From School Library Journal

"Caught between her divorced parents' rural and city worlds, JoEllen approaches her 13th birthday with a growing definition and assurance of her personal identity. Half of her name is from her father, Joseph, who calls her Joey; the other half is from her mother, Eleanor, who calls her Ellen. "Now my days-/divided between them-/are as different as my names." The girl's life, however, at each end of the 42 miles that separate her parents, is rich and complicated, and the author subtly develops JoEllen's awareness: "The apple trees/share secrets./The ducks endlessly discuss/the quality of rain" ("Farm Nights"). "An ambulance wailing/cars cussing/cats calling/dogs delivering the news" ("Cincinnati Nights"). The poems meld together into a smooth story that ends with this invitation: "My favorite poems/hold a wooden spoon of words/and whisper:/Taste" ("The Poems I Like Best"). Mixed-media collage illustrations complement the subject of each poem and reinforce the complicated and changing moods of the story. Young people will appreciate this easy-to-read, empowering story."

From Kirkus Reviews

"Living separate lives to please her divorced parents, a young girl struggles to define herself. JoEllen's mother lives in a city apartment while her father lives 42 miles away in a farmhouse. JoEllen (named for both parents) admits "my days . . . are as different as my names." She spends schooldays with Mom, who calls her "Ellen," and weekends with Dad, who calls her "Joey." JoEllen and Mom love takeout. JoEllen and Dad invent their own recipes. In the city, JoEllen plays the sax, watches old movies, wears vintage clothing and works at a secondhand shop with her best friends. At the farm, she trail rides with her cousin, listens to bluegrass, wears work boots and slops out the stable. Split "like an apple's pale heart / on either side of the blade," JoEllen decides her two lives need to meet-just in time for her 13th birthday. Embellished with Clayton's scrapbook-like black-and-white illustrations, the free-verse text traces the hopes and fears of a thoughtful teen who optimistically merges the best of her two lives into an even better "new me."


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JoEllen's parents divorced when she was very young, so she was used to splitting her time between them, shuttling four blocks from one Cincinnati apartment to another. But when her dad moved to the old family farm last year, her life was suddenly divided. Now on weekdays she's a city girl, called Ellen, who hangs out with her friends, plays the sax, and loves old movies. And on weekends she's a country girl, nicknamed Joey, who rides horseback with her cousin, Hayden, goes fishing, and listens to bluegrass. So where do her loyalties lie? Who is the real JoEllen? Linked free-verse poems, illustrated with a quirky array of found objects and mementos, create the vivid, realistic portrait of a young girl at a defining moment in her life.

author: Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

ISBN-13/EAN: 9780618618675

ISBN-10: 0618618678

Publisher: Clarion

Publication Date: 03/18/2008

Hardcover ; 80 pages

Trim Size: 6.00 x 9.00

Teacher Resources for this book:

Available at Wild Geese Guides.

All rights reserved ⓒ 2010 Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

The Poems I Like Best

The poems I like best

wear classic black

with vintage accessories

and smell like a new book

the spine just cracked.

The chitchat overheard on a city bus

or nonsense

volleyed between toddlers

on swings at the park.

My favorite poems

squeeze your hand

on a crowded street and say


The poems I like best

wear blue jeans

and smell

like the tack room of a barn

worn leather and horse.

The varied verses

of a mockingbird's tune

or syllables between brothers

scratching scruffy chins

under the hood of a truck.

My favorite poems

hold a wooden spoon of words

and whisper:


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