by DeFelice, Cynthia. (Simon and Schuster, 1988 ISBN 0-02-726451-3) Novel. Grades 5+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
Jessamine is a calligrapher and she has, over the years, printed out the history of her town by printing up wedding and death announcements, invitations and menus. Now she has another ability, she finds herself compelled to print out such calligraphy of events before they happen. She knows this is a precious and dangerous gift. She convinces a man in town to accept the romance between his daughter and a young man of whom he disapproves because Jessamine has already printed the wedding announcement. Her relationship with Callie, that young woman, is a wonderful inter-generational friendship. When Jessamine prints her own death notice, she handles it with the same wisdom she has handled all the rest.
The novel is only 51 pages long and, as such, it is non-threatening for less able readers while the idea that one can use a magic power to do good without revealing that power is such an intriguing idea that more able readers will also be drawn to the book.
Readers might be willing to look at the book analytically to see how DeFelice managed to portray such a complex character in so few pages and do it so delicately. There are times when the prose approaches poetry and students might like to read particular selections aloud. For instance, Jessica learns that Callie will not win the scholarship which could take her away from her alcoholic mother and get a fresh start in life. The way she gives Callie the strength to accept the disappointment and yet gain self-respect is worth examining.
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