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Some Friend

Some Friend

4.6 3
by Marie Bradby

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Finding a friend isn't easy.

Especially when there aren't many kids age eleven in your neighborhood. Being a friend is even harder. In Pearl's neighborhood Lenore is everyone's friend of choice. She has her hair straightened and curled at a real beauty shop, her own pink phone, and a canopy bed. The most Pearl hopes for is to be included as one of


Finding a friend isn't easy.

Especially when there aren't many kids age eleven in your neighborhood. Being a friend is even harder. In Pearl's neighborhood Lenore is everyone's friend of choice. She has her hair straightened and curled at a real beauty shop, her own pink phone, and a canopy bed. The most Pearl hopes for is to be included as one of Lenore's followers.

Then outcast Artemesia comes into Pearl's life. Artemesia is everything Pearl dreams of being — a dancer and an artist. But then Lenore makes it clear she can't stand Artemesia, Pearl does the worst thing possible.

And she still hasn't got a friend.

Or has she?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Moving and memorable."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Sensitive, realistic."
Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
In her first novel, Bradby (Momma, Where Are You From?) combines a knowledge of the dynamics of preteen girls' friendships and a solid historical setting for a moving and memorable read. Set in 1963, the story takes place in a middle-class African-American neighborhood in a town not far from Washington, D.C. Pearl, the 11-year-old narrator, a middle child, wishes for a friend, and even while the popular, trend-setting Lenore seeks her company occasionally, Pearl is wise enough to know that "you can find girls to be your friends and then find out that they are not." Sure enough, Lenore has Pearl and the other girls in her sway stealing money from the church collection, doing her homework for her, etc. Meanwhile, Pearl also likes the new girl, Artemesia, whom Lenore and her minions despise for her shabby clothes and obvious poverty. A power play looms inevitably-and to Bradby's credit, Pearl behaves realistically, not nobly, only to be met with remorse that can't be neatly squared away. (Strangely, Lenore seems to drop out of the novel shortly after this point.) The characters here seem to live and breathe-from Pearl's older sister, who practices the newest dances with the members of her all-girl club, to the older brother whose head momentarily swells when he lends his sneakers to a prominent civil rights leader during the March on Washington, to their hardworking parents, and to Pearl herself, a striking, non-heroic heroine. Ages 9-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
It's 1963, in Fairfax, Virginia, and eleven-year-old Pearl longs for a friend—especially a friend like popular and glamorous Lenore, who gets Pearl to do her homework for her, perpetrates a daring scam at the newly integrated roller rink, and gives Pearl a makeover (including forbidden haircut) that makes Peal look "outta sight." But Pearl knows that Lenore has gone too far when she and her followers torment Artemesia, a poor, shabby girl who cleans houses for a living, but is also a brilliant artist who has more in common with Pearl than Lenore will ever have. The novel unfolds in short, beautifully crafted vignettes—meditations on "family feet," on whether ladies should spit, on licking S&H Green Stamps—that build to a satisfying portrait of Pearl's complex and multi-dimensional life and times. The racial background is vivid, but doesn't overwhelm the story: when Pearl's brother gets to go to D.C. to hear Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, Lenore mainly thinks how full of himself Curtis will be from now on. The story line of popular girls taunting a poor, artistic girl, who then suddenly moves away, so that no restitution can ever be made, is overly reminiscent of The Hundred Dresses. But Bradby clearly knows the appeal of hanging out with the Lenores of this world: just how far we will let them use and abuse us for a glimmer of their reflected glory. 2004, Richard Jackson/Atheneum, Ages 9 to 12.
—Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-A somewhat predictable but affecting coming-of-age story about the consequences of hanging out with the "wrong crowd." Set in 1960s Maryland, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, the story centers on an 11-year-old African-American girl who is desperate to find a friend. Exactly why Pearl is friendless isn't quite clear, because she comes across as a thoughtful and intelligent child. She is thrilled when beautiful and popular Lenore starts including her in social activities, even if Lenore manipulates her into lying and wearing too much makeup. Pearl also wants to be friends with Artemesia, who's talented and interesting and introduces her to wondrous things like art. But Artemesia also happens to be poor, and that doesn't sit well with Lenore and her crowd. They label Artemesia a "creepy girl" and worse. Pearl knows they're wrong, but isn't brave enough to stand up for her. During the climactic confrontation, Pearl watches helplessly as Artemesia is cruelly attacked by the popular girls. The following day, she discovers that Artemesia has left town for good. Pearl is left to ponder the consequences of her inaction, and mourn the loss of the one person who truly was her friend.-Ronni Krasnow, New York Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Finding a friend can be hard when there are few kids in your neighborhood, but being a friend can be even harder. Feeling ignored by her family as the next-to-last of four children, fifth-grader Pearl Jordan is thrilled when boy-crazy, daring Lenore pals up with her. Grounded by her strict mother because of Lenore, Pearl befriends Artemesia, a poor girl from a migrant working family, whose drawing talent turns out to be amazing. When Lenore and chums make fun of Artemesia and physically attack her, Pearl doesn't defend her, only to discover later that her true friend has moved again. Set in the early 1960s, when American Bandstand, Chatty Cathys, 45 records, and pay toilets were in vogue and segregation prevailed, Brady weaves the issue of integration throughout, e.g., Pearl's family is "colored" and her father and brother march to hear Martin Luther King. A sensitive, realistic portrayal told in first person of a girl's tough lesson about the meaning of friendship. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


