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As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President! Hardcover – February 12, 2008

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About the Author

As If Being 12 3⁄4 . . . is Donna Gephart’s first novel. She lives with her family in Jupiter, Florida, where she’s already at work on her second.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I'm sitting on a wooden folding chair, hoping I don't get a splinter in my derriere, as Chester Fields tries to spell "thoroughly." Chester Fields is an idiot. "Thoroughly" is an easy word. But somehow he manages to muck it up, spelling, "T-h-u-r-u-h, I don't know, w-l-y." Cowbell for that boy! How did he even get to the schoolwide bee? I'll bet his teacher felt sorry for him. Or maybe it's because his mother is on the board of directors at Lawndale Academy.

I, Vanessa Rothrock, am sweating like a pig--do pigs sweat?--and wishing I could smell my pits, but the whole audience is looking at me. I pump my left leg up and down like crazy and hear Mom's voice in my head: Don't fidget, Vanessa; it's unbecoming. Still yourself. Still yourself? Easy for her to say. She's all poise and grace, forever saying and doing the perfect thing. Maybe I'm not really Mom's daughter. Maybe I was adopted, or switched at birth. But when I think of Mom's enormous feet, I know I'm all hers. I rest my hand on my leg to stop fidgeting and crane my neck. Is Mom even--?
"Vanessa Rothrock, please come up."

I gasp and choke on my own saliva. Then I stand and grab the back of my chair. Unfortunately, I do not die of asphyxiation (Asphyxiation. A-S-P-H-Y-X-I-A-T-I-O-N. Asphyxiation.) and I maneuver around students' feet and chair legs. The microphone is in sight. I'm sighing with relief at having passed through the minefield of legs without tripping when my gigantic feet tangle in the principal's microphone cord.

I lurch forward, grab for the podium, and end up with a handful of papers before crashing to the stage. I say something charming, like "Ooomph!" The audience lets out a collective gasp.

Unfortunately, I do not crack my head and die instantly. Why am I such a klutz?

As I lift my cheek from the dusty floor, I see camera lights flash like lightning. I put my head down and imagine tomorrow's headline: governor's daughter takes spill during school spelling bee. entire state of florida humiliated.

"No photographs, please," Mrs. Foster begs. "You were informed."

I look up again and see Mr. Martinez marching toward me from backstage. That's all I need to complete the humiliation package--my six-foot-tall security guard scooping me up from the stage and brushing me off.

I hold up a few fingers and he stops. I mouth the words "I'm okay." Mr. Martinez backs up so that he's offstage again. And against my better judgment, I stand and face the audience, who, by the way, have their mouths hanging open. My cheeks grow so hot I'm sure my head will spontaneously (Spontaneously. S-P-O-N-T-A-N-E-O-U-S-L-Y. Spontaneously.) combust. I look at Mrs. Foster and silently plead: Give me a word already and put me out of my misery.

Mrs. Foster clears her throat and motions toward my feet. I realize that her papers are scattered there. I gather them up and give them to her with trembling hands. I hear Mom's words again: Still yourself, Vanessa. Still yourself!

After adjusting her glasses and clearing her throat, Mrs. Foster says, "Your word is 'resuscitate.' "
I snort. I can't help it. I imagine a cute emergency tech resuscitating me on the floor of the stage. Unfortunately, when I snort, it makes a screeching noise in the microphone, and the people in the audience (even Mrs. Foster) cover their ears as though a supersonic jet has flown overhead. I see Mr. Martinez wince.

Why, I wonder, do I suffer such humiliation? What was God thinking when She made me?

Someone clears her throat. For a moment I think it's God, but then I look over and see Mrs. Foster tapping her watch.

My nostrils flare in a less-than-flattering way. I hate when someone taps a watch. I shake my head. What is my word again? OHMYGOD! I've completely forgotten. Sweat begins to pool under my arms. Did I remember to apply deodorant this morning or did I just spray perfume and hope for the best? "Could I have the origin of the word, please?"

"Resuscitate," Mrs. Foster snaps. "It comes from--"

"Resuscitate." I cut the principal off midsentence. "R-e-s-u-s-c-i-t-a-t-e. Resuscitate."

"That is correct." I imagine the "thank goodness and sit down" she doesn't say.

I curtsy--CURTSY? what am I, five years old?--then scamper back to polite applause. It's obvious I impress the audience by making it to my seat without tripping.

"Reginald Trumball, please come up."

Reginald turns and winks at me. At least I think it's at me. My heart goes into overdrive, and fingers of heat creep up my neck.

I notice my best friend, Emma Smith, staring at Reginald as he gets out of his seat. I wonder for a moment if she's even more in love with Reginald than I am. Not possible.

I watch Reginald jog to the microphone. He doesn't even stumble. That boy is all grace and good looks. If I'm lucky enough to have children with Reginald Trumball someday, I hope they inherit his good looks and quirky charm . . . and my ability to spell obscure (Obscure. O-B-S-C-U-R-E. Obscure.) words.

Mrs. Foster smiles and nods at Reginald. "Your word is 'categorize.' "

I close my eyes, squeeze my fingers into fists, and will the correct spelling into Reginald's gorgeous head. But something must be blocking my brain waves, because Reginald says: "C-a-t-i-g-o-r-i-z-e."
When the cowbell signals his defeat, Reginald's mother has her arm around his shoulders before he's even completely off the stage. Reginald puts his arm around his mother's shoulder and leans his head close to hers. She whispers something into his ear, probably about how he'll never need to spell that word again and how she'll take him out for ice cream later. I want that mother.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 630L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734813
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,050,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Donna Gephart is a professional nerd.

