Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Title: Criss Cross
Author: Lynne Rae Perkins
2006 Newbery Medal award winner
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Publisher: Greenwillow (August 30, 2005)
Characters in Criss Cross represent the feelings of many teenagers of all generations. Whether it be in the 1970’s or 1960’s. I dare say there is not a person among us who hasn’t wished they were someone else one time or another. Young teens will relate to the self-consciousnesses and uncertainty that all the characters exhibit, each of whom is struggling toward awareness.
Debbie and Hector, both 14, are the focus and most of the novel is through their narration. In addition to that, Perkins sets up a secondary story involving Debbie’s missing locket and the journey it takes as it is passed around by a number of different characters.
Criss Cross reads like a series of vignettes which is focused on Debbie and her friends. Debbie’s friend Linney teaches her to drive a pick up without leaving the drive way because Lenny’s parents are not home. This experience comes in handy much later when Debbie is placed in a precarious position being the only one who has driving experience and she has to take an elderly lady to the hospital.
Hector has a crush on Meadow and wants to take her someplace special. A place she has never been. The only place he can find in town is the garbage strewn ravine. He pictures it as a beautiful place if all the garbage was gone. His sister Rowanne reminds him it is only a ditch. Hector’s dad gives him a guitar but can’t afford music lessons, except for the free ones given down at the church by the priest.
There is a great deal of humor in this tender story about a group of childhood friends facing the crossroads of life and how they wish to live it. The book is illustrated with Perkins's amusing drawings and some photographs. Also Perkins experiments with writing an entire section of dialogue in haiku. “Jeff White is handsome, / but his hair is so greasy. / If he would wash it.”
What teen has not had the desire to just be somewhere else? A group of friends decided to conduct an experiment with travel. They decided to go to the bus station and get on the first bus that came through and get off at the first stop no matter where it was. They would spend a few hours and then come back.
Perkins has created a group of likable characters searching for who they are and who they will become. It is not hard to find a character to identify with.
About the author: Lynne Rae Perkins is the author of three picture books, The Broken Cat, Clouds for Dinner, and Home Lovely, a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book. Her novel All Alone in the Universe was named an ALA Notable Book, an ALA Book list Editor's Choice, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book, and a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children. She lives with her family in northern Michigan, where it snows all the time.
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