Just Sayin’ tells the story of an almost-blended family that almost falls apart before it even begins. 11 year-old Cassie Callahan is staying with her grandmother while her mom, Jennifer, recovers from a difficult breakup from her fiancé, Trent. Cassie, along with Trent’s kids, Nick and Julie, are trying to figure out why their parents’ relationship ended so abruptly and searching for a way to bring them back together. Meanwhile, the kids get caught up in a game show that encourages the “art” of insults, and learn along the way that our words have much more power than they think.In a way that only Dandi can accomplish, this story weaves together, in a contemporary way, an old-time game show, letter writing, outstanding vocabulary, and reminders from God’s word that taming our tongue is both difficult and important!
|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x (d)|
|Age Range:||10 - 14 Years|
About the Author
Dandi Daley Mackall is the author of numerous books for children, including Larger-Than- Life Lara. She lives in West Salem, Ohio, with her husband and their three children.
Read an Excerpt
By Dandi Daley Mackall
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2017 Dandi A. Mackall
All rights reserved.
Cassie Callahan Hamilton, MO June 8
Gram is making me write to you, even though it's past her bedtime (which is about three hours after she falls asleep in the recliner in front of the TV). She told me to tell you I'm doing great and that I understand why you need time alone to get over your broken engagement and your broken heart. But those are her words, not mine.
Think about it. Instead of living with you and Travis and one stepsister and one stepbrother, one of which is my age, I am living with a very old person. You know how Gram has always lied about her age? Well, she's started bragging about it now. I think that's how you know somebody's turning old, if you didn't have other things to go on, like wrinkles and the sappy black-and-white movies she watches and all the things she forgets. She's so old that when she went in to renew her driver's license, they said not only had her driver's license expired, but so had her birth date.
Also, old grandmothers don't get jokes. Like I told Gram if she would buy me a cell phone, I'd put her on speed dial and make her an InstaGRAM, and she told me to put a sock in it.
Kirby didn't eat for two days after you left. Poor dog. But I think she just misses Julie, not you. That dog (because she's seriously too big to call her a puppy anymore) has been sleeping on my bed. She chewed up one of Gram's slippers and Kittenie (my stuffed kitten, in case you forgot).
Since you've left me with Gram for who-knowshow- long, I thought you'd like to know what's really going on. Just sayin'.
P.S. Do you know how to get blood out of denim? And sofa cushions? And the rug? And wood floors?
P.P.S. And kitchen tiles?
Jennifer Callahan San Bernardino, CA (temporarily) June 12
What did I tell you about getting a handle on your insults? When school starts up again, do you want to get suspended for name-calling ... again? (Don't answer that.)
Please take it easy on Gram. I've left her with more responsibilities than she should have to handle. And by the way, your grandmother only acts old so that you'll do more around the house. She did the same thing when I was your age. She's probably younger than some of your friends' mothers.
I'm sorry I had to leave you with Gram, Cassie. I just need time to pull myself together. Travis and I would have been married one month from tomorrow if we hadn't gotten cold feet. I don't know if it would have worked out anyway. It probably wasn't really fair of me to ask you to share your room with little Julie. And you and Nick seemed to fight all the time, although I imagine real brothers and sisters the same age would fight too. But maybe it would have been too much for you to be handed an 11-year-old stepbrother and a 7-year-old stepsister just like that. So I guess it's all for the best.
Anyway, I don't suppose it matters now. All the same, I miss Travis, especially the way he couldn't stop smiling after he laughed at something — usually you and your insults. (But don't — I repeat, do not — take his laughter as encouragement for more insults. I know for a fact that Travis is as hard on Nick when it comes to banning insults as I try to be on you.)
Love you more than anything, Mom
P.S. Tell Kirby not to sleep on your bed. She has a perfectly good bed of her own in the kitchen.
P.P.S. Cold water. I won't ask. And hey, don't you read my column in the Hamiltonian or the St. Joseph Gazette? I did a whole bit on how to get blood out of things.
Cassie Callahan Hamilton, MO June 9
[begin strikethrough]Dear Nick,[end strikethrough] Hey, Camel Breath,
I can't believe you! Gram says you and Julie are going to a private school in the fall? I have no idea how she found out. And when I asked her, she narrowed her eyes to slits and said in a creepy voice, "I have my ways."
Really? A private school? What's that about? As if becoming city slickers isn't bad enough. What part of Chicago are you living in? You'd better keep cheering for the Royals, or else. And the Cardinals. Julie will let me know if you say anything nice about the Cubs or the White Sox, so don't get any ideas.
I miss your little sister. You'd better be nice to her, Nick — no insults. Got it? Julie is an insult-free zone.
