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  • Sparrow
  • Written by Sherri L. Smith
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375849114
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Written by Sherri L. SmithAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sherri L. Smith


List Price: $5.99


On Sale: January 08, 2008
Pages: 192 | ISBN: 978-0-375-84911-4
Published by : Laurel Leaf RH Childrens Books
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Family sticks with family. That’s the golden rule G’ma taught Kendall. But once G’ma’s gone, Kendall has no family left—except for an aunt G’ma asked for at the end, who Kendall barely remembers. Only Aunt Janet knows what G’ma had in mind, but she never even shows up at the funeral. With child services on Kendall’s case and just 10 days to get her apartment lease renewed, Kendall sets out for Janet’s home in New Orleans to get her life in order—and her questions answered.

But what she finds are new friends, like Evie, who is confined to a wheelchair, but can sing like the women on G’ma’s old records; Miss Clare, who needs Kendall’s help as much as Kendall needs hers; and Marcus, who is younger than them all, but still knows how to get by. And when Mardi Gras arrives, with its parades and prizes and music, anything seems possible—even making a fresh start, with or without Janet.

From the Hardcover edition.



Somebody’s singing the blues.

Somebody’s feeling like it’s the end of the world. Sorrow drowns out the running dish water in the kitchen and the honk of traffic downstairs. If I had the voice for it, I’d sing right along.

I try to follow the thread of music, but G’ma is calling loudly to me.

Today must’ve been a lonesome day, for her to pull those old records out again. No surprise, cooped up like she’s been these past months. And me, I’m not exactly a breath of fresh air. I don’t have “young friends” to bring over and “put life” into the place, as G’ma would say. My seventeen’s not the ice cream social it was for G’ma in her day. Not since it’s just the two of us.

“Kendall, are you listening to me?” she hollers through the kitchen doorway.

“Yes, ma’am.” I wash the last of the lunch plates, bits of ham and sandwich spread rinsing down the drain. Of course I’m listening. Everyone in the building’s listening to her too. G’ma’s not a quiet woman when she’s upset.

“You’d better be listening, ’cause your grandmother didn’t raise a fool.”

I dry my hands and go into the living room to get my coat. G’ma’s sitting there on the sofa, waving my report card at me. For a minute, she looks like her old self again, a strong, serious woman, with skin like sweet brown coffee, not dark and bruised-looking like mine. “Cream in my coffee,” she used to say to me. “ ’Cause my mother wanted me to grow up sweet.” They forgot the sugar, I’d want to say to her some days, but she would just shush me up for sassing.

She’s got that shushing face on now. Her tough love face. I’ve seen it more than once since she took me in. And today I’ve let her down big-time.

“Now, you go right back over to that high school and tell that teacher you want to do extra-credit work, however much it takes, to get your grades back up. My granddaughter is a good student and she’s going to graduate with the rest of her class.” G’ma swats the sofa arm with my report card, then places it gently down beside her.

I sit across from the sofa on the edge of our old armchair, hands clasped and head down. “Yes, ma’am.”

The blues song fades, and another one comes up. I remember the name of this one. It’s Sarah Vaughan singing “Misty.” Look at me, I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree . . .

“It’s only midterms,” I say, like that helps. “I know my science, and English, too. I can get my D up to a B by the end of the semester if I do well on the final.”

G’ma takes out a handkerchief and wipes invisible crumbs from her mouth. “Don’t put all your eggs in that basket,” she warns me. “You were such a good student. Stay that way. I know it’s been difficult, but don’t let this”—she waves her hand in the air—“don’t let this stop you.”

“This” means G’ma. We don’t talk about it much, but we both know the stroke she had last summer hurt her more than a little. The afghan over her lap reminds me that her legs aren’t what they used to be. Winter doesn’t help either, especially not the icy winter Chicago gets. We keep up the exercises the doctor gave her, and they help. She’s walking with a cane now. But we live on the second floor of a brownstone walk-up, and the kitchen is a long twenty steps from the sofa. So I come home at lunch and straight after school. I help her walk to the bathroom, I make dinner, breakfast, and lunch. If that means leaving English a little early, or getting to chemistry a little late, so be it. I owe G’ma more than a few skipped classes. Besides, I feel better when I’m around.

After a minute, G’ma lets me stand up.

“Lunch was okay?” I ask, grabbing my coat from the chair by the door. The smell of fried ham still hangs in the air. I boil it first, to get the salt out. G’ma likes her ham on white with mayonnaise, but she doesn’t seem to mind the low-fat spread I’ve been using instead. The doctors say anything I can do to lower her cholesterol will reduce the likelihood of another stroke.

“Very tasty,” G’ma says. “Just leave me a little water before you go. And cut off that phonograph player.”

Phonograph player. I shake my head and cut off the turntable. For all her talk of the future, G’ma has some old-fashioned ways about her that baffle me. She’d fight me tooth and nail before she’d ever let me play her a CD, and forget about a cell phone—even if we could afford one on her pension.

“Here you go.” I set down a fresh glass of water on the coffee table in front of her and kiss her papery cheek. “See you later.”

“Be good. And tell that teacher what I said.” She pats me on the shoulder. I turn the TV on to her talk shows and head out into the Chicago wind.

From the Hardcover edition.
Sherri L. Smith

About Sherri L. Smith

Sherri L. Smith - Sparrow
Sherri L. Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois and spent most of her childhood reading books. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she has worked in movies, animation, comic books and construction. Sherri’s first book, Lucy the Giant, was an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults in 2003. Sherri’s novel, Sparrow, was chosen as a National Council for the Social Studies/Children’s Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Upon the release of Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet in February 2008, Sherri was featured as a spotlight author for The Brown Bookshelf's Black History Month celebration, 28 Days Later. Flygirl, an historical YA novel set during World War II, is her fourth novel. It won the California Book Award Gold Medal, was a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, and has received fourteen State Award nominations. Her latest novel, Orleans, is a cli-fi futuristic novel that garnered several starred reviews and was a 2014 CBC Best Book of the Year.


“A touching novel.”–School Library Journal

“[Smith] shows a keen insight into grief, growing up, and moving on.”–The Bulletin, Recommended

A moving story that rings true.”–Kirkus Reviews

From the Paperback edition.

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