A True (…sort of) Conversation


“You HAVE to read this book!


The morning bell had just rung and kids were streaming past the library doors. Parker surged against the tide to come inside the library. She set the book down on the counter and looked at me.

“Really, Mrs. Hembree, you need to read this book. I know you’ll like it! I brought you my personal copy so you wouldn’t have to wait. See here on the inside?  I wrote my name inside.”

“Okay, okay!” I replied with a big smile on my face. “I recognize the cover, but I never read it. I’ll read the book as soon as I can.”

“No, Mrs. Hembree, you need to start reading it today…like right now!” Parker insisted. “I’ll stop by later and see what you think.” Just as quickly as she came in, she was gone, caught up in the morning chaos of kids making their way down the hallway to class.

That book drop began our multiple recess book conversations about True (…sort of) by Katherine Hannigan. She did stop by an hour or so later to see if I had started it. (I hadn’t had a chance.) Her insistence was infectious, so that night I did take it home and began falling in love Delly Pattison from page one. Delly is one of six children in the Pattison family: Dallas, Tallahassee, Montana, Galveston, Delaware, (Delly for short) and RB, the baby. She is tiny and always in trouble.

And Delly Pattison was trouble: little trouble on the way to BIG TROUBLE, and getting closer to it every day.

Reading True (…sort of) was like getting a Delly present, or as she says, a surpresent. A surpresent is a present that’s a surprise. That’s what True (…sort of) is- it’s a surpresent into a Delly world of readeliciousness. That’s reading deliciousness. (my new word). I finished the book in 2 days and couldn’t wait to tell Parker. As she came down the hall on her way to class that morning I asked her to stop by later that morning.

“Did you finish it?” Parker asked through the crowd of kids.

“Yup, I LOVED it! We gotta talk! Stop by at recess!” I yelled back to her.

She came at recess and we started talking. Those conversations lasted for days, usually starting with, “What did you think about the part when….” or “Why do you think….” or “How about ……what did you think of that?” Other  kids would gather around the check out desk listening to our conversations, and interrupting with, “What book are you talking about? Can I check it out?”

Eventually Parker and I decided to sit down for a long conversation so we could include it on the blog. Mr. Schu on the blog Watch. Connect. Read. publishes long conversations with authors, so I thought we could try something similar. 

Why did you want me to read this book?

Parker: I wanted you to read this book because I know you liked Ida B and this was kind of  a very adventurous book and I thought you might like it.

What was your favorite part?

Parker: Probably my favorite part is where Ferris Boyd got lost or kind of disappeared and they went on a Dellyventure.

Don’t you love the words she uses? Like surpresent. I want a surpresent! I love all the words that were her own. She even had a Delly dictionary made up with words. A Dellyictionary I guess it is. Words made up by Delly (Delaware) Pattison. I like that. The words give a lot more depth to Delly.  I thought that I really knew her.

Then there’s Ferris. Why did you think she didn’t talk people couldn’t touch her?

Parker: Maybe because she was really shy and whenever that father came over, and whatever happened inside, I think, kind of connected to why she didn’t talk.

Did you have the idea that she was being abused before the author let you know?

Parker: Ya, I did. How did you think the author came up with the idea of Ferris not talking and being abused? Do you think it’s some kind of influence (she witnessed) reflected in the book?

I wonder if she came across a student who dealt with selective mutism.

Taylor, who has been listening to us talking, and has not read the book, joins our conversation.

Taylor: Do you think the characters would be based off some people you’ve met, or something that happened to you?

 I bet, for her, she either met somebody, or read about it. I know I’ve had students who have suffered from this same problem. I think I’ve had three in my career, who could talk, but chose not to.  (selective mutism: when a person who can talk, choses not to talk, at all or very selectively).

If you could talk to Katherine Hannigan, what would you ask her?

Parker: What gave you the idea for writing this book?

Why would it be good to meet her?

Parker: Because I could actually meet the source of the book. And knowing the source of the book, I could know more about her personality so that I could see why she wanted to write this book.

What do you think about the title, True (…sort of)? It’s an interesting title.

Parker: I know!  On the back (of the cover) it says, ” At the end of the day Delly watched Ferris Boyd slump out of the back door of the school, then she ran to the front. “Go with Cletis,” she hollered at RB. “I’ll be home later/” RB went pale with worry. “You in trouble?” “Nah,” she said. “I got a project.” “What kind of project?” Delly told the truth, sort of.

So you think Delly never told the entire truth. She always told portions of the truth. That’s how the book got it’s name?

Parker: Yes!

What do you appreciate about Delly?

Parker: What I would say I appreciate about Delly is that she cares about others. She wants to help Ferris Boyd. Do you think that RB is a good guy or a good leader for little kids?

I think he’s good because he’s always trying to do the right thing. He kind of annoys Delly because he always wants to hang around her, but he wants to do the right thing because he sees how his sister doesn’t always make good choices. He’s trying to influence her. He’s like an old soul in a young body. He wants to do the right thing!

Our conversation shifted at this point from talking about the book to talking about reading. Others have joined in our group, curious about what we are talking about.

Finish this sentence: Reading is……

Parker, Taylor, and now Yana: AWESOME! Because it’s sometimes fiction, sometimes, non-fiction, and it gives you a good idea of adventure or imagination or mystery or comedy…things like that! Realistic fiction!

School libraries are….

Yana: The coolest thing ever! Because you have so many books! You can’t even count them all! There’s too many to read.

Parker: But that’s good because then you have more books to read!

So girls, if somebody read True (…sort of) already, what other book would you suggest? If they likes those themes in that book, what else might they like in our library? Besides Ida B. It doesn’t have to be by the same author.

Parker: I would recommend… Out of my Mind, and Wonder!

All three girls chimed in and shout WONDER! So cool! And Almost Famous, and Anything but Typical.

That sums up our True (…sort of) conversation. A copy for the library is ordered and Parker already has friends waiting to read her copy! Thanks for the great conversation girls! Below is a video with the author Katherine Hannigan who discusses her book. For me, it was interesting to see how she handwrites notes to herself in a spiral notebook as she works out the beginning drafts of her books.



If you enjoy Realistic Fiction, what book would you add to our list?

Do you have a “Delly-ism” to add to the Dellyictionary?

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