Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Stepping on the Cracks

Stepping on the Cracks

4.4 107
by Mary Downing Hahn

See All Formats & Editions

Margaret and her best friend Elizabeth both have brothers fighting the war against Hitler and, like everyone else they know, they are filled with feelings of patriotism. But the girls are also involved in their own personal war at home. Gordy Smith, the worst bully in sixth grade, teases and torments them, and Margaret is scared to death of him. But when Gordy and


Margaret and her best friend Elizabeth both have brothers fighting the war against Hitler and, like everyone else they know, they are filled with feelings of patriotism. But the girls are also involved in their own personal war at home. Gordy Smith, the worst bully in sixth grade, teases and torments them, and Margaret is scared to death of him. But when Gordy and his pals Toad and Doug grow bolder than ever, Margaret and Elizabeth come up with a daring plan to get even. That's when the girls discover a shocking secret about Gordy that turns their lives upside-down and draws them into a startling confrontation with family, friends...and their own strongly held ideas.

Author Biography:

Always interested in writing, Mary Downing Hahn became a children's author only after experimenting with a wide variety of careers, from junior high school art teacher to college instructor to children's librarian. Today she is the author of more than twenty books that have appeared on countless state awards lists. Her stories run the gamut from historical fiction such as the popular Gordy trilogy, to ghost stories such as Wait Till Helen Comes and Look for Me by Moonlight. Her most recent work, Anna All Year Round, is a gentle and heartwarming story based on her own mother's diaries.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
There is a war going on, World War II, and Elizabeth and Margaret have brothers fighting in Europe. On the home front these sixth-graders have their own war going on with class bully Gordy Smith. The girls plot to get even and during their plan they uncover an amazing secret about Gordy. It makes for a page turning story. Hahn raises many issues, among which are pacification, dealing with a bully, and developing self-esteem. Even though the story is set in the past these are the same issues facing today's sixth graders. Widely praised and reviewed, this book is a great choice for middle readers.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8In a small southern town in 1944, two girls secretly help a seriously ill army deserter, a decision that changes their perceptions of right and wrong. Issues of moral ambiguity and accepting consequences for actions are thoughtfully considered in this deftly crafted story. (Dec. 1991)
From the Publisher

"There is plenty of action and page-turning suspense (and) much to ponder and reflect on as well." School Library Journal, Starred

Product Details

Perfection Learning Corporation
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

One afternoon in August, Elizabeth and I were sprawled on my front porch playing an endless game of monopoly (or Monotony, as Elizabeth called it).

"Your turn," I announced. I'd just passed the bank and picked up two hundred dollars to add to my pile of paper money. For once, I was definitely winning.

When she drew a card that told her to go to jail, Elizabeth threw it down. She was already broke and in debt to me because I owned Atlantic Place and her man kept landing on it. Every time that happened, she had to hand me five hundred dollars rent.

Elizabeth scowled at her little pile of money and ran a hand through her blonde hair, putting a few more tangles in it. Then she poked the Monopoly board with one bare foot, just hard enough to slide the expensive hotels and cottages off my property. Our little men rolled across the porch, and some of the paper money fluttered away.

"Let's go somewhere before I keel over and die of boredom," Elizabeth said.

Ignoring her, I crawled around, gathering up the playing pieces. Unlike Elizabeth, I was perfectly content to spend the rest of the day where we were. The heat had melted my bones away, and I felt as limp as a rag doll. "It's too hot," I muttered, "to do anything."

But Elizabeth wasnt listening. Climbing to the porch railing, she grinned down at me. "Dare me to jump?"

Before I could say yes or no, Elizabeth hollered "Geronimo!" Arching her body, she flew through the air like a circus acrobat and landed gracefully on the grass. "Come on, Margaret," sheshouted.

Not wanting to be a sissy baby, I held my breath, leapt off the railing, and hit the ground so hard I knocked the scab off my skinned knee. As I spit on my finger to wipe the blood away, Elizabeth hopped down the sidewalk.