All my life I've been hoping I'd find a friend so I wouldn't have to play Monopoly by myself. (When I get the box out and set up all the little bitty houses and the fake money, everybody in my family suddenly gets too busy and just disappears.) If I had a friend, I'd have somebody to walk to the grocery store with when Mama forgets the one thing that she went for. We could sing songs and do the latest dance steps — the pony, the Watusi, and the twist — and, you know, just hang out.

She would be my best friend, and I would ask her questions about the three-letter word — "b-r-a." I am in training, though I don't know for what. My bra leaves ridges on my rib cage and they itch. I usually rush right home from school and take it off.

There. Whew!

Better get downstairs and start my homework. It's always best to look busy. When you're not doing your homework, people ask you things like: "Can you take these smelly vegetable peelings out to the compost?"

I sit at the dining-room table and put my name and the date on a sheet of loose-leaf paper. Pearl Jordan. Wednesday, March 6, 1963. I don't know why, but I add: Mrs. Scott. Fifth Grade. Then I start diagramming sentences and wonder what kind of job anyone would need this for.


Sometimes I feel so big — full of ideas about things, like stuff right here in my backyard in Fairfax, Virginia. I think I am going to be a scientist because there are so many questions that we need to figure out. I mean, somebody has to worry about what's important.

For instance, in winter, when my head just about snaps off from shivering while I wait at the school bus stop, I wonder: How do the squirrels in our tree keep from freezing in their nests? In summer I look at hummingbirds and wonder: Do they get tired of beating their wings fifty times a second? And I wonder why — when it's hot as blazes outside — worms pick that particular time to crawl out of some safe, cozy hole in the grass and get fried on the sidewalk.

Other things too. What holds airplanes up? The only time I have flown was last year, when my fourth-grade class went to New York City for the day to see the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. We all piled into this great big airplane, the propellers got to whirling around, and after racing down the runway, it just rose off the ground. How do they do that? Something so enormous and heavy. And how do those pilots know where to go? Do they have a map of the clouds?

If I had a friend, we could talk this over and maybe figure it out. Maybe even win an award — like at the school science fair.

Or I could tell her something that I have figured out: People don't notice what you want them to notice, but they sure have X-ray eyes when you don't want them to see what you are doing!

"Mama, I grew a foot last week," I announced yesterday.

"That's nice, sweetie," she said, not even looking up from the bookkeeping work she does at the kitchen table for her part-time job.

You see what I mean?

"But I need some new jeans," I said. "The bottoms of these are up to my knees."


Then this morning there is no juice because I'm the last one in the bathroom (shared by Mama, Daddy, my older sister Diana, my big brother Curtis, and my baby sister Angela) and the last one to get breakfast, so I am dying of thirst, and out of desperation, I pop open an orange soda, and Mama's head zips around like a robot in a TV show.

"Just what do you think you're doing?"

"But I was — "

"Young lady, sodas are not for breakfast!"

"But I was just — "

"Don't 'but' me. Do you want rotten teeth? Or worse, stomach cancer?"

"I was thirsty."

"That's what they make water for. And as I have just paid the water bill, there's plenty of it. Do you hear me?"

"Yes, ma'am."


My mother has the prettiest feet. They are small and dainty. With cute little toes. While I am diagramming sentences, I sneak a peek at them under the kitchen table, her shoes kicked off. On Saturday afternoons, after we have finished cleaning house all morning, Mama takes a bath and gives herself a pedicure. She cuts, files, and paints her toenails. She puts on her open-toed shoes and sits on the front porch with her crossword puzzle magazines and her lemonade and waves at people passing by. When Daddy finishes chores and errands, they go walking after dinner — to the park, to the shopping center — to show the world feet that would make Cinderella jealous.

