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True (. . . Sort Of) Hardcover – April 26, 2011
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True: Delly Pattison likes surpresents (presents that are a surprise). The day the Boyds come to town, Delly's sure a special surpresent is on its way. But lately, everything that she thinks will be good and fun turns into trouble. She's never needed a surpresent more than now.
True: Brud Kinney wants to play basketball like nothing anybody's ever seen. When the Boyds arrive, though, Brud meets someone who plays like nothing he's ever seen.
True: Ferris Boyd isn't like anyone Delly or Brud have ever met. Ferris is a real mysturiosity (an extremely curious mystery).
True: Katherine Hannigan's first novel since her acclaimed Ida B is a compelling look at the ways friendships and truths are discovered.
It's all true (… sort of).
A Q&A with Author Katherine Hannigan
Q: In your debut novel Ida B, Ida B declares, “There is never enough time for fun.” I suspect Delly, your protagonist in True (…Sort Of) would say the same thing—except fun for Miss Pattison often leads to trouble. What draws you to such fun-loving characters such as these two?
Hannigan: First, there’s this: In my experience, most children expect life to be fun, and they are constantly on the prowl for it. Delly and Ida B are just experts at finding it.
But there’s this, too: When I’m writing a story, I spend a long, long time with the characters—Ida B took one and a half years to write, True (…Sort Of) took longer. So if I’m going to spend that much time with somebody, she has to be fun.
And finally, there’s this: Life can be tough, and there are some tough times in these stories. Fun helps temper the tough times. A lot.
Q: Ida B was written in first-person, but in True (…Sort Of) you write from a third-person-omniscient perspective—and on top of that you’re focusing on two characters, Delly and Brud. How was the experience of writing this time around different from writing Ida B?
Hannigan: There’s something wonderful about writing in the first person—knowing a character so completely, and seeing the world through her eyes and with her heart (especially if she’s someone like Ida B). There’s a real flow to the plot, too, when I’m only considering one character’s point of view. But that’s the limitation of writing in the first person—the world is only as big as that character’s perception.
The great thing about writing a story in the third person is that the world is as big as you want it to be. You can go wherever any of the characters go, you can understand what any of them is feeling. The hard thing about that, though, is it can get pretty complicated. In True, I wanted the reader to know a town, and lots of the people in it. I especially wanted the reader to know four kids: Delly, Brud, RB, and Ferris Boyd. And I wanted to show how the four of them, with all their troubles and their talents, could come to be friends and sort of save one another. To do that really well, I needed to write True in the third person. It was harder than writing in first person, and it sure took longer, but it was worth it.
Q: In both novels, a favorite teacher plays a significant role in the course of the story—offering wisdom and encouragement at important times. Is there a teacher from elementary school that filled that role for you?
Hannigan: I write about great teachers like Ms. Washington (in Ida B) and Lionel Terwilliger (in True) because I know how important teachers are. On any weekday, many children will spend more time with their teacher than with their parents. And so much learning is happening in school—not just cognitive or motor stuff, but social and ethical stuff, too. When a teacher’s really good, kids are learning things like how to be decent people, how to do the right thing after doing lots of wrongs, and how to help one another be their best. Not all the teachers in my stories are great, or even good. I focus on the wonderful ones, though, because that’s what I’d wish for every kid, every day.
I also write about teachers like Ms. Washington and Lionel Terwilliger because while I’m writing, I get to spend time with them, and they are wonderful to be around. That’s one of the gifts of writing.
Q: You don’t shy away from tough issues (abuse, cancer) in your novels. Do you ever struggle with how to approach such troublesome issues for a younger audience?
Hannigan: Not really. Maybe because I don’t see them as “issues.” I see them as hard things that have happened to lots of people, including me and the folks I know. I realize that kids have hard things happen in their lives all the time.
What I am careful about is making sure that my characters’ reactions to difficulties are genuine. They all struggle, and handle things imperfectly, just like me and everybody I know. But they all have hearts that help them figure out what’s right and good, as I believe we all do. And I’m careful to surround all the hard times with humor and with love, because I think that’s what saves us.
Life is beautiful and wonderful and amazing. And sometimes it’s awful and ugly. In my stories, I hope I’m showing kids (and maybe grownups, too) some of the ways we can be more aware of the wonderful, and come away from the awful better than we were before.
Q: In Delly’s world a “surpresent” is a present that is a surprise (the best ever, she says). What would be your best “surpresent” ever?
Hannigan: Well, I was going to answer, “My cats,” because there are five of them, and all of them started as strays. So they were all surprises, and they are all presents (although sometimes I wonder about Tinken, who is 3/4 cat and 1/4 hellion). But I think the best surpresent ever was learning that I could write stories, because I didn’t know that until I was almost 40-years-old. Then I wrote Ida B and it was one of the best times of my life. So that was a great and wonderful surprise.
