Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Designed By Suzanne (1968)

Designed By Suzanne
Kathleen Robinson, il. Evaline Ness (jacket)
1968, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Inc.

Personality clothes. Would you like to have some especially designed for YOU? Expertly made to fit YOU? Satisfaction guaranteed.

St. Louis high school senior Suzanne Bishop dreams of attending fashion school in New York City and, in a moment of boldness, decides to place the above ad, hoping to start her chosen career and earn money toward school at the same time. She's disappointed when the local matrons hire her only to design clothes for their children, but finds she has a knack for handling kids. As she struggles to cope with the extra work and her sister's wedding plans, her comfortable long-time relationship with Barry Castleton suffers, and she's attracted to the wealthy New Yorker who's acting as best man to her maid of honor.

Well-written and engrossing. Suzanne's an appealing heroine, and although her decisions at the book's end seem surprising, it's consistent with her character. Other characters are less well-defined; Barry feels like a generic steady boyfriend, rich boy Ralph seems to exist mostly as a plot device, rival Desiree is a series of flirtatious tics, and only Suzanne's elder sister, Louise comes across as a real person.

There are several unusual features. First, although the action apparently begins only halfway through Suzanne's final year of high school, and ends before the fall, there are no actual school scenes. Friends, outings, etc., yes, but no mention made of Suzanne attending classes. Barry is apparently a graduate working at an architectural firm, and mention is made of Suzanne being rather mature and sophisticated for her age due to her chic grandmother, but it seems strange. As does the chic grandmother's current whereabouts - it's never made clear if she's deceased or simply living in another state.

Vanished Worlds
The Bishop home and furnishings are described by some characters, including Suzanne sometimes, as old-fashioned and antique - and undesirable.

Other Books
When Debbie Dared
When Sara Smiled
Manon's Daughter: The Love Story Of An Outcast In Early St. Louis

About the Illustrator
(1911-1986) Ness won a Caldecott Medal in 1967 for Sam, Bangs And Moonshine. She was married to Elliot Ness, the Treasury agent made famous as the head of Chicago's 'Untouchables,' from 1938-1946.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Julie With Wings (Laura Kerr, 1960)

Laura Kerr, il. Stan Campbell (cover)
1960, Funk & Wagnalls Company

"I love flying," she began, "and looking down on the world below all spread out like a beautiful, animated map. Somehow up there I have such a feeling of strength - strength and humility all in one. It's unbelievably thrilling to me that men can fly like birds."

Julie Jordan graduates from State University and enters stewardess school for Nationwide Airlines. Her parents aren't thrilled, particularly after she turns down a marriage proposal from lifelong boyfriend, Tug Simpson.

"Tug - Tug-" Julie chose her words carefully, stringing them together slowly. "You don't understand. I'm not ready to be a wife and mother. I've only begun to live! When I was a child, Tug, I used to sit on the porch of our cottage on Lake Michigan, watching the full moon rise over the water. Even then I wished I might follow its silver path on and on beyond the horizon. What was there, far from the city in which I was born? Were there mountains and valleys, mansions or hovels? What sort of people lived in them? What did they think about? Tug, there's a whole world for me to discover before I marry..."

Tug throws a fit and stalks out, but Julie's grief over the end of their relationship is tempered by excitement when she begins to travel. First to Arizona for 'stew school,' then to Los Angeles for her first posting and her exciting first year working as a stewardess. She and fellow stewardess Jane Ferris room together and spend their spare time exploring the western United States, from San Diego to Hawaii. In Waikiki, she's romanced by handsome U.S. Marine Brad Minton, but when he proposes to her in the romantic beauty of the islands, she hesitates and realizes she's still not over Tug.

A very well-written book with interesting characters and enjoyable action, far above the standard of many young adult series and career romances. Julie's an appealing heroine, and quite strong, even in decisions the reader may dislike.

Vanished Worlds - and not so much, sadly
When Julie tells her parents that she and Tug have quarreled, she says it was her fault. This is less likely today, given that his attitude that she owes him a marriage at 21 is completely out of date. Her father's reaction, however, still unfortunately rings true:

"Your fault? In what way, Julie?" asked her father impatiently. "Tug isn't a child anymore, you know. It isn't kind to play games with his affections."

What is it with men that so many of them will automatically feel the brotherly love even when the female side of the equation is their daughter, sister, wife or mother? I've had the same 'don't hurt the boy' stuff from male relatives, and I find it creepy.

Other Books by Author
Doctor Elizabeth (1946)
The Girl Who Ran For President (1947)
Lady In The Pulpit (1951) (bio of Antoinette Brown Blackwell)
Scarf Dance: The Story of Cecile Chaminade (1953)
Footlights To Fame: The Life Of Fanny Kemble (1962)
Louisa: The Life of Mrs. John Quincy Adams (1964)
Wonder Of His World: Charles Wilson Peale (1968)

About the Author
Laura Nowak Kerr was from Chicago, and the author of several biographies and books for teens.