Larger Than Life Grandmothers and Best Friends, a guest post by Jaime Berry
Without really meaning to, I seem to write stories with a grandparent and a best friend at the center, and my novel Hope Springs is no different. My main character, Jubilee, lives with her grandmother, Nan. They abide by a set of Relocation Rules they’ve created to help them in their search for the “perfect place.” But Jubilee starts to feel their first rule—just the two of them is all they need—might leave them a little too close to alone.
I didn’t live with my grandmother, but when I was young, I spent almost all my free time with her. She was spectacular—a painter, big, bold and loud, somewhat foul-mouthed, a fantastic cook, a crafter, an avid reader, a dog lover, and a soap opera and video game aficionado. She drove her enormous Crown Victoria sedan with burgundy plush interior, a car we called the Hooptie, with such wild abandon that every errand was a nail-biting adventure. From the time I was born until my late teens when she passed away, she never lived more than two blocks away from me.
After school, we watched Guiding Light, we took weekly trips to the library, drew or painted together, and rounded out the days with an hour or so of Super Mario Bros. She tried and failed to teach me to crochet but succeeded in teaching me to play gin rummy by age six. On weekends when my mother let me stay the night, Nanny Stella whisked me over to the local bingo game at Big Ben Skating Rink and let me manage two of her many cards. Despite being the youngest attendee by at least fifty years, I found the whole experience thrilling. She used to embarrass me to no end when she’d introduce me as her “bosom buddy” rather than her granddaughter, but deep down, I loved it. Unlike my main character, Jubilee, I never suspected I was missing out on anything at all.
In one way or another my grandmother always works her way into my stories. All the grandmotherly characters in Hope Springs are parts of her, but maybe she was most like the least grandmotherly of all—Nan. Like Nan, my grandmother was a real character, a scene stealer. She taught me to be strong and opinionated, to value creativity, and that sometimes being good and being polite are two very different things. Maybe it’s because she loved me unconditionally that it wasn’t until I had a best friend my own age that I felt those qualities were truly appreciated. And it’s only when Jubilee meets and befriends Abby that she feels ready to say what she truly wants out loud. I think that’s one of the things great friendships do, embolden us, and make us unafraid to be ourselves out loud.
When I wasn’t with my grandmother I wouldn’t say I was lonely, but I was often alone, especially at school. I was not good at following rules, and having grown up in the church, I was overly concerned about making decisions that would land me in hell (like maybe bingo and gin rummy). But when I was ten, a girl named Tamara showed up in my class. The arrival of a new kid in my hometown in rural Oklahoma was an event. There was almost a sort of competition to see who would get to be friends with her first. And I don’t know how in the world it got to be me, but it got to be me!
We spent recess racing and trying and failing to perform a cartwheel while holding hands, ending up in a tangled pile of giggles. Every weekend we alternated staying the night at each other’s houses. We painted toenails, caught crawdads (Tamara caught them, I squealed and ran for the shore), and rode four wheelers. At recess we ran like wild things, sang “Sweet Child of Mine” at the top of our lungs, and laughed in the faces of all who thought us strange. It was a kind of magic I’d never felt before. Nanny Stella was fantastic, but she sure didn’t sprint and she’d never heard of Guns N’ Roses.
I knew how much my grandmother’s influence impacted me but never thought about how that first real friendship shaped me until I noticed how much of it made its way into Hope Springs. Hope Springs, Texas is the perfect place for Jubilee to finally put down roots, but her friendship with Abby is what kickstarts her growth. With Abby, Jubilee learns to try new things, becomes involved in her community, develops connections to others, and finds the nerve to admit and to fight for what she really wants—to belong, to be loved, and to finally feel at home. Growing up I had all three, and I thought Jubilee should too.
Meet the author
Jaime Berry is a native of rural Oklahoma and a former New York City public school teacher. After years with two small boys in a too-small Brooklyn apartment, Jaime and her husband moved to the wilds of suburban New Jersey and added another boy and a dog to the mix. Hope Springs is Jaime’s debut novel.
About Hope Springs
Fans of Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate will fall in love with this tug-at-your-heartstrings middle grade novel about one girl who is desperate to find the “perfect home” as she moves from one town to the next with her Grandmother.
Eleven-year-old Jubilee Johnson is an expert at three things: crafting, moving, and avoiding goodbyes. On the search for the “perfect place,” she and her Nan live by their Number One Relocation Rule — just the two of them is all they need. But Jubilee’s starting to feel like just two is a little too close to alone.
Desperate to settle down, Jubilee plans their next move, Hope Springs, Texas — home of her TV crafting idol, Arletta Paisley. Here she meets a girl set on winning the local fishing tournament and a boy who says exactly the right thing by hardly speaking at all. Soon, Jubilee wonders if Hope Springs might just be the place to call home.
But when the town is threatened by a mega-chain superstore fronted by Arletta Paisley, Jubilee is faced with skipping town yet again or standing up to her biggest bully yet. With the help of her new friends and the one person she never thought she’d need — her Momma — will Jubilee find a way to save the town she’s come to love and convince Nan that it’s finally time to settle down?
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 08/10/2021
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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