About the Author
Katherine Hannigan studied mathematics, painting, and studio art and has worked as the education coordinator for a Head Start program and, most recently, as an assistant professor of art and design. She is the author of True (. . . Sort Of), Emmaline and the Bunny, and the national bestseller Ida B . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World. She lives in Iowa with a bunch of cats and the occasional bunny or bird visitor. Her backyard hosts an additional array of creatures, including deer, raccoons, possums, and sometimes a skunk. But no alligators . . . yet!
Top Customer Reviews
Delly has been called bad so many times that she's starting to believe it herself. Instead of walking away from fights, she's causing them and breaking her mother's heart. Feris doesn't talk at all, burying a pain so deep and dark that words have failed to penetrate. Brud stumbles over words when he tries to speak, making him the butt of jokes from other kids. Each of these characters has learned first hand how words can hurt. By reaching out to each other in unexpected ways, they also learn how words can heal.
This beautifully written story was recommended to me by my 8-year-old daughter. She insisted that I read it and I'm so glad that I listened to her. The achingly real portrayals of friendship and families bring a sense of hope to the lives of three children who had almost given up. Highly recommended.
Main character Delly Pattison is endearing and as a former teacher, really hit true. Delly isn't a bad kid, but she's been told she is so many times, she has given up on herself. With just a little encouragement and some help from her younger brother and another unlikely friend, Delly realizes that she does have good in herself and that she doesn't always have to be `bad'.
In the back of the book there is a Dellyictionary to define all the words that Delly has invented. I think my favorite is Dellyventure (an adventure of the best sort) but its an awfully close tie with the Nocussictionary (a dictionary of words to replace cuss words).
Ferris Boyd is not like anyone Delly has ever met before. Ferris doesn't talk and it's awfully hard to tell if Ferris is a boy or girl. The confusion over Ferris' gender causes more than one person to embarrass themselves and get in trouble.
I love every single character in this book. Delly Pattison, Ferris Boyd, brother RB, Officer Tibbets, and others are so believable that I was able to imagine them as people I might know or meet. There are no perfect people, everyone has their foibles, and these characters are no different. From Delly's father to the busy-body grocery clerk, Hannigan has captured their quirks and the essence of them in such a way that any reader can't help but want to know them better.
Delly is a good kid who's pretty rough around the edges. Always in trouble, Delly's shine and sparkle is slowly rubbed away until she knows, in her heart, that she's a bad kid. And then, when she makes her beloved Mother cry, Delly realizes that something has to change. So Delly starts counting (on the wise advice of her little brother) and asking questions. Slowly, Delly realizes that she does have some control over the situations in her life, and she can make better decisions.
But then comes Ferris Boyd, the new kid in Delly's class. Ferris Boyd doesn't speak, and you are not allowed to touch Ferris, but Delly soon finds herself in a unique position to communicate with Ferris. Delly and Ferris, along with Delly's little brother, slowly form a bond, which, eventually, saves Ferris...and Delly?
Delly is a character that has lived inside my soul since finishing this book. My first must read for 2011, this is a book to be savored, and remembered. Remembered not just for the very important message about Ferris Boyd, but especially for the very important lesson we learn through Delly.
"Delly Pattison was trouble: little trouble on the way to BIG trouble and getting closer to it everyday." So goes Hannigan's introduction to protagonist Delly, a young girl who looks forward to the spontaneous arrival of what she likes to call "surpresents" (surprise presents that come totally unexpectedly). Some recent turns of fate in her life seem to be pointing to bad times ahead, but a new family in town may hold the key to changing all that negativity into positivity instead.
Hannigan has a kid-friendly way not only with characters but also with verbiage. In fact, there are plenty of unique words that make kids take notice double quick, like "dellyventures" (Delly's adventures, which seem to require their own definition) and "lugdraggerers" (you'll have to read the book to figure this one out!) Hannigan's attempts are all successful, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some of these terms make their way into our lexicon for good.
The interactions among the characters read like a Preston Sturges story --- the names, the attitudes and the situations are all wacky and funny, but underneath reveal a deeper and more heartfelt look at the world of kids and their social associations. Delly's eccentricities, her "dellyventures," have no fans in her school, so there are some serious obstacles to overcome. But just because an adult doesn't really get what she's doing, is she really trouble?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My 6th graders loved this book when we did a unit on it. They loved the characters and when I read it this past summer I loved it.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
It just good and keeps you on the edge of your seat!😜I would recommend this to any one! Also read Ida BPublished 7 months ago by Shelby Kate
My 11 year olds son reads a lot of books. He's read nearly 30 in the first trimester of school this year alone. He told me today this is the best book he's ever read. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Music Lover
oh how I loved this book! I thought it was going to be kind of kiddish but it was not at all!Published 9 months ago by Keeley Hamiltoncamri
Beautifully written book about friendship with a quiet backstory of the sadness of child abuse. I'm an elementary school teacher and I use this as a read aloud EVERY year. Read morePublished 12 months ago by brian thompson
I loved Delly and how she over came being bad. The book showed how words can hurt people and also what abuse does to as child. Well written.Published 15 months ago by Kindle Customer kim t
This book was awesome. The details and the ending is great!!!! I would recommend this book to anyone. Loved it.Published 16 months ago by jojo