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