I never had a chance to ask you something before you guys tore out of Hamilton, Missouri, like the town was on fire: Did you see this my-mom-and-your-dad breakup coming? I sure didn't. Otherwise, I wouldn't have gone through the agony of being fitted for that ridiculous bridesmaid dress, which Mom says I can wear to the prom in a few years. Right. If the prom will be held in Candy Land and my date is Lord Licorice or the Gingerbread Boy. Whatever you do, don't let Julie wear her bridesmaid dress to your fancy new school. Like kids need one more reason to pick on her.
I've been trying to be okay with the breakup, even though it wrecks all our plans. I thought about it all day yesterday when I walked by myself to the creek where you and I have found everything from fool's gold and arrowheads to raccoon skulls. The only "good" thing I could come up with about not having you as my stepbrother is that we won't have to be introduced as "steps." But since I couldn't sleep last night, here goes another try:
Top Five Reasons Why It's a Good Thing You Won't Be My Stepbrother:
5. You are a habit I'd like to kick ... with both feet.
4. You remind me of the ocean — you make me feel like puking.
3. You are garrulous, which means you talk too much. (Actually, I don't mind you talking so much if you don't mind me not listening so much.)
2. Your music. You have Van Gogh's ear for music. Even terrorists like the Beatles, C. B. (Camel Breath).
1. I tried very hard to come up with the #1 reason why it's a good thing that you won't be my stepbrother. I can't.
Your ex-almost-stepsister, Cassie
P.S. Seriously, did your dad ever tell you why he broke off the engagement with my mom?
Chicago, Illinois (only don't pronounce the S at the end of ILLINOIS unless you want to really tick people off)
[begin strikethrough]Dear Cassie,[end strikethrough] Hey, Amoeba Brain!
When are you going to get a phone, A. B.? In case you haven't noticed, nobody writes letters in this century. Ever hear of texting? I know you hate talking on the phone because "half of a conversation is being able to read the other guy's expressions," blah blah blah. But if you had a cell, you could text. And you'd see as many expressions as you do in letters. Plus, you could use emojis — not the smiley face, of course, but the one with the tongue sticking out, or the frowning one.
City slickers? Garrulous? Seriously? I think you've been hanging out with Gram too much — you're starting to talk like an old person, even more than usual, I mean. And are you still trying to learn a new word every day? What is it with you and words? Words are supposed to let people know what you mean. Your words don't. I may talk a lot, but at least it's in a language other kids understand.
The private school wasn't my idea! Dad barely speaks to Julie and me these days. He just mopes around and grunts when you try to talk to him. And when he does talk, it's just to complain about Chicago traffic. I only found out about the school because he left the brochure on the counter. I yelled and screamed at him, but he wouldn't even talk about it. Julie, of course, just said, "I like the uniforms, Daddy."
My grandfather hired Dad to manage one of his waste disposal operations, the one on the north side of Chicago. We're staying in Grandad's old retirement condominium, so Julie and I are the youngest residents here by a century. Grandad's neighbor, a white-haired lady with a big smile that makes you smile when you look at her, calls Dad "young man." I think she has a crush on my grandfather, who has trouble remembering her name. And mine.
Grandad has a "housekeeper," who acts more like a "grandfather keeper." She stays with us during the day, and she's about 200 years old and almost totally deaf. Her hearing is as bad as Julie's is before Julie puts her hearing aids in. She reminds me of Ms. Ripples, the other fourth grade teacher, the one who looked like she'd break into pieces if anybody ran into her at recess.
Julie misses Kirby so much that she asked Dad for a dog or even a kitten. But the old-people place can't have pets — unless they're blind (the people, not the pets). Dad says he's looking for a house. He hates working for Grandad's business and being trapped in an office all day, but it was the only job he could get on such short notice. Besides, he has to take some kind of Illinois teacher's test and jump through some other hoops before they'll even let him teach here. Like 14 years teaching Missouri schoolkids isn't good enough?
Instead of a top-five list of why it's a good thing you're not my stepsister, I'm borrowing dialogue from Winston Churchill and Lady Astor (from last week's The Hour of Insult). I changed it a little:
Cassie: "If you were my stepbrother, I'd give you poison."
Nick: "If you were my stepsister, I'd drink it."
Your almost stepbrother, Nick
P.S. I thought your mom was the one who broke off the engagement.
P.P.S. Go, Royals!
Cassie Callahan Hamilton, Mo, still June 16
Dear [begin strikethrough]Nick[end strikethrough] Poshnick (Posh Private School Nick) (and FYI, POSH means "luxurious", and that means "fancy"),
Not only am I enjoying my quotidian practice of learning new words, but I am working on inventing a word so amazing that the dictionary people will put it in their official dictionary. I do not expect you to appreciate words the way I do. I'm just glad to see you stringing them together in sentences. Good for you, Poshnick!
