Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Monday, January 11, 2010

42 Miles

Tracie's Books/
42 Miles
by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Illustrated by Elaine Clayton
ISBN: 978-0-618-61867-5
Pages: 80
Ages: 9-12

About the book:
Just 42 Miles. That’s how far it is from the downtown Cincinnati apartment where JoEllen lives with her mom to the old family farm where she spends weekends with her dad. But to her, these two homes are worlds apart. In the city, she’s Ellen, who hangs out with her girlfriends, plans the sax, and loves old movies. In the country, she’s Joey, who rides horses with her cousin, Hayden, goes fishing, and listens to bluegrass. Now—with her thirteenth birthday approaching—she needs to decide: Where do her loyalties lie? Who is the real JoEllen?
Linked free-verse poems combine with scrapbook-style illustrations to create the vivid portrait of a girl who is trying to find herself amid the pieces of her life.

About the author:
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer lives with her husband two children near Cincinnati, Ohio, in a town on the route JoEllen travels each week in this story. Tracie is the author of three books, including Sketches from a Spy Tree, published by Clarion Books. Visit her website at

Elaine Clayton is the author/illustrator of four books for young readers and the illustrator of many others, including “The Hamlet Chronicles” series by Gregory Maquire (Clarion). She lives with her family in Bridgewater, Connecticut, where—like JoEllen—she enjoys riding horses.

Pre-reading: What do you think the title means? Where would you be in 42 Miles from your own house?

Discussion guide:

  1. How has JoEllen’s life suddenly changed this year? What’s the most change in a year you ever faced? What do you think is the hardest thing about change?
  2. How is JoEllen like both of her parents and also like neither? How about you? 
  3. Describe JoEllen’s friends and cousins. Who do you think knows her best? What friends “fit” best for you? Describe your ideal best friend.
  4. How does JoEllen feel about having her life so divided? Do you think her life is like a hexagon or not? Can a kid be equally divided?
  5. Compare and contrast JoEllen’s two lives. Which would you prefer? Why? Which one of JoEllen’s parents do you think you’d get along with best? Why?
  6. Why does JoEllen feel like a traveling exhibit?
  7. What does the title mean? Do you ever transform between places? When? Do we all show different sides of ourselves to various people?
  8. Where is Aunt Mimi’s Attic? What does JoEllen do there? Would you like to work there? What is your favorite place to shop for treasures?
  9. What are JoEllen’s favorite and not-so-favorite things to do with her parents? What are yours?
  10.  Which illustration is your favorite? Why? What do the illustrations add to the text?


Language Arts:
Experiment with free verse poetry! Try your hand at a poem inspired by “Changes” or “Best Friends” be sure to end this poem with a description of yourself.

Create your own scrapbook inspired illustrations to accompany your own free verse poems (see above). After you’ve arranged all your found objects make a black and white copy of it and see if you prefer it in its original color or in the copied version. On the back discuss your process.

Create a map of your location and expand it to a 42 mile diameter. Make a list of all the interesting locations you might like to explore within the circle.

Hayden’s brother, Russell, was killed by drunk driver. Research the statistics in your area on drunk driving and create a public service campaign with posters, powerpoints or websites that inform the community about this topic.