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Disappearing Acts


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About the Author

Betsy Byars began her writing career rather late in life. In all of my school years, . . . not one single teacher ever said to me, 'Perhaps you should consider becoming a writer, ' Byars recalls. Anyway, I didn't want to be a writer. Writing seemed boring. You sat in a room all day by yourself and typed. If I was going to be a writer at all, I was going to be a foreign correspondent like Claudette Colbert in Arise My Love. I would wear smashing hats, wisecrack with the guys, and have a byline known round the world. My father wanted me to be a mathematician. So Byars set out to become mathematician, but when she couldn't grasp calculus in college, she turned to English. Even then, writing was not on her immediate horizon.

First, she married and started a family. The writing career didn't emerge until she was 28, a mother of two children, and living in a small place she called the barracks apartment, in Urbana, Illinois. She and her husband, Ed, had moved there in 1956 so he could attend graduate school at the University of Illinois. She was bored, had no friends, and so turned to writing to fill her time. Byars started writing articles for The Saturday Evening Post, Look, and other magazines. As her family grew and her children started to read, she began to write books for young people and, fortunately for her readers, discovered that there was more to being a writer than sitting in front of a typewriter.Making up stories and characters is so interesting that I'm never bored. Each book has been a different writing experience. It takes me about a year to write a book, but I spend another year thinking about it, polishing it, and making improvements. I always put something of myself intomy books -- something that happened to me. Once a wanderer came by my house and showed me how to brush my teeth with a cherry twig; that went in The House of Wingscopyright (c) 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.


Gr 4-7‘Herculeah Jones, the girl whose hair frizzes whenever danger lurks, is back. This time, there are actually two mysteries to solve. The first involves pictures on an unfinished roll of film that Herculeah finds inside a camera she purchases at a resale shop. The second puzzle revolves around finding out about a dead body that her friend Meat claims to have seen at the comedy club where he is taking classes. The overweight boy finds the body in a bathroom stall, but it disappears before anyone else sees it. Meat is a reluctant detective, but, with a wallet he picked up from the bathroom floor as his only clue, he embarks on a mission to prove what he saw. Herculeah, on the other hand, is so involved in her photos that she leaves her friend to solve the case with minimal help from her or her detective dad, Chico Jones. The clues are nicely wrapped up at the finish. The novel is fast paced and humorous with both characters learning about themselves while working on their respective problems. By the end, Meat also learns who his father is and discovers that his bulk can become as asset. The book can stand alone, but Herculeah's fans will not be disappointed.‘Linda L. Plevak, Alamo Area Library System, San Antonio, TX

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