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  • Playing for Keeps
  • Written by Joan Lowery Nixon
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307433633
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Playing for Keeps

Written by Joan Lowery NixonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Joan Lowery Nixon


List Price: $4.99


On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 208 | ISBN: 978-0-307-43363-3
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Rosie can’t believe her good luck. Her grandmother, Glory, needs a last-minute roommate for a cruise to the Caribbean. Glory doesn’t really need a companion–she’s eager for Rosie to meet her friend’s grandson, Neil, a brainy guy full of facts about baseball. Once Rosie is aboard the ship, though, someone else catches her eye–a boy her own age, who introduces himself as Ricky Diago. But after the ship sails, Rosie only sees Ricky’s uncle, Mr. Diago. What’s even stranger is that Neil could swear that Mr. Diago is actually a famous Cuban baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds. Then after a day’s excursion, Rosie is approached by another boy who claims he’s Ricky Diago. She’s certain he’s not the person she met before. Suddenly Rosie finds herself caught in a high-stakes adventure of international intrigue with life-or-death consequences. Who is the real Ricky Diago? And how far is Rosie willing to go to help him?

From the Paperback edition.


I didn't have time to think about my argument with Mom until Glory and I were in the air on the way to Miami. Then I had too much time.

Glory--Gloria Marstead--was my grandmother on my father's side. Mom sometimes complained that Glory had a salt-and-pepper attitude to go with her salt-and-pepper hair and liked getting her own way.

I have to agree. In spite of the fact that Grandpa made a great deal of money way back during the oil boom and invested it wisely before he died, Glory had continued to work as a successful attorney until she retired a year earlier.

"Defending people gives her an excuse to argue," I once heard Mom telling Dad. He thought what Mom said was funny. So did I. But Mom wasn't trying to be funny.

In the seat beside me Glory gave a light snore. I glanced at her, expecting her to wake up, but she continued to sleep peacefully. We'd had to catch a very early plane at the Midland-Odessa airport to connect with our flight out of Houston. I was tired, too, but there was no way I could sleep--not after the argument, which had never been resolved.

I couldn't help being excited about going with Glory on a week's cruise in the Caribbean, but deep down inside I had a sick feeling. I should have made peace with Mom before I left. I had wanted to, but I didn't know what to say or do, and Mom was so frozen in her own unhappiness I couldn't begin to reach her, even if I'd known how. I wasn't the only one at fault, I told myself. She had let me go without trying to break through that layer of ice.

The argument had started over a party I should never have gone to with a guy I hoped to totally forget.

"When you first saw what the party was like, Rose Ann, why didn't you ask your date to take you home?" Mom had asked.

I'd blushed and stared down at the scuffed toes of my sneakers. "Cam Daly wasn't . . . well, I found out that he only asked me to the party because a girl he likes was going to be there. Mom, he dumped me. I felt so stupid. I thought everybody was staring at me and thinking I was a real loser, so I tried to act like I was having a good time celebrating spring break and didn't care."

Mom had just sighed and asked, "Rose Ann, you need to act with maturity. Aren't you ever going to stand up for what you believe in? Where is your courage?"

I'd groaned, knowing what was coming. "Are you going to bring up that time ages ago when Bobby Mac cheated from my test?"

"It wasn't ages ago. It was last September. You allowed him to see your paper and got caught doing it. And what about when Lou drove all of you in her family's car and you knew very well she didn't have her license yet. Why didn't you object?"

I'd slid another notch down on the sofa. "Do we have to go into all that again?"

"I'm trying to show you that it was the same situation with the party last night," Mom had said. "Be independent. Don't just go along with the crowd because of what somebody might think of you. Last night you abused my trust in you and the freedom I've given you."

"Trust? Mom, I made one little mistake. Can't you believe it was just a mistake? As for freedom--"

That was when Glory had arrived, making herself at home on the sofa. She'd heard all about the wild party. "There isn't anyone in west Texas who doesn't know every detail," Glory said. "Especially since someone had to call the police."

She shrugged as she added, "That boy you went to the party with is not the kind you want to date. You want the right kind."

Mom broke in. Her voice was tight as she said, "It doesn't matter who was Rose Ann's date at the party. It only matters that she used very poor judgment."

Glory gave a more elaborate shrug. "Well, there you have it," she said. "Poor judgment. Certainly not a punishable offense. Rosie's suffered enough already. Why don't we talk about something I have in mind?"

Mom had been trying hard to hide her impatience. "Later, Glory," she'd said. "If you'll please excuse us, Rose Ann and I are not through with our family discussion. If you understood--"

"I understand one thing, Linda, which is while we're sitting here beating a dead horse, we're running out of time, and that's what we don't have much of. Let me borrow Rosie for a week."

Startled, Mom said, "But you won't be here. You're going on that Caribbean cruise with your bridge club."

That was when Glory told us she wanted to substitute me for her bridge club roommate, who was going to have foot surgery and couldn't make the cruise. "I'll take care of expenses. Rosie will be my guest."

"But you're leaving tomorrow morning."

Glory grinned. "Have you ever known me to be unable to do something I wanted to do? Don't worry. My travel agent's working on it already. All Rosie will need are her driver's license and birth certificate, T-shirts and shorts, and a couple of dresses she can wear to dinner. Toss in that cream-colored satin formal she wore to the winter prom. One dinner is formal dress."

I gasped, trying to take in what Glory was saying as she began giving Mom all the reasons why I should go with her, and explaining that I'd be perfectly safe on the ship while she was playing in the bridge tournament. My heart began to pound. A Caribbean cruise? Tomorrow?

I knew I shouldn't beg as I turned to Mom, but I couldn't help it. "I've never seen the ocean. I've never been out of Texas. I know you're angry with me, Mom, but please may I go?"

