So B. It

So B. It

4.6 412
by Sarah Weeks

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You couldn′t really tell about Mama′s brain just from looking at her, but it was obvious as soon as she spoke. She had a high voice, like a little girl′s, and she only knew 23 words. I know this for a fact, because we kept a list of the things Mama said tacked to the inside of the kitchen cabinet. Most of the words were common ones

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You couldn′t really tell about Mama′s brain just from looking at her, but it was obvious as soon as she spoke. She had a high voice, like a little girl′s, and she only knew 23 words. I know this for a fact, because we kept a list of the things Mama said tacked to the inside of the kitchen cabinet. Most of the words were common ones, like good and more and hot, but there was one word only my mother said: soof.

Although she lives an unconventional lifestyle with her mentally disabled mother and their doting neighbour, Bernadette, Heidi has a lucky streak that has a way of pointing her in the right direction. When a mysterious word in her mother′s vocabulary begins to haunt her, Heidi′s thirst for the truth leads her on a cross-country journey in search of the secrets of her past.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Heidi It has gotten to be 12 years old without knowing any but the sketchiest information about her background: her mentally disabled mother, who insists her name is So Be It, showed up with the week-old Heidi on their neighbor Bernadette's doorstep seemingly out of the clear blue sky, and Bernadette, who is severely agoraphobic but also bookish and generous, has been looking out for Heidi and Mama ever since. Somehow Heidi and Mama never get billed for rent or utilities, and besides, Heidi has an almost magical ability to play slot machines, which, in their native Reno, can be found even in the local Sudsy Duds laundromat. But as the novel opens, Heidi has begun to chafe-she is no longer willing to live with Bernadette's complacency about the mysterious past ("What happened before [I met you] doesn't matter," Bernadette tells Heidi. "It's just something to be grateful for") and Heidi is determined to find out what Mama means by the strange word "soof." When Heidi uncovers an old camera with a roll of undeveloped film, a host of clues to her identity send her on a solo cross-country bus trip to confront people who not only do not expect her but have taken pains to insulate themselves from her existence. Suspension of belief is beside the point: readers will probably respond to Heidi's voice and determination, get caught up in the mystery and feel wiser for the mild tear-jerker ending. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Weeks presents a quirky story with a compelling voice and intriguing characters. Twelve-year-old Heidi and her retarded mother are cared for by their neighbor in the next apartment, Bernadette. Bernie, who has not gone outside since her father died many years before, needs them as much as they need her. But when Heidi gets some old film developed and sees the photos of her mother at "Hilltop Home" in New York, she is determined to discover the mystery of her existence and translate the mysterious expression in her mother's 23-word vocabulary, "soof." After a classic adolescent breaking and reconciliation with Bernie, Heidi strikes out on her own from Reno to New York by bus. Armed with two sandwiches, two Devil Dogs and her amazing good luck—she can win the slots, any lottery, or "guess how many in the jar" contest—she makes it to Hilltop and is stunned at what she finds about her family. At a deeper level, she discovers that "whether you know something or not doesn't change what was" and that perhaps you should be grateful for what, and who, you have. Part of the delight in this book is meeting the characters Heidi discovers on her quest, not to mention Heidi and Bernie themselves. Reminiscent of Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie, it is an enjoyable and thought provoking read. 2004, Laura Geringer Books/HarperCollins, Ages 8 to 12.
—Kathryn Erskine
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2004: Heidi has had a most unusual childhood. She lives with her mother, who is severely mentally handicapped, in Reno, Nevada. Next door in the apartment house is a loving woman, Bernadette, who takes care of them but suffers from agoraphobia and cannot leave the apartment. Many years ago, Bernadette found the infant Heidi and her bewildered young mother on her doorstep, neither one able to explain who they are. For years, the three of them have managed, using Bernadette's coping skills and Heidi's growing independence and capability. (All the practical details of how this odd trio copes with everyday life are explained throughout the story, and they are quite fascinating.) Heidi finds an old camera with film in it hidden away in a drawer, and she gets the photographs developed: they reveal a Christmas party, with the name of a place, and Heidi's young mother in one of the pictures—all clues to the identities of Heidi and her mother, who calls herself So B. It. Heidi becomes obsessed with these clues and Bernadette does what she can by telephone to get to the truth. Heidi decides she must travel by herself by bus across the country. Bernadette can't really stop her, so she supports her and monitors Heidi's progress through telephone calls. Once Heidi meets the man who was Santa in one of the lost photos, nothing is easy, because this man doesn't want to help her in any way. Fortunately, through the kindness of the receptionist at the home and the local policeman, Heidi is cared for, and finally the truth about her parents and grandparents is revealed. This belongs with other stories of unusual journeys, literal and figurative ones.Since Heidi is so young (12 years old), and her journey is ultimately one of revelation about her family, I think it can be compared to Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons. An ALA Best Book for YAs. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, HarperCollins, 245p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Heidi and her mother have lived in an apartment that adjoins with their neighbor, Bernadette, since the 12-year-old was probably no more than a week old. Bernadette accepted and loved them from the moment they arrived at her door but could never ask questions since Heidi's mentally challenged mother simply "didn't have the words to answer them." Bernadette's agoraphobia further isolates the child. Heidi struggles with knowing nothing about her father or her family history, and never having a real last name. Then she finds an old camera, which prompts her quest to learn the identity of the people in the photographs it holds and to discover her past. While traveling by bus from Nevada to Liberty, NY, the girl relies on her luck, instinct, and the people she meets on the way to learn the truth about her mother and her own background. Readers will pull for and empathize with the likable characters, especially Heidi as she struggles for self-knowledge. The almost melodramatic story has fantasy elements such as Heidi's lucky streak; hitting a slot machine enables her to buy the bus ticket to New York. Heidi's naive voice, however, creates a willing suspension of disbelief as she learns what she set out to and matures along the way.-Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Resilient Heidi It is the daughter of mentally deficient So B. It, but it's really neighbor Bernadette who raises her. Piling on the difficulties, Bernadette is agoraphobic and though managing to reach out to So B. and Heidi without leaving her house, Dette is unable to do anything like normal living. Heidi is homeschooled by Bernadette and finds her unusual life to be satisfactory except for curiosity about her mother's past, as evidenced by "soof," her favorite of Mama's 23 words that also function as chapter titles. Determined to investigate the past, Heidi follows a few convenient clues to lead her on a cross-country bus journey from Reno, Nevada, to Liberty, New York. Some of the details, such as Heidi's lucky streak, are not terribly credible, but the heart of the search for home and history is one that readers will find compelling. Most of the people Heidi meets on her trip gradually take on fullness and depth, but this was never intended to be literal or realistic. Three stars on the soggy-hanky index. (Fiction. 9-12)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“A quick and satisfying tale of love, determination, and the kindness of strangers.”
New York Times Book Review
“A remarkable novel. [Heidi’s] cross-country journey is brave and daring and yields surprising results.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"A quick and satisfying tale of love, determination, and the kindness of strangers."
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“A quick and satisfying tale of love, determination, and the kindness of strangers.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“A quick and satisfying tale of love, determination, and the kindness of strangers.”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Sales rank:
860L (what's this?)
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

