This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

by Nancy J. Cavanaugh


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Age Level: 9 and up | Grade Level: 3 to 6

This heartwarming, coming of age story is the perfect book for middle school girls. Featuring a strong female character named Ratchet, who identifies as a motherless daughter, this relatable story with its illustrated format is particularly suited for 9-12 year old kids who love graphic novels.

If only getting a new life were as easy as getting a new notebook. But it's not.

It's the first day of school for all the kids in the neighborhood. But not for me. I'm homeschooled. That means nothing new. No new book bag, no new clothes, and no friends—old or new. The best I've got is this notebook. I'm supposed to use it for my writing assignments, but my dad never checks. Here's what I'm really going to use it for:

Ratchet's Top Secret Plan

Project Goal: turn my old, recycled, freakish, friendless, motherless life into something shiny and new.

"I cannot imagine a middle grade classroom or library where this book wouldn't be popular."—Colby Sharp, teacher and co-founder of Nerdy Book Club

"One of the freshest new voices I've heard in a while...this debut novel is a winner."—Augusta Scattergood, Author of GLORY BE, an Amazon Best Middle Grade Novel of 2012

"A book that is full of surprises...Triumphant enough to make readers cheer; touching enough to make them cry."—Kirkus, STARRED Review

Great for parents, librarians and educators looking for:

  • An illustrated format for middle grade readers, especially for reluctant readers and those who love graphic novels
  • A narrative featuring environmentalism and a positive view on activism for kids
  • A story featuring a strong female character
  • A heartwarming story that combines coming of age and accepting one's identity

A Florida Book Awards Gold Medalist

A Black-Eyed Susan Book Award nominee

A South Carolina Book Awards nominee

A Maine Student Book Award title

A Green Prize for Sustainable Literature winner

Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award nominee

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492601098
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 05/06/2014
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,137,927
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Nancy J. Cavanaugh is the award-winning author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet and Always, Abigail, which was a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee. She has a bachelor of science in education and a master’s in curriculum and instruction. She was an elementary school teacher for more than fifteen years as well as a library media specialist. She lives in Chicago.

Read an Excerpt

Writing Exercise: Write about your life.
Writing Format—FREEWRITING: Writing openly and freely on any topic.

Everything in my life is old and recycled.

* The kitchen table and chairs—Salvation Army.
* Living room furniture—AMVETS.
* TV—Motel 8's going out of business giveaway.

Even worse, I look like I belong in a museum of what not to wear with my Goodwill store clothes.

Dad's motto: "If the Good Lord wanted us to throw everything away, he would've put a Dumpster right outside the Garden of Eden."

I want to say, "Not likely, Dad"; but I don't argue with him. Especially when he's talking about the Good Lord.

Even so, I wish we'd lose all this junk so we could start over. Because it's hard to look good in faded T-shirts that are too big. Jean shorts that are out of style. And my blond hair with no style at all thanks to coupons at Super Snips.

Today could be a day to start over. It's the first day of school for all the kids in the neighborhood. But not for me. I'm homeschooled. That means nothing new.

*No new book bag.
*No new clothes.
*No new shoes.
*No friends—new or old.

Just Dad and me and a bunch of smelly old textbooks from the library book sale. And a garage full of broken-down cars that need fixing.

So I sit at the chipped and dented kitchen table doing my assignments. Wishing I were in a real classroom. With real classmates. And a real teacher.

A teacher who says, "Good morning," and smiles.

A teacher who reads my assignments and writes "Great job!" and "Way to go!" on my papers with glitter pens and funky colored markers.

Dad just glances at my work without really reading it. I know he doesn't really read it because one time for a social studies paper I wrote, "Abraham Lincoln's nose is bigger than his hat," two hundred times. Dad put a check mark at the top of the paper and wrote, "Keep the engine running!"

It was proof that Dad did not really read my work and even more proof that Dad is really out there somewhere on some automotive planet all his own because who would write, "Keep the engine running!" on top of a paper about Abraham Lincoln?

As long as I do my homeschool work, Dad thinks he's being a great teacher.

Dad's out in the garage yelling, "Ratchet!"

I don't think he's ever called me by my real name, Rachel. At least not since I can remember. Says I've always reminded him of a ratchet the way my help makes all his jobs easier.

I've been fixing cars with him since I was six.

Dad yells again, "I could use a hand out here!"

So I'll put down my pencil, even though I hate to because it's new. It's real wood. (Not the fake plastic kind.) Purple sparkles. A super sharp point. And a perfect eraser. But I'll put it down anyway and go out to the garage and hand Dad tools for the rest of the afternoon.

What would I rather be doing? Getting off a real school bus with some real school friends after a real day of school.

What will I be doing? Maybe a brake job or a transmission flush or a fan belt replacement. Hopefully not another oil change. My hands are finally almost clean from the one we did last week.

None of the things an ordinary eleven-year- old girl should be doing. But when your nickname is Ratchet, you're not an ordinary girl.

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