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Annotation: In 1963, when her flamboyant mother abandons the family to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, eleven-year-old Ellie Dingman takes charge of her younger siblings, while also trying to deal with her outcast status in school and frightening acts of prejudice toward the "misfits" that live on her street.
Catalog Number: #132618
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: Inventory Sale Inventory Sale
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition Date: 2005
Pages: 308 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-439-57945-7 Perma-Bound: 0-605-56124-9
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-439-57945-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-56124-3
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2004041620
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
In 1963 Ellie's mother, Doris Day Dingman, was crowned the Bosetti Beauty at Mr. Bosetti's supermarket. This opening line sets the tone for Martin's sharp, tender story, told from the viewpoint of Ellie, 11, who is caught between love, shame, and fury when her self-obsessed mother eventually leaves their small-town home to search for stardom in New York. The Dingmans live on Witch Tree Lane with a knot of outcasts like themselves, and Ellie and her neighbor and best friend, Holly, are cruelly bullied at school, just as hate crimes threaten the adults on the street. There's also a strong sense of the times, including the furor when Kennedy is shot. There may be too much going on for one novel, but as in her Newbery Honor Book, A Corner of the Universe (2002), Martin takes on themes more common in YA fiction, bringing them close for middle-grade readers without oversimplifying any of the characters. The family story is unforgettable. The quiet surprise is that Doris may think she is the center of attention, but it's really Dad, who is beautifully drawn as he moves from the background to take charge of his kids and find home on his street. Like Ellie, he must let Doris go.
Horn Book
Ellie's cheaply glamorous, self-centered mother is desperate to break into show business, heedless of the consequences to her family. With her fluidly accessible writing style, Martin evokes family and school life in the early sixties to perfection and creates a number of nuanced characters to surround Ellie, her very ordinary yet compelling main character.
Kirkus Reviews
Sixth-grader Eleanor Roosevelt Dingman lives on the wrong side of the tracks in Spectacle, New York, in 1963. Bigotry abounds, and there are many acts of vandalism against the lone Jewish family and a pair of elderly women who live together. It's even worse at school, with Ellie and her best friend Holly the victims of endless bullying and hazing. But of most concern to Ellie is the future of her family. Her mother, Doris Day Dingman, is self-promoting, and totally self-absorbed. When she leaves to pursue her show-business dreams, Ellie is devastated, but understands that this outcome was inevitable. Martin has created a sensitive, sympathetic character in a setting rich with detail that place her firmly in the period. Occasional loose ends in the plot put this a step below her best work, but Martin's fans will recognize Ellie's emotional struggle and breathe a sigh of relief at the ending. (Fiction. 10-12)
Publishers Weekly

Martin, who explored with such insight the themes of ostracism and family conflict in Belle Teal and A Corner of the Universe, affectingly reexamines them in this third novel set in the 1960s. Eleanor ("Ellie") Roosevelt Dingman, a sixth-grade resident of Spectacle, N.Y., wrestles with her feelings about her family and neighborhood, which is filled with social misfits. ("Every time Ellie neared her street she was struck by two opposing feelings, and wasn't sure how her heart had room for both of them. She felt a tugging fondness for her small house and the four other houses on the street. And she felt a pang of embarrassment at being one of the people who lived on Witch Tree Lane.") Ellie's chief source of anxiety is her mother, Doris Day Dingman, who acts more like a beauty queen than a mother. Tension mounts as Doris becomes increasingly obsessed with becoming a famous actress and grows neglectful of her children. Around the time of Kennedy's assassination, she decides to leave her family to pursue her dream in New York City. Readers may find it unsettling that Ellie fails to make a significant connection with either parent. Her attitude toward her star-struck mother and remote father is as ambivalent at the end of the story as it is in the beginning. But Ellie shows fierce loyalty to her neighbors, especially her best friend, who becomes a target for cruel jokes at school. Her strength comes from her ability to move forward with her life. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)

School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-A poignant story set in the 1960s that tells of a girl coming to accept her mother's inability to parent and to realize her own strength and separateness. Ellie Dingman, 11, has a beautiful mother who is always looking for her big break into show business. She has renamed herself Doris Day Dingman and insists that her children call her "Doris" rather than "Mom." Her immature delusions of grandeur in their small Hudson River Valley town are a source of deep embarrassment to Ellie, who is painfully aware of how cheap most people find Doris. She is often not home; much of the care of her younger siblings falls to Ellie, whose father works long hours. When mean girls target her best friend, Ellie and Holly try to be as inconspicuous as Doris is conspicuous. After President Kennedy is assassinated, the aspiring starlet realizes that life is short; she leaves the family, heading to New York City, where Ellie finds her months later, not living glamorously but working in a department store. Doris returns home only once, to gather all her things and move to Hollywood. Martin paints a well-articulated picture of the times, but it is her memorable child and adult characters that shine here. Like Hattie in A Corner of the Universe (Scholastic, 2002), Ellie is a perceptive and compassionate protagonist who ultimately comes into her own.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Word Count: 60,917
Reading Level: 4.9
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.9 / points: 9.0 / quiz: 82163 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:6.1 / points:15.0 / quiz:Q35487
Lexile: 790L
Guided Reading Level: W

Newbery Honor medalist Ann M. Martin's "unforgettable" (Booklist, starred) family story, now in paperback

"In 1963, Ellie's mother, Doris Day Dingman, was crowned the Bosetti Beauty at Mr. Bosetti's supermarket, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the Dingmans began to fall apart." So begins 11-yr-old Eleanor Roosevelt Dingman's story. Ellie, who is about to start 6th grade in the small town of Spectacle, NY, is the oldest child in her off-center family. Her father works construction jobs, while her mother, Doris, has only one dream - to become a rich and famous actress. But when that dream leads to Doris's abandonment of the family, it is Ellie who is called upon to take charge.

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