Reesie Boone just knows that thirteen is going to be her best year yet-this will be the year she makes her very first fashion design on her Ma Maw's sewing machine. She'll skip down the streets of New Orleans with her best friends, Ayanna and Orlando, and everyone will look at her in admiration.
But on Reesie's birthday, everything changes. Hurricane Katrina hits her city. Stranded at home alone, Reesie takes refuge with her elderly neighbor, Miss Martine. The waters rise. They escape in a boat. And soon Reesie is reunited with her family. But her journey back home has only begun.
Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick is a story of a family putting itself back together, and a young girl learning to find herself.
A Christy Ottaviano Book
About the Author
Denise Lewis Patrick is the author of many books for children and young adults, including The Adventures of Midnight Son, the American Girl Cecile books, and A Matter of Souls, a young adult short story collection. She has worked in publishing as both a writer and an editor and teaches college courses as an adjunct professor of writing. She is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. Born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, she lives in New Jersey with her family.
Read an Excerpt
By Denise Lewis Patrick
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2015 Denise Lewis Patrick
All rights reserved.
August 21, 2005
Reesie slammed the car door shut and stepped into the heat and heartbeat that was New Orleans on a summer afternoon.
"Hurry up! We can make the light!" her older brother, Junior, shouted.
"Oh, your brother is crazy, girl!" Ayanna giggled, grabbing Reesie's hand. The two girls looked both ways on the busy avenue.
"Be careful," Reesie's mother warned from the driver's side window, watching them run to the neutral ground with Junior. The light did change, so they stopped on the grassy strip that ran between the uptown and downtown sides of Canal Street.
Reesie was breathless. This shopping trip was for a pair of special sneakers, and the sneakers were for her. Junior had offered to buy the purple-and-red canvas high-tops as an early birthday present. She'd be thirteen next week. A teenager for real, finally! And even though her parents said she'd have to wait for a big blowout birthday party till she was sixteen, Reesie was still going to rock a special outfit at her family birthday celebration this weekend.
"These sneakers are just what I need to pull off my birthday look!" she whispered to her best friend. "I can't believe Junior is being so nice to me."
Ayanna shook her head. "I can't believe you sew your own clothes, and they look so good!"
Reesie smiled with pride. She might have to wear boring uniforms to school, but she made up for them everywhere else.
"Check out that top!" Ayanna nudged her, and Reesie turned, but she only got a glimpse of the woman's shirt before the dark green St. Charles streetcar rattled past, blocking her view.
"I missed it." Reesie sighed, but her eyes were drawn in another direction. "Ayanna, those sandals! Look!"
The girls slowed down behind a group of tourists speaking loudly in German and carrying lots of souvenir bags. A tall woman in the group was tottering on the highest wedges they'd ever seen — and they were totally see-through.
"Am I looking at goldfish in those heels? For real, goldfish?" Junior moaned.
Reesie laughed. "They're fake fish, Junior. Fake!" She opened the door to the store, and cold air conditioning pulled them in.
"Okay, make this quick," Junior reminded them as they cruised toward the women's shoes. "Remember, after I pay for your sneakers, I have to go pick up my last summer check."
Reesie and Ayanna both nodded. So they only tried on three pairs of shoes each, and argued for only twenty minutes in front of the solid Ts. Reesie lost her argument that she could turn a size 2X T-shirt into a dress cool enough for her friend to wear in public. Before they went to meet Junior, who was waving wildly outside the front window, the girls posed together in the full-length mirror.
Reesie broke into a wide gap-toothed smile and smoothed her hair into a ponytail. She was chocolate brown and skinny, but had muscular arms and legs because she played softball. Her mom always said it was a good thing she was learning to make her own clothes, because fitting those shoulders would be a headache.
Ayanna, two inches shorter, shook her curly hair and made a funny face at her friend. In kindergarten they had pinkie sworn that they'd be sisters-from-another-mother forever. Seven years later they still hung out nearly every day.
