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Elder Care

by Jessie Haas
Greenwillow, 2000
Review by Kimberly Brosan on Jun 16th 2002

Will You, Won't You?

Some people might say that the worst thing about being a teenager is a nosy interfering mother who reads your diary. Others might complain about being sent away to grandmother’s home for the summer with only email to connect you and your friends. Still others might say that it’s being virtually invisible to your classmates and teachers. Some might be bothered by the fact that they never met their father because he ran off when he found out his young girlfriend (your mother) was pregnant with you. Any one of these things could be potentially disastrous to the fragile teenage ego, but what if all of these complaints were yours? That’s Mad’s life in a nutshell. 

“Mad” Parker just finished eighth grade where she perfected the art of going unnoticed. When her mother reads a recent entry in Mad’s English journal: “ I have set a record—three consecutive school days without speaking a single word to anyone. No one meets my eye. I have actually become invisible,” she decides something has to be done to save her daughter.  

What’s worse is Mad is going to live with Gam, her grandmother, the Chair of the state Senate Finance Committee, a woman whose social life includes Scottish country dancing and dealing with her political cronies and adversaries. That hardly seems like the place to spend your summer when your mother thinks you need to be more outgoing. 

Through narratives and email messages, the story unfolds, telling of Mad’s stay at the farm she lived at with her mother and grandparents when she was much younger. She brings her horse Cloud to ride, only to discover that it’s afraid of the cows which neighbor the farm. Mad is afraid to push the horse and back home, her best friend Leslie seems to be making fast friends with a girl they used to consider a real snob.  

While attending the Scottish country dance lessons with Gam, Mad runs into a kindergarten friend, Gordie McIver, grandson of Senator McIver, one of Gam’s political friends. If Mad can manage to overcome her shyness and fear of failure, maybe she’ll actually have a partner to dance with—and a cute one at that! That shyness and fear of failure seems to creep from one part of her life to another, as she avoids riding Cloud, tries not to participate in the dance lessons, and avoids competing in a horse show. 

To make matters worse, an email from her mother mentions she’s been spending time with “Bob-at-the-gym” and although Mad wonders about her long lost father, she’s really not sure how she feels about her mother getting involved with a man. As Mad overcomes her fears one by one, she begins to feel more confident in herself and her abilities. She manages to solve Cloud’s cow-phobia with the help of Senator McIver’s cow Elvirah and some positive reinforcement. Mad even finds the courage to speak up and out at a public meeting where they are discussing the problems of the local logging company clear-cutting the woods. Mad matures over the summer between eighth and ninth grades, finding her voice and her strengths, even as she finds out she’ll never get to meet her estranged father.



© 2002 Kimberly Brosan


Kimberly Brosan is a high school teacher and librarian. She has worked in high school and primary school libraries in Pennsylvania and South Carolina for the past 10 years. Kim’s primary interests are in young adult literature and information literacy. She says that her favorite part of her job is connecting people with the books and information they need and teaching them how to locate and evaluate things for themselves.