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  • Written by Dana Reinhardt
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  • How to Build a House
  • Written by Dana Reinhardt
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Written by Dana ReinhardtAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Dana Reinhardt


List Price: $7.99


On Sale: September 08, 2009
Pages: 240 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89388-9
Published by : Wendy Lamb Books RH Childrens Books

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Read by Caitlin Greer
On Sale: May 27, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7393-6411-6
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Harper's dad is divorcing her beloved stepmother, Jane. Even worse, Harper has lost her stepsister, Tess. The divorce divides them, just when her best friend Gabriel betrays her. Harper decides to get away for the summer and joins a volunteer program to build a house for a family in Tennesee who lost their home in a tornado. (Not that she knows a thing about building a house.) Soon she's living in a funky motel and laboring long days in blazing heat with a quirky, terrific group of kids. Working alongside Teddy, the son of the family for whom they are building the house, Harper and Teddy's partnership turns into a summer romance. Learning to trust and love Teddy isn't easy for Harper, but it's the first step toward finding her way back home.


The world is drowning.
It's being swallowed up. Glaciers are melting. Oceans are rising.
It's an indisputable fact: We're ruining the planet.
I'm finding it hard to keep this in mind gazing out my window. From where I'm sitting things look, well, dry. The earth looks thirsty. All I can see is dusty brown. Miles and miles of it stretching on forever.
Here comes a flight attendant now with her big block of a metal cart to ask me if I'd like something to drink.
If I'm thirsty.
I order a diet root beer. She smiles. Diet root beer is not a beverage she keeps in the recesses of her metal cart.
Okay. Make it a Diet Sprite.
Out of luck again.
I take water. No ice.
I swore off regular soda about a month ago and took up the diet variety. This has nothing to do with my body image, which I'll confess, like most of us, isn't exactly stellar. But this is about something bigger than just my thighs. It's about the national obesity epidemic. It's about taking a stand against the sugar water that's turning our children into Oompa-Loompas.
So I stopped.
I know diet soda isn't great for you either, but you have to start somewhere. And anyway, right now I'm drinking water. No ice.
We're about an hour away.
I've flown over this part of the country before. Many times. When you live in California and you have relatives in New York, everything in between feels like a big inconve-nience. It's what keeps you from them, or here from there, and you want it out of your way as quickly as possible because your headphones aren't working, and anyway you've already seen the movie three times.
But today I'm watching that big inconvenience and how it's changed from a flat, endless grid of look-alike houses to snowcapped mountains to red valleys to dusty brown, thirsty earth. Today I'm waiting to be dropped down in the middle of it.
To be more precise, I'm going to Bailey, Tennessee, which almost nobody has ever heard of.
If you watch TV or read the newspaper or if you have a pulse, then you know about what happened in New Orleans. You know about the hurricane with the name of a princess that left the city underwater.
But that wasn't the world's last catastrophe.
Catastrophes come, and they come. They come in all shapes and sizes, one after the other, lined up like planes in the sky, waiting for their turn to land. The tornado in Bailey came this past April, and nobody paid attention except for one small organization with a teen volunteer program where I am spending my summer vacation.
Sure, the tornado in Bailey wreaked havoc on the lives of an insignificant number of people when you compare it to Hurricane Katrina, but when it's your life . . .  I doubt it feels insignificant to you.
Tornadoes. They're just another indication that the planet is going to hell in a handbasket. A handbasket that's been meticulously crafted and woven by us, the backward-looking members of the human race. If it weren't for how we're ruining things with our trash and our gas emissions and the way we're turning the planet into an Easy-Bake Oven, there might not have even been a category F4 tornado in Bailey, Tennessee.
Then again, maybe it would have come anyway.
Tornadoes can happen out of nowhere. Without warning.
* * *
It's one of those sad stories. I hesitate to even talk about it, because when I do, people start to feel sorry for me, and that isn't necessary.
My mother died when I was two.
Okay. Now I've said it. Now I can get that out of the way.
The important thing is that my dad didn't die. He lived. He still lives. In fact, right now he's probably back at his office, after fighting through traffic from the airport, listening to one of his patients drone on and on, staring out the window. And then he'll see a plane flying overhead with a white, gauzy streak trailing behind it, and he'll wonder why it seemed like a good idea to let me go all the way to Tennessee for the summer.
This isn't the first time I've run away.
Once, when we were about eight, Tess and I stuffed a backpack with a towel, some socks and a box of Lucky Charms. We figured what's the point in running away unless someone knows about it?
So we told Dad.
He said fine. Just remember, you aren't allowed to cross the street.
We stopped at the corner and ate a few handfuls of stale Lucky Charms before turning. We turned the next corner, and the next, until we arrived back where we'd started: at our own front door.
It isn't like that now. I'm running away, and I'm not only crossing the street, I'm crossing this dried-out country and I won't be back for twelve weeks and Dad is going to miss me because he'll be all alone.
Tess is gone.
So is Rose.
So, of course, is Jane.
He has Cole, sure, but Cole is only six, and what kind of company is a six-year-old who talks to insects? Especially when Dad sees him only some weekends and every other Wednesday night?
I guess I should start at the beginning.
There are so many beginnings to choose from. There's me and my birth almost eighteen years ago with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, a detail Dad likes to remind me about when I do something particularly boneheaded. There's Mom's death, which although it's an ending, the Big Ending, is also the beginning of my life without a mom. Then there's when Dad met Jane and the beginning of the only family I've ever known.
Yes. I'll start there.

