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Quaking by Kathryn Erskine


by Kathryn Erskine

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Orphaned Matt (do not call her Matilda!) has reached the end of living with distant relatives. She's now finds herself in a completely different living situation in the home of a Quaker couple in a small Pennsylvania town, Sam and Jessica. They have previously adopted a special-needs boy, who is five years old but doesn't yet talk, instead he makes annoying noises in Matt's eyes. It doesn’t pay to get attached, Matt has learned, so she keeps every potential family at arm’s length. But Sam and Jessica aren’t put off so easily. As Matt slowly, very slowly, warms to them, she learns they are in danger from the same violent forces bullying her at school in the name of “patriotism.”
This is clearly meant to evoke the first post-9/11 years, after we’d gone to war, though the setting is never made explicit. Matt’s history teacher bullies her but her chief bully is a boy she has dubbed The Rat. Both are drastically opposed to peace for completely different reasons. The anti-peace “patriots” in town are methodically vandalizing houses of worship that promote peace vigils. The teacher Matt calls “Mr. Warhead” assigns papers like, “The Role of Our Great Nation in the Middle Eastern Theater” — with points taken off for “wrong” answers, or actually views he opposes.
Sam and Jessica aren’t perfect, but they are determined to do right by their difficult children. It’s a lovely exploration of the Quaker faith and how it comes to fill a hole in Matt that she didn’t want to believe she had.
To me this was a powerful book that dealt with bulling and discrimination in a way that both angers the reader, but also offers some satisfaction. I was sad when the book ended. I felt I needed to know more about what would happen next, but that probably was my wanting to get revenge on the bullies. ( )
  jothebookgirl | Jan 3, 2017 |
Foster child deals with both learning how to be in a Quaker family and how that can help her face the truths of her life. ( )
  Lylee | Apr 3, 2016 |
Two-dimensionality of villains aside, I enjoyed this. It’s a lovely exploration of the Quaker faith and how it comes to fill a hole in Matt that she didn’t want to believe she had. (Full review at http://www.parenthetical.net/2011/03/09/review-quaking-kathryn-erskine/) ( )
  SamMusher | Mar 30, 2013 |
Reviewed by Julie M. Prince for TeensReadToo.com

How can you not love a book that starts like this:

"Families come in all varieties but with no warranties. I have lived with first cousins twice removed, second cousins once removed, and now a third cousin who is removing herself. I call her Loopy. Because of her large earrings. And because she is insane.

Loopy drives like a ten-year-old car thief on a sugar high."

From the very beginning, Matt (not Mattie, and certainly not Matilda) has a chip on her shoulder. She's angry and cynical, and she has good reason to be. Loopy is about to dump her off at "the next hostile takeover."

"I finally found a second cousin of mine, but you need to make it work, Matt. This is the end of the line for you."

The end of the line is the home of Sam and Jessica Fox and their disabled foster son, the Blob. These aren't Matt's kind of people. For one thing, they're Quakers. They believe so strongly in peace that they don't even have the good sense to run and hide when bullies challenge them. They just stand there. That's what Sam calls it--taking a stand. As far as Matt can tell, it's just being plain stupid. Everyone knows you're supposed to run from bullies, and that's just what she intends to do if the Rat decides to make her the next Victim of bullying at her new school.

Kathryn Erskine never underestimates her readers as she allows this story to push the limits and tackle issues that most sweep under the rug when company is coming. I love Matt's sarcastic commentary on the state of the world as she faces the challenge of her own life. There is no doubt that this character is strong and capable--much like the writer who created her.

This is a book I'll keep on my shelf and come back to again and again. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 12, 2009 |
Enjoyable read, a simple story well told. ( )
  lilythelibrarian | Aug 30, 2009 |
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To Bill--thanks for being our Sam.
First words
Families come in all varieties but with no warranties.
In grade school, they tell you just to give the Beasts “I” messages:
I feel hurt when you kick me.
I do not like it when you tease me and make me cry.
I would appreciate it if you would stop shoving your fist into my ribs repeatedly.
By second grade, even the stupidest kids figure out that saying “I feel bad when you hurt me” only encourages the Beasts. The Beasts have their own “I” messages:
I feel great that I am hurting you.
I am happy that you are suffering.
I will continue terrorizing you, now that I know how succesful I truly am. 
“I” messages do not stop them from saying that you are ugly. Or stupid. Or that they are bigger and stronger than you and they will get you somewhere, sometime, no matter what.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399247742, Hardcover)

Don?t call her Matilda. Her name is Matt. And don?t even think about getting close to her. She doesn?t need anyone. Can?t you tell by looking at her, dressed all in black with a spider painted on her face and her ice-cold stare? But most of all, do not bully her. She has been through it all already.

But everything changes for fourteen-year-old Matt when she moves in with peaceful Quakers Sam and Jessica Fox, who are active in the movement against the war in the Middle East. Soon, conflict arises in town over the war, and suddenly, no one is safe. Matt fears for her safety and the safety of her new family. Could the boy who terrorizes her at school be behind it all? And how can she save the family she is actually growing to love when her fear always leaves her quaking?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:43 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In a Pennsylvania town where anti-war sentiments are treated with contempt and violence, Matt, a fourteen-year-old girl living with a Quaker family, deals with the demons of her past as she battles bullies of the present, eventually learning to trust in others as well as herself.… (more)

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