integrated whole." - Publishers Weekly, Starred
Publishers Weekly
Bryant's (The Trial) tale of a quiet, observant 13-year-old unfolds as a free verse journal. Most of the other kids on the "At Risk" list have "substance abuse" next to their names, but beside Georgia McCoy's name the guidance counselor, Mrs. Yocum, writes "financial/single parentfather/possible medical?" When Georgia can't put her feelings about her mother's death six years ago into words, Mrs. Yocum gives her a journal and suggests, "write down what you might tell, or what you might ask,/ your mother/ if she were here." This, combined with a membership to the Brandywine River Museum from "anonymous" nudge Georgia to further explore her love of drawing. In her journal, she describes the loss of her artistic mother, life with her taciturn father, and her overachieving friend Tiffany. Georgia's eloquent, spare musings convey both her wisdom and sense of fairness. The kindnesses shown her by the school nurse, who explains puberty, and the art teacher, who gives Georgia old supplies to foster her talentand also to protect her pridecounterbalance her father's silent grief and the cruelty of kids who tease her about her poverty. Georgia's powerlessness to help Tiffany through her anxiety and exhaustion seems very real, as does Georgia's evolving relationship with her father. Through Georgia's artwork, noticing details others miss, learning about painters like O'Keeffe and Wyeth, and reaching out to others, the fragmented pieces of this steely, gentle heroine become an integrated whole. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This beautifully written book pits the values and customs of our materialistic society against a simpler, quieter way of life. It is a refreshing contrast to teen novels in which girls carry designer purses and shun those less fortunate than they. Georgia is a thirteen-year-old girl who lost her mother when she was seven. She lives with her father in a trailer parked on rented land. Her best friend, Tiffany, lives in the fancy new development next door. Georgia is introverted, preferring to spend her free time sketching. Tiffany competes on a variety of school and club athletic teams and participates in a youth group. She is as driven as Georgia is wandering. For her birthday Georgia receives an anonymous gift membership to the Brandywine Museum, a collection of Wyeth family paintings. As she explores the art, writes about it in her journal, and watches Tiffany grow more and more fatigued, Georgia comes into herself as a daughter, a friend, and an artist. Writing from Georgia's point of view, Bryant evokes the details of the art she describes and delves deeply into the psyche of her thirteen-year-old protagonist. Bryant's understanding of 20th Century American art is impressive as is her literary rendering of visual arts. Georgia and Tiffany face real-life problems: grieving over the death of a parent and being driven by one's parents to the very edge. Both girls handle their struggles with grace as they grow closer to each other. 2006, Random House, and Ages 11 to 16.
—Ilene S. Goldman
At Risk. Thirteen-year-old Georgia McCoy's name is on the list. She is not a good student, she has only one friend, and she spends a lot of time in the nurse's office. This week, Mrs. Yocum, the school counselor, hands Georgia a diary, promising her that if she writes down thoughts and feelings a few times each week, Georgia will be excused from coming to Guidance for a while. Then Mrs. Yocum asks, "Do you miss your mother? Georgia's voice comes alive as she fills the diary with letters to her deceased mother. Although her loneliness is palpable, her perception of the world around her is crystal clear. An inquisitive and sensitive young artist, Georgia understands the pain and emptiness that her father feels, but still longs for the family they once were. An anonymous gift, free membership to the Brandywine River Museum, unexpectedly changes and expands Georgia's life. This quiet, moving tale chronicles a young girl's emotional journey through tough times. Capable and caring adults reach out to help her and to nurture her artistic talent. Georgia is an engaging and real protagonist. Young teens will find much to like in this struggling student, caring friend, and grieving daughter. Information about the artistic Wyeth family and the Brandywine River Museum is seamlessly interwoven into a great book that is perfect for discussion or for introspective reading. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Knopf, 176p., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
—Marian Rafal
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-In a blend of free verse and diary/journal, 13-year-old Georgia pours her heart out to her mother, who died six years ago. She and her father are still suffering. Because of their financial situation (shaky) and Georgia's frequent stomachaches and lack of participation in class, she ends up on an "At Risk" list that requires her to see a school counselor. Mrs. Yocum makes a deal with her: if Georgia will write down all of the things she would like to talk to her mom about, she can skip the weekly sessions and just check in occasionally. Through this journal, the finely drawn characters come to life, particularly Georgia's dad and her best friend, Tiffany. Her father's grief has caused him to withdraw emotionally and he doesn't give his daughter the time or attention she craves. Tiffany is pushed to be an overachiever, the strain of which brings her to the brink of destructive behavior. Georgia shares all aspects of her life and thoughts, and readers come to understand the depth of her loss. This is a remarkable book. Through the spare writing, readers come to understand and empathize with these three people. Their story is a universal one of love, friendship, and loss and will be appreciated by a wide audience.-Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sometimes novels-in-verse allow a kind of calligraphic freedom of description and emotion, as in this gentle story. When Georgia turns 13, someone sends her a membership to the Brandywine Museum, which is not far from where she lives. Georgia loves to draw: Her mother was an artist, and neither Georgia nor her father has gotten over her death six years earlier. Georgia tells her tale in her journal, given to her by an understanding teacher, and addresses herself to her Momma. In the seventh grade, she makes a friend, thinks hard about the Wyeths at the museum, helps her father open his closed memories of her mother and makes a portfolio for an art program. Her voice is natural and plainspoken and she thinks about things carefully as she moves forward in her life. The moment in which she finds out who gave her the museum membership is moving and lovely and is the perfect signature on this affecting work of art. (Fiction. 9-12)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Mrs. Yocum called me down to her office today. She's the counselor at school who I
have to go to once a week 'cause I'm on some "At Risk" list that I saw once on the secretary's desk.
(Ronnie Kline, Marianne Ferlinghetti, Sam Katzenbach,
Danita Brown—and some others I forget—are on it, too.)
Most of them have substance abuse next to their names,
but I have financial/single parent—father/possible medical?
next to mine.

