What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows

Overview

Twelve-year-old Gabby Weiss is in the market for a stepmother. If only her father would cooperate, Gabby would have someone to tell her what is and isn’t happening to her body. For awhile her father’s girlfriend, Cleo, forms a bond with Gabby. But when the adults break up, Gabby’s hopes for a stepmother are shattered. Still, sharing feelings with a woman has awakened Gabby’s curiosity about her own mother’s mysterious death. Once and for all, Gabby is determined to discover the ...
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Overview

Twelve-year-old Gabby Weiss is in the market for a stepmother. If only her father would cooperate, Gabby would have someone to tell her what is and isn’t happening to her body. For awhile her father’s girlfriend, Cleo, forms a bond with Gabby. But when the adults break up, Gabby’s hopes for a stepmother are shattered. Still, sharing feelings with a woman has awakened Gabby’s curiosity about her own mother’s mysterious death. Once and for all, Gabby is determined to discover the truth.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Unusual, deeply felt. . . . Baskin’s first-person narrative is smoothly engaging overall, and the dialogue rings true.” -- Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus
The sympathetic protagonist has reality and dimension and readers should be squarely in her corner as she goes through the difficult process of becoming a young woman...
Publishers Weekly
...bittersweet, emotionally complex first novel...a keen understanding of pubescent concerns...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gabby, the sixth-grade narrator of this bittersweet, emotionally complex first novel, ardently wishes she had someone to teach her how to be more like a girl ("or womanly or girlish or feminine, whatever you want to call it"). Gabby was three when her mother died, and she doesn't get much guidance from her art professor dad or older brother. Her father's girlfriend, Cleo, seems to be teaching Gabby a lot, but the more Gabby learns about girlhood, the more complicated life gets. Will Gabby measure up to the standards of Mrs. Tyler, mother of Gabby's new best friend? As Cleo and her dad get engaged, can Gabby call Cleo "Mom"? Then there are even more disturbing puzzles, such as why Cleo suddenly breaks up with Gabby's father, and why the subject of Gabby's mother is always carefully avoided. Possessing a keen understanding of pubescent concerns and a good ear for "tween" talk, Baskin sensitively renders the tumultuous period between childhood and adolescence. Although the author focuses on conflicts specific to girls, she also pays close attention to shaping the males in her book, making them three-dimensional, sympathetic characters, who, readers will sense, have stories as complex as Gabby's. Resolutions are not sugar-coated, and the light at the end of Gabby's journey into womanhood seems real. Ages 9-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
Sixth-grade Gabby was three when her mother died, and she ardently wishes she had someone to teach her how to be more like a girl. In this "bittersweet, emotionally complex first novel, the light at the end of Gabby's journey into womanhood seems real," said PW in a starred review. Ages 10-up. (Nov.)
KLIATT
Gabby, motherless since a young age, at age 12 desperately feels the need for a female role model. She even keeps a journal detailing tidbits she picks up along the way from various female sources. Some are humorous, like drying dishes before you put them away in the cabinet; others include following your hosts' lead when visiting their house, and not being too exuberant. As the new school year begins, Gabby seems to be off to a good start. She makes a new friend, Taylor, and becomes close to her father's girlfriend, Cleo. As the story progresses, Taylor and Gabby become so close that they have their own routine of code phrases, and Gabby finds her family isn't the only one with problems. Her friends and classmates have their own secrets too. When Cleo disappears from her life, Gabby is motivated to finally learn the truth about her mother's death. Baskin's writing style is conversational in tone, utilizing a combination of journal entries and traditional storytelling. The reader is taken into Gabby's confidence, and so is the first to learn why Gabby states, "I now know more about Maureen O' Hara than I did about my own mother." Themes explored in this work include family relationships, friendship, and belonging. This title will be popular with fans of Judy Blume and Sharon Creech, and is a suggested purchase for those libraries wanting to expand their fiction collection. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2001, Random House, Dell Yearling, 213p.,
— Tricia Finch
VOYA
Gabby Weiss's journal contains a list of "Things I Need to Know to Be a Woman," such as how to make veal scaloppini or how to tease hair. Her first-person narrative, which begins and ends with chapters from her journal, tells the story of her sixth grade year. Gabby's mother died when she was three, and her artist father and musician brother, Ian, are too self-absorbed to be much help. Her father's girlfriend, Cleo, however, might be just the mother Gabby needs and wants, although free spirit Cleo herself might not be ready for marriage and stepchildren. Gabby's best friend, Taylor, is a real help, sharing questions, confidences, and silly in-jokes. She inspires Gabby to find out about her mother, prompting a cathartic journey to New York City and the apartment in which this young woman died, leaving behind two bewildered children. Baskin's novel will remind readers of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice books that also describe the trials of a motherless adolescent growing up with a distracted but loving father and an older brother. Baskin's work, however, lacks the wry humor and easy narrative style of Naylor's popular series. Gabby sometimes seems annoyingly precocious and occasionally irritatingly infantile. The plot seems contrived, and most readers will probably suspect the truth about her mother's death long before Gabby herself does. Suggest this title, with reservations, to sophisticated middle school readers, but realize that they will probably enjoy Alice's "agonies" more than Gabby's. VOYA CODES: 2Q 3P M (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Little Brown, 224p, . Ages 12 to14. Reviewer: Jamie S. Hansen SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
Children's Literature
Whether they realize it or not, girls with mothers naturally learn how to be womanly, thinks twelve-year-old Gabby, whose own mother died when she was three. Since then, nothing has been quite right. Gabby, her art professor father, and her sixteen-year-old brother live a prickly existence with one another, and she's never had a best friend. Finally, in sixth grade, there is talk of marriage between her father and his girlfriend, Cleo, and a new girl arrives in Gabby's class—tantalizing possibilities of a soon-to-be mom and a best friend. One falls through; the other materializes. And Gabby, who has no clear memories of her mother, is moved to find some by visiting the city apartment building where her mother died. Only then does it come out that the accident that killed her mother was really an overdose and that her parents had separated three weeks prior. There are shades of Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons in Gabby's journey to the site of her mother's death, although the books are different in every other way, including the likelihood of sustaining repeated readings. 2001, Little Brown, . Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Susan Stan
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Baskin has created a thoroughly likable and credible character in this candid, lively, and absorbing story. Like most 12-year-old girls, Gabby focuses on becoming a woman, but she's not really sure what that means. Her mother died when Gabby was three and she's been researching the question for herself. She feels doubly cheated because, unlike her older brother Ian, she has no memory of her mother, and her father won't talk about her. Gabby remains a well-adjusted, keenly observant, capable adolescent. She stands up for and befriends a new girl in sixth grade and hopes that her father will marry his new girlfriend. Finally, in an attempt to trigger her memory about her mother's death, she is determined to take a train to New York City to see the apartment where they lived at the time. Gabby's emotional discovery about the circumstances of her mother's death brings the story to a dramatic conclusion, but readers will feel confident that she will get through it and thrive. The author has created an engrossing coming-of-age story peopled with characters about whom it is easy to care, and Ian's empathy when he realizes his sister's needs is beautifully developed. This is a fine novel that offers a perceptive and positive look at dealing with loss.-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440418528
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 11/12/2002
  • Edition description: Reprinted Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.39 (w) x 7.68 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

