13 Little Blue Envelopes
13 Little Blue Envelopes
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Annotation: When seventeen-year-old Ginny receives a packet of mysterious envelopes from her favorite aunt, she leaves New Jersey to criss-cross Europe on a sort of scavenger hunt that transforms her life.
Catalog Number: #4135787
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition Date: 2011
Pages: 317 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-06-054143-1
ISBN 13: 978-0-06-054143-9
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2005002658
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Seventeen-year-old Ginny had always admired her aunt Peg, a free-spirited artist who often disappeared for months, most recently to Europe. Now Aunt Peg has died of brain cancer, and in a characteristically cryptic gesture made before her death, she arranged for her niece to receive a plane ticket to London, where Ginny will begin a series of adventures. Guided by Peg's friends and the instructions in each of 13 letters her aunt wrote, Ginny sets off across Europe. Staying with Peg's contacts or in hostels, Ginny begins to peel away some of the mythic layers surrounding her aunt, even as she falls into thrilling escapades and a blossoming romance. Johnson's plot stretches plausibility. Would Ginny's practical mother really have agreed to such a solo, undefined journey? But readers will probably overlook any improbabilities and willingly accompany Ginny through her sensitive, authentically portrayed experiences--uncomfortable, lonely, giddy, and life changing--as she pieces together family mysteries and discovers herself.
Horn Book
When she receives a package of thirteen envelopes from her late aunt, timid seventeen-year-old Ginny heads off on her own to London and is sent on a scavenger hunt throughout Europe. Though it seems unlikely that someone as shy as Ginny would ever take this trip, her travels are entertaining, edifying, and an emotional roller coaster.
Kirkus Reviews
Aunt Peg was full of wonder, and 17-year-old Ginny always felt more interesting around her. When Ginny receives a letter from Aunt Peg containing $1,000 and instructions for a mysterious journey, she is propelled into a series of experiences that will change her life. She receives a package containing 13 little blue envelopes, to be opened one at a time and only when she's completed the task in each letter. She goes to London, Scotland, Italy, Rome, Paris and elsewhere, ultimately realizing that she can be interesting by herself; she doesn't have to be with Peg to feel interesting. The envelopes draw Ginny around the world and the reader along with her, the letters providing a nice change of pace to the third-person narrative. Johnson's writing is sophisticated and humorous, her characterizations pitch perfect. Aunt Peg seems as real as Ginny, though we find early on that she has died and exists for Ginny only through her letters and memory. A sure hit with fans of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. (Fiction. 12+)
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10-This whirlwind adventure begins as Ginny, 17, reads a letter from her free-spirited, unpredictable Aunt Peg, who has recently passed away. She is given several destinations, four rules, and the instruction to open one envelope upon her arrival at each place. Thus begins a rapid tour of Europe as the teen struggles to accomplish the tasks established by her aunt. The motivation: Ginny wants to understand the woman's wanderlust and, possibly, she just wants a connection to her beloved relative. Throughout her adventures in Rome, Paris, Greece, England, and the Netherlands, the teen collects pieces of Peg's past and learns more about her rapid departure. She also learns much about herself. The reason Ginny is sent to meet certain people is not always clear; sometimes she (and readers) wonder about the point of the exercise. Overall, though, the novel drives home the importance of family, love, and the value of connections that you make with people. It is a quick read that will interest high school girls.-Emily Garrett, Naaman Forest High School, Garland, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

Self-effacing Ginny, 17, heads off to Europe with a giant purple-and-green backpack and an intriguing itinerary: she must follow the instructions set forth in a series of 13 sealed envelopes provided to her by her recently deceased Aunt Peg, an artist and free spirit. Ginny's journey starts in London, where she falls in with Keith, a scruffy but appealing performer who, as the designated love interest, is destined to pop up throughout the novel. Zig-zagging from Edinburgh to Rome (task: "Ask a Roman boy out for cake") to Paris (find the tiny café Peg spent a month decorating and painting) to Amsterdam and beyond, Ginny follows her aunt's footsteps while learning to rely on her own pluck and imagination. Readers will findGinny an excellent traveling companion: her wry observations reveal a keen eye for the defining details of the backpacking experience. Letter by letter, country by country, Ginny comes into her own as she begins to accept the loss of her beloved mentor. Her realization that she is indeed an adventurer, even without Peg's presence, is the emotional ballast that provides gravity to the novel's delicious fairytale ending. Equal parts poignant, funny and inspiring, this tale is sure to spark wanderlust. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

