Kathryn Magendie

$14.95 November 2010
ISBN: 978-1-935661-91-7

A poignant look at the nature of friendship.

Our PriceUS$14.95
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Friendship. Courage. Hope.

For shy, stuttering Melissa, the wild mountain girl named Sweetie is a symbol of pride and strength. But to many in their Appalachian town Sweetie is an outcast, a sinister influence, or worse. This poignant and haunting story takes readers deep inside the bittersweet heart of childhood loyalties.


"...themes of friendship, coming of age, and loss of loved ones.....this would make a great book club selection and I don't hesitate to recommend it" -- Joanne Long, Jo-Jo loves to Read

"I loved every minute of this story. "Sweetie" is a character that I will never forget"-- Missy's Book Nook

"Five stars. FIVE STARS to this book. I'm out of breath from being totally blown away by this beautiful coming-of-age story. Parts of this book reminded me of an old favorite book,The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright. Kathryn Magendie has captured some magic in her descriptions of the Smoky Mountains and has created a character in Sweetie that will live on in my memory." -- Lydia Presley, The Lost Entwife


Sweetie was on the jungle gym during recess and I knew something weird was going to happen. It always did with Sweetie because she liked to take chances, and whatever would hurt another kid only made her laugh and do something even more foolish. I stood off to the side and watched her swing from one bar to the next, slinging around like a crazy blonde monkey. I had a feeling twist in my stomach, one Mother called intuition but I just called paying attention.

Although lately, ever since we'd moved to Haywood County in the Western North Carolina Smoky Mountains, that paying attention feeling had become something else, something I couldn't explain. It wasn't just the big old mountains rising up all around the county or the way people talked different and acted different from other places I'd lived, but something else, something in the air that followed me into my dreams. Mostly, never had I thought to know someone like Sweetie. Never had I known someone to be so much more different and strange.

That day, Sweetie wore a cotton shirt and cut-off dungarees under her dress, but the Circle Girls still snickered behind their hands when her dress flew up as she tumbled around on the bars. Sweetie called them Circle Girls because they liked to circle around, shove some poor soul in the middle, and poke them with their mean words. She didn't have to tell me about it.

My second day in sixth grade, they'd hooked hands and walked around me, singing, "Fattie Fattie, two by four, can't get through the outhouse door. Four Eyes, Four Eyes, blind fat fool, has no trouble finding food.” I was branded right then and there with the Circle Girl's hot cattle iron, right on my big fat thigh. I'd seen it on the cowboy shows. The marks stayed burned into the cow's hide for the rest of their lives, and that's how they were spotted in a crowd of other cows if they strayed to where they didn't belong.

Sweetie swung up her legs, hooked them across a bar, and then hung upside down. I held my breath as she arched over with a backwards flip and tried to catch another bar. That's where the something I figured was coming came.

The Circle Girls huffed out their air, and the boys yelled out, "Oh man! You see that? She got her finger caught.”

Sweetie held onto a bar with her right hand while she worked at loosening her stuck left pinky finger from the rusted-out corner. We'd been warned about playing too rough and rowdy on the old playground equipment, but most of the kids didn't listen. (I did. I always listened.) Frannie, another of the Circle victims, said her little brother broke his arm falling off the jungle gym last year, and his arm hadn't ever healed right. Frannie always had a story about tragedy. Her cat was run over by a tractor and cut into fifty-million pieces; her dog ate a buckeye seed and vomited all over her new shoes and she never got the smell out; her father left them for a whole year and her mother went insane and cut off his head in all of their photos; how the boy who'd slipped off the ridge and never been found was her fault because they'd kissed once in second grade and he'd then been cursed to die tragical and die tragical he did. Stuff like that all the time going on with Frannie. I tried to be her best friend, but she said anybody who became her best friend met with tragical circumstances.

Sweetie's face hardened in her concentration to remove her pinky from the sharp edges of the rusted jungle gym bar. I watched; we all watched.

When he had time, Mr. Mendel the Janitor patched up the swings, jungle gym bars, slide, rocking horses, tether ball, and merry-go-round. He repainted flaky paint, sanded wood that made splinters catch in people's behinds, replaced bent chains, put on new ropes. He taped up the rusted-out places when he couldn't fix them, but the boys picked off the tape because boys just have to pick at things. Since Mr. Mendel the Janitor was out with the gout since last week, the rusted corner was open and ready, and the perfect size for a certain sized pinky finger to become jammed and stuck. And Sweetie had that certain sized pinky finger.

Frannie stood beside me and we both looked up at Sweetie while she grunted and wiggled her stuck finger back and forth. A few drops of blood dripped onto the dirt below. When I saw the blood, I knew I should help her. She was my brand new friend, and since friends didn't come easy, it was best to try to do nice thing to keep them.

When I stepped forward, Frannie told me, "Best not.”

"B-b-but... she's hurt.”

She made a ‘tsk' noise, said, "I warned you about her, but you won't listen. Something tragical will come of you being her friend.”

"That's silly.”

Frannie shook her frizzed-haired head, then shrugged, as if to say, Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you.

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