It wasn't that thirteen-year-old Conrad didn't like living with his aunt and uncle in St. Louis. It's just that his mother and father both lived in New York and he hadn't seen them lately. And he had a few questions he needed to have answered. That's how Conrad happened to spend the strangest week of his life in New York City with a girl he hardly knewand getting more answers than he had questions...about his parents, himself, and what real families are all about.
Conrad lives in St. Louis with his aunt and uncle, who his divorced parents feel can provide the stable home life they can't manage in New York City. When his mother decides that he should spend spring vacation in London instead of with her, Conrad is sure something is wrong, and he goes to New York to find out what. Once there he contacts Nancy, a secretive girl with a family life just as strange as Conrad's. With Nancy by his side, Conrad embarks on a remarkable adventure of discovery-about his family and about himself.
About the Author
Avi is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five books for young readers, ranging from animal fantasy to gripping historical fiction, picture books to young adult novels. Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the Newbery Medal, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth were awarded Newbery Honors. He is also the author of the popular Poppy series. Avi lives outside Denver, Colorado. You can visit him online at www.avi-writer.com.
Date of Birth:December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
Read an Excerpt
It began in St. Louis. St. Louis, says the almanac, has 448,649 people; is 61 square miles in area; has the biggest shoe company in the United States; and was named after a French king. But the most important thing for me last spring was that it's almost a thousand miles from the city of New York.
Not that New York City is that important. But it is where I was born, and where I lived with my parents before I lived in St. Louis. I live in St. Louis now. My parents live in New York. Both of them. But not together.
They got divorced. I don't know why. I'm not sure I want to. Besides, that's not what this is all about. The point is, when they got divorced they decided that what I needed was a good, regular home with two grown-ups living regular lives in regular ways, doing regular things. So, when I was about nine, I came to St. Louis to live with my regular Uncle Carl and my regular Aunt Lu. Aunt Lu is my mom's sister.
For the first three years I saw my folks pretty often, maybe four, five times a year. In between, there were letters, phone calls, presents. The next Easter--which was last year--I saw them in New York. I was supposed to go again last summer, but the only time I could have gone was when Uncle Carl could get me into this great scout camp.
I went to camp.
At Thanksgiving, Aunt Lu wasn't feeling too good, so I stayed home to help out while Uncle Carl was at a meeting. And at Christmas Uncle Carl decided we should go to Florida for Aunt Lu's health, which we did.
So, I didn't get to see my parents at Christmas. Also, for Christmas my dad sent me this huge model of a spaceship, andmy mother sent records, records of corny band music. It was the presents that really upset me. I just wasn't into those things at all. I felt as if--since I hadn't seen my folks for so long--they didn't know me anymore.
That was scary.
I began to think that something was wrong. I felt I had to be with them alone, without my aunt or uncle standing by the phone or reading over my letters for spelling mistakes.
Not that I said anything. I was afraid to, afraid to upset things. And my aunt and uncle got upset very easily. They were always nervous about me, about how I felt, worried I might get angry at them. 'Specially my aunt. So I had to protect them, take care of them. Mostly I did it by not saying what was on my mind.
So, I didn't say or do anything about my parents. I did think about them, a lot. And I got more and more worried, 'specially since I was getting fewer and fewer letters and phone calls. I just didn't know what was going on.
Finally, spring vacation was close--and I had always gone East then. I was really looking forward to visiting New York. I just had to see my folks. Then my aunt and uncle announced that instead of going to New York, as soon as school was out I'd be going to England for spring vacation.
"What if I don't want to go?" I said that morning in St. Louis. I said it quietly, almost as if it didn't matter.
"How could you not want to go?" cried Aunt Lu as she swirled the orange juice. "It's the chance of a lifetime, honey."
"I'll more than likely get other chances," I suggested.
"Now, honey," Aunt Lu said with one of her big smiles. "How many boys thirteen years of age have the opportunity to visit a foreign country? I wish I could go see Cousin Philip and the children."
"I never saw them before," I protested.
"They are family, Conrad, not strangers. Besides, you're so easygoing, you get along with everyone. Those're two of your blessings. He'll have a fine time, won't he, dear?" she said, asking help from Uncle Carl.
"It should be fun," he offered. "Meeting part of your family you've never seen. And England's very interesting, Conrad. Marvelous history, great tradition. . ."
I put on my listening look. When he seemed to be done, really done (I was never quite sure), all I said was, "I'd still rather visit my mom and dad."
They looked at me, they looked at each other, but they didn't say anything.
"I haven't seen them for almost a year," I said. "My dad told me that the next time I came he'd take me to the top of the Empire State Building."