Her love for libraries and reading have led her to a career as a children's book author for Penguin Random House. Her books now reside on the shelves of the library she frequented when she was a child.

Her humorous/heartbreaking middle grade novels include:

1. DEATH BY TOILET PAPER -- Will Ben be able to keep a promise to his recently deceased dad and save his family from eviction, using his creativity and contest skills?
2. OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN -- Can Olivia overcome huge obstacles to achieve her dream of appearing on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!?
3. HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL -- David is famous online from his hilarious YouTube videos, but how will he ever survive middle school?
4. AS IF BEING 12-3/4 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT -- won the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award and the Florida State Book Award. Can spelling bee champ, Vanessa, do what's necessary to save her mom from an assassination attempt on the campaign trail?

Donna's books have won a number of awards, received starred reviews and landed on many state reading lists.

She's a popular speaker at schools, book festivals, libraries and conferences, including the S.C.B.W.I. National Conference, the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers' Workshop, F.A.M.E., the Conference on Children's Literature and others.

Originally from Philadelphia, Donna now lives in South Florida with her family, including two sweet shelter dogs, Benji and Teddy.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Frank Furter on February 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As if Being 12 3/4 isn't Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President is by far one of the best books I've read for this age group. Vanessa is a wonderful character that both boys and girls will relate to. Her gawky awkwardness is believable and...hilarious, truly "milk through the nose funny." She's a normal girl in an extraordinary situation. You can't help but love her. Her mother is also in an extraordinary circumstance (running for president), but her struggle as a single mom trying to juggle her career and her relationship with her daughter is touching and very real.

Kids will love this book! The mix of suspense, humor, and fantastic characters will keep even reluctant readers enthralled to the very end. I hope there's a sequel. I can't wait to read more about Vanessa, a smart, funny, endearing and incredibly memorable girl.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Julie Peterson on October 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this book, and I think young girls everywhere should read it. I haven't read much juvenile fiction since I was a kid, but now that my daughter is getting older I know I will be starting again. I forgot how wonderful these books about teenage girls can be! I think it's terrific that there are books like this one out there that can make kids feel that they are not alone with their concerns. And since this book was absolutely hilarious, I love how it can make girls feel "normal" (and maybe even allow them laugh about some their insecurities!)

I can't rave enough about AS IF BEING 12 3/4...! This book dealt with so many issues that are pertinent to today's young girls -- mother/daughter relationships, single parenting, working mothers, crushes, embarrassing moments, and normal teenage insecurities. I think most girls will relate to at least a few of these topics. Not only do I appreciate how Ms. Gephart handled all of these topics in this book, but the storyline is also very interesting. By having Vanessa's mom run for president, the reader gets some insight into the presidential campaign and election process -- and it's in a very fun way, not like a boring history class!

While I did find this book hilarious and I can admit that I laughed out loud many times, I was also touched by Vanessa's story. Vanessa was a very sensitive young woman who was dealing with a lot of changes. Pre-teen and early teen-age years are difficult in the best of times, but Vanessa had a lot more to deal with than the average young girl. Not only was her mom away campaigning, but Vanessa was also coming to terms with losing her father.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Leigh Anne Jasheway on February 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Although I am nowhere close to being 12 3/4 except in dog years, As if Being 12 3/4 isn't Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President, took me back to my middle school years and allowed me to laugh at my younger self. From Vanessa's worries, her obsession with the wrong boy, her having to spell every big word in every conversation... Donna Gephart hits all the right notes.

This book is huge fun. Girls especially will love the story, relate to the characters, learn a little more about politics, and perhaps love their mothers even more after reading it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ami Hassler on February 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
While the plot of As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President lacks originality, I found the book to be a pretty fun read. This is Donna Gephart's first book, but she seems to have remembered well what it is like to be a 12-year-old girl. Vanessa Rothrock is a likeable character. She's a frizzy haired, flat-chested klutz who loves her Mom and misses her Dad. She desperately wants to win the Regional Spelling Bee so that she and her Mom can both make it to D.C. (She to the National Bee, and her Mom to the White House). She wishes that Reginald Trumball were her secret admirer, and that she could have a little privacy in life. Being followed around by a bodyguard all the time is not as glamorous as it sounds. But more than anything, she just wants her Mom to be safe and and have more time for her.

The relationship between Vanessa and her mother is probably the nicest aspect of this novel. Vanessa is not the perfect daughter. She's a bit whiny, and not terribly understanding how busy her Mom is running for president. She even causes her mother some major campaign problems when she sends off some poor responses to a teen magazine's questionnaire. Of course, her Mom is not perfect either. She misses Vanessa's County Bee, fails to make it to the emergency room when Vanessa breaks her wrist, and laughs when Vanessa shows her a threatening letter saying that Rothrock better not run for president, but there are wonderful moments too. I love how they always try to watch Gilmore Girls together. And when they can't, her Mom remembers to tape it so they can watch it together later. Also, her Mom does make it to the Regional Bee and is there to comfort Vanessa when she loses. They have a very realistic, loving relationship.

For the rest of this review and other reading suggestions, see my site.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sonja on February 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a funny, believable portrait of a middle school girl. It doesn't even mention cliques and eating disorders, but does provide a unique combination of focuses for the usual early teen angst: spelling bees and politics.
It gives young readers a timely look at the inside of a campaign from the point of view of a kid who's not at all happy her mom is running for president. Perfect for the middle school girls on your list. Should provide them with some good laughs and a bit of topical current events education, with plenty of suspense to keep them turning the pages until the end.
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