What Happened on Planet Kid

Overview

A Different World

Dawn's spending the summer on her aunt and uncle's farm while her mother recovers from an operation. She and her friend Charlotte are having a great time: fishing, baseball, swimming, playing tricks on Charlotte's brothers, and making a secret clearing in the woods called Planet Kid. But Dawn is starting to understand that something's wrong in Charlotte's life — that a terrible threat of violence is hidden in this hot country ...

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Overview

A Different World

Dawn's spending the summer on her aunt and uncle's farm while her mother recovers from an operation. She and her friend Charlotte are having a great time: fishing, baseball, swimming, playing tricks on Charlotte's brothers, and making a secret clearing in the woods called Planet Kid. But Dawn is starting to understand that something's wrong in Charlotte's life — that a terrible threat of violence is hidden in this hot country summer. Is there anything Dawn can do to make things right?

To help her deal with her separation from her family, worry about her mother's serious operation, and suspicions about a new friend's abusive father, twelve-year-old Dawn creates an imaginary world while spending the summer of 1958 with her great-aunt and uncle in rural North Carolina.

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Editorial Reviews

The Horn Book
"Conly vividly yet subtly evokes era and place; and Dawn is entirely believable."
Bulletin of the Center for Children' s Books
“A vivid mosaic of a summer experience.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"A vivid mosaic of a summer experience."
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Dawn is spending the summer on her relatives' farm in Virginia while her mother recovers from a difficult operation. It's the nineteen-fifties and the twelve-year-old tomboy puts her energy into improving her baseball pitch and massacring her piano lessons until she forms friendships with Charlotte "from a poor-white family down the road" and Delbert (alias Roy, Alec, Ramar) a younger black boy also summering from Washington, D.C. The kids make a secret hiding place and devise their own planet. Everything seems idyllic until Dawn begins to notice Charlotte's regular bruises and begins to study other equally battered members of Charlotte's God-fearing family. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is not an acceptable excuse to Dawn as she tries to work out the morality of the situation. The award-winning Conly writes affectionately and well of summers past, recreating a time and place and dilemma, and pulling her readers subtly into her issues. 2000, Henry Holt, Ages 9 to 12, $16.95. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
VOYA - Voya Reviews
Twelve-year-old Dawn spends the summer of 1958 with her great aunt and uncle on their farm while her mother recovers from experimental joint-replacement surgery. She and her new friend, Charlotte, create a private hideaway called "Planet Kid," where they escape from Charlotte's brothers and their friend, Delbert--a.k.a. Roy, Willie, Glad, and Ramar. Dawn practices baseball, dreams of becoming a major league pitcher, and is kissed by Charlotte's older brother, Rufe. Her idyllic summer, however, is overshadowed by concern for her mother and by her growing awareness of Charlotte's abusive father. Just before Dawn returns to her home in Washington, D.C., Charlotte's father beats Rufe so badly that he goes into a coma. Even after this incident, Charlotte's mother is unwilling to leave and take her children to safety. The story ends when Dawn returns home, sells her baseball memorabilia, and sends the money to Charlotte's mother, hoping to force her to take action. Dawn's coming-of-age story is skillfully told but is not unique. All of the elements, from the friend with the abusive parent to concern over one's own parent, have been included in many other nostalgic novels. The lack of closure, while realistic, might disappoint some readers. One is left wondering at the fate of Charlotte and her family. Not for readers who like lots of action, this book may appeal to those who liked Conly's Crazy Lady! (Harper Collins, 1993/VOYA June 1993) and Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terebithia (Crowell, 1977). VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2000, Henry Holt, Ages 12 to 14, 216p, $16.95. Reviewer: LibbyBergstrom
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Dawn, 12, is spending the summer of 1958 on Aunt Van and Uncle Moody's farm while her mother undergoes a serious operation back home in Washington, DC. Dawn practices her pitching every morning against the barn wall, emulating her hero, Senator's pitcher Camilo Pascual; she pretends to practice the piano everyday while really teaching her new friend Delbert how to play. Delbert, an African-American youngster who is also spending the summer with relatives, stutters and changes his name weekly to that of his latest hero. Dawn spends most of her time with Charlotte, who comes from a poor family and is surrounded by rowdy brothers. Dawn develops a crush on one of the brothers and slowly realizes that there are serious problems when she sees repeated evidence of the fact that Charlotte's father brutally beats his wife and children. The tension of wondering what will happen to this family keeps the story moving as does Conly's skillful, lyrical writing. Issues of abuse, religion, and racial prejudice are addressed, but not confronted, by likable, well-developed characters. Dawn's voice is consistent and believable, and the setting is distant enough for comfort and safety. Perhaps too many issues arise during Dawn's summer away from home, but Conly manages to pull the story off by caring for her characters and knowing the crises of children's middle years.-Judith Everitt, Orchard Hill Elementary School, Skillman, NJ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Twelve-year-old Dawn spends an anxious summer with rural Virginia relatives in this tale of secrets and secret places set in the 1950s. Down from DC while her mother recuperates from joint replacement, Dawn practices her curve ball against the barn, follows the exploits of her hero, fellow pitcher Camilo Pascual, and hangs out with Charlotte Williams, a deacon's peppery daughter, and quiet Delbert, from the "colored camp." The three have a private, weed-hidden spot they have dubbed Planet Kid. There are clouds in these sunny childhood skies, however—Charlotte hints that her father is not one to spare the rod, but the bruises and welts that Dawn begins to notice on Charlotte's mother and other family members point toward a harsher truth. Dawn's suspicions are confirmed when she sees Mr. Williams knock one of his sons down, and later finds the boy, beaten senseless, hidden away from his father in a concealed barn room. It's an open secret, but as everyone but Dawn understands, the impoverished Williamses are caught between a rock and a hard place; when Dawn breaks her promise to Charlotte not to tell, even her gentle Great Aunt changes the subject. At summer's end Dawn determinedly sells her prized baseball card collection, sending the money to Mrs. Williams as an incentive to move out with the children—a faint hope, as even her loving parents warn. There are no easy solutions here; but with her baseball prowess and deep-rooted compassion, Dawn makes an admirable protagonist, backed by a diverse, sometimes entertainingly, quirky supporting cast. (Fiction. 11-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064410762
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST HARPER
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Leslie Conly's first novel, Rasco and the Rats of NIMH,an ALA Booklist Children's Editors Choice, and its sequel, R-T, Margaret and the Rats of NIMH,were included on a multitude of state library masterlists. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed Trout Summer (an ALA Notable Children’s Book and Best Book for Young Adults) and the Newbery Honor Book Crazy Lady! She lives in Baltimore, MD.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I'm sleeping in the barn tonight. The cows are breathing slow and steady, and Star, the old bay pony, snorts in the dark stall where she lies. The coonhound Red is resting so near my cot that I can drop my hand onto his sleek head. I hear mice scuttling across the floor near the feed bins, but Uncle Moody filled the cats' pans after milking, and now they're curled up tight as cinnamon rolls, bellies bulging, asleep in the warm, deep straw.

