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Star Shine

Star Shine

by Constance C. Greene

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Two sisters take care of themselves when their mother decides to become an actress

When their stage-struck mother joins a summer theater group and leaves home for a few weeks, Jenny and Mary convince their dad that they can take care of themselves. Surprisingly, things are actually working out all right, even if the girls tend to bicker.

When a


Two sisters take care of themselves when their mother decides to become an actress

When their stage-struck mother joins a summer theater group and leaves home for a few weeks, Jenny and Mary convince their dad that they can take care of themselves. Surprisingly, things are actually working out all right, even if the girls tend to bicker.

When a production company comes to town, Mary and everyone else is dying to get a role in the movie. But it’s Jenny who lands the big part. Mary and her friends are furious—especially at Jenny’s nonchalance over getting it. Will Jenny’s new job end up ruining the girls’ summer of freedom?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Greene's new novel may be deemed the topper of all the funny, moving unpredictable stories that have won her awards and devout fans. The excitement jets off here when Mrs. Chisholm leaves home ``for a few weeks'' to tour with an acting company. Jenny (11) and her sister Mary (almost 13) persuade their father to let them manage on their own in their mother's absence. The sisters stick together, despite occasional squabbles arising from Jenny's salty disapproval of Mary's adolescent airs and snippy, boy-crazy friends. When a company arrives in town to make a film, everybody gets in line to apply for the 40 that is paid to extras, but it's raffish Jenny (``your basic gamine'') who's chosen. As the girls' elderly friend Mrs. Carruthers says, the movie actors in her young days had ``star shine,'' which is what readers will agree Jennyand author Greenehave too. (1014)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8 The stars don't shine because this book lacks both the plot and zaniness that typifies Greene's work. Jenny and Mary's mother leaves them for the summer to go on tour as an actress; Dad must hold things together in her absence. There is a hint of insecurity about Mom's departure, but it lacks depth, as does the benign trouble the girls find. Mary is excited about the prospect of a role in a movie being filmed locally. Jenny is selected, however, and she could care less about the opportunity. Jenny, who hacks away at her hair with manicure sissors and sucks her thumbat age 11is well defined. Unfortunately, most of the other characters are shallow, especially the mother. Typical of Greene's books, this one also stresses values over action and tries to prove that things are not always as they seem on the surface. Judie Porter, Media Services Center, Portsmouth School Department, R.I.

Product Details

Open Road Media Teen & Tween
Publication date:
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Barnes & Noble
File size:
554 KB
Age Range:
11 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Star Shine

By Constance C. Greene


Copyright © 1985 Constance C. Greene
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-0097-0


"What if I don't pass?" Jenny sat straight up in bed. "Suppose I get left back?" She shot out of bed as if propelled from a cannon and stood on one foot, rigid with shock at the possibility.

"What then?"

Mary opened an eye and said, "Dry up. Go back to sleep. It isn't even six yet. You always say that and you always pass."

"I think I smell pancakes," Jenny said, sniffing, the end of her nose quivering like a good bird dog's.

She knew how to get Mary's attention. Groggy with sleep, Mary sat up and also sniffed. "All you smell is the last-day-of-school smell," Mary said. "It smells different from other days. I think that when I'm very old I will remember how the last day of school smells."

"Yeah, it's because of the pancakes. Mother always makes them for us on this day. To celebrate. They smell sweeter than sweet."

Jenny dressed with the speed of a volunteer fireman on the way to a four-alarmer. But when she hit the kitchen, the big yellow bowl used for mixing pancakes was nowhere in sight. Instead, despite the early hour, she found her mother sitting at the table, pushing her hair around and making lists.

"I'm sorry I ever got into this," she told Jenny. "I should never have asked all those people. I hate giving parties."

"Yeah, well, I've got problems too." Jenny leaned both elbows on the table and said in a tragic voice, "What if I don't pass? What then?"

"Anchovies!" shouted her mother, writing furiously.

"If you don't, Jen"—her father came in, hunching his shoulders into his jacket—"we'll ship you off to relatives in Borneo and tell everyone you're taking a trip around the world on a tramp steamer."

"What would you think about guacamole? Guacamole is always good, don't you think?" her mother said.

"Is that the stuff that looks like dog poo?" Jenny asked.

"Jennifer. Please."

"I'm with you, Jen." Her father poured himself some coffee.

"I don't need remarks like that to start the day." Her mother frowned. "Be constructive. We have thirty people coming for drinks Saturday. I need help."