This is Nora Raleigh Baskin’s first novel.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

My Journal

I've been keeping a journal now for almost a full year. Actually, I have three journals. One is for dreams, one is for important stuff like this, and one is a list. My list journal is called "Things I Need to Know to Be a Woman."

First I wrote in "woman." Then I crossed that out and wrote in "girl." Then I crossed that out and wrote in "woman" again. I still can't decide.

I'm assuming I'll turn into a woman someday whether I know anything about being one or not. I think Amber Whitman already has, because every month she goes to the nurse with a mysterious stomachache. We learned all about that in health, and everyone saw the movie. So Amber's not fooling anyone.

But being like a girl (or womanly or girlish or feminine, whatever you want to call it) is something you definitely have to learn.

Girls probably don't even know they're learning it. It just gets absorbed into them while they are sleeping. But one thing for certain is that it has to come from a mother.

And a mother is one thing I don't have. Not since I was three years old, too long ago to miss her. Too long ago to even remember her. So I keep a list.

My dad's girlfriend two years ago came over once to make veal scallopini. She took this skinny meat, dipped it in egg, and then into flour, and then into bread crumbs. Then she cooked it on the stove. I wrote that all down on my list.

Another one of my dad's girlfriends used a comb to tease up her hair and make it look fuller. She actually lifted her hair on top of her head, held it up in the air, and sort of combed it backward. I saw her in the bathroom when the door fell open a little. She got mad when she looked in the mirror and saw me behind her, watching.

"A little privacy, sweetie, please," she said.

And she knocked the door shut with her foot, because her hands were too busy with a comb and a big wad of tangled hair. She only came over that once, though, and I already had the information for my list.

But watching Cleo Bloom is better than it's been with anyone else. Cleo is into this "open" thing. My dad hasn't dated anyone else but Cleo for almost a year now.

Cleo caught me watching her, and she didn't even say anything. She was standing in the kitchen rubbing hand cream into her hands. First she squirted a little bit from the bottle onto the backs of her hands. Then she massaged it all around, into her fingers, even her fingernails, and then up her arms to her elbows. When she saw me staring she just laughed.

"Old elbows," she told me. "A woman's elbows always give her age away."

Then she held the bottle out to me.

I shook my head. I had known Cleo for all these months but I had never hung out with her before. I wasn't used to her yet. Usually she and my dad went out and I stayed home with my brother, Ian. Lately, though, she is around a lot more.

I just checked out my elbows in the full-length mirror inside my closet door. My elbows are different from Cleo's. Cleo's are more wrinkly, like there is extra skin puckering out. She isn't so old, though. I think maybe thirty-three or something. My dad is forty-two.

My elbows still look young, I guess. I'm only twelve.

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2006

    AWESOME BOOK!!

    This book was one of the best novels I've ever read and I read ALOT!! Nora Baskin maes you feel like you're actually there!! I reccomend it for ages 11 and then I think maybe around 14-15 maybe even above that age I just think that it might be a little but old for that age. Check out this book right away!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    A gUrL wH0 LiKeZ 2 ReAd!

    Thiz book waz really great! I luved it and i couldnt put it down! i read it in 1 day! itz also great bcuz the author put stuff that really happenz in thiz book!it waz also a good book cuz it showz people that do hav a mom 2 appreciate wat they hav and not b so greedy! i luved thiz b00k!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2005

    !Best Book!

    This was a really great book and normally I really dont like to read books but this is the very best,I would recommend this book to anyone of the age of 9-14!! It's Great!!You will love it!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2005

    WhAt A gReAt BoOk!!!~

    I think this is a great book!!! It is sooooo interesting and fun to read!!! I Luv'd it!!!~

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2004

    Great!!

    It was a really good book. I liked the end and how she really came home.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2003

    This book is....

    Great so far!! I havn't read this book yet.I am on chapter 12. This book is amazing so far! It is so catchy. I luv to read it every nite before i go to bed!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2003

    GREAT BOOK

    This book was really good. It is sad because she doesnt have a mother to look up to or tell secrets to. I recommend that you read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2003

    This is the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This book is one of the best books that I have ever read!!!!!!!!!! I already read this book 4 times and I learn something new every time I read it!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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