"Step on a crack," she yelled, break Hitler's back! Step on a crack, break Hitler's back!"

Despite the heat, I stamped along behind Elizabeth. Under my bare feet, I saw Hitler's face on the cement his beady eyes, his mustache, his mean little slit of a mouth. I shouted and pounded him into the pavement, and every time I said his name it was like swearing. It was Hitler's fault my brother Jimmy was in the army, Hitler's fault Mother cried when she thought I wouldn't hear, Hitler's fault Daddy never laughed or told jokes, Hitler's fault, Hitler's fault, Hitler's most horrible fault. I hated him and his Nazis with a passion so strong and deep it scared me.

Behind me, the screen door opened, and Mother called,

"Margaret, how often do I have to tell you not to jump like that?" She frowned at me from the porch. "You won't be happy till you ruin your insides, will you?"

Elizabeth grinned at Mother, her eyes squinted against the sun. "Hi, Mrs. Baker," she said.

Mother looked at Elizabeth, but she didn't return her smile. "What was all that shouting?" she asked. "You two were making enough noise to wake the dead."

"It's a game I thought up," Elizabeth said "Step on a crack," she yelled, jumping hard on the sidewalk to demonstrate. "Break Hitler's back!"

"When I was your age, we said, 'Step on a crack, break your mother's back,'" Mother told-her. "We tried hard not to step on the cracks."

"That was before Hitler," Elizabeth said. The world was different then."

Mother leaned against the door frame, her arms folded across her chest, and sighed. "Yes," she said, agreeing for once with Elizabeth. "I guess it was."

For a moment or two, no one said anything. I saw Mother glance at the blue star hanging in our living room window, and I knew what she was thinking. That star meant Jimmy was overseas fighting a war Hitler started. There was a star in Elizabeth's window, too, because her brother Joe was in the Navy. That summer, there were stars in lots of windows in College Hill, and not all of them were blue. Some, like the one across the street in the Bedfords' window, were gold. The Bedfords' son Harold had been killed in Italy last summer. That was what gold meant.

In the silence, I heard a surge of organ music from our radio. It was time for "The Romance of Helen Trent," one of Mother's favorite soap operas. As she opened the screen door to go inside, Mother paused and looked at Elizabeth. "Where are you two going this afternoon?" she asked.

"Bike riding," Elizabeth said, as if I'd already agreed.

"Don't you dare take Margaret down that hill on Beech Drive," Mother said. "You almost killed yourselves last time."

But she was speaking to the air. Elizabeth had already darted through a gap in the hedge between our houses. In a few seconds she was back with her brother Joe's bike, an old Schwinn. The crossbar was so high Elizabeth could barely straddle it, but she rode it anyway.

Taking my seat on the carrier over the rear wheel, I held on to Elizabeth's waist as she pushed off across the grass. Wobbling till she picked up speed, she pedaled along Garfield Road toward Dartmoor Avenue.

The hot sunlight poured down through the green leaves, dappling the dirt road with a lacy pattern of shadows, and the Schwinn's big balloon tires bounced over the ruts. Mrs. Bedford waved to us from her front porch, Mrs. Porter smiled at us from her side yard, where she was hanging her laundry out to dry, and old Mr. Zimmerman nodded to us from the corner.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Hahn succeeds in raising questions that are as valuable as they are vexing Publishers Weekly

