Books by Lisa Rowe Fraustino

THE HOLE IN THE WALL by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Released: Nov. 1, 2010

Eleven-year-old Sebastian "Sebby" Daniels's home life is no longer much fun. His Pa has become a layabout drunk. His beloved brother Jed has run away, and his Ma, Grum (grandmother) and perfect twin sister Barbie won't let Sebby have any fun. He regularly escapes to his hole in the wall, a cave on the edge of a strip mine, where he can set his imagination free. When his mother's chickens start laying stone eggs and disappearing and the hippie family next door deserts their commune, Sebby and Barbie investigate. All trails lead to the suspicious activities of mine owner Stanley "Boots" Odum. Chickens and people start petrifying, and the investigation becomes a matter of life and death. Winner of this year's Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature, Fraustino's rural fantasy disappoints with a studied false quirkiness and uneven, unlikable characters. The humor relies on aged and at times inappropriate jokes, and the science fantasy is never fully realized. The meandering plot gets a little fizzy near the end but never sparkles the way an award winner should. (Fantasy. 8-11)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2004

The punnish title does not really reflect the tone of this fiction collection featuring coming-of-age rituals in various cultures—there's almost no lightheartedness. Instead, Han Nolan's "Maroon" presents the harrowing tale of a girl who finds her own horror in an unmarried teen cousin's pregnancy and death; and Linda Oatman High prays that "The Uterus Fairy" will make that period arrive at last. Alice McGill starkly presents the breeding of slaves in "Moon Time Child." The Jewish ritual mikvah and the Lenni-Lenape's women's house have central roles in the stories by Deborah Heiligman and Dianne Ochiltree. As often happens in anthologies around a theme, the quality of the writing is uneven. The lone male contributor, David Lubar, whose "Heroic Quest of Douglas MacGawain" is the sweetest and least dark, describes a young man's search for tampons for his girlfriend at the local store, and it will produce chuckles and joy. (Short stories. 11+)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2002

This collection of 13 short stories about faith will strike a chord in teens still trying to make sense of violence carried out in the name of Allah toward Americans, yet it isn't meant to be a reaction to 9/11. Conceived years before that tragedy, it brings together both veteran and fresh voices of YA literature and a mélange of world religions and beliefs, including Native American and Amish. It's also not about becoming saved or finding God or Buddha or any other higher being. Rather it shows the universal need to feel connected to family, friends, and humanity. In Minfong Ho's "The See-Far Glasses," for example, Ling, who never really understood her grandmother's family altar, an outgrowth of Confucian tenets, learns to value this communication with her ancestors when her grandmother dies. These stories may also clarify religious principles as in Elsa Marston's "The Olive Grove" in which Muslim Mujahhid, having seen his brother and best friend killed by Israelis, discovers his own jihad, to struggle peacefully for his family's rights in the midst of chaos and war. Conversely, Dian Curtis Regan's frightening "The Evil Eye," based on an actual Venezuelan cult, shows an organized faith in the hands of evildoers. The final story, Fraustino's "The Tin Man," in which patients of varying ages, sizes, and religions wait their turn for a new heart transplant, sums up the main theme expressed throughout: although faith comes with more questions than answers, life is richer and more meaningful for those who ask those difficult questions and who find guiding principles in something beyond themselves. Readers will find humor, pain, joy, and wonder in these honest, powerful stories—and hopefully tolerance, compassion, and their own questions about the world around them. (Short stories. YA)Read full book review >
THE HICKORY CHAIR by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

