Everything Else in the Universe
Everything Else in the Universe
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Annotation: In 1971, twelve-year-old Lucy Rossi's dad returns from Vietnam after losing part of his arm, and her whole family must learn to adjust to a new dynamic, but Lucy's friend Milo unknowingly helps her navigate through this difficult time of fear and uncertainty to realize she is much tougher than she thought.
Catalog Number: #167236
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 258 pages
Availability: Indefinitely Out of Stock
ISBN: 0-399-16394-8
ISBN 13: 978-0-399-16394-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017057236
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Twelve-year-old Lucy's surgeon father is coming home from Vietnam nus his arm. Steady, solemn Lucy has held things together in the year he's been gone by studying the rocks he's sent her, trying to fit in with his boisterous Italian family, and being a team with her patrician mother. But the move to California has left her friendless until she meets Milo, whose father is still in Vietnam. When they find military artifacts, including photos and a Purple Heart, buried nearby, the duo decide to locate the rightful owner. Lucy's adjustments are thoughtfully examined, and her evolving efforts to stabilize her family in general, and her father in particular, are well crafted. The backdrop of Vietnam fits more easily at some times than others, but its long reach is explained and acknowledged. There's a lot of sadness and uncertainty that blankets Lucy's story, but Holczer does a fine job of piercing the weight with bits of family levity, and with the ethereal beauty of the dragonflies lo's obsession at flit in and out of the story.
Horn Book
After her father returns from serving in Vietnam with his right arm amputated, twelve-year-old Lucy finds solace in a friendship with neighbor Milo, whose father was also sent to Vietnam and who is keeping a tragic secret. The historical setting and the national arguments about Vietnam swirl around Lucy and Milo as they try to find their places in the world. Their experience is heartbreakingly poignant but ultimately triumphant.
Kirkus Reviews
It's 1971, and the Vietnam War has upended Lucy Rossi's life; when her Army doctor dad returns an amputee, the unsettling changes intensify.After her dad shipped out, Lucy, 12, and her mom moved from Chicago to San Jose, California, close to his eccentric, loving Italian-American family. Lucy still hasn't made friends. She treasures the small rocks her dad encloses in his letters and longs for his return. But he arrives home changed: He won't use his prosthesis and rebuffs her attempts to help; he talks to her mom in private but shuts Lucy out. She finds solace in her friendship with another newcomer, Milo, whose dad's still in Vietnam. Finding an unknown soldier's discarded helmet, photos, and Purple Heart, they decide to identify and locate him and deliver the items to his family. Along the way, they're welcomed at an informal refuge for veterans but turned away from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, where Vietnam veterans are despised. As her dad's condition worsens and the hunt stalls, friends and family teach Lucy to value human connections she's dismissed. Lyrically written, the novel portrays the war's corrosive, divisive impacts with compassion but skirts the harder issue of those within and outside the military who resisted a war they saw as wrong. Major characters are white; two memorable secondary characters are African-American.A touching, memorable read that explores the costs, large and small, of an unpopular war. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Publishers Weekly
Holczer-s perceptive novel, set in 1971, opens as 12-year-old Lucy Rossi-s father returns home from Vietnam missing his right arm. Lucy and her parents have always been a mutually supportive team. Expecting this dynamic to continue, careful Lucy (who relies on her -behavioral comfort routines-) studies up on amputees and prosthetics, only to find her father resistant to her efforts. Bewildered by the change in her family, Lucy feels left out and unloved, particularly after she-s sent to stay with her uncle-s boisterous family. A new friendship with Milo, whose dad is fighting in Vietnam, helps; his interest in dragonflies mirrors Lucy-s in rocks, and after they discover a soldier-s personal effects, they work together to find the owner. Affectingly tracing Lucy-s struggles with her altered family, Holczer also credibly portrays the conflicting views on the war, from protestors to former vets. Well-grounded in its era and peopled by fully realized characters, the book is a resonant historical novel and a thoughtful exploration of how war and injury affect family, friendships, and individual growth. Ages 10-up. (June)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6 Twelve-year-old Lucy should be having the best summer of her lifeher beloved father has just returned from Vietnam, and she is looking forward to spending time with him. But her father is struggling both with the loss of his arm and what that loss means for his career as a surgeon. Lucy is an autodidact and a fixer, so she goes into research overdrive and wants to spend her summer helping her father recalibratebut her father needs space and sends Lucy to stay with her extended family instead. There, Lucy embarks on a mission with a new neighbor to return a Purple Heart to a mysterious Vietnam veteran. The novel introduces a nuanced view of the Vietnam War to readers via conversations Lucy has with her peacenik cousin, veterans at the VFW, and her grandfather. Lucy's profound anxiety over her father's mental and physical state is treated gently by Holczer, as Lucy works towards healing and opening herself up to help and love. This is a quiet, tender work of historical fiction about grief, love, and learning to let go. VERDICT A worthy addition to any middle grade collection, especially for readers who loved Jennifer Holm's Penny from Heaven. Susannah Goldstein, Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice, NY
Word Count: 58,750
Reading Level: 5.5
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.5 / points: 9.0 / quiz: 199395 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.6 / points:15.0 / quiz:Q76661
Lexile: 860L
Guided Reading Level: X
Fountas & Pinnell: X
Chapter One

