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Tending to Grace Hardcover – May 11, 2004

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition (states) edition (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375828621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375828621
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,135,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 6-9-Cornelia Thornhill wears neglect like a pall. She avoids eye contact with others, stutters badly, is presumed to be slow at school, and likens herself to a stone, hard and strong way down inside. Taken out of school during ninth grade by her shiftless mother, she is dropped off at the rural New England home of Great-aunt Agatha while mother and her boyfriend depart for places out west. This lonely, virtually invisible girl both misses and resents her absent parent. The short, image-rich, first-person chapters echo Cornelia's anger and stubbornness as she describes her new living situation with the folksy, forthright Agatha. They argue, stop talking, and Cornelia even packs her bag to run away. What brings these unlikely companions back together is their grudging interdependence and Cornelia's recognition that nature-loving Agatha, locally dubbed the Crow Lady, has been as misunderstood as she. Cornelia begins to see her aunt's kindness through the eyes of Bo, a local girl whose nonjudgmental friendship helps Cornelia to grow. Subtle clues indicate that Agatha has been good at hiding the fact that she's illiterate, much as Cornelia has hidden the fact that she is a voracious reader. Agatha allows her niece to teach her to read using a butterfly handbook as a primer. The depiction of Bo's father as a fearsome, controlling man is the only false note in a novel that poetically portrays the human potential to fly after emerging from a cocoon of neglect.
Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 7-10. Like Katherine Paterson's classic The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) and many other stories of the rejected kid who finds a family with a rough solitary older adult, this quiet, beautiful first novel makes the search for home a searing drama. Cornelia, 14, is dumped by her mother and stuck with elderly Great-aunt Agatha in a backwoods cottage thick with dust, cobwebs, and dirty dishes. There's not even a toilet. An unusual twist on the theme is that Cornelia arrives with a crate of books, including Oliver Twist and Tom Sawyer. She knows she's "a bookworm, a bibliophile," and, yes, she finds metaphor in ordinary things. But no one knows how smart she is, because she's ashamed of her stammering and barely speaks. With poetic simplicity, her desperate first-person, present-tense narrative, rooted in the physical facts of her life, reveals how she feels "caught in that lonely place between what I want to say and what I can't." She and Agatha slam doors and scream; they discover secrets and hurt each other deeply. But Cornelia's speech improves, and she no longer looks away when she talks. Readers may guess the secrets, and the ending is predictable, but there's wonderful drama in the relationship, and mixed with all the sorrow is helpless laughter. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
"They make it sound so easy.
N. S.
Aunt Agatha who lives alone in the country and is illiterate, is an unlikely parent, but as Cornelia teaches Agatha to read, Agatha teaches Cornelia to live.
Stephanie Frieze
Very good book couldn't put the book down until I finished it Must read!
Josey Wisdorf

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on May 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
" 'Come on, Corns,' my mother says, opening the car door for me. 'Bring your stuff.' The boyfriend shrugs and turns up the radio.
"I wonder when a Girl Scout last sold cookies here. Not for a while, apparently, because the hem on my dress catches the grass as we trek to the front door.
"It's not going to be for that long, Corns. Just till Joe and me get settled.' My mother pushes some of the ivy aside and taps at the door. The skin on her hand is thin, translucent, like china held up to the light. I can hardly hear her knocks.
"I watch another bird fly across the yard and land on the roof and then an old woman walks around from the back of the house. She is tall and straight, pale as vanilla pudding, with gray hair twisted into a braid and roped around her head. Binoculars thump against her chest. My mother jumps a little when she sees her. 'Agatha.'
" 'Tell him to turn that noise off.' The old woman nods to the car, but her eyes are on me.
"My mother looks unsure about what she should do. She takes a few steps forward (is she thinking of hugging the old woman?), then changes her mind and turns toward the car, leaving me standing with my crate of books at my feet.
"I hold my breath and hope the old woman doesn't talk. I watch another bird fly to the chimney. The boyfriend turns the radio down. 'Your phone isn't working,' my mother says when she walks back to us. Then she giggles in her nervous little way that's nails on a blackboard to me. 'I need someone to take her for a while.' "
There are a bunch of memorable (and award-winning) stories that feature adolescent girls going to live with grandmothers or grandmother-types.
Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By bhr on April 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is the story of a young girl whose only control of her world is her silence. She has no father; her mother is the typical self-centered abusive by neglect example. Cornelia's only pleasure in life is her books.

