Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal, by Frances O'Roark Dowell (fiction) - goats, guitars, determination

You've gotta feel for Janie - her first year at a small town high school and already labeled as ignorable. And since her mom sometimes blogs about Janie's personal life, she's doubly doomed...

But learning about the "citizenship school" that existed near her North Carolina town in the 1950s during the Civil Rights movement and the brave people who taught African-Americans to read and write so they could register to vote helps Janie find her voice in the here and now.

Book info: Ten Miles Past Normal / by Frances O'Roark Dowell. Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), 2011. [author's website] [author interview] [publisher website]

Recommendation: Janie loved the idea of moving to a farm when she was 10, but in high school it’s not so cool. Goat manure on her shoe, hay stuck in her hair that awful first week of school – now the kids call her “Farm Girl” and treat her like she’s invisible. Except Sarah, the only friend from their junior high who came to this high school; they only have one class together… so it’s lunchtime in the library, every day, alone.

When a cute guy invites them to play and sing with Jam Band, Janie is amazed to find that she’s a natural on bass guitar. Monster (that’s really his name on his birth certificate – crazy parents) teaches her to play, and she just feels the energy grow.

Researching their women’s studies project introduces them to real heroines in their North Carolina town, women who taught black adults to read and write so they could register to vote in the 1950s, despite threats from the KKK. As Janie and Sarah interview Mrs. Brown and the late Mrs. Pritchard’s husband, they decide that the old farmhouse site of the “Citizenship School” should be preserved as a museum.

Will Jam Band ever make real music? Does Monster like Janie (you know, “like” like)? Can she survive her craft-clueless mom’s blog about farm life that veers a little too often into Janie’s personal life? And Mom’s plan for a hootenanny at the farm for her 15th birthday? Yikes! (One of 5,000 books recommended on (advance reader edition courtesy of the publisher through; cover image courtesy of the publisher)


  1. To the top of my list! This one really speaks to me since I've moved my kids to 5 states in 10 years and I moved 12 times by the time I was 18. Thanks, as always, for great recommendations!

  2. Yeah, as an Air Force Brat who married into a construction family, I really understood Janie's plight. Loved the local history aspect of this one and J's willingness to try something new to find her place in the world.



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