Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living

Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living

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by Rebecca Rupp
     
 

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Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living: 1. Don't lie. 2. Don't trust anybody but cats. 3. Don't expect happy endings. 4. Drink skim milk. 5. Avoid blondes. Sarah Simpson loves to make lists. She has lists of the things she doesn't like about her father's new wife and her mother's new boyfriend, and reasons why life is just plain unfair. But through new friendships, a

Overview

Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living: 1. Don't lie. 2. Don't trust anybody but cats. 3. Don't expect happy endings. 4. Drink skim milk. 5. Avoid blondes. Sarah Simpson loves to make lists. She has lists of the things she doesn't like about her father's new wife and her mother's new boyfriend, and reasons why life is just plain unfair. But through new friendships, a school play, and adjusted relationships, Sarah begins to realize that change might not be such a horrible thing - and that families come in all shapes and sizes. Is it time for Sarah Simpson's REVISED Rules for Living?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Written as witty, off-the-cuff journal entries, this inviting novel takes preadolescent angst and doses it with pure heart. Like the heroine of Jennifer L. Holm's Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf, pudgy 12-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Simpson has a penchant for making lists, and these elaborate upon her many concerns. Her first entry, for January 1, combines a cool running commentary with no less than five lists, among them "Things I Do Not Like About Kim [her father's new wife]," "Things I Do Not Like About Jonah [her mother's boyfriend]" and New Year's resolutions she wishes Jonah would make ("2. Sell the van.... 4. Quit singing 'We Shall Overcome.' 5. Shave"). Although Sarah's tone ranges widely, from resentful to full-out funny ("Bad Things About Getting Older:... 7. Getting asked on dates. 8. Not getting asked on dates"), her vulnerable yet take-charge personality comes through. It finds its sharpest expression when Sarah, acting from a complicated set of motives that the author wisely leaves to readers to untangle, says something wounding to Jonah's five-year-old son and can't undo the damage. Covering a lot of territory in relatively few pages, Rupp (The Dragon of Lonely Island) delivers a story that both touches and convinces. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Hazel Buys
Sarah Simpson copes with the chaos that is part of growing from tween to teen by making lists of rules she writes in her new journal. Sarah's rules change as she changes—in her world, that is almost daily. Sarah's father has left for a new life with a new wife in California. Sarah must adjust to a new world living alone with her mom, interrupted by frequent intrusions by her mom's new boyfriend and his son. It is not much of a stretch to guess that Sarah's first wish, alongside the rules, is to get rid of the new wife and the boyfriend and to get her dad back from California. Sarah's transition from denial and wishful thinking to acceptance is told in delightfully irreverent self-talk that gives way to a larger view of life in a series of inevitable, even welcome, changes. From January to May, Sarah learns and makes lists about her realizations that life evolves whether she likes it or not. The characters are well-drawn and believable. Sarah's personality shines through and rings with authenticity. In the end, Sarah's rules for living are really lessons about living with generosity and acceptance, learned reluctantly at first, but finally with increasing maturity and good humor. This book would be a good addition to an upper-elementary or middle school library. Reviewer: Hazel Buys
School Library Journal

Gr 3-6

Sarah Simpson's life is going nowhere fast is this novel by Rebecca Rupp (Candlewick, 2008). The sixth grader is trying to find some order in her chaotic life and settles on journal writing and list making as a way to organize her thoughts. Sarah's parents have recently divorced and she feels deeply betrayed by both of them. Add low self-esteem, orange hair, and being overweight to the mix, and Sarah is just plain miserable. Her journal entries reveal a confused young girl who slowly comes to terms with her situation and gradually discovers that there is something good and likable, if not admirable, in all of the people in her life. Sarah's vulnerable and bewildered voice is capably captured by Emily Durante who depicts all the angst, embarrassment, and unchecked enthusiasm of a 12-year-old girl. She adds just the right amount of drama and incredulity to the reading, and projects Sarah's wry sense of humor in a matter-of-fact manner. A good choice for children dealing with self-esteem and family issues.-Wendy Woodfill, Hennepin County Library, Minnetonka, MN

Kirkus Reviews
Twelve-year-old Sarah Simpson joins a long list of modern-day tweens buried under negative feelings about their parents' recent divorce, feeling jilted by a father who has moved across the country with his new young wife. Encouraged to keep a journal, Sarah's immediate self-description-"I have orange hair and I am fat"-introduces her poor self-image and feelings of rejection as she tries to follow her own "Rules," which include drinking skim milk and avoiding blondes. Sarah's unhappiness is displayed through her deadpan, stilted account of life creating numerous lists of cynical and gloomy statements. Themes of inner vs. outer beauty are paralleled with Sarah's mother's easy acceptance of her broken marriage remedied by her new and happy relationship with relaxed, environmentally conscious and slightly overweight Jonah. Minor characters include five-year-old George (Jonah's son) and geeky classmate Horace Zimmerman, who bring balance to Sarah's self-centered feelings of betrayal by both parents. Despite the short, unadorned, flat writing style, Rupp manages to develop her themes and character with enough emotional integrity to underscore the overall message that personal attitude can ultimately control the way we accept inevitable change in our lives. A quick read in the over-used diary-style middle-grade fiction with expanded potential for a series or even family discussion. (Fiction. 9-12)
From the Publisher
SARAH SIMPSON'S RULES FOR LIVING
1. Don't lie.
2. Don't trust anybody but cats.
3. Don't expect happy endings.
4. Drink skim milk.
5. Avoid blondes.