I didn't think they would let me sleep down here. When I was in the front room, supposed to be practicing the piano, I overheard Aunt Van say, “What about the snakes?”

“What snakes?” Uncle Moody asked.

“The copperheads -- the ones that live in the foundation. What if they crawl up in the cool of night, to catch mice?”

"I'll have Red stay with her.” Uncle Moody's voice was gruff, as usual. “He won't let no snakes come close.”

“Moody, it's not like she's our child. If something happened to her, especially now -- ”

“You worry too much, Van.” I felt like I could see his narrow face with its calm brown eyes, staring into hers. “How many days -- morning and evening -- do we go down to the barn to milk in the dark? We never been bit.”

“But why tonight?” Aunt Van said. “Of all times, why now?”

“'Cause it's a comfort. If everyone had a barn to rest in, there'd be less business for these shrink-doctors.”

Aunt Van sighed, and I guessed even from the other room that she must have given in, because she said, “I hope you're right, Moody.”

“I don't hear no piano,” Uncle Moody said. I started playing loud. He went outside and had a smoke like he usually does when I'mpracticing. Aunt Van says he's got a tin ear. When she turns up that new singer, Elvis Presley, on the kitchen radio, he shakes his head and goes out on the porch to sit with Red. If Charlotte's visiting, we'll sing along with Van and try to jitterbug.

Charlotte's daddy is a deacon; he doesn't believe in dancing. But we don't tell. After supper Uncle Moody changes the station, and we sit on the glider on the front porch and listen to the Senators' game. That's the baseball team in Washington, D.C., where I come from. Back there, in our apartment, my dad is listening to them, too. This year they've got a good team -- four home-run hitters and the best pitcher in the major leagues. He signed a ball just for me: To Dawn, from Camilo Pascual. It's sitting on a little stand on top of my bookcase, in my room at home.

I'm a pitcher, too. I've got a target on the side of the barn where I throw curves and sliders and change-ups every day. I'm good -- so good I'm pretty sure I'll be the first girl pitcher in the majors. I made the mistake of telling that to Charlotte. She says it can't happen, but I know it will.

The Senators lost tonight, 6–3, to Cleveland. Afterward my dad called. I knew it was him, calling so late. Aunt Van was in her nightgown, her thick white arms sticking out of the puffed sleeves as soft as dough. “Come quick, Dawn,” she called. “It's long distance.”

“Daddy? How's Mom?”

His voice was easy, like tomorrow was just another day; but I knew he felt nervous, too. “She sends her love and says not to worry about the operation. She says, whatever happens, it's worth a try.”

I took a deep breath. I asked about my brother Timmy and my sister Beth, who are staying in Connecticut for the summer.

“Aunt Margie says they've settled in real well.”

“Did you listen to the game, Dad?”

“Yep.” Though he's far away, I could picture Dad's brown eyes twinkling like they do when he's about to second-guess the Senators' manager, Cookie Lavagetto. “He should have pulled Ramos in the fifth. If he'd pulled him early, after the first two runs, we might have had a chance.”

“I thought we should pinch-hit for Lemon. But Uncle Moody says when Wynn's got his stuff, nothing can stop him.”

“He's good, all right.” Daddy stopped. “Dawn, I'll call tomorrow, soon as the operation's over, hear?”

“Yes.” I think my voice trembled.

“Try not to worry, sweetie.”

“Okay.”

“Love you,” Daddy said. “Mom loves you, too.”

What Happened on Planet Kid. Copyright © by Jane Conly. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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