Thursday, December 23, 2010

Touchstone Community School

Students in the seventh and eighth grade classes at Touchstone Community School in Grafton, MA, recently invited me to talk about The Wonder of Charlie Anne.

What a delightful morning it was! Their teacher, Katy Aborn, asked students to take part in a Socratic Seminar, where they debated the effectiveness of the plot and different aspects of the book. For example, they discussed the friendship between Charlie Anne and Phoebe, the supernatural talks Charlie Anne has with her deceased mother, prejudice and racism, and the adversity rural people faced during the Great Depression.

What a gift it was for me and my mother (who often goes on school visits with me) to hear the articulate responses of students who so obviously understood the deeper meanings of the novel.

Here are some of the things they said about the visit:

"We were wondering so many things...."

"I loved hearing about how you came up with all the characters for The Wonder of Charlie Anne."

"Thank you for answering all of the questions about writing, because I love writing and your advice and strategies will help me become a better writer."

"I really loved the book. It was funny and really great."

"I also like writing a first draft because when I'm writing a first draft, so many ideas run through my head.

"Meeting you made me want to be a writer even more than I already do! I can't wait to start writing my book."

For more information on Touchstone, or to contact Katy Aborn, please visit

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Charlie Anne has just received a Parents' Choice Silver Medal Award for Fiction!

The Parents' Choice Foundation, in Timonium, MD, is the nation's oldest nonprofit guide to quality children's media and toys. The Foundation's mission is to provide parents with the information necessary to participate wisely in their children's learning outside of the classroom.

Parents’ Choice reviews books, toys, music, television, software, videogames, websites, and magazines for children and families of all achievements and backgrounds.

Founding principles are:

* Children deserve material to sharpen young minds, not blunt them.
* Children learn most easily when they enjoy it.
* Knowledge gives parents confidence to teach their children.
* And above all, because learning is fun - and we want kids to know it.

Wow, thank you Parents' Choice Foundation!

And here is the review:

The Wonder of Charlie Anne

"Charlie Anne lives in difficult times. The book, Kimberly Newton Fusco's latest, is set during the Great Depression. Charlie Anne's mother has recently died in childbirth, and her father and older brother, like most of the men in town, move north to find work. Charlie Anne and her three siblings are left to the care of their mother's mean cousin Mirabel. Mirabel assigns a never-ending string of awful chores - making vinegar pies, shoveling muck from the outhouse - and nags tomboy Charlie Anne to be a proper lady.

Things seem pretty bad, until a stranger comes to town. Mr. Jolly, who lives across the road from Mirabel, marries. His new wife brings a girl the same age as Charlie Anne. The girls form a quick friendship. The new girl sings like an angel, reads Dickens, and wears "trousers", but she is ostracized by the neighbors of Charlie Anne's small town and church for being black. Charlie Anne is a feisty and gutsy heroine, though, and she makes a bold show of solidarity. Slowly, the rest of the town comes around.

This is a heartwarming story about human nature, survival and forgiveness. Fusco does a wonderful job pointing out treasures in even the hardest of times, and she has a lovely touch with language. Charlie Anne describes her dyslexia, for instance, as letters popping all over the page. Strong period details bolster the historical setting, and Charlie Anne's resilient spirit triumphs over everything. As poor as her family is, she still has old Anna May the milk cow, hen races with her siblings, and a tree swing that flies to the sky. She also has a good friend, and that's priceless."

Teresa DiFalco ©2010 Parents' Choice

For more information, and to view the other winners, please visit:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Thank you to the wonderful blog, CURLED UP WITH A GOOD KID'S BOOK for this lovely review. And thank you to reviewer Kristine Wildner.

"Bringing a fresh voice to Depression-era fiction, Kimberly Newton Fusco’s The Wonder of Charlie Anne is set on a rural farm. Charlie Anne’s mother recently died in childbirth, and her father and older brother have gone north to build roads for the government to bring in needed cash.

Mirabel, an adult cousin, has come to care for Charlie Anne, her younger brother, Peter, and sisters, Ivy and Birdie. Missing her mother terribly and now her father and brother, Charlie Anne resents Mirabel and her insistence on teaching her manners and household chores. She finds comfort in visits to the river, conversing with the spirit of her mother and in caring for the family cow and her calf.

When their neighbor “old Mr. Jolly” comes home with a new wife, Rosalyn, and their “adopted” African American daughter, Phoebe, Charlie Anne immediately bonds with the girl, forming a friendship which is looked down upon not only by Mirabel but most of the rest of the community. Charlie Anne experiences firsthand the cruel discrimination related to her good friend and family.

The girls’ friendship is not without conflict, as Charlie Anne struggles with her reading and becomes jealous of Phoebe’s academic abilities. Additionally, she must work through yet another family adjustment as Mirabel sends her brother to live in Boston with an aunt.The plot comes to a climax when Phoebe’s foot is caught in a neighbor’s hunting trap. Charlie Anne not only saves her life but also finally learns to read under the individual tutelage of Rosalyn during Phoebe’s recovery. Ultimately, this crisis ignites a change within their rural community as Mirabel finally recognizes the importance of Phoebe in Charlie Anne’s life and begins to help less fortunate neighbors at the same time.

