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A Tiny Piece of Sky
by Shawn Stout
Jan. 19, 2016
World War II is coming in Europe. At least that’s what Frankie Baum heard on the radio. But from her small town in Maryland, in the wilting summer heat of 1939, the war is a world away.
Besides, there are too many other things to think about: first that Frankie’s father up and bought a restaurant without telling anyone and now she has to help in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and washing dishes, when she’d rather be racing to Wexler’s Five and Dime on her skates. Plus her favorite sister, Joanie Baloney, is away for the summer and hasn’t been answering any of Frankie’s letters.
But when some people in town start accusing her father of being a German spy, all of a sudden the war arrives at Frankie’s feet and she can think of nothing else.
Could the rumors be true? Frankie has to do some spying of her own to try to figure out her father’s secrets and clear his good name. What she discovers about him surprises everyone, but is nothing compared to what she discovers about the world.
In a heartfelt, charming, and insightful novel that is based on true events, Shawn K. Stout weaves a story about family secrets, intolerance, and coming of age that will keep readers guessing until the end.
Praise for A Tiny Piece of Sky
“Shawn Stout's Frankie Baum is that rare creation: a character so real, so true, we don't just feel we know her—we are her. Irrepressible Frankie meets issues like prejudice and loyalty head on, in a story both highly entertaining and deeply thought-provoking. She may be #3 in her family, but she'll be #1 in the hearts of all who read this book.”—Tricia Springstubb, author of What Happened on Fox Street
“At turns hilarious, at turns heartbreaking, Shawn Stout’s story shows us the damage that a whisper campaign can do to a family and a community, and at the same time shows us, each of us, a way to find our hearts. Frankie Baum is a hero from a distant time and yet a hero for all times, the kind of hero who never gets old. I loved this book from the very beginning to the very end.”—Kathi Appelt, author of the National Book Award finalist and Newbery Honor book The Underneath
Saving the Best for Last: The Youngest Characters in Middle Grade Fiction
I am often drawn to stories of families in middle grade fiction, particularly when there are so many books about only children. Perhaps it’s because I have two older siblings of my own, but there is so much good stuff (or, sometimes bad stuff) between siblings, that it makes for a richer read. As the youngest in my own family, I tend to relate immediately to the littlest kiddo in the story. After all, we’re often the ones in real-life who get overlooked or cast aside (poor us, I tell you, it’s not fair), but in middle grade fiction, at least, we stand out, and sometimes, we even save the day.
In my most recent book, A Tiny Piece of Sky, Frankie Baum is the youngest of three sisters. The story is set in 1939, and Frankie is stuck working in the kitchen of her father’s restaurant for the summer, while her older sisters…well, aren’t. But when her father is accused of being a German spy and there is a boycott of his restaurant, Frankie leads the way to save his reputation and clear his name. See that? Saves the day.
Here are some other stand out middle grade characters who just so happen to be the youngest in their family:
- Batty Penderwick. Batty is the most endearing of the Penderwick sisters in the series by Jeanne Birdsall. But she’s not only adorable and hilarious, she’s smart as a whip. Nothing gets passed her. And she is often way ahead of her sisters when it comes to figuring things out. Just ask Jeffrey or Hound.
- Rose Casson. Permanent Rose is hands-down my favorite of the Casson family of artists, each named after a paint color (Saffron, Cadmium, and Indigo). Author Hilary McKay has made the youngest Casson the true artist of the family, and one who can successfully manage her parents and siblings.
- Fern Gaither. In the beloved Gaither Sisters series by Rita Williams-Garcia, 7-year-old Fern, despite being the youngest of the three irrepressible sisters, is perhaps the most courageous and outspoken. Fern is also the one who becomes a poet, following after their mother’s footsteps.
- Ramona Quimby. Being the youngest Quimby isn’t easy, and Ramona is in a rush to grow up, which often causes problems for her and the rest of her family. (Note: Ramona is the youngest until Ramona Forever, when she becomes a big sister herself.) Author Beverly Cleary’s Ramona has such a vivid imagination and rambunctious personality that she works through her problems with an entertaining result every time.
- Lucy Pevensie. The youngest of the four Pevensie children in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series, Lucy is the first to find the wardrobe entrance to Narnia. Enough said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn K. Stout (www.shawnkstout.com) grew up in Hagerstown, Maryland, the same town where A Tiny Piece of Sky takes place, but she did her growing up more than forty years after the events in this story occur. She is the author of the Not-So-Ordinary Girl series and the Penelope Crumb series and has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Shawn K. Stout lives with her family in Maryland. website * twitter
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