Reesie's neon purple cell phone buzzed while they walked through the French Quarter with Junior. She looked down to see that it was Orlando, the third best friend forever in their trio, who they'd picked up around second grade. Up until the past year they'd all been inseparable, but things had gotten kind of weird lately. Orlando still texted Reesie at least once a day, but he spent all his free time working at his uncle Jimmy's restaurant. It almost seemed like he wanted to avoid being with her and Ayanna in person.
Reesie didn't take the call. She was a little mad at him for not joining their shopping trip. He said he had to work, but Reesie was getting tired of that excuse.
"I'm hungry," she said to Ayanna.
Even though it was only midmorning, jazz music floated from somewhere nearby, refusing to be drowned out by plain old street noise. The girls couldn't keep themselves from moving to the beats as they bounced along the narrow sidewalks, dodging vacationing families and tour groups in matching shirts.
As they neared the end of Canal Street, the flags of Woldenberg Riverfront Park flapped against the blue sky.
"I smell food!" Reesie said.
Junior rolled his eyes. "Anywhere in New Orleans, people smell food, Reesie." He dug into his pockets and pulled out a few wrinkled bills. "Y'all go on, get something to eat. I'll head over to the convention center to get my paycheck. Meet you back at Jackson Square in about forty-five, okay?"
"Wow! Sneakers and lunch!" Reesie smiled. "Thanks, Junior!"
"No problem," he threw over his shoulder as he rushed away. He would be going back to college in another couple of days, and she would miss him. But why tell him that?
"I'm sure going to miss your brother!" Ayanna said, pulling Reesie along.
"You're reading my mind again." Reesie laughed. "How about we get some beignets?"
Reesie loved the fluffy square donuts smothered in powdered sugar that were served at the famous Café Du Monde in the French Quarter. Sure, it was always packed with tourists, but she still remembered the very first time Ma Maw, her father's mother, had taken her there. She'd been about three, and her legs had dangled only halfway down from the cast-iron patio chairs.
Anything that reminded her of her grandmother was nice these days. Ma Maw had died two years ago, but Reesie still found it hard to believe she was gone forever. She wasn't very good at missing people.
The girls took their time, stopping to look at what different street vendors had for sale, always keeping an eye out for some outstanding fashion trend. The line at the café was ridiculously short, and Ayanna snagged a table while Reesie got a plate of beignets and two bottles of water.
"We could pretend to be tourists too," she said, leaning toward Ayanna as she sat down. Ayanna shook her head and tilted it to the left.
Reesie caught on that her friend was listening in on the conversation at the next table.
"And so they say that New Orleens — she is just like Los Angeles! Waiting for the 'big one' to hit!" A man with a heavy accent was waving his arms in the air while the others at his table gasped and chattered in a language the girls didn't recognize.
Big One? Reesie mouthed to Ayanna, her eyes wide.
"Hurricanes and earthquakes," Ayanna whispered.
"I believe it is the hurricane season now," he went on. "These tour guides, they never tell us anything. I saw on the Weather Channel that there is a hurricane, maybe right now, attacking Florida!" He pushed back in his chair, glancing at Reesie and Ayanna.
Reesie only shook her head and took a huge bite out of her beignet.
"I think that guy is what they call alarmist," Ayanna said, turning to watch the group stroll away, the man still going on about disasters.
Reesie shrugged. "He's right about one thing: it is hurricane season. But all New Orleans is waiting for is August 29. My birthday!"
Ayanna laughed so hard, she almost choked and had to swig her water.
"Yeah, you right, Reesie!" she shouted.
And everyone in the café who was a New Orleans native laughed with them.
August 23, 2005
Three days later Reesie swirled in front of the full-length mirror in her bedroom, chanting out loud.
"All right, it's all riiight!" she sang along with John Legend and looked over her shoulder as she spun. The hem she had pinned in her flouncy bouncy skirt was perfectly straight. She stopped for a minute and smiled, touching the hot-pink thread she'd carefully zigzag-stitched down each seam.
