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Happy Families Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375869662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375869662
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,907,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

TANITA S. DAVIS is the author of the Coretta Scott King Honor Book, Mare's War, and A La Carte. She lives in Scotland with her husband.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Phoenix Fire Festival at The Crucible, last May

Ysabel

The surge of chattering, pointing, gawking people pours into the massive auditorium, and I feel a shiver crawl up my arms. Rather than stand here, watching the watchers, I’m going to do some torchwork.

There’s a table set up at the back of my booth, covered with a square of galvanized metal and lit with a desk lamp. At the edge of the table there’s a small glass kiln, a miniature propane blowtorch, a handful of tweezers, metal rods, a graphite block, and a couple of terra-cotta flowerpots filled with sand and rods of glass in all shades. I sit down, my foot automatically moving to tap the switch for the small fan under the table. Checking to make sure my glasses are still on my head, I grab my box of matches and light my torch.

An older couple approaches my booth but instead of speaking I pick up the thin metal mandrel and turn it in the flames to warm it. The glass always sticks better if the mandrel is warm. My hands hover over the glass color choices, and I select a clear, bright blue. As I reach up to tug down my pink-tinted sunglasses, they catch on my hair, and the pins Grandmama put in the French roll she thought would look so elegant poke into my scalp. Muttering under my breath, I gently untangle the glasses and put them on, then start heating the glass. In no time at all, I’m putting down a small bead of molten glass, turning my mandrel until I’ve made a disk. I make another disk, a half inch away, and then, turning the mandrel all the time, keep laying disks of glass until the heat slumps them together to make a hollow bead. One down, a few hundred to go. I set the mandrel and the bead into the annealing kiln to slow bake and choose another rod of color. I want something with a streak of metal in it this time.

All of us have been awaiting this last weekend in May and hoping for good weather for the thousands of people expected to attend the Phoenix Festival. It’s a massive, three-day fund-raiser fair with food--spicy and cooked over an open flame, of course--face painting, flame throwing, fire juggling, fire archery, and pretty much all the firemen in three counties standing around looking worried. For me, the art show is the best part, and every one of the student artists at The Crucible has been working like crazy to get enough pieces for the exhibition. Around me are the end results--long tables covered with blue cloth displaying pottery, ceramics, jewelry, sculpture, metalwork, and of course, my glass torchwork. At the back of the hall, shelves rise to the ceiling, laden with hundreds of colorful glass vases and ornaments. Some of the largest projects (done by the blacksmiths) are on the floor at the back. Nearest my table is a sundial made out of granite with bands of brass and copper, a fused glass fountain, and something bizarre that looks like it was made out of a bicycle lit with a confused tangle of neon tubes. At the edge of each table is a binder with small pictures of each piece, listing price and artist.

I’m pretty sure no one is going to buy anything of mine today; after all, this is my first serious show. Somewhere in the crowd, though, are five judges from the Fallon School of Art & Design, and not only are the best exhibitors going to be invited to submit a few things to a juried show, but three lucky people are going to be considered for scholarships. They start the selections tonight.

At almost fifteen, I might be worrying too early about college scholarships, but this year I’ve decided I might as well get people used to seeing my stuff and hearing my name. The fact is, I’m not going to get into a college based on academics. I’ve got a B– average, but I’m not interested in setting the Ivy League world on fire, like my brother, Justin, will. This is what I do best.

My twin appears as if my thoughts have pulled him to me. “What’s up, Ys?” Justin comes around the edge of the booth and steps over my tools to give me a careful fist bump. “You sold out yet?”

I grin. “Yeah, right. Four minutes after the doors open.”

“You never know. Met the judges yet?”

I shudder. “I don’t even want to think about judges.”

Justin’s phone buzzes, and he flips it open briefly. “My woman’s here. Gotta go.”

I smirk. “Better not let Calli hear you call her that. Thanks for showing up, Justin.”

“Couldn’t miss your first show,” my brother says, giving me a light tap on the head. He waves and vanishes back into the crowd.