A friend would help you with a pedicure. She wouldn't laugh at your feet, even if your toenail was blue and falling off.

Angela has sweaty feet. They are hot and fat, and she's always putting them on me when we sleep together at Auntie Gert's. Then we end up in a fight, but does Auntie Gert make Angela keep her porky little hooves on her side of the bed? No. She makes me sleep on the divan. Maybe this is really what I want anyway. It's cozy on that divan; the pillows are so fluffy, I just sink right into them. And it's right beside the end table where there is a picture of me and Auntie Gert, and we are wearing matching sunglasses and having so much fun — just the two of us.

No one has ever seen Diana's feet. At home Diana is covered from head to toe in towels, sweatpants, bathrobes, socks, and slippers. Prissy missy. But the minute she hits that door, boy, it's show time. Blouse unbuttoned to here, the sheerest stockings she can find. Mama does not know this, but as soon as Diana rounds the street corner and meets her friends, she rolls the top of her skirt over to hitch it up and show her knees.

Curtis's feet just plain stink. If he leaves his tennis shoes in the kitchen, they'll smell up the whole room. And are they huge! They look like hams. And his feet are still growing.

"Cut the toes out," Daddy told him from behind the newspaper the other day. "That's what I do for my bunions."

"What?" Curtis asked, resting a basketball on his hip.

"Make a slit on the side of the shoe to give your feet some room," Daddy said. When Curtis scrunched up his face, Daddy put down the newspaper and asked, "Didn't I just buy you some new tennis shoes?"

"Yes, sir, but that was back in September....I need new ones."

"Son, I am not made of money. When I was growing up, we made our own shoes and — "

"Was that when you had to walk five miles in the snow to go to school?"



Of course, then Curtis just asks Mama, and she "sugar babys" him and buys him Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars — top-of-the-line sneakers.

Me, there is nothing special about my feet. About the only thing you used to be able to say was that they were skinny, like the rest of me. But one day Curtis changed all that when we were playing "Throw the Boulder as Far as You Can," and he heaved one that was bigger than Mama's purse and it went sideways and landed right on my left foot. Ye-owwww! It hurt worse than the time I fell off of my bike in Lenore's gravel driveway. The doctor said that I was lucky it wasn't broken. Lucky? My big toe swelled up, turned red, then purple, then black. Then the toenail fell off.


Sometimes I feel small. Like I am that tiny little bump that's left after the leaf falls from the tree. That's because even in a crowded house, I'm still mostly by myself. Just little me. But I am not small. If I jump, I can reach the basketball net. If Mama paid more attention to me, she'd see that I am not a baby like Angela. I don't need a sitter after school when Mama has to deliver her paperwork for her bookkeeping job. And she doesn't have to read to me at night when she reads to "Little Miss Angel." I have been reading novels since I was in the second grade, thank you. It's like Mama hasn't noticed. I'll be married and she'll come over to my house and still want to read to me. It will be so embarrassing.


I know my street by heart. Every pothole, every dog barking behind a chain-link fence, every cherry tree waiting to be climbed. Every car that sits all week until Sunday morning. Past Nadine Dawson's house. Her grandfather's brand-new 1963 Cadillac gleaming in the sun. Past pesky Dink's. Past Miss Lela's, roses still rising up the side of her house and blooming sometimes in December. She's got the prettiest roses around.

Nadine. She'd be fun, I guess. Except she's not the best speller. Caused our group at school to lose the spelling contest. Anyhow, farther down the street, there is the corner and the stoplight and the playground. Another light. The gas station, the grocery store, and the shopping center.

That's if I go straight there. If I go left down the second side street, I will come to Lenore's. Every-body wants to be her friend. Her house is pretty much like mine, except she doesn't have any brothers or sisters, and she has a room all to herself with things I can only dream of.

There are three of us girls in "my" room. Princess Diana has her very own desk and her very own bed with a bedspread that Grandma made her just before she died. Diana never has to share anything. I sleep in a double bed with Angela. Yep, a saggy old bed that if you sit on it wrong, the mattress will collapse onto the floor because the slats sometimes slip out of place.

Though it's out of the way, I always go down Lenore's street, as if it's as natural as pie to make a little circle when I'm going to the grocery. Lenore's sort of my friend. Well, she would be if Mama would let me wear nylon stockings instead of kneesocks.