She had rushed right in from school, and now was almost finished taking her birthday fashion design from a crazy idea in her head to the real deal. She had sketched the skirt, saved her allowance to buy enough purple denim, and then cut a pattern out of old Times-Picayune newspapers. Ma Maw would have been proud.
Ma Maw was the only grandparent Reesie had ever known — both of her mother's folks had died before Reesie was born, and so had her dad's dad. She and Ma Maw used to spend every day together before Reesie had gone to school, and afternoons once she'd started first grade. They'd shared laughs and stories and a passion for clothes.
Ma Maw had shown her how to sew a doll's dress when she was seven, and Reesie had been hooked. So when Ma Maw passed away, Reesie took over her sewing machine. The soft purring of the motor always seemed to bring Ma Maw back home, at least for a little while.
As Reesie danced to her sewing table, she tripped on the remote control, and the blast of a local newscaster's voice jumped out from her TV. The five-o'clock news! Junior had been in her room again. Why couldn't he watch TV in the family room?
She reached to shut it off, and suddenly heard a noise that wasn't part of her thumping music or the news broadcast.
"Teresa!" Her mother must have been knocking for a minute. She had skipped "Reesie" already and gone on to "Teresa." Reesie scrambled to open the door before she was called by her entire name: Teresa Arielle Boone. That would mean trouble with a capital T.
Her mother was wearing her green nurse's scrubs with an old apron tied over them. She must've come right in from work and started cooking. The smell of onions and garlic and chicken floating from the kitchen made Reesie's mouth water. She realized that she'd been so focused on her sewing that she'd skipped her usual after-school apple slices dipped in peanut butter.
"I've got dinner going, so I'm going to take a shower. You can make the salad and —" Her mother stopped in the middle of her directions as she noticed Reesie's skirt.
"Oooh!" Her tone changed. "You've finished? Turn around! Let me see!"
Reesie spun on her toes.
"She finished it?" Junior yelled from the family room. Reesie had to admit to herself that it was actually kind of cool to have a brother who was genuinely interested in her life. She smiled.
Mama folded her arms and nodded. "Ma Maw would be proud of you," she said. "You'll look sharp on your birthday. I've already called Miss Martine to order your cake."
"Let me get a picture with my phone!" Junior crowded their mother out of the doorway.
Reesie made a face at him.
"Tell her to make nice, Mom!" he said.
"Reesie, Boo, make nice. I'm going into the shower."
Reesie faked an attitude after her mother left the room. "Junior, do not take any pictures. I still have to hem it. Can't you wait?" She slammed her door.
"Project Runway can't wait!" Junior sang to her from the other side. "You're gonna be the first designer from New Orleans to take the prize, girl!"
Reesie changed back into shorts and carefully hung up her skirt. For a minute she imagined that Ma Maw would be there next Saturday at her party. Ma Maw, alive again to see Reesie's first design. Alive again to see her turn thirteen. Reesie flicked the light off on the sewing machine before going out to the kitchen.
From the counter she had a view of her brother draped across the sofa in the family room. He was shoving handfuls of potato chips into his mouth and watching TV.
"You eat too much junk," she said.
Junior looked over his shoulder and mumbled, "What?"
Reesie dug into the fridge for cucumbers. "I said, 'Don't you miss my famous salad when you're up at Tech?'"
"Yeah, right." Junior laughed. Then he said, "Yo, Reesie, you know I'm leaving tomorrow to go back to school. I might not be able to come home next weekend, okay?"
Reesie pouted and ripped a head of lettuce apart.
"So you'll miss my birthday? Oh, I see." She sounded playful, but she was a little hurt. Junior could make a party live!
"Hold up! I have swim drills. Not my fault!" He was trying to apologize, but he'd picked the wrong way to do it.
