Thursday, July 14, 2005

What's In A Name by Ellen Wittlinger

What's In A Name by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon Push, 2000). Scrub Harbor or Folly Bay? The rich families with the $500,000 a year dads, they're the ones who think it's a good idea to change the name to Folly Bay. Good for real estate, good for the future. But the working class families who've lived here forever--Scrub Harbor sounds like home to them. Now the town teens are divided between the "Follies" and the "Scrubs," but that's not all that separates them. Each is trapped within others' expectations of who he or she really is. This novel, told from ten points of view, strips away those stereotypes, and looks deeper into what identity really means. Ages 12-up.

More Thoughts on What's In A Name

I love Ellen Wittlinger's work, and her Prinz Honor book Hard Love (Simon & Schuster, 1999) is one of my all-time favorites. So, I was pleased to read What's In A Name for my upcoming residency at Vermont College.

The characters include: Georgie, who lives in an apartment over The Pampered Pooch and whose previously absent dad suddenly wants her to move in with him in Los Angeles; O'Neill, who's debating whether he needs to reveal his sexual orientation; Ricardo, an exchange student from Brazil; Christine, who's long had feelings for O'Neill; Nadia, whose family moved to Scrub Harbor long ago from Russia but still doesn't fit in; Nelson, an Ivy-League-bound African American who's developing feelings for a girl bussed in; Shaquanda, who thinks Nelson doesn't know what it means to be black but is sure that it's not the sum total of her whole identity; Adam, who was popular at his old school but finding it hard to win acceptance; Quincy, O'Neill's football star brother who's not sure about his own girlfriend; and Gretchen, Quincy's girlfriend, sure, but much more her mother's daughter--at least in the eyes of the world.

But these, again, are the tags, the superficial descriptions, and this is a book about digging deeper, finding out more, and understanding commonalities. Read it for yourself and see.

Cynsational News & Links

See Create/Relate, Anastasia Suen's blog, on Madonna's alleged ghost writer and the denial of the story. This reminds me. The most hysterical thing I ever heard at the Texas Book Festival was Lindsey Lane's reading of her poem, "Madonna Is Stalking Me." Lindsey is the author of Snuggle Mountain, illustrated by Melissa Iwai (Clarion, 2003). See the 2005 list of children's authors appearing at the Texas Book Festival.

Thanks to Professor Judy A. Leavell's class at Texas State University San Marcos for their kind and enthusiastic thank you notes in response to mine and Greg's recent visit.

Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs in the study and writing of children's literature.

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