Dangerous Skies

Dangerous Skies

by Suzanne Fisher Staples

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Dangerous Skies by Suzanne Fisher Staples

A Season of Change

Along the Virginia shoreline where their families have lived for generations, Buck and Tunes Smith defy tradition. Raised together like brother and sister, they are bound by surname, but not by skin color. And just as Buck has come to rely on Tunes, Tunes has come to trust that even in a place where race can mean so much, their friendship will remain as dependable as the tides.

But then the horrifying events of one spring afternoon tear them apart -- and change their world forever. Desperate to hang on to the thing that he values most, Buck struggles to uphold their friendship -- without realizing that his efforts are pushing Tunes farther and farther away.

From a Newbury Honor -- winning author, this is a powerfully moving story of friendship in the face of racism, and betrayal in the name of loyalty.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466813571
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 08/05/2006
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 1,005,408
File size: 214 KB
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Suzanne Fisher Staples is the author of Shabanu, winner of a 1990 Newbery Honor and Haveli. Both were ALA Notable Books and ALA Best Books for Young Adults. She has been a UPI foreign correspondent posted in Pakistan, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and India, and now lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Suzanne Fisher Staples

It’s been many years since I left my newspaper job for the somewhat less predictable world of writing books. Still, most mornings I wake up and thank my lucky stars that I no longer have to pull on pantyhose, only to fight traffic on the way to the bureau; that I can walk the dog in the orange grove after lunch and finish the newspaper; that I spend my days making up stories and talking with children, not dealing with irascible news editors, slippery politicians, and oily flacks.
I grew up loving books. My grandmother read to us every day and bribed us with stories to help in her rock garden. There, among the bleeding hearts and irises and peonies, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’ve always written: journals, letters, school papers, essays, and, when I grew up, news reports.

But I could never imagine writing a novel. Whatever could I write about that would sustain anyone’s interest for two hundred or more pages?

The answer never occurred to me until I went to Pakistan. There was something about the camels, the ancient stories and blue-tiled mosques, and people who build shrines where a beautiful poem was written, that set my heart to singing. And there was something about our ignorance here in the West about Islamic people that made me know a story about this place needed to be told. And so my writing career began with Shabanu and Haveli.

After I left Pakistan, I wondered whether I would ever find anything that fired my soul as the people of the Cholistan Desert had. I returned to America somewhat apprehensive. It’s easy to be sparked by the exotic places of the world. But what about finding inspiration in the familiar?

And then I settled in a small and beautiful corner of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. There on the Chesapeake Bay, the mud and the pines and the grasses and the water and all the things that live in and among them spoke to me like characters in a book. I began to see the exotic everywhere.

While I was living in Asia, I thought of the United States as a place where the phones and the political system work, and people are tolerant of each other. When I came home I found that some things here were worse than all the poverty and sickness and intolerance I’d encountered in Asia. I met two children who lived on the farm next to our property on the Eastern Shore, one black, one white. Their friendship was based on fishing and swimming and exploring the woods and the creeks. As they approached adolescence, their families began to steer them away from each other. From then on, their stories fell into two distinct patterns. The white boy went to a private school. The black boy was later killed during a dispute over drugs. For all the beauty of the Eastern Shore, racism was one of its healthiest institutions. People were so familiar with it they couldn’t see how heartbreaking it was. And that was the genesis of Dangerous Skies.

My husband, Wayne, and I live in the hills of Tennessee, where we love to hike and canoe and watch the eagles soar over valleys that are shrouded in pale blue mist. I know now that the world is wondrous and wide, and I hope I will never cease to be moved by places and people who give rise to ideas for stories. Because stories are the most important thing in the world. They teach us how to live, how to love, and, most important, how to find magic wherever we are.

Suzanne Fisher Staples was born in 1945 and grew up beside a lake in the hilly farmland near Scranton, Pennsylvania. She worked as a news reporter in Asia for twelve years, serving in Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka with United Press International. She also worked in Washington, D.C., as an editor at The Washington Post.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I've never told this to anyone before, at least not all of it. All through Sheriff's investigation and the court proceedings, I only told what they wanted to know, the facts -- what I saw, what I did. I never told all that happened or how I felt about it. A murder comes hard to anyone, especially a twelve-year-old, mixes him up so's it can take years to get straight again. It's been five years now and this is the first time I felt I could lay it all out, just as it happened. I'll start at what feels like a beginning.

It was early spring that year, a season of dangerous skies. I was of an age when I'd wake up before sunrise with nothing but fishing on my mind. Some mornings were so sweet and cold and clear -- still a few stars, a soft thick mist rising up from the glassy water.

I could have the skiff out on the creek in nothing flat. She was a light wooden boat, and low to the water, built with all the skill and love in an Eastern Shoreman's hands. I painted her dark green every year, scraped her clean of barnacles to keep her floating like a feather. My granddaddy'd built her, and she was my proudest possession.

