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Give the Unexpected a Chance

That's the advice Chloë gets from her stepfather before she heads off to Florida to spend the summer with her aunt Bernadette. It turns out to be excellent advice, because everything about Bernadette is unexpected: her job driving a food service wagon, her big slobbery dog, her Rollerblading skill, her unorthodox way of teaching Chloë to swim. But nothing is as unexpected as the war that erupts when the other drivers start wearing T-back swimsuits to...

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Give the Unexpected a Chance

That's the advice Chloë gets from her stepfather before she heads off to Florida to spend the summer with her aunt Bernadette. It turns out to be excellent advice, because everything about Bernadette is unexpected: her job driving a food service wagon, her big slobbery dog, her Rollerblading skill, her unorthodox way of teaching Chloë to swim. But nothing is as unexpected as the war that erupts when the other drivers start wearing T-back swimsuits to work and some community leaders mount a protest against the skimpy suits. Bernadette is caught in the middle of the controversy...and what starts as an innocent game for Chloë may just make things worse.

Spending the summer in Florida with her stepfather's sister who operates a "meals-on-wheels" van, twelve-year-old Chloèe and her aunt become involved in a controversy surrounding the wearing of T-back bathing suits.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Newbery Medal winner Konigsburg introduces another of her typically saturnine heroines in this tart, smart novel. Suburban New Jerseyite Chloe is spending the summer in Florida with her aunt Bernadette. A one-time commune dweller, Bernadette is like nothing from Chloe's universe: she drives a commissary van and sells junk food at roadsides, she expertly teaches Chloe to swim but will not go in the water herself, and she puts wild mushrooms and flowers in her salads. Chloe overcomes her own taste for the ironic to develop an unvarnished affection for Bernadette, who likewise softens, relaxing her strict guard on her own privacy. Konigsburg gives this movingly developed friendship extra weight by centering her tale on timely, thoughtful plot lines: Two shapely new commissary drivers start wearing ``T-backs''--G-string-like bathing suits--denting Bernadette's sales and causing an outcry from local conservatives. Bernadette will not don a T-back, nor will she oppose the costume on moral grounds, despite pressure from a fundamentalist group. In a twist that will especially interest admirers of Konigsburg's Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth . . . , Chloe decides to punish the smug son of one of the T-back wearers by convincing him that Bernadette is a witch--only to discover, too late, that the son is aligned with the fundamentalists. The issues are as complicated as the characters; teenagers as well as the target audience will enjoy this book. Ages 9-12. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Mary Clayton Rowen
A lovely story without words about a kitten's first year of life following its election by a little girl and her father at the animal shelter. The endearing crayon pictures have the perfect amount of detail for the readers own interpretation of the story. All the joys and mishaps of owning a kitten are depicted and commence with Tabby's first birthday party. A perfect start for a child's creation of their own text. l995, HarperCollins, Ages 2 to 5, $13.95 and $13.89. Reviewer: Meredith E. Kiger
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-It's summer, and Chlo, 12, is about to sign a compact with her best friends that if one girl has a ``bad hair day,'' all three must jump in the water. If she refuses, they'll shun her; if she signs, she faces the possibility of immersion in the local pool-a much-feared consequence, since she cannot swim. Her stepfather comes to the rescue, sending her to Florida to visit his sister, and advising her to ``give the unexpected a chance.'' Chlo begins to develop real affection for and understanding of the woman, a former flower-child activist. When a heated debate ensues over the decency of wearing revealing bathing suits to work, Bernadette is caught between COAT (Citizens Opposing All T-Backs) and the pressure of her co-workers for ``solidarity.'' With the help of her lawyer-friend, she stands up for her own beliefs, teaching Chlo an invaluable lesson and opening up her own closed-off life to the possibility of loving another person. Konigsburg has developed unusual characters who reveal their innermost secrets as the story unfolds. Despite the initially trivial premise, the plot is carefully constructed and the humorous dialogue will engage readers. While it offers a lighter look at self-discovery than that found in the author's Throwing Shadows (Macmillan, 1988), T-Backs could serve as a possible discussion-starter on the importance of commitment and personal values.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, Wheeler School, Providence, RI
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416958772
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 6/3/2008
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,085,258
  • Age range: 9 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

E.L. Konigsburg is the only author to have won the Newbery Medal and be runner-up in the same year. In 1968, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler won the Newbery Medal and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth was named a Newbery Honor Book. Almost thirty years later she won the Newbery Medal once again for The View From Saturday. She has also written and illustrated three picture books: Samuel Todd’s Book of Great Colors, Samuel Todd’s Book of Great Inventions, and Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale’s. In 2000 she wrote Silent to the Bone, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, among many other honors.

