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Visiting Miss Caples
Ages 8 and up; Random House; 1999

"In VISITING MISS CAPLES, one generation reaches out movingly to another at that scary, necessary moment when you declare your independence from your peer group leader, and begin to look around for your life." - Richard Peck, author of the 2000 Dewberry Medal Winner A YEAR DOWN YONDER.

The Story: Did you ever have the feeling that your life had taken some kind of a turn-and you weren't even sure exactly how it happened?

I was already a few weeks into this visiting-the-old-people class project. My assignment was one Elspeth Caples, a silent, strange old lady who hadn't been out of the house in half a decade. At first our routine consisted of her staring at the rug while I read aloud. But today, something happened. Maybe it wouldn't have if I hadn't run out of things to read, and ended up talking about how shaky things had gotten between me and my best friend, Liv. And how once again my dad wasn't actually at his office working late like he said he was. All I know is that today she started to talk-mostly about this girl, a friend once worshiped and then lost, a person she described as "dangerous." So we're not exactly friends, Miss Caples and me, but we did make this connection. And I feel like it's about to take us into, I don't know, some unforeseeable territory-and that I'm not the only one who's excited about, and a little afraid of, what we might discover.

Inspiration: Elizabeth Cody Kimmel got the idea for this story from a scene in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, in which, as a punishment, the character Jem is made to spend a week reading to an elderly neighbor. With that, and with additional inspiration provided by some old family photographs, Visiting Miss Caples got its start.


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