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Pictures in the Dark Hardcover – May 6, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books; First Edition edition (May 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582348480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582348483
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,854,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-10-A compelling novel set in 1950s Seattle. Twelve-year-old Sarah and her older sister, Carlie, know that their lives are different from those of their peers. When at home, unless summoned by their mother, they are supposed to stay in their attic bedroom. Common activities such as eating or using the bathroom are forbidden without her approval. Noise of any kind is frowned upon because that might disturb their mother and one never knows what will happen when she is unhappy. Everything comes to a head when Carlie is caught and beaten for trying on one of her mother's dresses. Running away from home is her solution, but Sarah becomes bold enough to tell their workaholic father the dark secret about their mother. McCord has written a taut, powerful story about family dynamics when one parent is suffering from a mental illness and the other fails to recognize the problem. The bond between the sisters grows and is strengthened through adversity. Though there is no pat resolution, the book has a strong message of hope, love, and forgiveness.
Sharon Morrison, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant, OK
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-10. Twelve-year-old Sarah and 15-year-old Carlie live in quiet terror of their unpredictable mother, who feeds them or allows them to bathe or watch TV only as her mood dictates. It isn't until their mother gets a job, and housekeeper Josephine comes to take care of them, that the girls begin to understand both what a normal life is and how dysfunctional theirs has become. McCord has painted a bleak yet often hopeful picture of a family coping with mental illness. Set in the 1950s, when mental illness was misunderstood and less acknowledged, McCord's novel celebrates the courage and resourcefulness of two teens. The girls find creative ways to maintain their own sanity, and eventually they muster the courage to force outside intervention and shed light on their mother's condition. Also illuminating are the views of women's lives in the 1950s--the expectations, routines, and dullness--at a time when the debate about working mothers was just beginning. A poignant, enlightening read. Frances Bradburn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reader on November 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am a firm believer that some books are lifesavers. This is one. Patricia McCord's "Pictures in the Dark" is an unsentimental, but moving depiction of how two sisters, one twelve, the other fifteen, endure their mother's madness. Set in the 1950s, when mental illness was more stigmatized and misunderstood, this is about a family that keeps bad secrets. The writing is spare and taut and the suspense will keep older children and teenagers turning the pages. This is a courageous and daring book that deserves a wide readership.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on June 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This thoughtfully written story tells of the pains of growing up with a family that has a problem they are not willing to face, having a mother that needs mental assisitance. However, sisters Sarah and Carlie manage to make their lives bearable. But when their mother beats Carlie for trying on her dress, and she runs away, Sarah realizes she needs to release the truth to her father and the people she loves. Make sure you don't miss out on this remarkable story!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on June 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Pictures in the dark is about two girls named Charlie and Sarah that have a horrible mother. They don't eat regularly, take showers regularly they can't even go to the bathroom at night because the flushing of the toilet will wake their mom up. Charlie has a boyfriend named Jesse who she really loves. Sarah is afraid that Charlie will run off with Jesse and leave her with her nasty mother. Then, something dramatic happens to Charlie and Sarah, and their lives are never the same. I would definitely recommend this book; it was awesome. The way its written makes you want to keep reading and reading. I'm not a big reader but this book captured me. You will also love this book if you have read A Child Called It. They're about kids going through a tough time in their lives.
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Format: Paperback
Carlie (15) and Sarah (13) are the two unwanted daughters of a mentally unstable mother and an uninvolved father. Their mother resents their presence and requires them to spend the majority of their time in their attic room. They are not allowed to use the bathroom without permission, and their mother frequently chooses not to feed them. Their father is enamored of their mother and doesn't realize, or chooses not to realize, that anything is wrong.

Carlie has realized that this is not normal and she is eagerly counting down the days until she is old enough to move away and begin a life of her own. Sarah is beginning to understand that other people don't live like this. Her first and only friend, Kim, is allowed to do amazing things like wander about her house freely and make popcorn to share with the family. Kim is not punished when the bathroom floor is wet or their is a dirty spot on a washcloth.

This difficult situation comes to a head when Carlie decides to run away. Carlie's drastic decision causes Sarah to be brave and tell the truth and forces their father to face the truth he has been ignoring for so many years.

This was not a particularly easy book to read. It is not violently graphic, but it is intense at times. It was a good reminder to me, as a teacher, that some of my students are facing abuse that is not so obvious to the naked eye. Those students need an environment where they feel safe to talk about their fears and to be accepted. I also appreciated this book because, even though it has a dark theme, it ends well. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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