Richie's Picks: ROSE SEES RED
- Richie's Picks: ROSE SEES RED by Cecil Castellucci, Scholastic Press, August 2010, 208p., ISBN: 978-01-545-06079-0"We see around us today the marks of our terrible dilemma -- predictions of doomsday, antinuclear demonstrations, an arms race in which the West must, for its own protection, be an unwilling participant. At the same time we see totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit. What, then, is our course? Must civilization perish in a hail of fiery atoms?Must freedom whither in a quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil?-- President Ronald Reagan addressing the British Parliament, June 8, 1982"We'll find a new way of living,We'll find a way of forgivingSomewhere...There's a place for usA time and place for us.Hold my hand and we're halfway there.Hold my hand and I'll take you there.Somehow...Some way...Somewhere!"-- Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim from West Side StoryI find it interesting to realize that many of my current library school students are members of the first generation to reach adulthood being too young to have been aware at the time it happened of the tearing down of the iconic concrete barrier known as the Berlin Wall.Given the procedures encountered when traveling today, the old U.S./Soviet tensions seem at times to be almost quaint in comparison to the post 9/11 world in which we now live. It is both sobering and surreal to contrast today's procedures at the airport with those which I remember from the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we all learned how to survive nuclear war by crawling under our desks and putting our heads down."My room looked out into hers -- the townhouses we lived in shared a garden path. I'd seen her brush her hair, read a book, talk on the phone. I'd noticed that we had the same ballet poster hanging on our walls. I had never seen her pull down the shades, have friends over, or listen to records. Or. Or. Or..."ROSE SEES RED is the tale of two teen girls in New York City in 1982. Rose has spent the past months -- the beginning of her high school career -- in a dark, loner funk thanks to the actions of her manipulative, now former best friend Daisy. Rose is a ballet dancer who is attending her freshman year at New York's High School of Performing Arts. She is not a great ballet dancer, but finds real pleasure in being one.Next door to Rose, in an apartment with a window facing Rose's window, in an apartment building filled with the families of Soviet officials who work in the nearby Soviet compound, lives sixteen year-old Yrena. Yrena is also a ballet dancer. She attends school in the Soviet compound. She apparently sees nothing else of New York. The "suits" (CIA and KGB agents) watch and shadow her every move when she sets foot outside of the apartment building in order to walk back and forth to her school each day.Rose and Yrena see through windows into each other's lives, but they have never spoken or hung out together."How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer's deadly toyThere is no monopoly in common senseOn either side of the political fenceWe share the same biologyRegardless of ideologyBelieve me when I say to youI hope the Russians love their children too"-- Sting"There had been many mornings that fall when we...walked out of our houses at exactly the same time. That particular day happened to be the one when everything fell right into place. At the time, I thought it was just a coincidence. But it wasn't."On the evening of October 29, 1982 Yrena, evading the suits out front of the building, comes tapping and climbing in through Rose's window. This is the story of that night and the following day, when East meets West.ROSE SEES RED is primarily Rose's story, and we clearly witness the impact of this night on her development. But, for me, it is Yrena who I am wondering about afterward. What would become of this sixteen year old Russian citizen in light of the events that night? Where is she today?Interestingly, the author takes the liberty of moving the date of a significant New York City event in 1982 in order to incorporate it into the story. It totally works for me, but I will be curious to hear the reactions of other adults with an interest in middle school literature who also recall that event.I don't really want to spend too much of what has been a really nice day dwelling on thoughts of the unimaginable stockpiles of nuclear weapons that still remain in existence decades after the end of the Cold War. So, instead, I'll think good thoughts about how sometimes lots of people decide that enough is enough and it leads to the tearing down of walls between people and between nations.We are certainly past due for another such triumph.Richie Partington, MLIS
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