Houston, we have a problem.
The one thing you and I have always agreed on is that Johnathan Kirby deserves the title of Insult King of the World, right? How many times have we sneaked into your basement to watch him insult his audience? And remember when your dad caught us watching the forbidden show and chased us out of the basement and we had to run uptown to watch the end of it through the window of Ray's TV and Appliance store? We stood outside in the rain listening to the King. At least with Mom gone, I can watch The Hour of Insult on Gram's TV. She's usually conked out in the recliner by then. Or she watches the show and calls it "vintage," which just means old-fashioned.
So, I wrote Kirby the King of Insults. I've written him two letters since you guys left Hamilton, and he still hasn't answered me. They were nice letters too. I signed your name with mine on the last letter, in case he really means all those insults he gives to women on The Hour of Insult.
What do you think about the word FABONOMOUS? It would mean, of course, "enormously fabulous."
Excerpted from Just Sayin' by Dandi Daley Mackall. Copyright © 2017 Dandi A. Mackall. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
At 54, I know I'm not in the recommended age range for this book. I got it for my kids, who are, but got drawn into the tale before my children even knew it had arrived in the mail, and l couldn't put it down. My 81-year-old mother also read and loved it, chuckling through page after page of the engaging story. I've always been a big letter writer, so the format of the book appealed to me. The story is told completely through correspondence between the characters. Some of the writing was sent via text messaging or on scribbled notes left taped to the refrigerator for parents to read, but most of it took the form of good, old-fashioned snail mail. The book beautifully illustrates the fact that our words -- however we share them -- have great power. They can build up or tear down. Encourage or dishearten. And we have the power to choose how we'll use them. This is the first title I've ever read by this author, but it won't be the last. I don't know if I'll make it through all 450+ books Dandi Daley Mackall has written, but I enjoyed JUST SAYIN' so thoroughly that I've already ordered a couple more, including one of the novels she's written for adults..
There was something about the idea of this book that reached out to me when I exploring options on the Tyndale site. It looked interesting and different. I'd peg this more to a middle grade reader than a young adult reader. Though as a grown up I really enjoyed it! It is a fun story about Cassie and Nick and their experiences as their parents don't marry and they finagle their way through the idea of insults and game shows and Cassie's aversion to the phone. Cassie also spends a little more time at church, a built in approved way to avoid her Moms phone calls, and picks up a few tidbits of helpful knowledge. And curbs her insult career a tad. I didn't get the opportunity to read this with the Minions of Mischief but I really really think that both Moo and Munch would enjoy it for vastly different reasons. It's a little mature, as far as the actual words, for Moo but she would enjoy the relationships cheesiness of the characters. Munch, on the other hand, would devour it in an afternoon and I think would bury into the insults and the interplay and would greater grasp the 'power of words' thread more so than his younger sister. Although some of the 'handwriting' in the book was difficult to read (Gram and Ma had such thin tight writing) but I have to wonder if the kids would struggle with that as well since it's cursive. I know there's been this whole hoopla about cursive and school and whatnot. My Minions are learning it so that won't be an issue. But it's something to think about on a larger scale. And also something to consider as far as limiting accessibility to this book to older middle grade readers who have been exposed to cursive. The entire story was fanciful and partly so over the top that while it was not realistically believable it was embracing and endearing. The idea of a famous person writing a couple of kids back? Or Gram becoming besties with said celebrity? Or two kids winning spots on a national game show? Or? Or? ... There were lots of that will never happen moments. And a beautiful massive red bow tied all around the ending. It didn't bother me one bit. I know, I am shocked too! The author managed to build solid characters with a multilayered story line with letters. Plain, old, post office delivered, letters. And she managed to encompass faith for a young person that made sense without feeling preachy or fake or awkward. The letter to God felt so real. I highly recommend this book to any middle grade reader, young adult reader, adult reader, senior reader, just a reader. It's quirky and entertaining and insightful and just there ya go... I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Tyndale. I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.
Jennifer and Trent were going to be married making a combined family with Jennifer's daughter, Cassie and Trent's children Nick and Julie. Now that they are broken up, the kids decide to do something. Nick and Cassie, through letters, are trying to figure out what happened to their parents' relationship and how they can change things. They also try to figure out how to get on The Last Insult Standing, their favorite game show. Through all of these letters, the children learn the importance of the words they use. I loved the way the three children love each other, even though they may make fun of each other in every letter. This is a touching, silly book that will make the reader realize the importance of watching the tongue. I was given this book by Tyndale House Publishing in exchange for my honest review. This book can be found HERE at Amazon, or HERE at Barnes and Noble