I choose a rod of clear glass and begin another bead. This time, I make a basic bead, then, after some thought, choose a rod of yellow and begin to melt little blobs of yellow against the clear. My shoulders relax, and the roar of voices and strangers turns into meaningless background music. I hum a little song to myself and rotate my blob of glass through the blue-white flame as the lumps of glass slump and the bead turns smooth again. I nod, satisfied with the effect, and then find a rod of cobalt with a spiral of silver in it.

“Ysabel!” I glance up and flinch as I see a camera. It’s only Starr, the program director here at The Crucible, so I stick out my tongue and keep working. Despite the fact that I told them not to come, I know my parents are out there, somewhere, with Poppy and Grandmama and my best friend, Sherilyn, in the orange and red poppy sundress she told me she’d wear just to be sure I could spot her. Ms. Wendth, my old art teacher, was invited, and Justin is probably still in the building if his girlfriend, Callista, hasn’t dragged him off into a dark corner somewhere.

It’s a good feeling to know that all of my people are here today.

“Miss?” An older couple waves to catch my attention. “Did you make that pink necklace, with the big millefiori beads? How much for it?”

“Why don’t you take a look at the binder there, and I’ll be right with you,” I call, quickly setting the mandrel in a holder. Being taken from the heat so fast, the surface glass on my bead will probably crack. If I can’t smooth the cracks with heat, I’ll have to scrap it and start over again, but right now I don’t care. My heart is thumping, and I wipe my sweaty hands on my jeans. It’s my first sale, and I do an internal happy dance.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, God!



By the time the day is over, I’ve sold all but five necklaces, made thirty good beads at my station and fixed the cracked one, done a little welding at a welding exhibit, and gone outside to grab lunch and watch the fire-breathers dance. Farida, the welding instructor, came by to point out the judges from Fallon, and they’ve walked by slowly three or four times. I pretend not to notice.

When Starr climbs on her makeshift stage and quiets the crowd for the announcements from the Fallon judges, I cheer for the people who are being selected for the juried show. Then Starr is pointing at me, a little manic grin on her face.

“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we’d also like to introduce our prodigy at The Crucible, Ysabel Nicholas, a freshman at Medanos Valley Christian Academy!” she shouts into the mic, and over the applause, she yells, “Stand up, Ysabel!” and I feel like I’ve been struck by lightning. On suddenly shaky legs, I stand, wave, and immediately hunch back onto my stool.

Starr gestures at me frantically to stand again as the group of judges comes toward my table. All of them shake my hand and say something nice. A woman with a blond-frosted afro and a massive silver and turquoise medallion hanging around her neck beams at me, and I’m almost blinded by her grin. She shakes my hand and says, “Great job, young woman!”

“On behalf of The Crucible,” Starr says as she puts a small glass phoenix in my hands, with its wings outstretched and curlicues of glass flames beneath it. She gives me a hard hug, and I can only grin. Suddenly my family is visible at the front of the crowd, and Dad and Justin are directly in front of me. With a carefully choreographed move, the two of them lift up bouquets of roses and toss them. At my feet. In front of everyone.

I can’t decide if I should laugh or run. I put my hands to my face and groan.

It’s not possible to die of embarrassment. But as I hastily scoop up the bouquets and scuttle back to my seat, to the amusement of everyone around me, I’m almost positive you can at least have a coronary, or a stroke or something.



“It could have been worse,” Mom says, tucking me against her side as we walk out into the parking lot. With my boots on, I’m almost as tall as she is. “Your poppy wanted us all to throw the roses one by one. I reminded him that your father and I didn’t have the insurance to cover the potential breakages and eye injuries.”

“Think of it this way,” Sherilyn says, grinning. “The next time you get that many roses, you’ll be doing a solo show. This is just practice.”

“A solo show. I wish,” I say, watching as Dad stands the hard-sided pink case that holds my torches and glass behind the driver’s seat in Mom’s van and closes the door securely. For tonight, she’s removed the Wild Thyme Catering magnetic signs from the doors, and I’m glad. She gives me one last squeeze, then heads for the driver’s seat. Sherilyn hops in the passenger side, and I slide in back, next to my case, and lean forward between the front seats. We’ve done this so many times we all three go to our spots without any thought.