Cornelia's world is suddenly jolted as her mother physically abandons Corny to a distant relative. Agatha is the opposite of Corny in so many ways; dirty, disorganized, nature lover. Yet, she is just as independent as Corny.

The story is the characters coming to need each other, and help each other, and grow in ways they couldn't expect. Corny eventually breaks her shell and stands for herself, at the same time as learning to lean on Agatha.

It's really a beautiful story for a young girl who might find herself frustrated by the constriction of her own world. Corny is an unusual hero, but she is heroic, none the less.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Little Willow on June 6, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When Cornelia is in ninth grade, her mother leaves her with her Great-Aunt Agatha and takes off with her boyfriend. Cornelia and Agatha are vastly different, with the teenager being a shy bookworm with a stutter and the older woman being a very folksy, country lady. Though it is blood that binds them, it is ultimately literacy that bonds them.

This book is short and sweet, poignant and poetic. It is easy enough for reluctant readers and important enough to discuss with kids and adults alike. As mentioned earlier, it encourages and emphasizes the importance of literacy.

Highly recommended. Well-written characters and powerful themes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Komputer kitten on April 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A coming-of-age story has never been so poignant and touching. Cornelia is a flower folding unto itself. She describes herself as "a chrysanthemum, a late bloomer, a fall bloomer, a bloomer nonetheless." Has Cornelia ever been a child? For as long as she can remember, Cornelia has had to take care of her mother. And now her mother is gone to start a new life in Vegas with her boyfriend. Cornelia is dropped off to stay with her kooky great-aunt Agatha who lives in a dirty ramshackle cottage in rural New England. Similar to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, this is a story of a troubled teen who wants to hide from the world, but who also wants to be a part of it. Is it possible for her to come to terms with loneliness and the stuttering that paralyzes her and compounds her shyness? Still, Cornelia awakens to new experiences and befriends Bo, a sweet free-spirited girl who helps her gain a new positive perspective on her own self and her great-aunt Agatha.

The chapters are short and some are only one page long. The bouncy style is resonant of a teen's journal entries. This book is a dream come true for students with a limited attention span. Fast-paced and fun-to-read, Tending to Grace is beautiful but sometimes predictable. Should teachers and librarians embrace the happy resolution and the protagonist coming to terms with her strengths and weaknesses, and learning to rise above? Is the optimism and inspirational undertone verging on clich?d and overly hackneyed? Still, what teen wouldn't relate with feeling misunderstood and alone? This aside, many teachers and librarians might find that this book is solidly made for an audience of female students; there is a chance that boys will feel slightly removed from this story, as there are few male characters in the book and all are portrayed in a negative light.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Like Cornelia in TENDING TO GRACE, I have always been "a bookworm, a bibliophile, a passionate lover of books." As a child my favorite reading spot was my tree house, and I spent hours there with piles of books. I walked the mile to our town library every few days for a new supply. My favorite books were Harriet the Spy, Island of the Blue Dolphins and Where the Red Fern Grows.

I knew I wanted to be a writer in the sixth grade. I never wanted to be anything else. I was a young person who stuttered, and writing gave me a voice. When teachers started telling me I was talented, I never looked back. I wrote for the literary magazine my church youth group started, "The Worm's Eye View," and then walked door-to-door selling it for twenty-five cents an issue.

I studied writing in college and graduated from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In 2002, I submitted ten pages of a novel to Alfred A. Knopf executive editor Michelle Frey. Michelle told me what I had written was good, but not good enough. She thought I could write the kind of literary novel that Knopf publishes, and she said if I tried again, she would take another look. I threw out that fledgling novel and started over, writing for almost a year, and when I finished TENDING TO GRACE, I had written a novel about Cornelia, a young girl who stutters. That novel received the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award.

Since then I have published THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE, a Parent's Choice Silver Medal winner, and soon, BEHOLDING BEE, which began in my reporting days when I interviewed a girl who worked with her parents at a traveling carnival.

I am drawn to characters like Cornelia, Charlie Anne, and Bee, who "put on bigger boots and keep going," no matter what the difficulty. They help me remember to never give up....and to write every day!

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