Then there is Mrs. Mumby. She lives near the playground in a creepy old house with a front porch so stacked with boxes and stuff that it looks like she's always having a rummage sale. I don't think she ever had a friend. She's too old and shriveled like a witch and yells at kids from her front porch. She has a hump in her back and doesn't stand up straight. And she has a wart on her nose. Well, I just made that up 'cause she's a snitch. I mean, was she the same but only smaller when she was a girl? I don't know.


Finding a friend isn't easy. There aren't too many kids here around my age, which is eleven. Besides, you can find girls to be your friends and then find out that they are not. And sometimes your friends do dumb stuff — that doesn't mean that you have to do it too. But if I did, before I hit the door, some nosy body (do I need to tell you who?) would have already told my mama, and she would be waiting to catch me like a rabbit in a trap.


Trees. That's what I call them. That's about how interesting they taste, too. After school a week later, I am searching the bin of vegetables at Swan's Market. We're having meatloaf for dinner, and Mama has run out of vegetables to go with it.

There are things in this store that I would not touch. Brussels sprouts for one. And turnips. Who likes turnips, really?

I pull up the collar on my jacket. It's always cold in the grocery store, with all these big coolers blowing cold air.

"What're you looking for?" the manager asks. That's Mr. Norton. He is a beady-eyed man with pale, stringy hair that he has plastered to his scalp with Vitalis. He is unloading cartons of vegetables.

"My mother wants broccoli."

"Got some over there. On sale."

I know Mama hates it when I spend too much for something, so I go on over. Hmm, twenty cents. Limp as a dishrag, though. Stalks turning gray, the little buds are turning yellow. A blond-haired woman comes up looking for the same thing. Mr. Norton shows her a fresh carton that he is just opening. She oohs and aahs. As I watch him put some broccoli in a paper bag for her, I rub the three quarters that I have in my pocket and weave them through my fingers. I still have to get mayonnaise for tomorrow's lunch sandwiches. There will be enough change for me to get a Brown Cow sucker if I get a bunch of broccoli from the sale table. I'm not going to eat it anyway.

I put a few stalks of the sale broccoli in a paper sack and run over to the baking aisle and grab a large jar of Duke's mayonnaise. Then I head to the checkout counter and pore over the five-cent candy. Jujubees, Good & Plenty, Squirrel Nuts, Baby Ruths, Fifth Avenues. Ahh, a Brown Cow! Last one. I grab it.

I'm not sure that I can afford it, though. "Can you ring this first and give me a subtotal?" I ask the pimply-faced kid at the checkout.

"You only have three things," he says, glaring.


He rolls his eyes and weighs the broccoli, then rings it up with the mayonnaise. "So far that's

seventy cents," he says, folding his arms across his chest.

Great! I think. I hand him the sucker and the three quarters. Then I snatch the sucker back. Oh, shoot. Tax! "Is there tax?"

"Yep. The new sales tax. That'll be seventy-two cents."

I keep staring at him while I search all my pockets — my two front pockets, my two back pockets, my two coat pockets, the tiny coin pocket on my jeans. While I am doing this, I notice that two of them have holes.

A line builds behind me.

"Come on!" the checker snarls. I look sideways. A woman behind me clears her throat. A man taps his foot.

"Look, I don't have all day!" the boy says.

Then I have an idea. "Could you just put back a small piece of the broccoli?"

"Oh, geez, come on!" the foot-tapping man says, looking at his watch.

The clerk grabs the bag, takes out a piece of the limp, yellowed broccoli, and shoves the bag at me. "Get out of here!" he says.

"But I need a receipt."

He rips off the receipt, whips it out toward me, and tosses me one green S&H coupon stamp. I snatch them and run out of the store.

A block away I sit down on the bus bench and peel the paper off my Brown Cow and start licking away. When the candy is half gone and my tongue is all bumpy from licking the dark chocolate, my stomach starts to feel queasy. If I eat any more, I'll get sick. I rewrap it and save the rest for later. Better get back.

I walk down the street, passing buses of people coming home from work, row after row of houses, yards, fences, then I come to the park. A bunch of kids are playing a "mean" game of basketball. I really should go straight on home. Oh, there's a bright blue jacket with a large yellow hornet on it. It's Curtis. He's playing with the others. Though Mama is waiting, I run on over.

Copyright © 2004 by Marie Bradby

Meet the Author

Marie Bradby's first book for younger readers was the IRA Award-winning More Than Anything Else, illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet. They also collaborated on Momma, Where Are You From?, a Golden Kite Honor Book. Growing up in the Washington, D.C., area in the 1960s, Ms. Bradby was a young girl during the Civil Rights movement and the great years of the Motown sound.

She lives with her husband and teenage son in Louisville, Kentucky.

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