Stuck Like a Fish

A pale green balloon shaped like a fish was trapped in the branches of the willow tree down by the creek. A trout, maybe. From her bedroom window, Lucy watched it flutter there, caught by its string, wondering if it might break free and go for a swim. She took an inventory of her garden around the tree, California fuchsia and morning glory, plants she'd carefully chosen over the course of the year for their hardiness and survival skills, a practical reminder that she would survive, too.

If she were a superstitious person, like the rest of her irrational family, maybe she would have seen that fish as a sign of good luck, or a gift from the heavens meant to bring her hope. It was a fish, after all, and her family was especially irrational about fish stories, the way most people were irrational about four-leaf clovers or wishing on dandelion fluff.

But Lucia Mercedes Evangeline Rossi was, most definitely, not a superstitious person. She never threw salt over her shoulder, like Great-Aunt Lilliana, causing a slip hazard, nor did she believe that bird feathers in the house brought the evil eye. She didn't believe it was good luck to hear a cat sneeze, nor bad luck to trim her toenails on a Thursday.
Lucy had recently had the misfortune of watching the aunts chant over the youngest of her three cousins, all named Joe, who had the flu. They lit candles and put a tomato on his belly button.

A to-ma-to on his bel-ly but-ton.

And then he threw up all over them anyway.

It was proof that Reason should govern all things. Just like Dad always said.

Maybe if Lucy had grown up in San Jose with the rest of the Rossis, she'd happily wear amulets made of rue to protect her from falling pianos or unlucky eyebrows and she'd believe things "deep down in her Rossi bones." But she and Mom had been saved from all that, having only moved to San Jose when Dad was sent to Vietnam. Living first in Boston, then Chicago while Dad went to medical school and finished his residencies made them "resilient, well-rounded women" who were "not given to hysterics."

Although Lucy was a practical person, an orderly person, a thinker of thoughts just like her father, she had done three things repeatedly while Dad was in Vietnam. She did not see this as a ritual or superstition as much as she believed it to be a recipe of sorts, meant to make her feel better. Like Papo Angelo's square noodle soup.

Lucy had written it all down in an essay for Mrs. Peacock in sixth grade last year, arguing the importance of what she called her behavioral comfort routine--perfect for anyone who might be in need of a plan--which Lucy valued just as much as her poster of Mohs' Mineral Table of Hardness for her rock collection, or her entire set of gold-embossed Encyclopaedia Britannica, a gift from her father on her sixth birthday.

When Linda McCollam--with her flaming mustard argyle socks and plaid miniskirt--read Lucy's essay on the Open House board and asked, "Why can't you just be normal?" Lucy stared at her, dumbfounded by both the question and how anyone with flaming mustard argyle socks and a plaid miniskirt might be the one to ask it.