Charlie Anne’s unique, strong voice reveals her thoughts and hopes most deeply through her mother’s voice – calling her to mature and make the right, albeit difficult decisions in her life. Other than Charlie Anne, Mirabel’s character undergoes the most dramatic changes. From the beginning, she is portrayed as a stereotypical strict “stepmother” figure. However, if the reader stops to consider the situation throughout the story, Mirabel is a selfless person struggling to do the very best for a family which most definitely needs her leadership to survive in hard times.

Recurring themes throughout the book will resonate with readers of today, including the importance of family, thankfulness and the ingenuity it takes to get by when times are difficult. The image of the cows, a mother and daughter, recurs throughout underlying the importance of the mother/daughter relationship missing from both Phoebe and Charlie Anne’s lives. Each girl recognizes something is missing - not forgetting the hurt but coping despite the loss.

Ultimately, Charlie Anne’s story is one of hope and change with subjects which are as important today as they were during the Depression. The plot is both reflective and active as each character reacts to change and crisis in a hopeful story centering on the values of family and friendship. "

Monday, November 8, 2010


Dell Smith, over at the fabulous literary blog, Beyond the Margins,
interviewed me recently about writing and publishing literature for young people.

Dell, a writer of short stories and novels, has published in J. Journal, Lynx Eye Quarterly, Grub Street’s 10th anniversary anthology Hacks, and will be featured in issue 56 of Fiction Magazine. He maintains a blog, Unreliable Narrator at, featuring essays on writing, book reviews, and author interviews.
Thank you, Dell.

Kimberly Newton Fusco was an award-winning reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette for 15 years before turning to writing for young adults. Her debut novel, Tending to Grace, is about a girl struggling with a stutter that leaves her reluctant to talk, especially after her mother leaves her with a great aunt she’s never met.

Her latest novel, The Wonder of Charlie Anne, was published August 2010 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. It’s about Charlie Anne, a young girl growing up during the Great Depression, without her mother (who died during child birth) and whose father and brother must head north to find work.

Kimberly Newton Fusco sits down with Beyond the Margins to discuss writing for young adults, why she set her latest novel during the Depression, and the importance of research.

Your first novel, Tending to Grace, is a beautiful, honest, and lyrical story about a girl who stutters and features two other characters who can’t read. Your latest book, The Wonder of Charlie Anne, is set during the American Depression of the 1930s. While Tending to Grace and Charlie Anne are set in different eras, you tackle universal themes such as surrogate parents, children with learning disabilities, and, in the case of Charlie Anne, racism. In other words, the stories you choose both entertain and inform. Were these the types of books you were drawn to when you were younger?

When I was young, I loved books about strong girls. I loved how Harriet the Spy made sense of people and their absurdities by writing about them, and how Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins learns to live alone – and survive! — on an island in the Pacific.

In my own writing, I am drawn to strong girls who face adversity and through their own determination, press on. In Tending to Grace, Cornelia must confront her stuttering and in The Wonder of Charlie Anne, Charlie Anne must confront her reading disability and the racism around her.

As far as entertaining and informing readers at the same time, I believe The Diary of Anne Frank is the best book ever written for young people. You read that book and you become a kinder and more compassionate person, even in small ways. A novel becomes bigger than itself and more universal when it takes on the larger world around it. I am very interested in writing about people who have been marginalized in some way, whether because of their religion, or by racism or because they talk differently, as Cornelia does in Tending to Grace.

Why did you set Charlie Anne during the Depression?

I was thinking about chores and what they would be like before electricity reached rural areas. Our road in Foster, RI, was without electricity until the 1950s. Imagine washing diapers without a washing machine, or sweeping and rug beating without vacuum cleaners, or cooking on a wood stove. The work seems endless.

I am very interested in what “women’s work” has been through the ages. When I heard Charlie Anne’s voice in my head for the first time, I was nearing the end of a first draft of another novel. I scrapped that book because Charlie Anne’s voice was so powerful and strong. She was a spirited, tough little nut. There was no looking back.

What was the publishing process like for Charlie Anne?

It took two and a half years from first sentence to finished novel on the bookstore shelf. I wrote the first draft pretty quickly once I got going because Charlie Anne’s voice was so strong and I wanted to capture it. I sent my editor the first three chapters in June 2008 and the whole novel five months later. Then my editor asked for two major rewrites and one smaller one. These were finished in July 2009. From there, the manuscript went through several rounds with copy editors and was printed into ARCs (advance reader copies), which were sent out for review. The first major review to come in was from Kirkus Reviews, and it was starred. That got everything off to a nice start.

How have young adult novels changed since you were younger? It seems like YA novels today tackle heavier themes than when I was a kid, with topics like addiction and teen violence. Have YA stories always reflected the times?

