Visiting Miss Caples

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9780803725027: Visiting Miss Caples

Thirteen-year-old Jenna has always been a devoted second-banana to her glamorous friend Liv. Ninety-year-old Elspeth Caples is a fragile shut-in eclipsed by a past filled with wrong turns and missed opportunities.

Jenna has just begun her dreaded participation in a class project she and her friends call "fossil-sitting." So far this has meant being trapped in a dusty room reading heroic-pet stories to one Miss Elspeth Caples, a strange old lady determined to ignore her existence. But when, in desperation, Jenna decides to tell her "audience" about her rapidly unraveling life, everything changes--inside and out of that dusty room.

In this beautifully layered story of friendships--gained, lost, changed--members of the "whatever" and the "fossil" generations embark on a tenderly funny, frequently awkward journey full of unsettling, exhilarating discoveries that make life at any age captivating and worthwhile.

"In Visiting Miss Caples, one generation reaches out movingly to another at that scary, necessary moment when you declare your independence, and begin to look around for your life."-- Richard Peck, 1998 Newbery Honor winner

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From Publishers Weekly:

While Kimmel's new novel does not have quite the draw of the layered mystery of her debut (In the Stone Circle), she adds a few innovative twists to the age-old conflict between winning popularity and doing the right thing. Eighth-grader narrator Jen has been best friends with Liv since they were small children, but ever since Liv has "clearly established herself as the leader" of middle school, Jen has been playing the role of her follower. Liv goes one step too far when she asks Jen to play a cruel trick on an unpopular girl at school. When Jen refuses, Liv turns all the girls in their crowd against her. The sting of rejection hits Jen at a time when she is plagued by other worries: her parents' impending divorce and her struggles with a school project (reading to an elderly shut-in, Miss Caples, once a week). After making a few feeble attempts at sharing segments of the Reader's Digest with Miss Caples, Jen opens up to her about her problems and, predictably, is rewarded with a great deal of understanding and sympathy. Unfortunately, the intermittent chapters that chronicle Miss Caples's thoughts seem less realistic, with a prevailing angry tone. As Jen's bond with Miss Caples strengthens, so does the teen's relationship with her mother and the unpopular girl at school, whom Liv has been tormenting. If the end of the story is pat, Jen's inner growth is convincing. Drawing a parallel between Miss Caples's past woes and Jen's current angst, the author conveys the universality of growing pains while promoting intergenerational communication. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

It's a year of seismic change for 13-year-old Jenna. Her father leaves home, and Liv, her gorgeous, popular best friend, ostracizes her when Jenna refuses to carry out a cruel prank. A class assignment brings Jenna to Mrs. Caples, an elderly shut-in, and a believable cross-generational friendship develops as Jenna relates her troubles to Mrs. Caples, who responds with stories from her own history that mirror Jenna's experiences: she, too, had a beautiful, "dangerous" friend who asked her to do things she still regrets. The subplots come together at the end, with Jenna, her mother, and Mrs. Caples finding strength and an expanded sense of self in one another's stories. Although Jenna's voice seems too mature at times (would a 13-year-old, hugging her mother, really remark on "the quiet intimacy of the embrace" ?), Kimmel ably articulates a young person's experience on both sides of the "in" peer circle as well as her anxieties about the elderly, the complexities of friendship, and beauty as a valuable currency. Young readers coping with difficult changes at school and at home will respond to this thoughtful story. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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