In trying to understand why self-important Linda McCollam, who was the actual granddaughter of Millard McCollam of Millard McCollam Elementary fame, would say such a thing, Lucy turned to her essay on the board and tried to see it from a different perspective. It simply detailed how:

1) Each morning, Lucy put a dab of Aqua Velva on her wrist to keep her nasal passages from forgetting the smell of her father.

2) Each afternoon, Lucy went to her windowsill and counted the small stones Dad had sent in each of his letters. He'd asked her to look up what sorts of rocks he was finding on the other side of the world, categorize them against Mohs' Mineral Table of Hardness and report her findings. Discovery: both sides of the world had the same rocks.

And finally: 3) Each evening, right before bed, Lucy stared at her favorite picture, the one of her sitting on Dad's lap, five years old with a rather serious expression, pressing a stethoscope to his chest while looking up into his face. She stared intently at this picture so she would remember Dad's clean-shaven face, the loud-slow thump of his heart.

After Linda McCollam had flounced away, Mrs. Peacock had come up behind Lucy and reminded her of the unit they'd studied on homeostasis in biology a few months before. Homeostasis was from the Greek word for "same" or "steady." It was the process by which living things maintained a stable condition necessary for survival. Lucy understood the process to mean physical survival, like the body constantly working to remain steady at 98.6 degrees, no matter the weather or hotheaded encounters with Linda McCollam, and so she hadn't thought of it any other way. Until then.

"Homeostasis isn't just about your physical condition, but your feeling, and thinking as well. Sometimes we need to do things that make us feel better, even if they don't make sense to anyone else."

Lucy was comforted by this and so began referring to her behavioral comfort routine as her Homeostasis Extravaganza.

All perfectly normal. Even Mrs. Peacocksaid so.

Lucy watched the creek bubble silently, the balloon still stuck, and turned on the small stereo next to the window, where she pushed a Beethoven eight-track into its slot. The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor was especially relaxing as she counted her windowsill stones for the last time, placing them one by one into the empty cigar box she'd snatched from Papo's house. She then placed the bottle of Aqua Velva beside the stones, along with her essay and stethoscope picture, and closed the sweet-smelling lid, she hoped, forever. She wouldn't have to partake in her Extravaganza anymore because the waiting was over. Even though Dad was coming home changed, in exactly two hours and seven minutes, he was finally coming home, and everything would go back to normal.

But as soon as she slid the box under her bed, she went all jangly on the inside, as though her bones had come loose from their tethers. Even though there was absolutely, positively no reason for it, she couldn't talk herself out of the jangles until she'd taken every single stone out of the box and put them back on the windowsill, in order of hardness, sprayed Aqua Velva on her wrist, and set the stethoscope picture back on her nightstand table.

All where they belonged. For the first time, she wondered if there was such a thing as too much homeostasis, and if perhaps Linda McCollam had been right after all.

Excerpted from Everything Else in the Universe by Tracy Holczer
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

In the midst of the Vietnam War, a young girl struggles to embrace change in this tender family story for fans of Cynthia Lord and Wendy Maas

Lucy is a practical, orderly person--just like her dad. He taught her to appreciate reason and good sense, instilling in her the same values he learned at medical school. But when he's sent to Vietnam to serve as an Army doctor, Lucy and her mother are forced to move to San Jose, California, to be near their relatives--the Rossis--people known for their superstitions and all around quirky ways.
     Lucy can't wait for life to go back to normal, so she's over the moon when she learns her father is coming home early. It doesn't even matter that he's coming back "different." That she can't ask too many questions or use the word "amputation." It just matters that he'll be home. But Lucy quickly realizes there's something very wrong when her mother sends her to spend the summer with the Rossis to give her father some space. Lucy's beside herself, but what's a twelve-year-old to do?
     It's a curious boy named Milo, a mysterious packet of photographs and an eye-opening mission that makes Lucy see there's more to life than schedules and plans, and helps to heal her broken family. The latest from critically-acclaimed author Tracy Holczer is a pitch-perfect middle grade tale of family and friendship that's sure to delight fans of One for the Murphys and Rules.

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