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by Sharon Creech
Joanna Cotler, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 23rd 2004
Annie is twelve years old and will
soon become a sister. Her mother will have the baby at a birthing center and
the plan is for both Annie and her father to be present through the whole
birth. Her art teacher gives their class an assignment to draw one apple, the
same apple, every day for a hundred days. At first it seems like a pointless
exercise, but soon Annie comes to see that she is learning more about her apple
every day. Her grandfather is losing his memory and is becoming emotionally
fragile, starting to have strange ideas. Her best friend Max is on the running
team, and he keeps on pestering her to join the team as well. But she does not
want to join the school team, because she likes to run alone, just for the
pleasure of it, barefoot.
Listening to the convincing audio
performance of Heartbeat by Mandy Siegfried, the book seems to be a
rather enigmatic story, catching glimpses of Annie's thoughts, told in very
short chapters. However, looking at the hardcover version, one discovers that
each chapter is written in the form of a free-verse poem. These thoughts of
Annie convey all the wondering of a feisty and creative girl, learning a lot
about life quickly. When her baby brother is born, for a minute or two he
isn't breathing, and everyone is very worried. Occasionally her grandfather
talks about his coming death, and Annie becomes extremely uncomfortable. With
her assignment to draw her apple for one hundred times, Annie marks the passing
of days and the processes of growth, decay, and loss. It gives her some
perspective on life, and that helps her understand her developing friendship
Heartbeat is a charming book
with a blend of old-fashioned and new age values. Annie is aware of possible
romance but she is not ready to move in that direction yet. Her family is
close, and there are no terrible hidden secrets or signs of incipient
dysfunction between her parents. Annie does not even think about television,
computer messaging, cell phones, or the mall. I don't know whether there are
any girls really like Annie in America today, but I hope so.
© 2004 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Note: the CD audiobook is
Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the
Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and