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T-backs, T-shirts, Coat, and Suit Hardcover – October 31, 1993

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Newbery Medal winner Konigsburg introduces another of her typically saturnine heroines in this tart, smart novel. Suburban New Jerseyite Chloe is spending the summer in Florida with her aunt Bernadette. A one-time commune dweller, Bernadette is like nothing from Chloe's universe: she drives a commissary van and sells junk food at roadsides, she expertly teaches Chloe to swim but will not go in the water herself, and she puts wild mushrooms and flowers in her salads. Chloe overcomes her own taste for the ironic to develop an unvarnished affection for Bernadette, who likewise softens, relaxing her strict guard on her own privacy. Konigsburg gives this movingly developed friendship extra weight by centering her tale on timely, thoughtful plot lines: Two shapely new commissary drivers start wearing "T-backs"--G-string-like bathing suits--denting Bernadette's sales and causing an outcry from local conservatives. Bernadette will not don a T-back, nor will she oppose the costume on moral grounds, despite pressure from a fundamentalist group. In a twist that will especially interest admirers of Konigsburg's Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth . . . , Chloe decides to punish the smug son of one of the T-back wearers by convincing him that Bernadette is a witch--only to discover, too late, that the son is aligned with the fundamentalists. The issues are as complicated as the characters; teenagers as well as the target audience will enjoy this book. Ages 9-12.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-It's summer, and Chloe, 12, is about to sign a compact with her best friends that if one girl has a "bad hair day," all three must jump in the water. If she refuses, they'll shun her; if she signs, she faces the possibility of immersion in the local pool-a much-feared consequence, since she cannot swim. Her stepfather comes to the rescue, sending her to Florida to visit his sister, and advising her to "give the unexpected a chance." Chloe begins to develop real affection for and understanding of the woman, a former flower-child activist. When a heated debate ensues over the decency of wearing revealing bathing suits to work, Bernadette is caught between COAT (Citizens Opposing All T-Backs) and the pressure of her co-workers for "solidarity." With the help of her lawyer-friend, she stands up for her own beliefs, teaching Chloe an invaluable lesson and opening up her own closed-off life to the possibility of loving another person. Konigsburg has developed unusual characters who reveal their innermost secrets as the story unfolds. Despite the initially trivial premise, the plot is carefully constructed and the humorous dialogue will engage readers. While it offers a lighter look at self-discovery than that found in the author's Throwing Shadows (Macmillan, 1988), T-Backs could serve as a possible discussion-starter on the importance of commitment and personal values.
Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, Wheeler School, Providence, RI
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum; 1st ed edition (October 31, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689318553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689318559
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,331,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

A Kid's Review on March 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
Chloe doesn't have anything to do this summer other than signing hair contracts with friends. She has to do to something, but what? It's too late to sign up for camp so Chloe's stepfather suggests spending a few weeks with his sister, Bernadette, in Peco, Florida. So off Chloe goes on a plane from New Jersey to Florida.
As Chloe and Bernadette spend more time together they get to like each other. Chloe helps Bernadette at her job working on a meal van and Bernadette teaches Chloe how to swim. One night Bernadette invited her boss Zack, his girlfriend, Wanda and his girlfriend's sister named Velma and Velma's son, Tyler to dinner. When Tyler and Chloe went to walk Bernadette's dog, Tyler got the notion that Bernadette was a witch, once Chloe found out that he thought Bernadette was a witch she tried to feed him information because she didn't like Tyler and wanted to make him look like a fool.
The real trouble happens at Bernadette's job, Wanda and Velma started to wear T-Backs to work which got much more customers for them but took away from Bernadette's customers. Street vendors all over town started wearing T-Backs and soon the Church started a protest against it, they called their organization COAT, Citizens opposing all T-Backs. COAT wants to get wearing T-Backs anywhere illegal. Can they get this law passed?
Where are Chloe and Bernadette in all this mayhem? They are right in the middle; Bernadette doesn't want to wear a T-Back but doesn't have anything against other people wearing T-Backs. The story of the T-Backs is everywhere but back to Tyler and his crazy witch belief. Tyler tells his church and they soon come to Bernadette's house along with Zack, Velma, and Wanda. Bernadette is accused of being a witch! In the end the law for wearing t-backs is passed.
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Format: Paperback
Chloe is desperately looking for a way to get away from her friends and the pressure of fitting in for the summer. She asks her mother and stepfather what to do, and her stepfather decides that she should spend the summer in Florida with his older sister, Bernadette. Chloe isn't thrilled about the idea, but it seems as though it is her only choice. She boards a plane and sets off from New Jersey to live with her aunt for a few weeks.

Bernadette is a very strange woman, but Chloe promised her stepfather she would give the woman a chance, so she does. Soon she is used to the routine--getting up early every morning to help Bernadette load up and then sell food from a lunch wagon, then off to the beach where Bernadette is teaching her to swim before dinner in the evenings. Things seem to be going really well.

Then two of the women who drive lunch wagons start wearing t-back bathing suits--thongs--to work. Suddenly they are getting all of the business and Bernadette doesn't have as many customers anymore. Soon everyone except Bernadette is wearing a t-back to work, and their story is getting coverage on the news. A local religious group is doing its best to stop what they see as a moral crisis. Bernadette is refusing to get involved on either side. She won't wear a t-back but she also won't sign a petition against them. As things heat up in town, though, it's beginning to look like Bernadette may be forced to choose a side.

I liked Bernadette's character and how she didn't change her life or herself to accommodate Chloe. I also liked seeing how the escalation of the t-back war changed things in town. I thought Tyler's character was really annoying and I couldn't figure out why Chloe would even go to the trouble of harassing him when she should have just stayed out of his way.
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Format: Paperback
Hippies, witches and religious fundamentalists - E.L. Konigsburg brings them all together in T-Backs, T-Shirts, Coat and Suit. Twelve-year-old Chlo? does not like conformity. In order to escape the peer pressure of trying to be just like her friends, she wants to go away from her New Jersey home for the summer. She agrees with her adoptive father to go stay with his sister Bernadette in Florida and help her out when she needs it.

Bernadette is much different than people Chlo? is used to and does things in her own way. She works selling food from a van and is successful. However, that changes when other sellers begin wearing t-backs (thongs) and take away her business. Bernadette refuses to follow along, but refuses to disclose why.

Controversy erupts, as the religious fundamentalists from the Church of the Endless Horizon protest the lack of morality. They try to enlist Bernadette, but she refuses.

Meanwhile, Chlo? meets the thirteen-year-old Tyler, who is very sure of himself. In order to get the better of him, she manages to convince him that Bernadette is a witch, which later leads to disaster.

Throughout the book, characters talk about history in short anecdotes that give some of the reasons for what they did. Some of the anecdotes were from the characters' lives (this is where the hippies come in). Like some of Konigsburg's other stories, the lives of the characters are connected together in a variety of ways. Other stories included famous historical figures like Galileo, enabling the reader to learn something. All of this information shows how the past affects the present.

In this book, Konigsburg crafted another compelling story. The characters are strong and stand up for themselves, and provide good role models for standing up to peer pressure. In conclusion, the book is amusing and should appeal to a variety of readers.
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