Voice of Youth Advocates
Shy, seventeen-year-old Ginny is on a journey of self-discovery. Her favorite, artistic, quirky Aunt Peg recently died from a brain tumor. Two years earlier, Peg secretly packed her bags, closed her apartment, and traveled to Europe, leaving no forwarding address and becoming incommunicado. After Peg's death, Ginny receives an envelope containing $1,000 with instructions to purchase a one-way ticket to London and to pick up a package on the way to the airport. The package contains thirteen numbered envelopes, each containing directives, written by Peg during her illness, for Ginny to follow in numerical order. In what is essentially a re-creation of Peg's own journey, Ginny must give ú500 to a struggling London artist of her choosing, ask a Roman boy to have cake, and visit people, museums, and countries that shaped her aunt. During her travels and while performing these non-Ginny acts, she makes new acquaintances and encounters love, self-awareness, and several surprises. Teen self-discovery fiction is plentiful. This new twist generates excitement, but unfortunately it does not quite deliver. Aside from Aunt Peg, characters-including Ginny-are flat and dispassionate. There is little spark in what are supposedly unique people and locales. Interactions are brief and typically disconnected, and many lead nowhere. Nothing is explored in depth. Some descriptive language cannot compensate for lackluster action. The denouement and the book itself cry out for emotional outbursts. Middle school, high school, and public libraries choosing not to purchase this book will not miss it.-Ed Goldberg.
Word Count: 63,156
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.0 / points: 9.0 / quiz: 101453 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.8 / points:15.0 / quiz:Q38603
Lexile: 770L
13 Little Blue Envelopes

Chapter One

A Package Like a Dumpling

As a rule, Ginny Blackstone tried to go unnoticed—something that was more or less impossible with thirty pounds (she'd weighed it) of purple-and-green backpack hanging from her back. She didn't want to think about all the people she'd bumped into while she'd been carrying it. This thing was not made for wearing around New York City. Well, anywhere, really . . . but especially the East Village of New York City on a balmy June afternoon.

And a chunk of her hair was caught under the strap on her right shoulder, so her head was also being pulled down a little. That didn't help.

It had been over two years since Ginny had last been to the 4th Noodle Penthouse. (Or "that place above the grease factory," as Ginny's parents preferred to refer to it. It wasn't entirely unfair. 4th Noodle was pretty greasy. But it was the good kind of greasy, and they had the best dumplings in the world.)

Her mental map had faded a bit in the last two years, but 4th Noodle's name also contained its address. It was on 4th Street and Avenue A. The alphabet avenues were east of the numbers, deeper into the super-trendy East Village—where people smoked and wore latex and never shuffled down the street with bags the size of mailboxes strapped to their backs.

She could just see it now . . . the unassuming noodle shop next to Pavlova's Tarot (with the humming purple neon sign), just across the street from the pizza place with the giant mural of a rat on the side.

There was a tiny tinkle of a chime and a sharp blast of air-conditioning as Ginny opened the door. Standing behind the counter was a pixie of a woman manning three phones at once. This was Alice, the owner, and Aunt Peg's favorite neighbor. She smiled broadly when she saw Ginny and held up a finger, indicating that she should wait.

"Ginny," Alice said, hanging up two of the phones and setting down the third. "Package. Peg."

She disappeared through a bamboo curtain that covered a door into the back. Alice was Chinese, but she spoke perfect English (Aunt Peg had told her so). But because she always had to get right to the point (4th Noodle did a brisk business), she spoke in halting single words.

Nothing had changed since the last time Ginny had been here. She looked up at the illuminated pictures of Chinese food, the shiny plastic visions of sesame shrimp and chicken and broccoli. They glowed, not quite tantalizingly, more radioactively. The chicken pieces were a little too glossy and orange. The sesame seeds too white and too large. The broccoli was so green it seemed to vibrate. There was the blown-up and framed picture of Rudy Giuliani standing with a glowing Alice, taken when he had shown up one day.

It was the smell, though, that was most familiar. The heavy, fatty smell of sizzling beef and pork and peppers and the sweetish odor of vats of steaming rice. This was the scent that seeped through Aunt Peg's floor and perfumed her.

It rang such a chord in Ginny's memory that she almost swung her head around to see if Aunt Peg was standing there behind her.

But, of course, she couldn't be.

"Here," Alice said, emerging from the beaded curtain with a brown paper package in her hand. "For Ginny."

The package—an overstuffed padded brown envelope—was indeed addressed to her, Virginia Blackstone, care of Alice at 4th Noodle, New York City. It was postmarked from London and had the faintest aura of grease.

"Thanks," Ginny said, accepting the package as gracefully as she could, given that she couldn't lean over without falling face-first onto the counter. "Say hi to Peg for me," Alice said, picking up the phone and launching straight into an order.

"Right . . ." Ginny nodded. "Um, sure."

Once she was out on the street, scanning Avenue A nervously for the cab she was going to have to hail for herself, Ginny wondered if she should have told Alice what had happened. But she was soon distracted by the sheer terror that her task caused her. Cabs were yellow beasts that sped through New York, whisking people who had to be places to the places they had to be and leaving terrified pedestrians scrambling for cover.

No, she thought, raising a timid hand as far as she could as a herd of her prey suddenly appeared. There was no reason to tell Alice what had happened. She barely believed it herself. And besides, she had to go.

13 Little Blue Envelopes. Copyright © by Maureen Johnson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
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.

Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke–about–town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous–though utterly romantic–results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it's all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.

Ages 12+

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