Some young adult novels do seem edgier. It’s wonderful that young people have so many choices today, from Harry Potter, to The Graveyard Book to this year’s Newbery Award winner, When You Reach Me. There are books out there for every sort of reader.

What draws you to writing for young adults?

I write for young people because books were such an important part of my life as a child. I would walk to my town library every few days and get a new stack of books and read them for hours in my tree house. To be able to give that gift to another child is what keeps me writing.

What is the difference between a story marketed as young adult and a story written from a young adult’s point of view that is considered an adult novel? For example, I just read David Benioff’s City of Thieves which takes place during World War II in Russia during the German invasion. The protagonist is seventeen, yet he is going through what can really only be described as intensely adult situations. So the book, from what I can tell, is not considered young adult.

I think lots of people are confused by this. I know I am. I tend to write for the younger end of the YA spectrum (Cornelia in Tending to Grace is 14, Charlie Anne in The Wonder of Charlie Anne is 11, which actually makes it a Middle Grade novel). Take Ellen Foster. Why wasn’t that marketed as a young adult novel, or The Secret Life of Bees?

Some people say the difference between YA and adult are the themes (adult themes = adult books) but that line is blurry. Some of the young adult books marketed to high school students take on very adult themes. A better answer I have heard recently is that a YA novel tends to have a quicker pace and the plot is more straightforward, while adult literature unfolds more slowly with more subtlety and ambiguity. Actually, I’d like to do away with some of the boxes we try and put writers into. I have many adults reading my books. It’s nice to have that cross-over.

You worked as a newspaper reporter in Worcester, Mass for years. How have your experiences working in a large, working-class city informed your fiction? Or have you incorporated more of your own life (including your early struggle with stuttering) into your books?

I was primarily an education writer in Worcester, and you will find evidence of that in my books. I would often spend one day a week for an entire school year with a class of students and then write a series of articles. For instance I wrote a series on ability grouping and what happens to the children on the bottom track, and I followed students in behavior disorder special education classrooms. I put Cornelia in remedial rooms and had her read a watered-down version of Tom Sawyer. When my former newspaper editor read the book, he said, “Hey, that sounds familiar!”

One thing I learned as a journalist is that the difference between a great story and a lousy one is research. I had the great fortune of meeting retired elementary teacher Beverly Pettine, who is volunteer schoolmistress at the Hornbine School, a one-room schoolhouse museum in Rehoboth, MA. She helped with a great deal of the research for The Wonder of Charlie Anne, including sharing primers used during the Depression. She also introduced me to two women who attended the school during the 1930s, and they shared their memories with me. Where else could I have found the “standing in the trash bucket” punishment?

What is your writing process like?

My writing routine is a lot different now that all my children are in school. When I was writing Tending to Grace, I wrote in half-hour blocks while one of my children was napping, but now I write after my children leave in the morning. I try and get in some exercise every day, either walking or running or riding my bike. This helps me work out plot problems. While I was writing Charlie Anne, I would hike each day out along the brook that runs in back of my house so I could listen to her voice.

You have a great website, incorporating your books and characters throughout the site. How important is it to have an author website in terms of publicity and staying available and current with readers? How about social media? Do you tweet or have a facebook page?

I do have a new website designed by an artist friend of mine and I keep a blog on that site, primarily to post events and news about Charlie Anne.

I have dabbled with social media, but mostly, I concentrate on my writing. It seems to me if the writing is good enough, everything else will take care of itself.

Friday, October 22, 2010


This wonderful article ran recently in the New Bedford paper, South Coast Today.
Thank you to BookLovers editor, Lauren Daley


In an age when most young reader books are about vampires, cliques or vampire cliques, "The Wonder of Charlie Anne" by Kimberly Newton Fusco is a breath of innocence and fresh air.

Set during the Depression, Charlie Anne spends her days out on her family farm, talking to the cows, enjoying nature and visiting her mother's grave by the river, a special place where she can feel close to her mother's memory.

Times are tough, so when her dad and brother leave home to find work, Charlie Anne is stuck at home with her little siblings and her mother's overbearing cousin Mirabel. But things begin to brighten for Charlie Anne when new neighbors move in — a white woman (who wears pants!) and her African-American daughter named Phoebe.

Fusco of Foster, R.I., has been compared to beloved young-adult authors Patricia Reilly Giff and Patricia MacLachlan. She worked for 15 years as an editor and education writer for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. She's also written for The Providence Journal, The Boston Globe, The Newport Daily News and The Milford Daily News.

I talked to Fusco recently about "Charlie Anne," books — and vinegar pie.

Lauren: How did the story of Charlie Anne come to you?

