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!