Aunt Lu eyed Uncle Carl, which is a way they sometimes talk. He clasped his hands (a bad sign), leaned forward (a worse one), and said, "Aren't you happy here, Conrad?" He even tried to make a joke. "Isn't the Gateway Arch good enough for you?"
Somehow they had gotten it into their heads that if I talked about my parents, that meant I was unhappy. I was sorry I had said anything.
"Is something bothering you here?" Uncle Carl continued. "There's nothing you need, is there?" Where Aunt Lu was always hugging, he was always worried about things. And in his way, he was generous. But what could I tell him--that having the right things didn't necessarily make me feel right? I couldn't. He would have been insulted. So again, I said nothing.
"We're only trying to help you have a good vacation," he said. "A special one. You must know that."
"Sure, I know," I said, and I meant it. But I don't think it came out sounding right.
Aunt Lu snuck up from behind and lassoed me with a hug. "Conrad," she said, "it's just this one short vacation, and a wonderful opportunity.„
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I liked this book because it was very interesting, it was also very funny. Anyone would like this book. Conrad's parents are divorced and live in New York City. But Conrad lives in ST. Luis with his Aunt Lu and Uncle Carl. They both want Conrad to go to England for Spring Break, only Conrad wants to go to New York to see his parents. Aunt Lu has already talked to his mother about it and she said to send her a postcard when he meets the queen. The next morning when Conrad got on the bus his friend Rick told him that he was going to see some baseball games. So Conrad told Rick that his parents were actors and that they were going to put on a show at the Buckingham Palace and that his parents want him to be there. When he went to go pick up his tickets at the travel agency, he met a girl, his age, a green butterfly tattoo on her hand. Her name was Nancy. He finds out that she is going to New York and he is stuck going to England. So he convinces her to switch tickets with him because she wants to go to England. But she isn't sure that she should. But he makes up some lies but he does want to tell Nancy the truth. He ends up not telling her the truth and he thinks that she can tell that he is lying. Uncle Carl tells Conrad the plan: he's going to Kennedy Airport and from the to London. Well Conrad thought instead of going to London, he'll just stay in New York and so he did. He decided to call Nancy from the airport. She wasn't home so he went to the address she gave him and he asked many people but nobody told him where it was. Conrad finds Nancy's apartment, and Nancy and her sister Pat let him stay the night. The next morning he was the first to get up and he didn't want to wake up the girls up so he just cleaned the apartment, he was almost done with the dishes when Nancy got up and realized that he was there and so she quickly changed she asked him if he wanted breakfast and so he ended up making breakfast for them. After breakfast Nancy and Conrad go to see a movie, on the way there he tries to make her laugh but she just gets mad at him. So she has him call his parents, no answer. So they go out to lunch and Conrad tel the waiter that they are married. And so the waiter brings back ginger ale thinking that they are on their honeymoon. Conrad and Nancy go to see his dad he was happy to see Conrad but then he wasn't. He had a few mood changes and the mods changed rapidly. Conrad and Nancy didn't know what to do, so they just sat and listened to his dad ramble about how the prices in MACY¿S are rising, and how he had to meet someone, he called her,no answer. Conrad's dad was all jumpy and he kept looking at his watch and the finally Conrad called his mother, but instead Conrad's father called and left a very fast message. Then told Conrad that they would have lunch on Monday at 1:30 PM. Also that someone was waiting for him. Then after Conrad and Nancy went to go see another movie. But he didn't pay attention to it. While Conrad was eating dinner with Nancy, Pat, and their parents., Conrad told their parents the truth about him and his parents. But Mr. And Mrs. Sperling didn't know how to react to his behavior. Conrad had told the Sperling's about what he was going through and they weren't at all happy about that. So while Pat and Nancy were showing him out Pat told him to take a walk and get lost for a few hours. Conrad gets his ticket transferred and goes home to S. Louis. He told his aunt and uncle about everything that happened. Then Conrad remembered that Nancy would be going back to school on Sunday, he called, no answer so the next day after school he went to go see her, she wasn't there. A week later he gets a letter from her saying that she won't return to school. That she will be staying in New York. Also in that letter it said to think about her at five o'clock everyday and she will think of him. And sometimes he thinks he hears his name. If you want to learn the details of this book t
Man this book was off the hizzle. It was so phat. I mean with Conrad and Nancy, man they were awesome. And then Conrad went to New York instead of New England it was like weird with the father, and the mother, and the Nancy, but it was awesome. You'll this this off the hook fizzle and stuff. Stay awsome dudes.
i love this book! i wasn't pretty happy about nancys parents.i think this book is the best book i ever read.it even made me cry and laugh! i might even read more avi books!