Kimberly: I was hiking out through the woods behind my house and I was thinking about a little girl who lived across the road from my grandparents' house in Maine. She had to watch her little brother and do chores from morning until night or so it seemed to me "¦ I've thought about her a lot over the years, (and she) was the first twinkling of an idea that led to Charlie Anne.
The first page actually began as a poem for my writing group. I am very interested in what "women's work" has been through the ages. When I heard Charlie Anne's voice in my head for the first time, I was nearing the end of a first draft of another novel. I scrapped that book because Charlie Anne's voice was so powerful and strong. She was a spirited, tough little nut. There was no looking back.

Lauren: Why did you decide to write a story set in the Depression?

Kimberly: I was thinking about chores and what they would be like before electricity reached rural areas. Our road in Foster, R.I., was without electricity until the 1950s. Imagine washing diapers without a washing machine? Or sweeping and rug beating without vacuum cleaners or cooking on a wood stove? The work seems endless.

Lauren: Your other book, "Tending to Grace," is about a young girl, Cornelia, who stutters — you also stuttered as a kid. Is Charlie Anne in any way based on you, too?

Kimberly: Charlie Anne has my humor and a great love for the natural world, as I do ... Many of the scenes in the novel were taken from my own life and the lives of my four children "¦ They have all loved running through the woods and climbing trees and playing in the brook that runs behind our house "¦

Lauren: Who are your favorite young adult authors? Adult authors?

Kimberly: I love Karen Cushman. I have also recently enjoyed "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman and "The Underneath" by Kathi Appelt. I can't answer a question like this without saying that "The Diary of Anne Frank" is the best book for young people that I have ever read.

As for adults, I've read "Beloved" many, many times to figure out how she wrote it, so hand's down I'd say Toni Morrison is my favorite adult novelist "¦

Lauren: What are you reading now?

Kimberly: "Dreamer" by Pam Munoz Ryan. It is an extraordinary novel about the young artistic childhood of Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize-winning poet.

Lauren: Cousin Mirabel makes Charlie Anne learn how to bake vinegar pie that tastes like lemon pie for when "hard times" come. Where did you learn to bake vinegar pie? Does it really taste like lemon?

Kimberly: I love reading old cookbooks and sifting through old recipes. I think they are a window into another time. I found the recipe for vinegar pie during my research. If you close your eyes, a vinegar pie really does taste a lot like lemon. Here is the recipe.

1/2 c. butter, softened
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 (8-inch) unbaked pie shell
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. sugar
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.
If anyone makes and eats vinegar pie, please e-mail Lauren Daley to let her know what you think. Contact her at

Here is the response from one of Lauren's readers:

Hi Lauren, I did it! I made and ate the vinegar pie.

I didn't tell anyone what I was making since I figured the name of the pie would cause them not to want to try it. So, I just said it was going to be like a lemon custard.

I cheated a bit and bought ready made pie crust. I usually make my own pie crust but I figured that I didn't want to go through all that work for a pie that I might toss out. So, I preheated the oven and began to blend the ingredients. I poured the mixture into the pie crust. Of course, at that point I had to dip my finger along the side of the mixing bowl. It was good! I thought, I can pull this off - my husband and teenagers just might try this pie and like it.

I was a bit worried when it came out of the oven but it looked really good. I let it cool for about an hour and then we ate it at room temperature. I bought a tub of whipped topping for it, too. It was so good, my husband, Steve, had 2 slices. It really just tastes like a sweet pie. It's probably even better cold from the refrigerator.

We only have 1 piece left so we'll probably be fighting for it tomorrow. The only downside was that I didn't make the crust!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Charlie Anne's Big Night

My favorite library in the world - Tyler Free Library in Foster, RI - hosted a beautiful reception for Charlie Anne recently. The library is a former one-room schoolhouse, so it was a fitting place for Charlie Anne to make her debut. Plus, it is the library our family has loved for the last twenty years. It may be small, but it is very big in terms of warm-hearted friendliness and in the love the librarians there have for books and readers.

The reception was filled with children and adults - old and dear friends and many new friends, too. It was a wonderful night, and I am very grateful.

Kristin Russo from the Valley Breeze Observer, followed up with this lovely article.

Foster author launches second novel

By KRISTIN RUSSO, Breeze Correspondent

FOSTER - According to novelist Kimberly Newton Fusco, it takes a village to write a book.

Author of the award-winning "Tending to Grace," which is read in classrooms across the country and acclaimed for its sympathetic characters and rich use of figurative language, Fusco credits her village, the town of Foster, with helping her bring her most recent story, "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," to life.

"Books are not written alone," said Fusco. "There are often many people behind the scenes helping out, as there was for 'The Wonder of Charlie Anne.' I had some people helping with research, so important in a historical novel, and others helped by encouraging me to keep going. Others read the novel at various stages. My husband helped me plot the whole thing out on index cards after the first draft was finished."

She added, "I'm also grateful for the town of Foster itself, for providing so much rural landscape and farmland that is such an inspiration to me. It truly is a wonderful place to live and raise a family - and write books."

"The Wonder of Charlie Anne" chronicles the life experiences of 11-year-old Charlie Anne, a girl growing up in hardship during the Depression and struggling with loss and loneliness. Charlie Anne clings to cherished memories of her mother, with whom she shares a unique connection, and finds solace in her friendship with Phoebe, an African American girl who moves to town.