Plenty of action and page-turning suspense.
School Library Journal, Starred

Meet the Author

Mary Downing Hahn, a former children’s librarian, is the award-winning author of many popular ghost stories, including Wait Till Helen Comes, which is being adapted for film. An avid reader, traveler, and all-around arts lover, Ms. Hahn lives in Columbia, Maryland, with her cat, Oscar. Visit her online at www.marydowninghahnbooks.com.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Stepping on the Cracks 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 107 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was assigned this book in a 6th grade reading assignment. I laughed, I cried, the whole shebang. There are parts of the book you may not want to read involving Jimmy, the main character's brother, if someone close to you is fighting in the war. There are some bad words, but I hear worse at school. The others who were assigned this book LOVED IT! I have yet to read the 2nd book, but its pretty hard to find in my small town. I love to read lots, so check out my EXTREMELY SELECTIVE book list below. The listed books are le creme of de craup! In other words, the best! TTFN!!! -P
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in class and I LOVED IT!! The first couple of chapters are boring but after you get over the boring part it turns into a really great book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Set in WWII Era Maryland, the story begins with Margaret and Elizabeth who are good friends, and both with brothers in the war against Germany and Japan. They are constantly harassed and bullied by Gordy Smith and his two friends. To keep the girls away from his secret hut in the woods, Gordy tells the girls a tall tale about a crazy man living in the woods. Margaret believes him, claiming that she did see a man walking in the woods before. Soon, Margaret and Elizabeth find out the true identity of the mysterious man, and uncover a dark secret of Gordy¿s. As the story progresses, the girls¿ opinion of Gordy changes from hating him to feeling sorry for him. As the girls try to help Gordy, the book comes to a shocking conclusion. Stepping on the Cracks is the first book in a series of three novels written by Mary Downing Hahn. It is an excellent book, and keeps your attention. I personally liked everything about the book, which kept my eyes glued to the pages. The story is easy to relate to, and you get to know the characters well for a large part of the book (the first 80 pages), before diving into the plot. Mary Downing Hahn has written a great book, and I would recommend this book to fans of Hahn¿s books and to fans of books in general.
Honestreaders More than 1 year ago
Great novel to introduce upper elementary students to the effect of World War II on average American families. The main characters, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Gordy are engaging as they have typical childhood conflicts and confront what war is really like as each of these 3 has brothers fightiing in the war. Also, the book is excellent is showing authentically what life in the 40s was like in the United States.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a young girl at the age of 11, Margaret, misses her older brother who is overseas fighting World War II. She shows a lot of courage when she is faced with the schools biggest bullie, Gordy. She then discovers he has a secret that takes her on a wild adventure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THIS BOOK IS GREAT! It makes you laugh at some parts and cry at others. this book is one of my FAVORITE Mary Downing Hahn books! It is truly great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read it last year. All the characters were wonderful, and i loved the story and the "big secret". Gordy forever!!
monksbread More than 1 year ago
This book is my daughters favorite book. She read it several times and it sounded like a book for me to read. Well she is right. It is a good story about WWII and what a lot of Americans were going through at home while our men and women were fighting overseas. It will open your eyes as to what they went through during the war. It really gave me something to think about. Nice story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not the best book I've ever read, but it had humor and kept me reading. Everyone can relate to the charachters. The end was very touching.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stepping on the Cracks is a great book. It occurs during World War Two. I recommended it to one of my friends and she loved it! This has been one of my favorite books for a very long time. Mary Downing Hahn is a great author! Anyone who gets the chance to read this outstanding book should!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book growing up!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and I'm only in third grade! I scored 100% on my AR test.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like and no it is sad & happy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked tis boook it was an project for class and we did activitys with this book it was nice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book soo much!!!! It tells an amazing story!!!!! Its my favorite book out of all of her books!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the oaf
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reply to gbj_@#18.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this in 5th grade with my class. Usually, the teachers make reading novels boring, but this was my favorite teacher so she made it SUPER FUN AND INTERESTING! I love my fifth grade teacher! She's my favorite and always will be. I miss her now that I'm in sixth grade!-Kate
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I havent read this book. But i am about to. I adored her book "All the Lovely Bad Ones" and i hope this will ne just as good as that was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read most of Hahn's books but she really outdid herself here. This book if very realistic and I can't wait to read her other 2 books that go along with this! (Following My Own Footsteps and As Ever, Gordy)