Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Beige by Cecil Castellucci

About the book:
When she’s exiled from Canada to sunny Los Angeles, Katy figures she’ll bury her nose in a book and ignore the fact that she’s spending two weeks with her father. Her father, Beaut Ratner—punk name: the Rat—is a recovered addict and the drummer of the famously infamous band, Suck. Even though she doesn’t want to be there, even though she feels abandoned by her mom, even though the Rat isn’t anything she’d call a father, Katy is a nice girl. She’s quiet and polite. She smiles.
            Another kind of girl, one like doom-and-gloom Lake—lead singer for an all-girl band and the Rat’s idea of a cherperone—might take off, break the rules, scrawl manifestoes on the walls. Or she might pound on the skins and cymbals, let it all out, because sometimes the beat’s better than crying. Sometimes it’s the same thing.
            But music is dangerous and Katy isn’t that kind of girl. So what kind of girl is she?

About the author:
Cecil Castelucci is the author of the young adult novels Boy Proof and The Queen of Cool. She is a writer, filmmaker, actress, singer-songwriter, and engages in many other creative pursuits. Of Beige, she says, “When I first moved to Los Angeles from Montreal, I wrote in a café owned by Eric Melvin from NOFX had Thanksgiving dinner with Tim Armstrong from Rancid, and had my taxes done by a guy who was in the Circle Jerks. It was like everyone was so So-Cal Punk crazy and I felt so… beige. I wondered what it would be like to grow up surrounded by adults that cool and what it would be like if you were plopped into that scene if it wasn’t yours.” She still lives in Los Angeles, in the “belly of the beast” known as Hollywood.

Author interview:
D o you start with character or plot?
Hmm.   I don't know.  I think I must start with character since I write mostly in the first person.  I know that I'm really going to tell their story when I know the beginning and the end, like a flash.  Once that moment happens, I have my point of view and my starting point and my ending point.  How I get there might change, and where I end up might be slightly to the left, but usually, it's pretty close to what I originally flashed on. 

2.       Have you ever felt Beige or like a Plain Jane yourself? (This I cannot imagine!)
You bet I have felt Beige and like a Plain Jane!  Doesn't everyone?  I used to call myself a "weed" or a "wallflower" when I was in high school and college because that's just how I felt.  Also, I think that feeling like that just has to with how comfortable or uncomfortable you feel in a particular situation.  I feel beige when I don't fit in.  

3.       What books have influenced you most as a writer?
Oh.  That's a toughie.  Today I will say Persuasion by Jane Austen really captured my imagination.  Also Sam Shepard's plays.  And Tin Tin.  I read those Tin Tin books over and over again.  I still do.   He's an adventurer!  

4.       If you had a year and 1,000,000 dollars what would you do with it?
Well, I would probably give most of it away to some kind of children and literacy foundation.  Free books for kids! Get kids to read!  Save the world with Books!  And then the little bit left over I'd take all my pals on a swellerific voyage somewhere fantabulous for a month!

5.       What can your fans look forward to next?
I actually have a picture book coming out, called Grandma's Gloves.  But I don't know when, because I'm waiting for the artwork stuff.  It'll be out on Candlewick in late 2008-ish, 2009-ish.  Then I'm also in an anthology called Magic in the Mirrorstone (Wizards of the Coast), it's my first fantasy story!  And I'm hard at work at fifty million other things, a few more anthology pieces and an early chapter book type thing and of course a new YA novel!

Discussion guide:

  1. Describe Katy’s reaction to seeing the Rat for the first time she can remember and his apartment. Have you ever been away from your home for an extended period? Would you be willing to give Rat a chance?
  2. What do Katy’s mom and dad have in common? How did they handle it differently? Why did Rat stop visiting Canada and Katy? How would you feel to be dropped on an absent parent for two weeks?
  3. Katy doesn’t feel like she fits in at all in the punk rock scene her dad navigates in LA. Have you ever felt displaced and like you don’t belong?
  4. “I like music to be in the background. Not in my face,” katy says (p. 50) Which way do you prefer your music? Why? Is one right and the other wrong? How important is music to you in your life? Why does it play such different roles in people’s lives?
  5. Who is Lake? Why does Katy put up with her attitude? Have you ever been stuck with someone? Is it easier to make the best of it or try to make the other person miserable? Why? Why does Lake call her Beige?
  6. What does Katy do in LA when she is left to her own devices? Who does she hang out with? What’s her plan to survive the two weeks? How do you survive events or vacations that you are dreading?
  7. What finally cracks an open space for friendship between Lake and Katy? When do you think they finally become friends? Can you ever make friendship happen?
  8. Describe Lake’s band. Why is it so important to her? Why does Lake believe the other musicians are poseurs? What does it mean to be a poseur? Who gets to decide who is and is not one? Is it important? Why?
  9. Why does Garth try to befriend Katy and Lake? Are his intentions sincere or not? Have you ever felt like someone was using you to get closer to someone else? What romantic gesture does he make?
  10. How does Katy end up at Rat’s place longer than the original two-week plan. How would you feel about having your entire summer vacation  plans changed? How does Katy’s mom surprise her again at the end of the story? Is this fair? Should parents be required to consult their kids on big decisions or not?
  11. Why does Trixie want to be friends with Katy? Would you want to be friends with Trixie or not? Why? What does Katy learn from her and Auggie?
  12. How does Katy describe punk rock music? Are the very things that disturb her about it is what makes other love it? Do you think Katy is repressed- not just in her music but her life? Why does Rat consider Katy “cool?”
  13.  How does Katy misjudge both of her parents? Can you ever real know your parents? How does Katy shock Rat? Have you ever felt like a disappointment to your parent’s expectations? How did they cope with it? How do you?
  14.  Teenage girl equals babysitter. What other stereotypes must teens contend with from adults? What should adults know about teens today but don’t bother to ask and listen?
  15. How does Katy change by the end of the novel? What summer has changed you the most? Why? Would you want to be friends with Katy?


Like Garth, create a mix CD of the music you most want your friends to listen to and understand.

Create or listen to a punk rock primer.

Create a piece of art that best represents Katy’s metamorphosis over the summer. You can use any media you prefer but explain your piece (and your choices in color, texture, media, etc.) in a brief artist’s statement on the back.

Language Arts:
Write your own manifesto.

Research the history of punk rock music and the scene in LA.

For fun:
Go thrifting with a friend for a perfect outfit to wear on Friday night. Choose one for yourself and one you think Beige would like too.