Children's Literature - Gwynne Spencer
Gracie is freaked out after she buys an old journal at a garage sale. In it is the inscription, "Remember what the dormouse said." She figured it was a karmic message just for her, since she was named after Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane and she sang "Go Ask Alice" and all. The bad news is that everything Gracie writes in this journal comes true. She begins writing very carefully, very intentionally, to make the world a better place, but she is horrified at the results. She writes that her brother makes an A on a test, but then he gets busted for cheating. Gracie wants her dad to have the job he always wanted…but the bad news is it is in another city. She wants to deal with global warming and stop world hunger but is having enough difficulty with local issues that she hesitates, not knowing what unforeseen consequences might result. A mysterious disappearing Cheshire cat with big square teeth who demands the diary back and the fact that Gracie is stuck and does not know how to get out of this situation, having nobody to turn to, add to the appeal and suspense of the story. It would be a great prologue read-aloud for a journaling unit or a creative writing class, and teachers could invent all sorts of prompts (well-meaning of course, like Gracie's) with unintended outcomes (this would be similar to the "what if" game that Stephen King talks about to writers in his memoir, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft). The ending is satisfying and sensible, and it is an altogether delightful little novel. Reviewer: Gwynne Spencer
School Library Journal
Twelve-year-old Gracie is astonished to discover that her new journal has magical powers: it seems that if she writes something, it happens. At first, she is thrilled. The possibilities are endless; she can create a job for her unemployed dad, have her friend Dylan finally fall in love with her, and even secure world peace. But before long, things get out of control. Her entries have unforeseen consequences, and a strange Cheshire cat, visible only to her, seems to be after the journal. With the help of a wise English teacher, Gracie discovers that, even without magic, "writing can change the world," and in the end she makes a decision that brings the novel to a satisfying close. Gracie is a sympathetic protagonist, and Kline tackles issues like fate and free will with equal parts humor and gravity. This is an engaging read for anyone who has ever felt powerless to change her own world.-Laurie Slagenwhite, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI
Kline's novel wastes no time with setup when 12-year-old Gracie discovers that the old journal she bought at a yard sale has magical properties: Write something on the pages and it comes true! Though she considers ending poverty and global warming, the repercussions of Gracie's initial small entries prove disastrous enough to tell her she needs to clean up her past mistakes before trying anything bigger. After giving her little brother good grades, her sister a date with the boy of her dreams and herself the heart of her best male friend, Gracie finds that no wish goes according to plan. Through trial and error, she eventually decides to pass the notebook on and deal with the world around her without otherworldly interference. The magic in this book never truly thrills, and the malevolent Cheshire Cat (accidentally brought to life by Gracie's words) proves an inadequate villain with unclear motivations. Nor do readers ever quite understand why Gracie's faith in the journal never wavers. A good idea that does not come to life in an unexceptional novel. (Fantasy. 11-13)
Read an Excerpt
One afternoon in mid-September Gracie climbed to the fork in the oak tree behind her family's apartment and opened her new royal blue suede journal. The soft suede changed color slightly when she rubbed her fingers over it. The pages were old and crackly, water-stained, and the lines were thin, college-ruled, like something an adult would write on.
Now. What to write? That day, in English, Ms. Campanella had quoted a famous poet who said, "There's a dead squirrel in every good poem." When she asked what that meant, Dylan, always the first to raise his hand, said he thought it meant there was no good without evil, no life without death, no beauty without ugliness. Now, as the leaves around her whispered in the breeze, Gracie wrote:
A squirrel landed on the branch beside Gracie and boldly looked her in the eye.
No more than a second later, when Gracie lifted her pen to write another sentence, she felt the chill passing darkness of a cloud. A yellow leaf on the branch beside her trembled. She glanced over and a mangy-looking squirrel crouched there, flicking its tail. It cocked its head and snared Gracie with its beady little eye.
Gracie's heart thudded. The squirrel leaped away. Gracie stared at the branch, which was still vibrating slightly, and then at what she'd written.
Gracie chewed on her pen. Okay, the squirrel had been kind of weird. Probably a total coincidence. She wrote the next thing that popped into her head:
An acorn fell to the ground.
She held her breath. Hollow clunks, splats, and bonks sounded, something small hurtling through the leaves and branches. She craned her neck and looked down. An acorn lay at the foot of the trunk.
Could it be . . . ?
She sat up straight, her senses suddenly feeling sharper. In third grade she'd hoped that maybe in some old house, she'd walk through a wardrobe full of fur coats into the crystalline snow of Narnia. In fifth grade she'd looked for Platform 9 3/4 whenever she went to a train station. And even as recently as two summers ago at the beach, she'd tried using telepathy to call dolphins like Vicky in Madeleine L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light. (It hadn't worked.)
Life was life. Making a peanut butter sandwich every day, going to school, doing homework, loading the dishwasher, listening to everyone argue. Take it or leave it, like it or lump it, this was Gracie's dull and ordinary eighth-grade life.
But it hadn't been easy, giving up on magic. Now she felt a small thrill of excitement. Could it be? Was she dreaming?
She drummed her pen on the page. If she really wanted to test it, why hadn't she written something outrageous, like A fuchsia elephant appeared on the horizon? She took a deep breath and wrote:
Then she stopped. Was that how you spelled it?
"Gracie! Dinner! Come set the table!" Dad yelled out the back door.
Gracie, who normally would have waited a minute or two before responding--just to assert her own free will--slammed shut the blue suede notebook. If she wrote one more thing right now and it didn't happen, she knew she'd be devastated.
She'd wait until after dinner. This could be amazing. Was it possible that what she thought was happening was really happening? She had to tell Dylan about this. She stuffed the journal into her back jeans pocket and slid to the ground so fast the bark stung her palms.
From the Trade Paperback edition.