Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"The Length of a String"

Elissa Brent Weissman is the award-winning author of several middle grade novels, including the Nerd Camp series, and the editor of Our Story Begins, an anthology of writing and art by today’s kids’ book creators back when they were kids themselves. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and earned a Master’s degree in children’s literature at Roehampton University in London. Named one of CBS Baltimore’s Best Authors in Maryland, Weissman lives with her family in Baltimore, where she teaches creative writing to children, college students, and adults.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Length of a String, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I tried to commit to memory the street as we walked…so many shops and sights I’d seen every day and might never pass again. The bakery, where we’d treat ourselves to a pain au chocolat for breakfast before school. The button store, where I once spent 20 minutes searching the small baskets for a button to replace the one that had popped off my jacket, only to finally ask the shopkeeper and have him find an exact match right away. The narrow alleyway where Kurt and his friends used to play soccer, “no sisters allowed…”

At last we found the man with a long coat and brown hat. He nodded at Mama, and she stepped close to him and spoke quietly.
In The Length of a String, twelve-year-old Imani—a black, adopted, Jewish girl—discovers her great-grandmother Anna’s diary from 1941. Page 69 is from that diary, an early entry in which Anna recounts how she escaped from Nazi-occupied Luxembourg. This excerpt comes right before a big, shocking moment in Anna’s story. (Too bad this isn’t the page 70 test!)

While page 69 is a good representation of Anna’s voice and her personality, it’s not the most accurate representation of her part of the book, since it takes place in Luxembourg, and most of her diary—written as letters to the twin sister she left behind—chronicles her new life in Brooklyn, New York. She does continue to miss and yearn for her home and family in Europe, however, much the way she does here as she prepares to leave.

Since page 69 is from Anna’s diary, it doesn’t provide any introduction to our contemporary heroine, Imani, who is preparing for her bat mitzvah and working up the nerve to ask for a very controversial gift: to find her birth parents. Imani’s journey drives The Length of a String, while Anna’s story fuels Imani’s drive. It’s the string connecting these two young women across generations that makes this book whole.
Visit Elissa Brent Weissman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue