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by Tor Seidler, Peter Mccarty (Illustrator)

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Your life should express what you truly believe.

Terpin Taft is happy to tell people what they want to hear, even ifit means stretching the truth a bit. Until the day he meets a stranger on a train and tells the man a consoling lie. The results are so disastrous that Terpin resolves never again to speak or act except by the truth in his heart. But this, too, has


Your life should express what you truly believe.

Terpin Taft is happy to tell people what they want to hear, even ifit means stretching the truth a bit. Until the day he meets a stranger on a train and tells the man a consoling lie. The results are so disastrous that Terpin resolves never again to speak or act except by the truth in his heart. But this, too, has disastrous -- if sometimes comical -- results.

Elegantly written, terpin is a modern fable that emphasizes the importance of being true to one's own values -- no matter what.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Terpin Taft tells a little white lie that he believes contributes to a tragedy, and thus he vows always to tell the truth. Ages 8-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Judge Terpin Taft, the youngest Chief Justice on record, is returning to his hometown, North Haven, to be honored with the unveiling of a statue of himself. As the train makes its way to North Haven, Terpin recalls the train trip 30 years before that changed the course of his life. His encounter with a grieving fellow passenger and the ancient Greek coin that the man gave Terpin led him to a life of true honesty and the loss of all his friends. Terpin recalls how he was almost forced to leave home after the year of his honesty and now is returning with little enthusiasm. In fact, just before reaching North Haven, not wanting the attention that the ceremony would require, Terpin exchanges places with a reporter who could pass for him, allowing Terpin to observe from the stands and wander around the favorite places of his youth. Seidler has created an engaging surreal short novel that lends itself to questioning whether it is always best to tell the truth.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 8.58(h) x 0.56(d)
Age Range:
7 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Excuse me, your Honor, sir, but North Haven is the next stop, 'bout twenty-five minutes.�

Awakening, Terpin Taft blinked up at a face with a long white beard. For an instant this gave him a start, for once before in his life, many years ago, he had awakened to see a face with just such a flowing white beard. But he realized it was the conductor.

�North Haven is next, your Honor,� the conductor repeated, touching the brim of his cap. �Or North Tafton, as I hear they're changing it to.�

Terpin Taft thanked him. As the old man bowed and shuffled off down the train car, Terpin turned from the ogling eyes of the other passengers and glanced out the window at the hills still mottled with snow. He leaned back and closed his eyes again. Soon he heard passengers whispering.

�Is it really him?� �Of course it is, can't you tell? He was born in North Haven, you know, I read it in the paper.� �It's funny somebody so important should be traveling alone, don't you think?� �Well, you know what they say -- all great people are lonely deep down. Don't you think there's something lonely about his face?�

In a minute Terpin heard a throat cleared and reopened his eyes, which silenced all the whispering around him. The elderly conductor was standing over him again, cap in hand, a sheepish look on his face.

�Excuse me, your Honor, sir, but I thought maybe you'd give me your autograph -- for my missus. She'd be tickled pink.� Terpin took the man's piece of paper, and the conductor murmured, �Lands, this is the most excitement we've had on the line since . . . well, since the tragedy on the North Trestle thirty-odd years ago.�

On thepiece of paper Terpin wrote: To my old friend George, who once let me ride without a ticket, and his wife, with best wishes, Terpin Taft.

�Lands!� the conductor said, reading the inscription. �You mean to say you've ridden this train before, your Honor? And I let you ride for free?�

Indeed, he had ridden this train before -- dozens of times. But that was long before he was �your Honor,� long before there was anything �lonely about his face.� Now Terpin was on his way back to his hometown to be honored, now he was a �great man.� But why dwell on his greatness? As an ancient Greek philosopher said, Being is nothing, becoming is everything.

Thirty-odd years ago Terpin, who was then a schoolboy with a clean face and slightly moppish brown hair, was riding this same train home to North Haven after a dutiful Thanksgiving visit to his grandmother downstate. It had not been a very entertaining visit. His grandmother was cantankerous and deaf, the turkey had been cooked three hours too long, and the bed in her guest room creaked if he so much as wiggled a toe. But he had said -- or rather shouted into his grandmother's hearing aid -- that the turkey was delicious, and that morning he'd assured her that he'd slept like a top. For he was, as his schoolmates said, a �good egg.�

On this day long ago a man in a black greatcoat boarded the train a few stops before North Haven and sat down beside him. The train had not pulled out of the station before the man heaved a deep sigh. At the fourth or fifth sigh, Terpin had to glance at him. The man was large and had a strong, rugged face, like that of a retired athlete, and for some reason this made the tear running down the man's cheek fill Terpin with compassion.

�Excuse me, sir,� Terpin said. �Would you like me to go to the club car and get you a cup of tea?�

The man merely shook his head, so Terpin turned and looked out the window at the hills, which were blanketed with the first snow of the year. But after a minute the man heaved another sigh.

�Is there anything the matter, sir?� Terpin asked.

�Oh, well,� the man said, wiping his cheek with the sleeve of his black greatcoat, �it's just my wife.�

�Your wife?�

The man nodded.

�I lost her yesterday.�

�How did you lose her, sir?�

�In an operation.�

�What operation was that?�

The man glanced at him.

�You wouldn't have heard of it, son.�

�I might have,� said Terpin, who was considered one of the brightest in his class.

�Well,� the man sighed, �it was an operation called a hepaticostomy.�

After a moment Terpin said: �Oh. It was unsuccessful?�

The man nodded grimly, and another tear rolled down a groove in his rugged cheek.

�Take it from me, boy,� he murmured, �life's a rotten business.�

This new tear seemed to fall right on Terpin's heart.

�I know it,� he agreed with a sigh of his own. �Have you ever heard of Lake Queechee?�

�Sure, up by North Haven.�

�My parents were canoeing there one day,� Terpin said sadly, �when a storm came up. The canoe went over, and they drowned.�

The man turned and stared at him, aghast.

�Both? They both drowned?�

Terpin put on a long face.

�They never found the bodies. In the paper they said it might be on account of the snapping turtles. There're some big ones in the lake, over a hundred years old.�

�Snapping turtles!� the man said, growing paler.

By the next stop the man in the black greatcoat was no longer sighing. He was far too busy trying to comfort Terpin to worry about himself. As the train neared North Haven, the man brought an old rough-edged coin out of his pocket and handed it to Terpin.

�Here, boy.�

�What is it?� Terpin asked.

�Have you ever studied ancient Greece...

Terpin. Copyright � by Tor Seidler. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Born in Littleton, New Hampshire, Tor Seidler grew up in Vermont and later, Seattle, Washington, in both of which places his parents were involved in the theater. Encouraged by his family's love of the arts, Mr. Seidler studied English literature at Stanford University, and at the age of twenty-seven his first book, The Dulcimer Boy, was published, launching his celebrated career as a writer.

Over the past twenty years, Mr. Seidler has become one of the most important voices in children's fiction with such classics as, A Rat's Tale, The Wainscott Weasel, an ALA Notable Book, Terpin, and Mean Margaret, which was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He currently lives in New York City.

Peter McCarty’s own experience as the middle child growing up in a large family inspired Chloe. He has written and illustrated several books for children, including Henry in Love, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year, in which Chloe makes her debut. He is also the author and illustrator of Hondo & Fabian, a Caldecott Honor Book and New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year, and its sequel, Fabian Escapes; T is for Terrible; Little Bunny on the Move; and Moon Plane, a Charlotte Zolotow Award winner. Peter lives with his wife and their two bunnies in Clinton Corners, New York.

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