After completing her degree at Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Konigsburg did graduate work in organic chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. For several years she taught science at a private girls’ school. When the third of her three children started kindergarten, she began to write. She now lives on the beach in North Florida.

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Read an Excerpt

T-Backs, T-Shirts, Coat and Suit
By E. L. Konigsburg Aladdin Publishing Company

Copyright © 2003 E. L. Konigsburg
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780689856822

The airline attendant stood at the mouth of the plane and said good-bye to every single other passenger before she came back for Chloe. Chloe got hot and sweaty. She could feel her hair starting to frizz. She certainly wasn't going to make a good impression on Bernadette feeling hot and looking frizzy. She unzipped her vest pocket to make sure that her money was still there. The fifty-dollar bill was no longer crisp. It actually felt hot. She could not remember ever having paper money feel hot before. Her first conclusion about spending a summer in Florida was: No more vests -- dressing in layers was out. The second was: If Bernadette did not have air-conditioning, she might have to use the fifty dollars to make other arrangements. A hotel room was not above her means.

At last the stewardess came for her. As she emerged from the jetway, she saw Bernadette standing with the people remaining. Nick had shown her some recent pictures of his sister to refresh her memory but what she remembered of her -- that she was a tall person -- would have been enough. Bernadette stood above the crowd.

Bernadette was a full six feet tall, as skinny as a silhouette, pale as a glass of buttermilk, and so nearsighted that her eyeglasses could be sent into orbit to do the job of the Hubble space telescope. She wore a long, full, printedskirt with a drawstring waist, sandals, and a dark T-shirt that didn't have anything printed on it. She had a head of unruly silver-and-black curly hair that grew in several directions, only one of which was down. It looked as if you could stuff a mattress -- king-size -- with it. Chloe wondered if this woman ever had a good hair day.

The airline attendant would not give Bernadette custody until she showed a picture ID. Bernadette took out her driver's license. As the stewardess looked at the picture, Chloe looked at the numbers -- the last two were the year of her birth. Bernadette was forty-five. Chloe thought, No wonder she has so much gray in her hair.

They greeted each other with smiles but did not hug or kiss. They did not even kiss the air over each others shoulders as grown-ups often do.

As they walked toward baggage pickup, Bernadette said, "I'll call you Chloe." Chloe found that a strange thing for an almost-relative to say. Chloe was, after all, her name. When her name was to be written, Chloe insisted that the two dots be placed over the e. She loved having two dots over the e of her name and told everyone that they were called a cliaeresis and meant that both the o and the e were to be sounded. Even before she started first grade she would not allow anyone to skip her diaeresis. Everyone called her Chloe. No one shortened it to Chlo. Why would this woman think of calling her anything but Chloe?

It would be no use telling this person, who was stuck with the same last name, that it was Pollack that she was considering dropping as soon as she came of age or got married -- whichever came first. There was always the possibility of hyphenating her last name with her husband's, but she already had two last names.

Nick had adopted Chloe when she was five, a year after he married her mother. When they drew up the adoption papers, they tucked her birth father's last name between her new last name and her two given names, and she became Chloe June Parker Pollack. If she used all four of her names, she would run out of spaces on credit-card applications, so except for contracts and report cards, she was simply called Chloe Pollack.

As they walked farther along the concourse, Bernadette said, "You call me Bernadette. Aunt won't be necessary. And I don't like Bernie. Or Aunt Bernie or Auntie. For a while, when I was twelve, I wanted everyone to call me Detta. No reason except that I was twelve and trying to fit whatever name seemed more glamorous than Bernadette. I like to be called Bernadette. I've become my name."

"All right," Chloe said, feeling very much the grownup in this conversation. "Chloe and Bernadette. That's what it will be for our time remaining." Time remaining, sounded like a grown-up thing to say. She thought she was beginning to understand why Nick had asked her to help this person.


Excerpted from T-Backs, T-Shirts, Coat and Suit by E. L. Konigsburg Copyright © 2003 by E. L. Konigsburg. Excerpted by permission.
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.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2003

    MY oppinion

    It was a stupendus book, and had its funny little quarks which were placed at just the right spots. I think that a good book is when you can remember the whole story line years after you have read the book. I read T-Backs, T-Shirts, Coat, and Suit over 2 and a half years ago and the plot is still fresh

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2001

    Great Read

    I really liked this book because it gave some actual insight into a twelve year old's mind. This book showed how much one person can grow in just a short period of time. I related it to my life and saw some things in a different perspective. Expect the unexpected.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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