As their friendship grows, the girls find themselves at the center of controversy in a town that values "good manners" but not necessarily openness and acceptance. When prejudice rears its ugly head, Charlie Anne learns that it's not enough to know, "That the fork goes on the left, or how to put on tea. Real manners are about love, kindness, and respect," said Fusco.

As Fusco launches "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," she discusses the happy but unexpected success she experienced with her first novel, "Tending to Grace," which earned a number of literary awards, including the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award for its empathetic portrayal of a young girl who struggles to communicate with a stutter.

"I never knew Tending to Grace would be so successful," said Fusco. "'Tending to Grace' is on summer reading lists and taught in language arts classes across the country. It is used every year in classes in Foster, Scituate, Johnston, and Cumberland. I've visited classrooms all over Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. It's even on YouTube. I am very grateful, because for me the best part of publishing a book is hearing from young people."

While "Tending to Grace" appealed to older readers, Charlie Anne's story will more likely reach younger readers who are closer in age to the 11-year-old main character. "In 'Tending to Grace,' my main character, Cornelia, is 14, and Charlie Anne is 11. There is an age difference there, and it shows in the voices of the characters. However, I hear from as many adults as children that they loved 'Tending to Grace,' and that seems to be happening so far with Charlie Anne. It's nice to capture readers of all ages. I have my fingers crossed," said Fusco.

A starred review from Kirkus Reviews indicates that Fusco's sophomore novel is off to an illustrious start after a nearly three-year process bringing it from its first draft to the book stores.

"It took two and a half years from first sentence to finished novel on the bookstore shelf," said Fusco. "I wrote the first draft pretty quickly once I got going because Charlie Anne's voice was so strong and I wanted to capture it."

She added, "I would write a chapter, send it to my editor, and she would say, 'Hooray!' and then I would write the next." The first three chapters were written by June 2008, and the entire novel was completed five months later. After two major revisions and one smaller edit, the manuscript was printed into advance reader copies and sent out for review, said Fusco. "The first major review to come in was from Kirkus Reviews, and it was starred. That got everything off to a nice start."

At a recent event at Tyler Free Library in Foster celebrating the launch of her new book, Fusco said she was delighted by the warm turnout of friends and family who had inspired her writing and encouraged her endeavors. "This town is filled with inspiration," said Fusco. "It was very rewarding to have so many people come out in support of me and my book. My husband counted more than 50 people."

For more information about "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," "Tending to Grace," and a third novel by Fusco currently in the works, visit

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Through the Looking Glass

The Wonder of Charlie Anne has received a fabulous review from Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews!

The Wonder of Charlie Anne

Charlie Anne has suffered a great deal in the last six months or so. Her mother died soon after giving birth, the baby died, and then cousin Mirabel came to live with Charlie Anne’s family. To say that Charlie Anne dislikes Mirabel is an understatement. The woman works Charlie Anne all day long and, if this is not bad enough, she also wants to help Charlie Anne to “become a young lady.”

Life is hard on Charlie Anne’s family farm because of the Great Depression. For a while they manage, but finally Charlie Anne’s father decides that he has to go north to work on President Roosevelt’s roads. Charlie Anne is furious because she believes that her mother would not want their family to split up. She cannot bear the thought that her father will leave her with Mirabel. It is just too terrible to contemplate. Unfortunately Papa and Charlie Anne’s eldest brother soon leave, and Charlie Anne is left with Mirabel, her annoying sister Ivy, her little brother Peter, and her little sister Birdie.

Somehow, Charlie Anne copes, taking every miserable day as it comes. Then the neighbor who lives next door, Mr. Jolly, brings home a new wife who is called Rosalyn. Not only does Roslyn wear honest-to-goodness flaming red pants, but she also has an adopted daughter called Phoebe who is African American. Most of the people in the neighborhood avoid Rosalyn because they don’t want to have anything to do with the “colored” girl, but Charlie Anne soon grows very fond of Rosalyn and Phoebe. Even though Mirabel does not want her to, Charlie Anne goes to see them and plays with Phoebe. Having these two people in her life helps makes things more bearable for Charlie Anne for a while, until her life unravels even more.

This incredible book will give readers a rich and often powerful picture of what it was like to live on a farm in America during the Great Depression. In addition, the author explores the nature of racism and she shows, through Charlie Anne’s eyes, how racism makes so little sense, especially when you are young and lonely. With inspirational flashes of humor and incredible sensitivity, the author tells a riveting and meaningful story.


Thank you to editor Marya Jansen-Gruber, who wrote the review. And here's a little information about Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review.

"Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Review has been in operation since October of 2003. Our goal is to provide parents, teachers, and others with a tool to help them find truly exceptional books for the young people in their lives. We do not sell books, we just review them, and we only review the books we like, so our reviews are always positive ones. Over time TTLG has expanded this fundamental goal to include doing what we can to review books published by small houses, to publicize organizations who work for children, and to publicize the work of new authors and illustrators."