From the Hardcover edition.
Dana Reinhardt

About Dana Reinhardt

Dana Reinhardt - How to Build a House

Photo © Chelsea Hadley

A Brief Chapter In My Impossible Life is my first novel.

There’s nothing like the first time something wonderful happens to you, like, for example, when you sit down to write your first novel and it actually gets published.
I guess there’s nothing quite like the first time something just awful happens to you either. Those are moments you aren’t likely to forget.

So by way of introducing myself to you, let me share with you a list of my firsts:

My first love was a boy named Matthew in my pre-school class. He was very funny looking with a huge head of unruly curls, crooked teeth and rather prominent nostrils, but I loved him nonetheless. My best friend married us underneath a tree in the play yard and we used rubber bands as our wedding rings. Years later, when I arrived at college 3,000 miles away from that preschool play yard, I found him again. He had absolutely no idea who I was. That really pissed me off.

My first pet was a dog named Smokey. When he was two, he died after being bitten by a rattlesnake.

My first heartbreak was: see above.

My first earthquake was the big earthquake of 1971, or so I thought until today. I’ve carried around this story all my life about how I was such a sweet and mellow baby that I slept right through the big earthquake of 1971. But just now, when I went on the Internet to get the exact date of the big earthquake of 1971 I learned that it occurred on February 9th. I was born on March 11th. Hmmm….
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone to whom I’ve told that story about sleeping through the earthquake.

My first time crying so hard in a movie that my Dad had to carry me out of the theater was when I saw Pete’s Dragon. I cried on and off for days. It’ s happened since. Well, not the part about having to be carried out of the theater by my father. I’m too big and he’s too old and his back is too weak. But I mean the part about crying for days. (Okay so I’m a big cryer in movies. I even cried in The Nutty Professor.)

And while we’re on the subject of crying, of really, really crying…

My first big cry over a book was Bridge to Terabithia. It made me want to be a writer.

My first big cry over a play was Death of a Salesman. It made me want to be anything but a salesman.

My first time on a moped lasted about 10 seconds. I drove it right into a brick wall and broke my wrist. I was fifteen. That was also my first time on Morphine and I asked the doctor to marry me.

My first concert was The Who’s final tour in 1983. I think they’ve had at least four more final tours since then.

My first job was working as a waitress at a dive where celebrities used to come and eat breakfast in their sweatpants. Eventually, the fact that celebrities came to eat breakfast in their sweatpants caught on, and there would be a line up the block. Pretty soon the celebrities stopped wearing sweatpants to breakfast.

My first husband is Daniel Sokatch. He’s cute. And funny. And really nice. He’ll always be my first husband no matter what, but I’m counting on there not being a second. Or a third…

My first child is my daughter Noa. Sometimes after spending the day with her my face hurts from smiling so much. (My second child is my daughter Zoe and she’s every bit as wonderful as my first.)

My first time writing my own biography for Random House’s “Author Spotlight” was today.

Thanks for reading.
Praise | Awards


Starred review, Publishers Weekly, April 7, 2008:
"As intimate and intelligently wrought as her previous YA novels . . . this meticulously crafted book illustrates how both homes and relationships can be resurrected through hard work, hope and teamwork."

Starred review, School Library Journal, June 2008:
"Harper is a sympathetic, believable character whose narrative voice expresses wit and heartbreak, and her emotional journey will have tremendous appeal for mature teen readers."

Review, Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 27, 2008:
"Written with a light touch that belies the heavy subjects of divorce and blended-family dynamics, [the novel] is also well-paced."

From the Hardcover edition.


WINNER Book Sense Children's Pick List
FINALIST Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award

  • How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt
  • September 08, 2009
  • Juvenile Fiction
  • Ember
  • $8.99
  • 9780375844546

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