At the sixth grade party on Friday they had a dance room, but there was very little dancing going on. The kids were sliding on their sock feet and running around in a circle holding hands. So I went in to show them how it was done. Of course my daughter was horrified, but still laughing as she pulled me out of the room and made me swear not to set foot in there again.
Parents embarrass their kids. It’s what we do. Sometimes it’s a little bit on purpose; more often it’s not. Most importantly, though, the humiliation is generally only in the eyes of the child.
In Daphne Grab’s first novel, Alive and Well in Prague, New York, she captures the sense of mortification many teens feel about their parents in public. In this case, however, it’s more complicated than a thirty-second turn on the dance floor. Matisse’s father has Parkinson’s disease, and while she deals with her grief about his condition, she also wrestles with guilt about being embarrassed by the effects of the disease.
Matisse and her family have a wonderful life in New York City. Her parents are both known artists hence her name and Matisse loves the city life. But as her dad’s condition deteriorates, they move to the rural town of Prague, New York. Here Matisse doesn’t fit in. Her art teacher doesn’t know Matisse from Monet. The teens look forward to a hayride, not a new art exhibit. Her parents are older than the parents of all the other kids, and it embarrasses Matisse for the first time ever. And along with her feeling of alienation at school is her family’s difficult adjustment to her father’s condition.
Alive and Well in Prague, New York was an enjoyable and pleasant read. Great characters and conflict give the book a subtle power in a short time. Yes, I will mention that it’s a short book, because it’s summer and I must get asked dozens of times over the course of the season for a short book for some teen to fulfill her summer reading requirement. This is one title that I’ll be happy to hand over, knowing that the teen is getting a good book to finish quickly.
The book came out earlier this month, and Daphne had a fab book release party. Tomorrow I’ll have an interview with the Longstocking, so come on back.