"I didn't know we knew thirty people," her father said, looking worried. "The house is too small. Where will we put them all? In the garage?"

"There's plenty of room. It's only for drinks. People expect to be crowded at a cocktail party."

"If they're coming for drinks, why do we have to feed them?" her father asked.

"You have to give them something to nibble on." Her mother scribbled again, then looked at both of them. "This is insane. Why are you up so early? I hoped to have some peace and quiet, time to get my thoughts organized. Instead, it's like Grand Central Station in here."

"All aboard," said Jenny's father.

"Mary says the last day of school smells different from other days," Jenny told them. "And I said it was because we almost always have pancakes to celebrate. But I guess not today." Again the end of her nose quivered as Jenny sniffed elaborately.

"Dry cereal today, kids," her mother said. "I'm too busy for pancakes."

"How about you, Daddy? You make superior pancakes," Jenny cajoled.

"Sorry, Jen. I have a heavy work load today. That's why I'm off to such an early start." Her father kissed her, then her mother. "Where's Mary? Still pounding her ear?"

The corners of Jenny's mouth turned downward, and she fell into the nearest chair, already exhausted.

"We get our report cards today," she said. "It's very tense."

"Oh, well, why didn't you say report cards? This is a serious matter. I'll try to get home early, Jen, to hold your hand."

After he'd gone, Jenny stared at the top of her mother's head, willing her to get down the yellow bowl and start mixing. Instead, her mother scratched her ear delicately with the point of her pencil.

"What would you think about fondue?" she asked, squinting at Jenny.

Jenny squinted back, considering fondue.

"I can, fondue?" she said, making what she considered quite a good joke.

Her mother's face was blank.

"I can, fondue?" Jenny said again. "Get it? Instead of saying 'I can, can you?' I made it 'I can, fondue?'"

"You're a riot," her mother said. "I need a couple more like you around today, of all days."

Much taken with herself, Jenny proceeded to turn cartwheels, shouting, "I can, fondue?" with each one.

"What's all the racket?" Mary stood in the doorway, rubbing her eyes. "Did you save some cakes for me?"

"Dry cereal today, kid. Mother's in a sweat planning what to have at the party. How about guacamole?"

"What's that?" Mary asked, as Jenny had hoped. It took Mary quite a while to wake up in the morning.

Jenny stuck her face close to Mary's and said, "It's that stuff that looks like dog poo."

Mary was known for her weak stomach. Especially early in the morning. She put her hand over her mouth and said, "I'm going back to bed. Wake me in plenty of time, O.K.?"


At the height of the party, the freckle-faced man popped his eyes at Mary, pretending astonishment.

"Alice in Wonderland!" he exclaimed. "You are the image of Alice in Wonderland!"

Mary turned scarlet and tossed her head, wondering, Is that good?, thinking perhaps it was.

"And you." The man held his beer can tight against his narrow chest in a practiced, two-finger grip as he stooped to bring himself eye to eye with Jenny, who crouched behind her sister, missing nothing.

"You are Peter Pan." His breath smelled strongly of peppermint. Freckles wandered over his face and climbed the steep slope of his forehead into his sparse ginger-colored hair. He was one of their mother's new friends from the Little Theater group. All the people at the party were. Their father was right. Thirty people was a lot. The din was deafening. They passed the hors d'oeuvres and watched their father circle the edges of the crowd, smiling in the way he had that told them he wished he were somewhere else. He wasn't keen on Little Theater groups. Or groups of any kind, for that matter. He was a geologist and liked rocks better than people.

The freckle-faced man shook hands with both of them before pushing off into the throng, and they were delighted by his handshake, as soft and rubbery as an old banana.

Dressed in her new jump suit, their mother sparkled in the middle of the room. Last night, trying it on for their benefit, she'd said, "You don't think it's too much, do you?" They knew she didn't mean the jump suit's price.

After a pause Mary had answered, "As a matter of fact, I do think it's a bit much." But their mother, checking her rear view in the full-length mirror, didn't seem to hear.

Now, laughing and gesturing extravagantly and flicking her eyelashes in a manner Mary thought highly unbecoming, their mother held court. Jenny thought only that a speck of dirt must be lodged in her mother's eye. To Jenny, her mother was dazzling.

"She better watch it," Mary muttered, turning away.

"Would you care for some?" Jenny said.

"Oh, guacamole! My favorite!" The woman heaped a taco and popped it into her mouth.

"Our mother makes excellent guacamole," Jenny said with a straight face.

The woman apparently agreed. "Don't go 'way," she said, heaping another taco with the guacamole. Mary dug one finger into the middle of Jenny's back and kept it there. Jenny jiggled a bit, trying to escape Mary's finger, with no success.

The woman, who had a stout front and a shiny, stretched face, said to them, "Your mother's very young for her age, isn't she?" The woman's lips scarcely moved as she spoke, and Jenny, who only last year had planned on becoming a ventriloquist, thought the woman would make an excellent one.

"She is?" they said in unison.

The woman didn't seem to expect an answer. "I'm making a pig of myself," she said, helping herself to still more guacamole. They didn't argue with her.

The woman drained her glass, never taking her eyes off them. When she reached the bottom and the pale, cold clink of ice cubes jangled in her face, she seemed surprised. Finally she opened her mouth, as if to say something further, changed her mind, closed her mouth, and walked away.

"Why didn't you tell her what it reminds you of?" Mary asked, and they both went into spasms of giggles. A tall, thin man wearing a navy blue jacket with brass buttons and wildly patterned pants, said, "Let me in on the joke."

"Have some guacamole?" Jenny said, and the man shook his head and said, "I'm watching my weight." He peered down at them. "I never would've expected your mother to have such great huge progeny," he told them, grinning at them. His teeth, they saw, were half white, half yellow, like the kernels in an ear of sugar-and-gold corn, and in spite of themselves they were impressed, never having seen such teeth before.

"We're not progeny," Mary said. The word was new to her, and she was offended at a total stranger's calling them such a thing.

The man flashed his teeth again and said, "You sure look like progeny to me," before melting into the crowd.

"I need a refill," said Jenny, looking at the bowl of guacamole.

"I can't believe they eat that stuff," Mary said.

"At cocktail parties," Jenny told her, as if she'd been to many, "they eat anything. Weren't that man's teeth weird? I thought they were very strange in a kind of interesting way."

"Why do you suppose he was watching his weight? Imagine being that age and a man and watching your weight." Mary shook her head at the vagaries of grown-ups.

They worked their way back to the hall, checking out the scene one more time.

"Daddy's disappeared."

Jenny nodded. "I knew he would." They went to find him. He had a room of his own in the basement. In it he kept his rocks and books and records. They found him sitting in his old black leather chair, reading.

"How's it going up there?" he said.

"Well," said Mary, "it's still going. How come you didn't stick around?"

"They'll never miss me," he said. "As a matter of fact, I'm not sure they know who I am. Besides"—he smiled at them—"your mother can handle that crowd with both hands tied behind her. She doesn't need me."

"We missed you," Jenny said.

"I'm perfectly happy right here, thanks, learning how to make a weather vane." When their father wasn't studying rocks, he made things out of wood. Once, when they were very young, he'd made a huge salad bowl out of a beautiful piece of walnut, in which they'd given their new puppy a bath. That had more or less finished the bowl for salad.

He was a superior father in all ways, they thought. Superior to other people's fathers, that is.

Mary opened the door, and sounds of the party surged in.

"You were nice to miss me," he told them.

"Sure," they said, and went back upstairs.


Afterwards, eating potato salad in their room, the noise of the party still throbbing through the house, they talked it over.

"As I see it," Jenny said, one hand on her hip, the other waving a fork, spewing mayonnaise on the rug, "he meant I look like a boy and you look like a girl." She was talking about the freckle-faced man. Mary had turned thirteen in April. Jenny, the younger by eighteen months, would be twelve in October, and there was some truth to the statement.

"As I see it"—Jenny reiterated her favorite expression for this month—"he's a wimp. They're all wimps. And his teeth were funny." Now she was on the man in the flashy pants. "Daddy wouldn't even wear pants like that to bed."

"They're all actors," Mary contradicted.

"Yeah," Jenny croaked in her frog voice, "bad actors." They collapsed upon one another, their loud, slow shouts of laughter making their stomachs ache and bringing tears to their eyes.

The door opened and their mother poked her head in. "Susan's on the phone," she said crisply. "I told her we were having a party, but she said she simply had to talk to you. She gave the decided impression it was a matter of life and death. I called but you didn't answer so I had to come up."

"Well," said Jenny, "the noise is pretty ferocious."

Their mother's face deepened in color. "It's a simply wonderful party," she said, and closed the door.

Susan was a telephone freak. She called Mary eight or ten times a day, always sounding as if she were Paul Revere and had just hopped off her horse. Susan's mother had gone back to work at the bank in order to be part of the mainstream, Susan had told them importantly last week. Susan's father was a radio announcer at station WLLL, and he was also taking a cooking course nights at the high school. This week they were doing coq au vin.

"What's that?"


"Then why don't they call it chicken?"

"Because it's French chicken, dummy." Susan often lost patience with Jenny.

"Oh, French." Jenny raised her eyebrows as if that explained everything.

"It's a super party!" Mary cried into the phone. "They're all actors. Yeah, members of the Little Theater group. We had little meatballs and little franks. And dips. You would not believe all the dips."

Jenny pulled down her pants and hung a moon at Mary, who turned her back and continued talking.

"Tell her I'm expecting an important phone call," Jenny said. That's what their mother and father always said to get them off the line.

"Jenny says she's expecting an important phone call," Mary told Susan. Susan said something that made Mary laugh. "Sue said to tell you, Jen, that Scott Borkowski already asked her to the junior prom so you might as well give up hope." At this Mary went into peals of laughter. Scott Borkowski was captain of the soccer team. Their friend Tina said Scott Borkowski made her teeth ache, he was so adorable. Girls flopped in Scott Borkowski's path as if they'd been stricken by a sudden, mysterious virus. Jenny, who had recently seen an old Marx Brothers comedy on TV, called Scott Borkowski Harpo because he had a head of wild curls much like Harpo's. Jenny thought if she ever had a chance to talk to Scott Borkowski, she'd ask him if he played the harp.

"I bet Scott Borkowski has an IQ often," Jenny said, but nobody listened.

Later, lying in bed, they listened to the sounds of car doors slamming, engines starting up. The party was, at last, over.

"I don't think she's young for her age, do you?" Jenny said.

"Well, she's thirty-nine." Mary's voice was muffled, on its way to sleep. "That's not really old."

"It's not?" Jenny thumped her pillow. Mary had already begun to snore. Mary denied she snored. Someday, when she got organized, Jenny planned to set up their father's tape recorder under Mary's bed to record the sounds of Mary snoring. Just to prove a point.

But she didn't have the energy tonight.

"If you ask me"—Jenny spoke into the dark—"it's plenty old."

The days stretched out deliciously, waiting to be used up in pleasurable pursuits. Mary had a summer job sitting for the little Hirshman kids. Jenny would have liked to babysit, but "I don't like little kids that much," she said.

"How much?" asked her father.

"Well, for instance, if they needed their diapers changed," Jenny explained, "it might gross me out."

"Why not put an ad in the paper saying, 'Sitter available. Only toilet-trained kids need apply'?" he suggested.

"Cool." Jenny wondered why she hadn't thought of that herself.

"Susan's mother's going to run us down to the seven o'clock movie," Mary said. "You want to come?"

"I'm broke," said Jenny, who was always broke.

"I'll lend you the money just this once. You get in for half, anyway." At eleven, Jenny was the youngest in the crowd. She hated being youngest but had to admit it came in handy now and then.

"It's sort of like being a senior citizen," Jenny said. "You get in for less."

"I can hardly wait to be a senior citizen," her father said. "I'll be rich."

"Yeah, and old," said Jenny.

"Beats being middle-aged and poor," he told her.

Susan's mother was always late. They waited by the side of the road, punching down the heat bubbles in the tar with their bare feet. Presently Susan's mother pulled up with a squeal of brakes. They put on their sneakers and got in.

"Sorry to be late," Susan's mother said. "I had piles of work. They want a whole bunch of figures in the morning. I'm going crazy," she added happily. Susan's mother was a whiz at figures. She was earning big bucks at the bank, Susan had told them.

"What's your mother up to these days?" Susan's mother pulled out into traffic without checking to see if anything was coming. A horn blasted and a man with a clenched face swerved and lifted a fist threateningly at her.

"Not much," Jenny said. It was always an adventure to ride with Susan's mother. She had been threatened by experts, but it never seemed to bother her.


Excerpted from Star Shine by Constance C. Greene. Copyright © 1985 Constance C. Greene. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Constance C. Greene is the author of over twenty highly successful children’s and young adult novels, including the ALA Notable Book A Girl Called Al, Al(exandra) the Great, Getting Nowhere, and Beat the Turtle Drum, which is an ALA Notable Book, an IRA-CBC Children’s Choice, and the basis for the Emmy Award–winning after-school special Very Good Friends. Greene lives in Milford, Connecticut.

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