Spend some time browsing the site. You'll enjoy yourself!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Such a Stunning Pie!

Here's a post from a fellow writer, Stephanie Blake of Parker, CO. What a delight for me, because not only did she love the book, but she actually baked a vinegar pie. (See photo above!)

Book Love: The Wonder of Charlie Anne

If you or your little reader can't get enough historical fiction, she/he will love The Wonder of Charlie Anne by Kimberly Newton Fusco. The characters in this story feel so fleshed out. You'll laugh and cry. I loved the descriptions of all the icky housework. And I'm fascinated by one room schools. I think I'll bake a vinegar pie this afternoon.

Synopsis from the Random House website: Charlie Anne is devastated when her father must go north to build roads after the Depression hits. She and her siblings are left with their rigid cousin, Mirabel, and a farm full of chores. The only solace Charlie Anne finds is by the river, where the memory of her mother is strongest.Then her neighbor Old Mr. Jolly brings home a new wife, Rosalyn, who shows up in pants—pants!—the color of red peppers. With her arrives Phoebe, a young African American girl who has also lost her mother. Phoebe is smart and fun and the perfect antidote to Charlie Anne's lonely days. The girls soon forge a friendship and learn from each other in amazing ways.But when hatred turns their town ugly, it's almost more than they can bear. Now it's up to Charlie Anne and Phoebe to prove that our hearts are always able to expand.


I did bake a vinegar pie, and it turned out delicious. Here's the recipe on Ms. Fusco's website. And here's the pie. (see picture above) If you close your eyes, it tastes like lemon!
Congratulations to Stephanie because her debut novel, THE MARBLE QUEEN, is being published by Marshall Cavendish in 2012. It is a middle grade historical novel. Best wishes and good luck to my new writing friend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meet Evelyn and Frances

A lovely article ran in the Rehoboth (MA) News recently about The Wonder of Charlie Anne. The article includes a picture of Evelyn and Frances, the two women who spent several hours with me one fall day answering all my questions about what it felt like to attend a one-room schoolhouse during the Great Depression.

Here they are:

And here's the article!


Rhode Island author Kimberly Newton Fusco’s newest young adult novel is set in a Massachusetts town during the years of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

As part of her research, Kim visited the historic Hornbine School in Rehoboth since a portion of “The Wonder of Charlie Anne” is set in a one-room schoolhouse. She first visited on a raw, overcast day in the fall of 2008 to meet with Evelyn Rose Bois and Frances Magan Jones as they recalled their lessons and adventures at Hornbine School during the 1930s.

Kimberly returned in the spring of 2009 with her mother, Priscilla, and her daughter, Laura, to experience the recreation of a day at the one-room schoolhouse. This historical school program is offered at the Hornbine School to area classes every spring and fall.

(my mom, my daughter, Laura, and me)

Much of what Kim saw and heard on both of her visits has been incorporated into her novel which is available in local book stores is already receiving outstanding reviews.

Don’t miss Charlie Anne and her friend Phoebe as they create a friendship that outlasts hardship, sadness and racial tension, reminding us all that courage and a heart that cares can overcome most anything.

The Hornbine School is open to the public from 2-4 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month between June and September. Please note: the School will be open on Saturday, September 25 rather than that Sunday to coincide with the Hornbine Church Bazaar.

(And this is the Hornbine School. Standing with her students (in front of door) is Beverly Pettine, who helped so much with my research. Thank you, Beverly.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Launch!

It's thrilling to be sending Charlie Anne out into the world today. I wonder how she'll do on her own? I have my fingers crossed....

There is a wonderful review on this very nice site for girls: It was written by a young person, Kelly Myslinski. Thank you, Kelly!

"Take a step back to the 1930s. The Great Depression has hit and your Papa and older brother have left the farm to go up north and look for jobs building roads to send money home. Your Mama died during the birth of her sixth child and a new mom (cousin Mirabel, who no one likes) has come. Then there’s your younger brother, who has been sent to live with an aunt and uncle.

Whose life is that? That’s the life of Charlie Anne in The Wonder of Charlie Anne by Kimberly Newton Fusco.

Charlie Anne hates all the chores she has to do: baking pies, hanging out the laundry and cleaning out the compost among taking care of her younger sibs. But Charlie Anne is a good listener. She hears the songs of the river, the wind and of the trees. What she loves to do most is visit her Mama’s grave by the river, where she can feel her presence very strongly.

When Charlie Anne meets her neighbor, Mr. Jolly’s, new wife, she’s surprised. Her name is Rosalyn and she wears red pepper-red trousers. Trousers? On a girl? Maybe all women from Mississippi wear ’em. Rosalyn has ideas that are before her time. And Charlie Anne’s even more surprised to find out that they have a new daughter—a colored girl named Phoebe around the same age as Charlie Anne. She’s never seen a colored girl up close before.