"You're dropping me for that swim team?" Reesie furiously tore lettuce. She absolutely hated swimming and swimming pools, because when she was five, she'd slipped and fallen into a public pool. Her mother dove in right away to get her, but Reesie had been terrified of that kind of water ever since. She took showers, not baths.
"Sorry! Sorry!" Junior threw his hands up.
Reesie changed the subject. "Okay, fine. So how come you keep going into my room, switching my TV channels?"
"Because I'm trying to see what's up with this latest storm. As usual nobody around here is paying attention. Remember last year? When the mayor told folks to be ready to evacuate with some cash in their pockets?"
Reesie stopped slicing tomatoes, remembering the tourists' conversation at Café Du Monde. It was hurricane season, and this was New Orleans. Every summer they had to live with the threats of these wild storms churning themselves up into monsters full of wind and rain. The weather people gave them friendly sounding names like Andrew or Betsy. What real friend would come through and destroy your home the way a hurricane did?
"Not too many people left town," she said, thinking of how Ayanna's family had packed their car and driven north to Shreveport for a few days while the Boone family stayed put.
"That's what I'm talking about!" Junior said. "And you know the Weather Channel is saying —"
"A bunch of malarkey is what they're saying!" All at once their father came stomping into the kitchen, his policeman's handcuffs clinking at his side.
Reesie rolled her eyes at Junior, and together they mouthed along with his next words.
"No storm is gonna run me out! I'm New Orleans, born and bred!" He raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. "Y'all are laughing at your daddy?"
They both were.
"Our children have no respect for their elders, Lloyd!" their mother joked, coming to kiss their father hello.
"No respect." Their father laughed, slipping around their mother to take a peek into one of the pots on the stove. Reesie grinned as she picked up her knife again.
"I've got tons of respect for you, Dad, but I kinda respect hurricanes a lot more!" Junior said. He leaned across the counter to snatch a chunk of cucumber.
"How did we get on the subject of the hurricane?" Mama asked.
"Junior's obsessed," Reesie said, frowning as her mother threw another handful of sprouts into the salad bowl.
"Everybody is getting worked up for nothing," Daddy said.
"Lloyd, it's not nothing. We still have to prepare for what might happen!"
"We'll put plywood over the windows so they won't get blown in, pull all the outdoor stuff inside. That's just common sense." Daddy nodded. "A storm is no reason to get hysterical." He looked at Junior.
Reesie smiled, but her mother shook her head. Jean Parker had never gotten used to hurricanes. She'd come from New Jersey to go to nursing school, and she met Lloyd Boone at a football game. She always told her kids that she fell in love with him and with New Orleans in that order.
"Mama, you know you're just freaked out because there aren't any hurricanes in Newark!" Reesie said.
"That's not entirely true, Reesie," Mama said. "And, Junior, set the table!"
"Jeannie, this Katrina is still just a tropical storm," Daddy said. "It hasn't even been upgraded to hurricane status." He lifted the salad bowl. "And y'all don't forget — hurricanes change direction in a heartbeat. It could go off into the ocean somewhere."
Junior clanked knives and forks onto the table. "So I guess no evacuation for Sarge Boone. You don't believe in the e word, do you, Dad?"
"Right now the only place I'm going is to the dinner table."
"Good idea," Mama said. "Let's let this subject rest."
They sat down together. Reesie thought that was a great idea; she'd rather talk about getting ready for her birthday instead of some old storm.
"Daddy! I finished my skirt —"
"Reesie —" her mother interrupted. "Say grace, please."
"Bless this food, and bless the sun so it shines hard on my birthday this weekend! And I hope that Sergeant 'Superman' Boone is right about this storm!"
Reesie's father winked at her.
"Amen!" her mother said firmly. She smiled at Reesie and squeezed her hand.
Daddy nodded his approval and reached for the platter.
Excerpted from Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick. Copyright © 2015 Denise Lewis Patrick. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tjis book can be fond at your locel lidrary to his boon is relly good i like this book it has wens the intresting parit this book is rell good it has lost familu glodes relashin shipes and lotes more