In this loving, warmly sentimental tale an old man fondly remembers his childhood days with his grandmother. Louis may be blind but that doesn't stop him from sniffing out Gran, with her bleach-and-lilac scent, wherever she may be hiding, or playing "touch your nose" with her and a mirror, or listening to her "molasses voice" as she reads aloud, sitting in a favorite hickory chair. When Gran dies, Louis's family gathers to reminisce, and learns from her will that she's hidden notes in the possessions she wanted specific people to have. Endowed with what Gran always called "blind sight," Louis proves best at finding those notes—but not one is addressed to him. Given the option to pick anything he'd like to keep, he chooses the chair. Restrained colors and upright, elongated figures give both feelings of dignity and intimacy to Andrews's (Sky Sash So Blue, 1998) paint and fabric tableaux; facial features are shadowed or indistinct, but the body language clearly expresses the warmth and respect with which this family is bound. On a sweet closing note, the aging Louis finds his own youngest grandchild asleep in that hickory chair, her fist around an old, long-lost message that had been hidden in the padding for so many years. It says that the chair is meant to be his, of course, as he knew all along. A fine story with a theme seldom visited. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
DIRTY LAUNDRY by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Released: June 1, 1998

Fraustino (Ash, 1995, etc.) presents 11 fresh, diverse pieces in a fierce collection of salacious family stories. The theme is sure to appeal to a wide audience, and these stories run from merely amusing to devastating. The weakest story comes first: In Bruce Coville's attention-grabber, Randy discovers not only that he has a long, lost uncle, but also that the uncle is a pre-op transsexual. The treatment is preachy and obvious, with dialogue and confrontations right out of daytime talk shows ("Don't pretend I'm something you have to hide. I'm not evil. I'm not! I just what to be what I am!"). Otherwise, the collection has more than its share of gems: Rita Williams-Garcia's affecting account of a brother's broken dreams and his societal withdrawal; Anna Grossnickle Hines's powerful tale of a girl who inadvertently learns of her mother's abortion; Laurie Halse Anderson's hilarious story of a boy who must reconcile his parents' post-high-school expectations of him with his own plans to travel; Fraustino's own atmospheric portrayal of a mental hospital where the teenager who visits to cheer up a patient discovers her own family's history of mental illness. The stories are engrossing; the writers stray from the obvious, making for many pleasant reading surprises. (Fiction. 13-15) Read full book review >
ASH by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Released: April 1, 1995

How does a family handle mental illness when it appears in their midst? The Libbys are just a regular family, running a motel in Maine, working part time at the blueberry cannery, and attending—but not taking too seriously—the evangelical church up the road. Ash, the oldest son, is the family star. A gifted musician, he plays in a country band, makes straight A's, and bests the local reigning cribbage champion. He's a great big brother to Wes, who narrates. But Ash changes. He drinks and experiments with drugs, falls in with a punk crowd, and starts playing ear-splitting music, all of which could be attributed to normal adolescence except that he also starts hearing voices and exhibiting bizarre behavior. Watching his idolized older brother fall apart is agony for Wes, who begins a private journal to his brother in an effort to sort out his feelings. This novel is the result, written in an authentic adolescent voice, including poor grammar, b&w cartoon illustrations, and a wry, occasionally immature, sense of humor. Fraustino (Grass & Sky, 1994) has written a believable portrait of a family in crisis. The characters are multi- dimensional, the setting vividly real. A valuable look at adolescent schizophrenia. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
GRASS AND SKY by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Released: April 1, 1994

In her first novel, Fraustino explores the long-term emotional fallout on a family living beyond alcoholism. It's a long, winding road that leads to Grampy's camp on Fish Lake in Maine, and 11- year-old Timmi—star pitcher for her little league team—would rather be back in Scranton. She's missing the big game to go with her parents and sister for two weeks in the wild; worse, she'll be spending the time with an old man who's never answered the letters she's been writing faithfully for years. During her first week with the die-hard old jigsaw puzzler, Timmi puts her own family puzzle together to discover Grampy's secret (alcoholism, now under control), the reason for his silence (her father returned his letters unopened), and why tidying things up is suddenly so urgent (Grampy is dying). ``An oyster makes a pearl by laying layer after layer of white to stop the itch of one little grain of sand. A secret gets covered up like that. But honesty grows like that, too- -layer after layer of truth to stop the itch of the secret.'' A nicely evoked regional novel. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >