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This Is Graceanne's Book



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About The Author

P. L. Whitney

P.L. Whitney lives in New Jersey.

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Reading Group Gold

The story is told by a nine-year old boy, Charlie, who observes with an encompassing awe a pivotal year in the life of his older sister Graceanne. She's loud, intellectual and a ruthless physical and psychological daredevil, a girl whose ferocious exploits are the stuff of local legend and the stuff of all that Charlie aspires to be. He narrates Graceanne's painful passage into teenage, a passage made tempestuous by their violent mother.


1. The river has a prominent place all through the book. Children play in its flooded spaces at the very beginning, and it is the setting of the book's final scene. Charlie finds his secret there, his Ugly Blue Man. Tucka saves a boy from the river, ice for the baby Jesus comes from the river. What is the river a metaphor for?
2. Charlie makes lists and catalogues information and events. Is this tendency fueled by a desire to bring order and predictability into an existence that is a minefield for a small boy who never knows when a member of his family will turn on him?
3. There are contests throughout the story. The children are involved in all of them. What is the contrast between the contests and their troubled home lives? Are they drawn by the knowledge that outside the family, they have as fair a chance as everyone else to win?
4. How much is Graceanne the cause of her own troubles? Do you see her sometimes outrageous behavior as a way of expressing the subconscious fear of becoming like her parents and grandparents? Does Edie earn any of the reader's sympathy or understanding?
5. Why does Graceanne think that if the Martian astronomers come to know everything, everyone will be happy? What connection does she make? Is it the desire of youth, especially in a girl like Graceanne, to encompass the universe? Or is it a sad statement (which she may or may not be aware of) that says "knowing everything" is so obviously impossible that happiness is impossible as well?
6. When the children make the ice baby Jesus, is their goal simply to win the church contest, or do they have, consciously or not, a larger purpose? Whatever their intentions, what is it that they achieve?
7. Are Edie's desperate efforts to keep up a façade of gentility for herself and her family simply vanity, or is this an attempt to construct a semblance of a better life? Does her refusal to supply Charlie with bus fare for Wanda after the church festival and her occasional outbursts about blacks reveal her real racism?
8. How is writing Graceanne's Book and then destroying it an expression of the children's understanding of power, authority and control?
9. What is the significance of Graceanne and Charlie throwing their clothes into the river in the final scene?

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