Wednesday, May 20, 2009
MN author Nancy Crocker
I "met" Minnesota author Nancy Crocker through facebook. I know, I know, the dreaded facebook. What would Mark Bauerlein think? But here's the thing: facebook is not all quizzes to see which superhero you are or that girl you sat behind in Mrs. Kramer's 5th grade math class. It's a good way for authors to get their books out there...and for people like me to find them.
"Billie Standish Was Here" (a finalist for the 2007 MN Book Award) is classified as a young adult book. But that's hooey as far as I'm concerned. A good book is a good book, even if the main character is 11 years old.
Billie Standish is a girl living in rural Missouri who badly needs a friend. When most of her town evacuates when the river threatens to crest, Billie finds what she's been needing in Miss Lydia. So what if she's 70 years older? A friend is a friend. I won't give anything away here, but pretty early on Billie suffers through a shocking event. But this isn't an afterschool special that defines her by this event. Billie grows through this experience. Tune in for my conversation this week on Realgoodwords. Heard Wednesdays from 6-7pm and Sundays 9-10am.
Proving that the heavily mined "child and elderly neighbor change each other's lives" premise isn't completely dry, Crocker's sturdy debut explores the deep and subtle reaches of a friendship that blooms between 11-year-old Billie and her across-the-road neighbor Miss Lydia. Set in a small town several generations ago, this is anchored by three pivotal acts—one driven by hate, one by love, and one a complex combination of the two.The story covers five years of Billie's struggles to get out from under the thumb of her spiteful, abusive mother, and Lydia's efforts to erase the guilt of two terrible secrets as, with agonizing slowness, her aging body fails. Crocker skillfully lays out the heart-deep regard that develops between these two perceptive, spirited females (Lydia is occasionally given to hilariously salty language) as life throws them severe challenges that they weather with each other's help. In Billie, the author creates a narrator whose credible mix of naïveté, resilience, and uncertain but budding sense of self-respect that will speak to young readers. This easily transcends its familiar themes and locale