Mom had thought a moment, her face pale and tight. "I can't let you do this, Glory," she'd said.

"Who are you punishing, Linda?" Glory had bluntly asked. "Rosie or me?"

I could hear Mom's sharp intake of breath. Even though I really wanted to go on this cruise, I had to admit that Glory didn't always play fair.

It had been like this ever since Dad had died when I was fourteen, leaving a stack of medical bills. Glory had paid them and had even paid off the mortgage for the house we lived in. When Mom said my ballet lessons didn't fit the budget, they were paid for. There was our membership in a swim club Mom couldn't afford, new dresses for me from Glory's favorite shops . . . the list was a long one. Mom protested, but Glory always won.

This time was no different. Mom looked at me with her eyes burning, then quickly turned her head and said to Glory, "I'll have her ready."

After Glory had left, Mom walked to the end of the room, staring out the windows overlooking the backyard. Her voice dropped, as if she were speaking to herself. "Glory's once again the fairy godmother, and I'm the Wicked Witch of the West. She's won, as usual."

I backed a step away. "You're wrong," I said. "You act like you and Glory are in some kind of contest over me, and you're not."

I should have stopped there, but I blurted out, "You blamed me for not being independent and not standing up for what I believe in, but you don't either. You do what Glory wants you to do. You care what Glory thinks."

Now I've done it, I thought. I've ruined everything. I took a deep breath and said to Mom, "I'm sorry about the party, Mom. You're right. I should have telephoned to ask you to take me home. If I'd known that one of their neighbors would call the police--"

"That's your only reason?"

"No--no," I stammered in surprise. "That's not what I meant."

"That's what you said."

From the Paperback edition.
Joan Lowery Nixon

About Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon - Playing for Keeps

Photo © Gittings

“In every story I write I give a great deal of thought to the main character, because the story is his, or hers. The direction of the story is determined by the main character’s ambitions and reactions. The main character is the one to whom the readers will relate.”—Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award and a two-time winner of the California Young Reader Medal.


Whether it’s engrossing historical dramas, chilling mysteries, suspense-filled page-turners, or adventure stories, kids, teachers, and librarians love the books of Joan Lowery Nixon.

Nixon is half Californian, half Texan. She has a degree in journalism and credentials in elementary education. Nixon has written over 130 books for children from preschool age through young adult—including science books, co-authored with her husband, geologist Hershell Nixon. Her books have garnered numerous awards and accolades, including the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile and the Texas Institute of Letters Award. Many of Nixon’s books have won state children’s choice awards. She is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. Nixon has four children and several grandchildren.

Nixon describes the pleasure she gets from writing mystery and suspense: “When I was young I discovered an evening radio program called I Love a Mystery. It was intriguing, suspenseful, and at times absolutely terrifying, and the title was correct. I did love a mystery—on radio, in films, and especially in books. Maybe I’m really a detective at heart because much later in my life, when I began to write books for young people, I discovered writing mysteries was even more fun than reading them.

“A mystery begins to develop in my mind when something sparks an idea and a question grows from it. What would it be like to move into a house in which a murder had taken place? How would I feel if my best friend were arrested for murder on circumstantial evidence? As a question develops into an answer, I give a great deal of thought to my main character. She is the most important part of the story, and I see it take shape through her eyes. Before I write a word of the story I know how I’ll begin it and how I’ll end it, making sure to put in honest clues and distracting red herrings—just to make the mystery all the more fun to solve. I love mysteries, and I want my readers to love them, too.”

In creating the acclaimed Orphan Train Adventures, Nixon explored a time and place in America’s recent past that is not widely covered in history lessons. She explains, “It was a part of history I hadn’t known: that beginning in 1854, over 100,000 homeless children were rescued from the streets of New York City and sent by train to new homes in the West. As I researched early journals, I found many letters—some hopeful, some sad—and reports which told of tears as brothers and sisters were separated or a child was not chosen. I wanted to bring history and fiction together in an exciting, adventurous time and place, to tell the stories of those who could have traveled west on the Orphan Train.”

Many of Nixon’s readers have written to her asking how to get published. Her novel The Making of a Writer, a part memoir, part how-to book, is her answer to them. From her first publication at age 10—a poem titled “Springtime”—to her graduation from Hollywood High during World War II, Nixon shares the incidents from her childhood that helped her to develop as a writer.


“A fast-moving, entertaining mystery with an intelligent and spunky heroine.”—Booklist

“Another solid Nixon mystery without too much violence and lots of suspense.”—Booklist

“Another successful page-turner. . . . Reluctant readers and mystery lovers alike will welcome a trip to this mansion.”—School Library Journal

“Thrilling . . . a riveting tale of suspense set against a background of fascinating historical context brought up to date through e-mail and the Internet.”—School Library Journal

“Enriched with family troubles, guilty secrets, and a whiff of the supernatural, this page-turner will please the legions of Nixon fans.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Masterfully constructed. . . . Ingeniously plotted, fast-paced and lighthearted, this mystery manages to blend an engrossing double murder brainteaser with the blossoming of a self-conscious teen into a self-assured young woman.”—Publishers Weekly

“Nixon’s reputation as the grande dame of mysteries for young readers remains solidly intact with this thriller . . . a topnotch choice.”—Starred, School Library Journal


“As close to perfect a book. . . . The plot is rational and well-paced; the characters are real and believable; the time setting is important in U.S. history; and the values all that anyone can ask for.”—VOYA

“This exciting and touching novel projects an aura of historical reality.”—School Library Journal


“There is suspense, surprise, and heartfelt emotion, and there is a useful historical note at the end.”—Booklist

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