Anyway, when Mrs. Yocum called me in, I sat in her big green chair, and she sat across from me in her big blue chair—
blinking at me like a mother owl through her oversize glasses—
and it all started off as it usually does,
with her asking me about my stomachaches and if I had raised my hand more often in class and if there was anything particular on my mind I thought
I needed to talk about.

Then all of a sudden she asked me if I
miss you. She never asked me that before, and I couldn't make the words come out of my mouth, they seemed to be stuck in my throat, or maybe they were just tangled up with the rabbit I seemed to have swallowed that started kicking the sides of my stomach,
desperate to get out.

I guess it must have been four or five minutes we sat there,
her making notes in her folder and me with that rabbit thrashing around my insides and still no words coming out.

I started to draw on the top of my binder,
like it seems I always do when I don't know what else to do, so I
didn't notice that she was trying to hand me a red leather notebook (this very one I'm writing in),
and she said: "Georgia, why don't we make a deal? I will excuse you from coming to Guidance for a while, provided—
you promise to write down your thoughts and feelings at least a few times a week in this diary. You don't have to show it to me, or to anybody,
unless you want to,
and it might be a good idea if you tried—sometimes, or all the time if you want—
to write down what you might tell, or what you might ask,
your mother if she were here."

So, Momma, that's how I've come to start writing to you in this pretty red leather diary that I keep in the drawer of my nightstand.
But I'm not sure what I'm going to tell you, 'cause my life is not all that interesting, but anyway it will fill a few minutes after school or maybe that half hour or so after dinner, after homework, after doing the dishes,
when I'm stretched out in the back of our trailer and Daddy is trying to keep the TV down so I can fall asleep but loud enough so he can still watch whatever game is on and I'm trying to remember what it was like six years ago when we were a family and Daddy was happy and you were here.

Today I turned thirteen.
As usual for mid-February, it snowed a little bit, then the sun came out like a tease, 'cause it never got above thirty-two degrees.

As usual, it was just me and Daddy having my birthday dinner at the fold-down table in the kitchen.
I said I could make chicken, baked potatoes, and peas,
but he brought home a pizza after work
(with anchovies and green peppers)
and we ate it right out of the box so it'd stay hot,
'cause it wouldn't fit inside our oven.

Then Daddy carried in a cake he'd been hiding in the closet, but when he uncovered it, he got mad because a heat vent was right next to it and the icing around the edges melted and the "Happy Birthday" ran all over the middle until it looked like a big pink puddle.

But I didn't mind. Last year he forgot my birthday altogether until he saw the mail and the annual
$20 bill from Great-Uncle Doug in Atlanta.
The cake was good—chocolate with chocolate icing.
I had seconds and Daddy did, too, and I know you would've joined us.

Afterward, I went through the mail and I
got a card and the $20 bill from Great-Uncle Doug.
The card had a clown and balloons and was really made for a little kid, but still,
it was nice of him to remember.

Daddy gave me those jeans I'd seen in the Army Navy Store,
a new pair of shoes,
and a "blank inside" card like he always does,
one with a flower on the front, same as always,
and his big, slanted lettering inside:


Happy Birthday.


Can I tell you something, Momma?

Every year since you died, I've been waiting for him to write Love, Daddy inside,
but after all this time
I think I should wake up and stop my dreaming.

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