Added on to all of the mayhem, Charlie Anne must deal with mean Becky Ellis ... and her sister, Ivy, who is also becoming mean and cousin Mirabel, who’s keeping her from visiting Mr.Jolly!

Nothing will ever be the same since Mama left, or the Great Depression, or since Rosalyn became the new Mrs.Jolly and she brought Phoebe with her.

Riddled with quirky old-fashioned sayings, courage and kindness, Kimberly Newton Fusco’s book, The Wonder of Charlie Anne, will make you think about the world differently. Available in bookstores Aug. 10, be sure to check it out and let us know your thoughts!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My First Charlie Anne Interview

Margo Tanenbaum interviewed me for her wonderful blog, THE FOURTH MUSKETEER ( She posted this morning:

Thanks so much to Kimberly Newton Fusco, the author of the terrific new middle-grade novel, The Wonder of Charlie Anne, for agreeing to this author interview!

Q: Charlie Anne has such a distinctive voice in this novel. What inspired you to tell her story?

A: There was a little girl who lived across the road from my grandmother’s house in Maine . She had to watch her little brother and do chores from morning till night, or so it seemed to me. This was very upsetting because she had a pony and I wanted to play with her and ride the pony! I have thought about her a lot over the years, about how she didn’t have time to play. So she was the first twinkling of an idea that led to Charlie Anne.

The first chapter actually began as a poem for my writing group. I am very interested in what “women’s work” has been through the ages. When I heard Charlie Anne’s voice for the first time, I was nearing the end of another novel. I scrapped that book because Charlie Anne’s voice was so powerful and strong. There was no looking back!

Q: I loved how the cows in this book were almost extensions of Charlie Anne, providing mirrors into her feelings, particularly her grief over her mother's death. I understand from your author's note that you spent a lot of time on a dairy farm as a young girl. Are cows a particular favorite of yours? And what is the story with vinegar pie? I was hoping for a recipe at the end of the book!

A: I loved being on family farms in Maine when I was young. I live with my husband and children in a rural town in Rhode Island now and although we don’t have cows (we have our sheep, Daisy and Wilbur) there are many cows on neighboring farms. While writing Charlie Anne, I rode my bike to the fields up the road, crawled through the barbed wire fence and watched them..

As for vinegar pie, I got that idea while I was researching the Great Depression. Here’s the recipe I found (and tried) while I was writing the book.

1/2 c. butter, softened
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 (8 inch) unbaked pie shell
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.

Q: Before turning to children's fiction, you spent many years as a journalist. How does your writing process differ writing novels vs. when you were a journalist? Are you still involved in journalism or are you writing fiction only now?

A: I only write fiction now, but journalism taught me that everyone has a story if you only take the time to listen. Journalism taught me that the difference between a great story and a lousy one is research. I was on cloud nine when two women who attended a one room schoolhouse in Rehoboth , Massachusetts, during the Great Depression shared their memories with me. Where else could I have found the “standing in the trash bucket” punishment?

Q: You have four children; do their personalities and experiences influence your writing? If so, how?

A: Many, many parts of my books come from ideas I get from watching my children. My sons and daughters have all loved climbing trees and fishing and running all over our six acres and splashing in the brook that runs across our land. The chicken races that Mirabel gets so angry about were actually something my daughters made up as a birthday party game when we had a flock of Rhode Island Reds. Also, the song that Rosalyn sings when combing Phoebe’s hair is a song that I made up so I would remember to brush my daughters’ hair gently.

Q: What writing projects are you currently working on?

A: I have just finished a draft of my next novel and sent it to my editor at Knopf.

Q: You mention on your website that Harriet the Spy, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Where the Red Fern Grows are particular favorites from your childhood. What current authors for young people do you particularly admire?

A: I love Karen Cushman. I have also recently enjoyed The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. I can’t answer a question like this without saying that The Diary of Anne Frank is the best book for young people that I have ever read.

Q: What books are currently on your nightstand?

A: The novel, Les Miserables. When I read it in high school, I knew that my decision in sixth grade to become a writer was the right one! The novel is amazing. The action is so fast-paced that I have to force myself to slow down and enjoy the prose. I am halfway through now and can’t wait to get back to reading it.

Q: Charlie Anne clearly suffers from dyslexia, although it's never named as such in the novel, and the heroine of your first novel, Tending to Grace, has a severe stutter. Could you comment on whether you are particularly drawn to characters with disabilities?

A: I was a child who stuttered, so yes, I am drawn to characters who have the courage to put on bigger boots and keep going, no matter what the difficulty.

Q: What is the funniest question you've ever been asked at a school visit?

A: “Do I really eat all the food that Agatha serves Cornelia in Tending to Grace”? The answer is yes! Or at least I have tried them all. My parents used to take us hiking and foraging for wild foods when I was a child. My father is very knowledgeable and we collected fiddleheads, dandelions, wild mushrooms, poke, sorrel and more. I can still brew a pretty good cup of sassafras tea!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Wonderful Review

Margo Tanenbaum at The Fourth Musketeer - - has written a wonderful review of Charlie Anne. Here it is, and please drop by her blog for well-written reviews of current children's historical literature. Truely a treat!