JANUARY 1
It is New Year's Day, and I have decided to keep a journal. Sally, my mother, says this is a good idea because I got a journal for Christmas from my aunt Kate and if I don't write in it, what else am I going to do with it?

"You can keep your lists in it," Andrea said.

Andrea is Sally's best friend, and she does not approve of lists. There are two kinds of people in the world, says Andrea: the list makers and the free spirits.

Andrea is a free spirit. She has lots of frizzy hair in dreadlocks, and she wears big clanky jewelry and clothes in loud patterns that are not flattering to her hips. Andrea teaches Women's Studies and Gender and Social Issues at Pelham State College, right across the hall from where Sally teaches English literature.

People who make lists, says Andrea, are putting all their time in boxes and not leaving themselves open to new experiences like suddenly buying a parrot or going to Italy for the weekend. But I think lists are a way of putting your thoughts in order. Also I think it is important to plan.

REASONS WHY ANDREA SHOULD MAKE LISTS
1. She is always forgetting her appointments with her therapist.
2. Whenever she promises to bring something over for dessert, she ends up leaving it at home in her refrigerator.

So then Sally said that people often start journals by introducing themselves. So that is what I am going to do.

My name is Sarah Elizabeth Simpson. I am twelve years old. I have orange hair and I am fat.

Sally says it's baby fat, but that sounds like crap to me. Emily Harris, who is blond and thin and the most popular girl in my class, does not have baby fat.

Sally and I live in Pelham, Vermont, at the very edge of town, where the sidewalk ends and the woods begin. We have two cats, named Virginia Woolf and Samuel Johnson, though we mostly call them Ginger and Sam. Ginger is almost as old as I am, but Sam is just a kitten. He is a replacement for Charles Dickens, who vanished last year under mysterious circumstances. We suspect Mr. Binns, an unfriendly neighbor who has scrubby little chickens and a shotgun.

My father does not live with us anymore. He lives in Los Angeles, California, with his new wife, who is a tennis instructor named Kim.

THINGS I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT KIM
1. She wears a Wonderbra.
2. She has long blond hair that she's always flinging around to make sure that everybody notices that she has long blond hair.
3. She is boring to talk to.
4. She giggles through her nose.

Kim looks exactly like a Barbie doll. Andrea, when I'm not supposed to be listening, refers to Kim and my father as Barbie and Ken and asks how life is going at Barbie's Malibu Beach House. Actually my father and Kim do not have a beach house. They live in a development about five minutes from the beach. I saw a picture of it. All the houses are painted pink and pale blue and lime green and look like brand new candy boxes.

Our house is old and white and peely, and part of the back porch is falling down. My mother has a boyfriend named Jonah. She doesn't call him her boyfriend. She says he's just a good friend. But I can see the handwriting on the wall. He's here practically all the time, with his little boy, whose name is George. I think that's a stodgy name for a little kid. If I had a little boy, I'd name him
Vladimir. George has shaggy brown hair, and he's always dragging this ratty stuffed bear around.

THINGS I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT JONAH
1. He always sits in the cats' chair.
2. He is not nearly as good-looking as my father. He is going bald on top, and he has a potbelly.
3. He drives a horrible old blue van with bumper stickers all over it that say things like SAVE THE WHALES and VISUALIZE WHIRLED PEAS.
4. He sings stupid songs.
5. He has a beard.

Later

It is New Year's Day night. I am the only one awake. Sally and the cats are asleep. George and Jonah have gone home. George and Jonah were here for dinner, which was pot roast and potato pancakes. Most people have ham at New Year's, but we don't because I won't eat pigs because of Piglet. Piglet is my favorite Pooh character. Jonah eats pigs, but not around me. Jonah brought a bottle of champagne for him and Sally and a bottle of sparkling cider for me and George. Then he proposed toasts.

THINGS WE TOASTED
1. Good friends.
2. The future.
3. The Revolution.
4. Bears.

"What Revolution?" I said, and Jonah said that the Revolution is when the good people take over the world and everybody uses solar power and eats organic vegetables.

After dinner we went for a walk in the snow. The snow was coming down in fat fluffy flakes like the snow in a snow globe. If you looked straight up into the snow, you could imagine that everything was upside down and you were falling into the sky.

George went running ahead with his bear and his stupid floppy boots, trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue, and Jonah took Sally's hand and tucked it through his arm. Sally can say he's just a friend all she wants, but I know better.

Then they started talking about their New Year's resolutions. Sally's is the same every year: "Simplify, simplify." That's a quote from Henry David Thoreau. Sally thinks that life is too cluttered and needs to be pared down. I can think of things to pare down too, but mine are not the same as Sally's.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763662196
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
10/09/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
997 KB

Read an Excerpt

SARAH SIMPSON'S RULES FOR LIVING
1. Don't lie.
2. Don't trust anybody but cats.
3. Don't expect happy endings.
4. Drink skim milk.
5. Avoid blondes.

