In this coming-of-age young adult story, a compulsive fifteen-year-old girl struggles to read the entire dictionary in one year to win a bet with her rich and famous aunt, a reclusive one-hit-wonder author (think Harper Lee and her bestseller To Kill A Mockingbird).
Grace Page crams this challenge into her well-ordered life while attending school, winning the state dance title with a disabled partner, getting her first job in a bookstore, and working towards a first kiss. What she couldn’t foresee was getting her summer hijacked to Arrow, her aunt’s could-be-haunted house on Cape Cod.
Aunt May hopes to harness Grace’s obsessive organizational genius for one last attempt to shatter her forty-year-long writer’s block and author that second book locked inside her for so long.
A national tabloid sees Grace as an opportunity to uncover her aunt’s well-hidden life, and tempts her with more money than she’s ever seen to write a tell-all for a look behind the author’s veil. Grace’s search for secrets uncovers the one word responsible for Aunt May’s standstill, and she discovers Arrow’s 300-year old legend.
Now she must decide what the word “integrity” is worth. And conquer her prejudice while she’s at it.
Grace names her diary “My Year Of A2Z.” In it, she writes letters to Mr. D, her dictionary, sharing the hardships and revelations of her lexical adventure. The bet’s dwindling days tick down, but Grace’s enchantment with language grows as she sees past the words and into the spirit of their meanings.
Will Grace be buried under a mountain of definitions, or climb to the peak of her defining moment?
Targeted Age Group:: Young adult (13-18+)
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My own year of A2Z was 1993; that was the year I personally read the whole dictionary. This story is packed with the real-life tips and tricks I had to learn to survive and succeed in my own lexical adventure. I've also kept a daily journal for over thirty years.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The protagonist, Grace Page, is a combination of girls I grew up with and my own daughter. They are all strong and dtermined and love to read.
The inspiration for Aunt May is Harper lee, who wrote a phenomenally successful and iconic book and then remained silent for decades. I delved into a "what-if" for my story.
It’s full of words.
That’s what I would say when–
“Grace Page? This way ….” It wasn’t so much a question as a prelude to a quick elbow grab and pull.
I had just entered the Boston Public Library through the main doors off Boylston Street, enjoying the comfort of the building’s heat versus the frigid end-of-December night outside.
“I’m Sandy Balioni. You can’t be seen.”
“Am I a Christmas spirit?” I asked. My attempt at humor either wasn’t understood … or maybe just not appreciated. Sandy’s eyes didn’t blink as she nodded to my left, indicating the direction we would be heading. No more humor.
The tall, gorgeous guy who had held the door for me didn’t turn around as he made his way to the steps leading to the mezzanine. The beautiful girl in his arms swiveled her head and made a funny face at me. I resisted getting into that kind of game and reflected Sandy’s nod back at her in a “let’s go” signal.
“You’ll be staying in our Green Room.”
“Is it really green?” I asked before I could help myself.
She didn’t answer. Sandy didn’t seem all that friendly, but I could appreciate that spending Christmas Eve, 2011 with me maybe wasn’t on the top of her list to Santa.
We passed by a room that couldn’t help catching my attention. It had books in piles thrown across the floor. I stopped.
“Sandy, what happened here?”
She came back, looked in and said, “Oh that. Today maintenance, while moving some office equipment, knocked over one of the bookcases. We’ll get to that after the holiday.”
I looked at the scattered books.
“This way,” she said.
“I’ll wait in here,” I said.
“That’s not what we planned; besides, it’s not allowed.”
“I won’t tell if you don’t,” I said, and walked into the room. “We can’t leave these books like this, Sandy. It isn’t … respectful.”
“They’ll get to it when they can. Okay, you can sit in here, but please don’t wander. Everything’s timed.”
I nodded, then, “Help me lift the bookcase.”
“Oh, that’s made of iron or something and too heavy. Plus … Union. I’ll be back in a little while.”
She left me alone with dozens of volumes strewn by avalanche (through no fault of their own, I might add).
I cleared some away from the summit of the toppled bookcase, then attempted to lift it. Sandy was right: it was heavy. I stood up, looked at it, and took a few deep breaths. I reflexively rubbed, between thumb and forefinger, the silver object hanging around my neck.
“Okay, here we go,” I said. I curled my fingers around the top shelf of the bookcase and pulled straight up. “MOVE!” I groaned. It moved. Up, up–easier and easier as it approached vertical, until it stood again against the wall, all empty and asking to fulfill its purpose.
If I had the time, I would have sorted the books by author, alphabetically. As it was, I just wanted to give them back the dignity they deserved. So I started filling the shelves.
After a few minutes, surprised, I whispered, “Ohhh … hello, Mr. D.” My hands caressed an old dictionary. I hugged it to me, and thought back to a Christmas Eve twenty-one years ago, the December night that began my year of A2Z ….
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