Sunday, November 26, 2006

Just For You To Know

Harness, Cheryl. 2006. Just For You To Know.

Cheryl Harness is not new to the field of children’s literature; she has been an author and illustrator for many years. However, with the publication of JUST FOR YOU TO KNOW, her first novel, she has targeted an older audience. (It is her twenty-fifth book.)

Set in Independence, Missouri, in the summer and fall of 1963, JUST FOR YOU TO KNOW tells the story of a young girl and her family as they experience some of life’s harshest lessons and greatest joys.

The Cathcart family could be described with many words, but ‘quiet’ and ‘organized’ won’t be among them. Carmen Cathcart, the oldest girl in the family, has five younger brothers and if that wasn’t enough noise and chaos for a twelve year old to deal with--she discovers to her dismay that another one is on the way. The book begins with their noisy transition to the new town and new home. Carmen is tired of her father’s reckless “pick up and go” attitude of living. Can’t they stay in the same town more than a year? This is her ninth home in twelve years! Carmen is embarrassed of her family. Embarrassed of the noise, the mess, the turmoil of all the voices yelling and tattling and whatnot. Tired of being perpetually on babysitting duty. She dreams of having free time to read books, to draw, to paint, to dream.

But Carmen’s priorities are about to be turned upside down when on her birthday her mother unexpectedly goes into labor. She walks into the kitchen to find her mother doubled over in pain and blood all over the floor. With screaming children in a panic she sends one of her brothers to find help at a neighbor’s house. The neighborhood bully--who up until that point hadn’t one redeeming quality--saves the day when he drives the mother to the hospital. But the panic and uncertainty remain with the kids as they wait and wait and wait to hear news from the hospital. Hours later they get the news they never wanted. They have a sister, BUT their mother is gone.

JUST FOR YOU TO KNOW shows how one family deals with the pain and grief of life along with the typical daily agonies of growing up, making friends, and learning responsibility. Longing for things to be the way they were, they learn to cope with life one day at a time. The novel is not forced in that it shows them one day waking up and everything being wonderful and perfect and problem-free. The novel instead shows that grief is a process, a struggle, something that doesn’t go away overnight. It’s a journey with many twists and turns along the way.

Some of her other works include: Our Colonial Year, The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin, Franklin and Eleanor, Ghosts of the Nile, Thomas Jefferson, The Revolutionary John Adams, Rabble Rousers: 20 Women Who Made A Difference, Ghosts of the Civil War, Remember the Ladies, George Washington, Ghosts of the 20th Century, Midnight in the Cemetary, Mark Twain and the Queens of the Mississippi, Young Teddy Roosevelt, Ghosts of the White House, Abe Lincoln Goes To Washington 1837-1865, They’re Off! The Story of the Pony Express, Young Abe Lincoln 1809-1837, PaPa’s Christmas Gift, The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal, Young John Quincy, Three Young Pilgrims, and The Queen With Bees in Her Hair.


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