The Wonder of Charlie Anne, by Kimberly Newton Fusco (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010)

Recommended for ages 8-12.

Kimberly Newton Fusco's new novel, her second book for young people, introduces us to the spirited Charlie Anne, who narrates this unforgettable story of family, friendship, prejudice, courage, and vinegar pie set in a small town during the Depression. An interview with Kimberly will appear in my blog tomorrow.

Charlie Anne's mama has just died in childbirth when the story begins. Her "new mama," come to take care of her and her four siblings, is her cousin Mirabel, who showed up with all her suitcases and her no-nonsense manner to take charge of her Papa and her whole family. Charlie Anne is saddled with all the domestic chores, from doing the wash to making vinegar pie, and only can escape when she visits the nearby river, where her mother is buried. At the river, Charlie Anne tells her mother all her news. Times are hard, with luxuries like lemon drops so precious that the kids take a lick and put the candy back in their pocket for later. But when Charlie Anne's beloved Papa tells her he has to take a job up north building roads, taking her brother Thomas along, she is so angry at his separating her family she won't even let him hug her goodbye.

Charlie Anne's town is small, so small that there's not even a school teacher--their school has been boarded up for over a year. Charlie Anne doesn't mind, because the letters dance around and make no sense to her, and the old teacher made her stand in a trash bucket because she couldn't read properly. But life changes for her when Old Mr. Jolly, her neighbor, who isn't really so old, gets a new wife, Rosalyn, who dresses in pants and arrives with an African-American girl, Phoebe, about Charlie Anne's age. Charlie Anne "never saw a colored girl up close before," and she's not sure "if Mirabel will let me play with a colored girl or not." And can Mr. Jolly really take care of a wife when he can't even take care of his cow, Belle, wonders Charlie Anne.

Mirabel wants Charlie Anne to stay away from Phoebe, instead making Charlie Anne listen to The Charm of Fine Manners, a book designed to teach Charlie Anne to be a proper young lady and succeed in life. With the arrival of Phoebe into town, prejudice rears its ugly head, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Hardly anyone will even eat the "glorious" chocolate cupcakes Phoebe and Rosalyn bring to the weekly after-church picnics. And when Rosalyn suggests during church services that, as an experienced teacher, she would like to re-open the town school, using Phoebe as her assistant to help with the younger students, the townspeople gasp in shock. No colored girl will be teaching in their town, they whisper. Pretty soon, things are "all riled up," with racial hatred turning things ugly. Can the school succeed? Can Rosalyn help Charlie Anne make sense of the dancing letters on a page...and what will happen to Charlie Anne and Phoebe's friendship? Will her family be reunited?

Charlie Anne's personality is so alive it pops off the page. I particularly liked her many moods, including her "mad-as-a-yellow-jacket face." Charlie Anne's unique relationship with family cow Anna May and her daughter Belle adds both humor and pathos to the story, as Charlie Anne translates for the reader what the cows are saying and feeling. "Their eyes fill with cow-sorrow," and "cow-worry," and "the two of them tell me how very sorry they are that I am having enough troubles to fill a wheelbarrow." Charlie Anne's charismatic voice narrates not only scenes of every day drama, such as bee stings, falls off swings, peeling potatoes, harvesting tomatoes, Christmas pageants, and kittens born in the barn, but also more profound problems, such as broken families and racism.

This is a book that made me laugh and made me cry, with a main character you won't soon forget. Highly recommended for school and public libraries, it would make a great selection as well for book clubs for young people since there is wealth of material for discussion.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I am very excited about the publication of my second novel, The Wonder of Charlie Anne. Release date is Aug. 10 and already I am hearing from readers who have gotten a hold of one of my publisher’s advance reader copies, called ARCs. One question I am hearing, is “What the heck is vinegar pie, anyway?”

Charlie Anne is set during the Great Depression. I did lots of research into the time period. One of my favorite ways to bring myself back to the 1930s was to read old cookbooks. They are a fascinating peek into the past. Vinegar pie was actually a way to use something that rural people had a lot of – VINEGAR (all those apples) – to replace something that they were short of – LEMONS.

Vinegar pie actually tastes quite a bit like lemon pie and it shows up over and over in the book. Here’s what Charlie Anne says one day when Mirabel (who comes to care for the bereft family) teaches her the recipe:

“Mirabel shows me how to make a Vinegar Pie that tastes almost like lemon pie because you need to know how to make things better when the hard times come, and Lord knows, they come. They come for everyone. That’s what she tells me. I want her to stop talking about bad things.”

I baked one myself one day while I was writing Charlie Anne and my husband and children all thought it was wonderful. Try it and see how close you think it comes to lemon pie!

1/2 c. butter, softened
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 (8 inch) unbaked pie shell
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.