JANUARY 1
It is New Year's Day, and I have decided to keep a journal. Sally, my mother, says this is a good idea because I got a journal for Christmas from my aunt Kate and if I don't write in it, what else am I going to do with it?

"You can keep your lists in it," Andrea said.

Andrea is Sally's best friend, and she does not approve of lists. There are two kinds of people in the world, says Andrea: the list makers and the free spirits.

Andrea is a free spirit. She has lots of frizzy hair in dreadlocks, and she wears big clanky jewelry and clothes in loud patterns that are not flattering to her hips. Andrea teaches Women's Studies and Gender and Social Issues at Pelham State College, right across the hall from where Sally teaches English literature.

People who make lists, says Andrea, are putting all their time in boxes and not leaving themselves open to new experiences like suddenly buying a parrot or going to Italy for the weekend. But I think lists are a way of putting your thoughts in order. Also I think it is important to plan.

REASONS WHY ANDREA SHOULD MAKE LISTS
1. She is always forgetting her appointments with her therapist.
2. Whenever she promises to bring something over for dessert, she ends up leaving it at home in her refrigerator.

So then Sally said that people often start journals by introducing themselves. So that is what I am going to do.

My name is Sarah Elizabeth Simpson. I am twelve years old. I have orange hair and I am fat.

Sally says it's baby fat, but that sounds like crap to me. Emily Harris, who is blond and thin and the most popular girl in my class, does not have baby fat.

Sally and I live in Pelham, Vermont, at the very edge of town, where the sidewalk ends and the woods begin. We have two cats, named Virginia Woolf and Samuel Johnson, though we mostly call them Ginger and Sam. Ginger is almost as old as I am, but Sam is just a kitten. He is a replacement for Charles Dickens, who vanished last year under mysterious circumstances. We suspect Mr. Binns, an unfriendly neighbor who has scrubby little chickens and a shotgun.

My father does not live with us anymore. He lives in Los Angeles, California, with his new wife, who is a tennis instructor named Kim.

THINGS I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT KIM
1. She wears a Wonderbra.
2. She has long blond hair that she's always flinging around to make sure that everybody notices that she has long blond hair.
3. She is boring to talk to.
4. She giggles through her nose.

Kim looks exactly like a Barbie doll. Andrea, when I'm not supposed to be listening, refers to Kim and my father as Barbie and Ken and asks how life is going at Barbie's Malibu Beach House. Actually my father and Kim do not have a beach house. They live in a development about five minutes from the beach. I saw a picture of it. All the houses are painted pink and pale blue and lime green and look like brand new candy boxes.

Our house is old and white and peely, and part of the back porch is falling down. My mother has a boyfriend named Jonah. She doesn't call him her boyfriend. She says he's just a good friend. But I can see the handwriting on the wall. He's here practically all the time, with his little boy, whose name is George. I think that's a stodgy name for a little kid. If I had a little boy, I'd name him Vladimir. George has shaggy brown hair, and he's always dragging this ratty stuffed bear around.

THINGS I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT JONAH
1. He always sits in the cats' chair.
2. He is not nearly as good-looking as my father. He is going bald on top, and he has a potbelly.
3. He drives a horrible old blue van with bumper stickers all over it that say things like SAVE THE WHALES and VISUALIZE WHIRLED PEAS.
4. He sings stupid songs.
5. He has a beard.

Later

It is New Year's Day night. I am the only one awake. Sally and the cats are asleep. George and Jonah have gone home. George and Jonah were here for dinner, which was pot roast and potato pancakes. Most people have ham at New Year's, but we don't because I won't eat pigs because of Piglet. Piglet is my favorite Pooh character. Jonah eats pigs, but not around me. Jonah brought a bottle of champagne for him and Sally and a bottle of sparkling cider for me and George. Then he proposed toasts.

THINGS WE TOASTED
1. Good friends.
2. The future.
3. The Revolution.
4. Bears.

"What Revolution?" I said, and Jonah said that the Revolution is when the good people take over the world and everybody uses solar power and eats organic vegetables.

After dinner we went for a walk in the snow. The snow was coming down in fat fluffy flakes like the snow in a snow globe. If you looked straight up into the snow, you could imagine that everything was upside down and you were falling into the sky.
George went running ahead with his bear and his stupid floppy boots, trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue, and Jonah took Sally's hand and tucked it through his arm. Sally can say he's just a friend all she wants, but I know better.

Then they started talking about their New Year's resolutions. Sally's is the same every year: "Simplify, simplify." That's a quote from Henry David Thoreau. Sally thinks that life is too cluttered and needs to be pared down. I can think of things to pare down too, but mine are not the same as Sally's.

Meet the Author

Rebecca Rupp is the author THE DRAGON OF LONELY ISLAND, THE RETURN OF THE DRAGON, THE WATERSTONE, and JOURNEY TO THE BLUE MOON. She lives Shaftsbury, Vermont.

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