Spying on your neighbors and finding out all their secrets might be a fun way to spend your summer-but what happens when all those secrets aren't secret anymore?
Annie wasn't like anyone Natalie had ever met. She was bossy and rude, wild and tough and fearless, like an old alley cat. She was different and mysterious and even a little scary. And she had secrets, secrets she was willing to share with Natalie. Secrets like what happened to the two gold coins from her mother's funeral, and why she lived with her uncle and his girlfriend instead of her dad. Annie kept a dead bird in her pocket, had a secret hiding place under her front porch, and didn't bother to wear a shirt when she was hot.
It was Annie who decided that she and Natalie should have a secret-collecting club, and collect all the secrets about all the people who lived on their block. Natalie, who'd lived on the block for years, didn't think their neighbors were all that interesting. Most of them either went to work or stayed home and mowed their yards or worked in their gardens. But Annie was sure that once they got started, they could find out some really cool things. And if they were going to be spies, they needed code names, just like real spies. So Annie and Natalie become Elvis and Olive.
Natalie didn't know it then, but that was the beginning of the strangest summer she'd ever had. Annie was really good at collecting secrets.
- Sergeant Dewey lived alone in the house two doors down from Natalie, and kept a miniature hot air balloon in his basement.
- Virginia Brooks lived in a peach colored house in the middle of the block. She didn't use face cream just to take off her makeup—she ate it too.
- Albert Castle was a really tall man who lived next door to Annie, and every day when he got home from work, just as soon as he closed the front door behind him, he'd go berzerk, jumping up and down, screaming silently and puching the air with his fists, for about a minute. After it was over, he'd act normal again.
- Mrs. Turner lived three houses down from Natalie in a perfect house with a perfect garden, and acted like one of those perfect mothers in old fashioned TV shows. But why does she hide her travel guides of Brazil and her tapes on learning Portuguese when her husband comes home from work?
And those are only the first few secrets that Elvis and Olive uncovered. There were others that were much more dangerous and even scary, and perhaps should have stayed hidden. What were they? Join the secret-collecting club, decide on your code name, and find out.
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.