When I started reading Katherine Hannigan’s novel True (Sort of…) my first impression was that it was an elementary level book. I liked the character Delly Pattison and her made up words – you know, being a word-maker-upper myself – but it was just a little too…cutsie for me. I couldn’t imagine a super-cool 8th grader being willing to read about “surpresents” (surprise presents) and “mysturiosities” (very curious mysteries). In fact, I envisioned the book being read aloud to a class of sixth graders. Theoretically, a teacher could read this book aloud to a class – it’s a bit long, but it’s a very quick read. However, in the end, I’m not sure I’d read it aloud to a class. For a book that starts off being “cutsie” it definitely hits some heavy topics and in the end, is a very deep, meaningful and profoundly touching book.
Clearly, I loved it.
Like I said, it’s the story of Delly (Delaware) Pattison – second youngest in a family with five children. Delly has been labeled a troublemaker, even though her escapades are always done with the best intentions. The book starts out explaining how when Delly was younger, she was happier and even though she got in trouble, she always had a smile on her face and would wake up and face the day with excitement. Somewhere along the line though, Delly lost that smile and that excitement, and now she’s usually just angry.
Then she meets Ferris Boyd, the new girl who doesn’t speak and doesn’t allow anyone to touch her. She’s sort of a “mysturiosity” to Delly, so Delly starts following her home, telling her stories. Delly is supposed to go home after school, so their friendship is sort of a secret. Soon, they are best friends. Throughout the rest of the book, that friendship is tested, and Delly learns about the world around her and slowly starts to understand that she has been rather selfish in life. As she learns to be self-less, the relationships in her life – with her family, teachers, and even with the local police officers – improve, and her life is profoundly changed.
What I love about this book is Delly’s worldview. She sees the world in a completely different light than most people. It’s the perfect blend of innocence, ignorance, wonder and thought. It’s her worldview that creates, almost ruins, and saves her friendship with Ferris. I would like to think that there are 6th graders out there who are like Delly – who are still able to see the wonder in the world, but who realize the importance of being there for those you love.
For a book that started out as a fun, read-aloud book, I cried hard in the end, and my worldview has changed in regards to my students. I no longer think this would be a good book to read aloud to a class, but I will recommend it to just about any one of my students who enjoys realistic fiction, and I think I might recommend that the Literacy teachers at my school read it. In fact, I would say this would be an excellent book for any middle school student, or anyone who works with middle school children. It is a beautifully written book with heart and a sense of humor.