“See you at home,” Dad says, and we wave as he and Poppy join Justin and Grandmama at his car.

“So, did you see the cute blacksmith...

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Power TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Happy Families by Tanita Davis follows twins Ysabel and Nicholas as they spend spring break with their father who have recently learned of their father's secret, that he is transgender. The book is told in alternating voices as the twins spend time with their father, the first in months and try come to terms with their father's new life and try to heal their family.

This was a very good social issues book. Introducing teens to an issue that they are not familiar with in a way that is interesting and relateable. While I was not rushing to finish the book I had no problem finishing it and I found myself caring about the characters and hoping for a happy ending. The author doesn't provide a happy ending but does provide a hopeful one. This is a book that needs to be on library shelves.

Appropriateness: There is no adult content in the book. The author does a good job talking about transgender persons and the differences even providing a glossary in the back of different terms and resources for more information. I would recommend this book to teens 12+
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By CountrybookbumpkinDOTnet on May 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Happy Families is not your usual family drama type novel. Up until recently Ysabel and her brother Justin have lived pretty perfect lives. Ysabel is artist working mostly in bead work at a place near her house called the Crucible. Justin is the academic, with a five year plan which he hopes will hopefully lead to Stanford He is also on the debate team which he is very good at. That is until one meet where he noticed his father, while giving his current argument....dressed like a woman,

After that, things only get worse. With some help from their grandparents the family realized that their dad is Transgender. Soon after the realization hits many things change. Their father moves out to a place on the other side of the state. Ysabel spends all her time at the Crucible to stay away from the family drama, and perfect her skills. Justin completely abandons his college plans, breaks up with a girlfriend he really likes for fear that when she finds out that she will hate him and pretty much tries to meld into the background. He does find a family members of transgender peoples support group online to help him understand.

The book after a brief prologue of how things once were, we find the twins getting ready for a trip to their dads to spend sometime with him after a long time separated. Neither are looking forward to their little vacation. Being that it is their spring break they would much rather do their own thing. Neither parent will budge though on the plan so they are stuck.

What the trip turns into is a week of therapy trips and events with other transgender folks and their families.. It seems daunting but maybe it will help...who knows?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the story of teenager twins and their discovery that their father is transgender. It felt believable to me and interesting.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laura Purdie Salas on August 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
OK, I see that the jacket copy and blurbs don't reveal what the family secret is, even though it comes out fairly early in the book and is alluded to in the dedication (or maybe the epigram--don't remember which) and on the cover. But if you don't want to know what the main conflict of this novel is, stop reading here!

Twins Justin and Ysabel are high school seniors with a family-shattering secret. Their father likes to dress as a woman. They don't understand it at all, and their dad has moved away. Their family is falling apart, and so are they.

Justin has stopped talking to the girlfriend he really likes. He has dropped off the debate team. Ysabel has let all her friendships die and lost herself in her art/jewelry-making. Their caterer mother has lost interest in her work and gone silent. There's a lot of silence here. Lots of questions and misunderstandings, but little talking. Few answers.

But when the twins' parents force Justin and Ys to visit Dad for spring break, things come to a head. They are drawn into therapy, into conversations, and into outings with other families of transgendered individuals.

Not exactly the spring break they were hoping for.

What I love about this book is that all four members of the family (and the grandparents, too) love each other strongly. They are heartbroken and confused and angry. But they come through. There still are questions by the end of the book, which normally would bother me a little more. But I think in an issue this complex, it would be too much of a fairy tale to wrap everything up in a neatly tied package.

Another thing I love is the insight into hobbies. Tanita Davis (who's a friend of mine) is so wonderful at this. In A LA CARTE, she made me want to be a cook.
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0 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ELAINE Weisman on December 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
W AS WANTING CARLOS FUENES "HAPPY FAMILIES" I BOUGHT THE WRONG BOOK .MY FAULT
THIS WAS NOT LITERATURE .TRASH .
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