It seemed a sin to turn on the engine in the quiet, with the rails still sleeping in the cordgrass, and the bullfrogs and peepers and other night creatures not up yet from winter. It was about as peaceable as any place on earth.

I could be town at the bend in front of Bartons' dock just before the sun was up, slapping my fingers against my thighs to warm them. The creek meandered down there; the ghosty hulks of old skipjacks run aground showed where the shoreline had been other years. It always seemed sad thosebeautiful old boats would never part baywater again.

Just there the clouds would loom and menace, so cold and wet you could feel them hover. If I kept on, more like than not I'd have a right smart skiff full of icy water to push home.

It was just one such Saturday morning when it all began. Through my bedroom window the faintest tangerine glow marked where the sky met the water. Soon as I threw back my woolen blanket, old Obie's tail whumped the floor. I swear that dog loved fishing more than I did.

By the time I had shivered into my jeans and flannel shirt and town vest, Obie was stretching and making groany noises in his throat, just dying to get out on the Bay.

There was something very special and secret about being quiet in the kitchen before sunrise, with the whole rest of the house asleep above me. My feet knew every chair and table leg, every creaky floorboard; the palms of my hands knew just where each door hinge squeaked. Obie drew in his claws and puffed up the pads on his feet. Every other minute of the day that Lab clattered around like a sackful of oyster shells.

A storm had come up the night before. Branches whipped and broke in the giant cedars all round the house, and somewheres near dawn it went away, suddenly as it'd come on. Limbs littered the winter-brown lawn down to the water, and the cordgrass lay flat at the edge of the creek. Those easterly spells slammed into the mouth of the Chesapeake with ferocity and trapped the high tide in the Bay and creeks like a giant stopper.

Part of our dock was still underwater. The creek was calm and still, but for a fast-moving tide that sucked at the pilings. My rubber fishing boots were slick and wet to the knees by the time we got to the boathouse.

I took my fishing rod, tackle box, net, and sounding pole out of the shed on the shore end of the dock. I could get in a good couple of hours hanging around the inlets up the creek, fishing for flounder or anything that'd bite. I was to meet Tunes at Bartons' dock at eleven. We were headed down to our special place on King's Creek to rake us some clams. April was early for clamming, but we always tried to get out by Easter. Night before, I'd sharpened my knife and could pretty near feel those cherrystones slide one by one, all slick and salty, down my throat.

Tunes Smith had been my best friend ever since I could remember. We'd grown together from infancy. Her daddy, Kneebone, was manager of my father's farm, like his father and his father's father before him, all the way back to the time when they were freed from slavery, which was how they first came to work the Smith land.

Tunes' mama had worked in our house, cleaning and cooking. Once Tunes was born, just a month after me, her mama brought her along and looked after the two of us babies together. After Tunes' mama died some two years later, Gran and Mama looked after Tunes like she was their own. When Tunes and me started school, Mama had Tunes' Aunt Mazie teach her to do cornrows. She sat Tunes before her on a stool and made her recite her times tables while she braided row after row. Mama and Gran gave Tunes over to Kneebone when he came in from the fields each evening.

Mama felt sorry for her. "Poor little motherless child," Mama'd say, packing up nut bread she'd baked extra for them. Sometimes it'd be a slab of ham, or extra crab cakes. She'd hand me the bundle and say, "Take it to them, son. What can become of a girl without a mama?" But it seemed to me Tunes and Kneebone made out just fine.

Nobody knew the Bay and the fish and the tides and winds as well as Tunes. It was all pure instinct with her, like the elements dwelled in her heart, and pure baywater pumped through her veins. She was proud of it and was sometimes right intolerant of folks who didn't know all that she did.

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Dangerous Skies 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book for my son who is entering 7th grade. It is mandatory that he read this over the summer. He has no interest in the book he claims it is boring. At first I didn't believe him, but all his friends are also have a difficult time reading the story too. They all feel it is boring .... wonder who picked the book
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was okay in the beginning but then it got much better by the end because there was action and drama, and you always need a little drama. What i didnt like about it was that you knew who killed Jorge the whole time but that also made it good because you knew Jumbo was lying. You knew from the beginning.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty good. It showed the effects of racism and how it causes stress in a young girls life. There was alot of violence in this book, but that is just an effect of racism. There was alot of drama in this book. There is no suspence in this novel. You know whats going on the whole time. When someone dies you know who killed that person.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only is this a realistic book but it also an emotionally gripping story that will make you think. definitally not a book you will forget..
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was ok...the beginning and middle were slow and boring. but the end was kinda good. All in all I didn't really like it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book....it made you think, tho it was sort of emotional....i really really liked it
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very good book.