Shelf Starter: Where's My Wand?

Where's My Wand: One Boy's Magical Triumph over Alienation and Shag Carpeting by Eric Poole (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $24.95, 9780399156557/0399156550, May 27, 2010)

Opening lines of a book we want to read:

"As God is my witness," Mother shouted, "I will not live in this chaos!"

It was a muggy St. Louis summer night in 1969. As our mother screamed at our father behind the closed door of their bedroom--"Did you even get halfway through this list?" she hollered, slamming the daily checklist of duties she made for him onto the dresser--Val and I focused on the faint electrical buzzing of the Black and Decker bug zapper hanging over the patio, as it systematically executed unsuspecting mosquitoes.

It was ten p.m. and no one was outside, but our mother kept the zapper running 24 hours a day as a silent screw-you to Mother Nature. To offset the cost of this outdoor insect patrol, she set the air conditioning of our suburban tract home at a toasty 84 degrees, so we all slept in small pools of perspiration, secure in the knowledge that those bugs knew who was boss.

I clung to my twelve-year-old sister Valerie, both of us sweating profusely as she climbed into her canopy bed fringed in multi-colored hippie beads. She squeezed my hand tightly....

"I will not be married to a sloth!" Mother thundered as I quietly reached for Val's dictionary to look up what Dad had just been called.

The bedlam Mother referred to was that created by our father opting to play Kerplunk with Val and I that afternoon, instead of completing item #7, alphabetizing the Christmas decorations stored in the garage, or #13, washing the light bulbs on the dining room chandelier. --Selected by Marilyn Dahl

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