So B. It

By Weeks, Sarah

Laura Geringer Book

ISBN: 0066236223


If truth was a crayon and it was up to me to put a wrapper around it and name its color, I know just what I would call it—dinosaur skin. I used to think, without really thinking about it, that I knew what color that was. But that was a long time ago, before I knew what I know now about both dinosaur skin and the truth.

The fact is, you can't tell squat about the color of an animal just from looking at its bones, so nobody knows for sure what color dinosaurs really were. For years I looked at pictures of them, trusting that whoever was in charge of coloring them in was doing it based on scientific fact, but the truth is they were only guessing. I realized that one afternoon, sitting in the front seat of Sheriff Roy Franklin's squad car, the fall before I turned thirteen.

Another thing I found out right around that same time is that not knowing something doesn't mean you're stupid. All it means is that there's still room left to wonder. For instance about dinosaurs—were they the same color as the sky the morning I set off for Liberty? Or were they maybe the same shade of brown as the dust my shoes kicked up on the driveway at Hilltop Home?

I'd be lying if I said that given a choice, I wouldn't rather know than not know. But there are some things you can just know for no good reason other than that you do, and then there are other things that no matter how badly you want to know them, you just can't. The truth is, whether you know something or not doesn't change what was. If dinosaurs were blue, they were blue; if they were brown, they were brown whether anybody ever knows it for a fact or not.


Excerpted from So B. It by Weeks, Sarah Excerpted by permission.
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