Wouldn’t you want to know what
really happened to your dad—a champion swimmer who mysteriously drowned?
Could you sneak inside an abandoned mansion, on an isolated beach, in the
dark of night to hunt for clues? Shouldn’t you tell someone about Ratt,
Volume I, that’s not really a comic, the weird librarian, and the lonely
boy who seem to know more than they will reveal? Margaret asks herself
these questions and more, yet perseveres in the dangerous search for the
truth in How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found by Sara Nickerson.
Marge Erickson Freeburn
Spruce Children's Award)
Most stories start at the beginning,
but I really can’t say I know where that is. Is it in a falling-down mansion
on a small island in the Pacific Northwest, or in a navy-blue pickup truck
making its way to that mansion? Does it start on a sunny day this year,
or a sunny day twenty years before? Is it with me or with a young boy,
who a long, long time ago, believed he was turning into a rat? I guess
the only thing I do know is where it started for me - in that navy blue
pick-up truck heading toward a place I didn’t know existed. A place that
had already changed my life.
My name is my Margaret Clairmont.
I have always known that my family is a little weird. There is my Mother
Lizzie, she sleeps when she isn’t at work, and my sister Sophie, who is
always doing the Hardest Jigsaw Puzzle Ever Made. You get some kind of
certificate if you ever finish. My father died three years ago. We don’t
ever talk about my father, unless my Mother isn’t there. There was something
very strange about my Father’s death. He was a champion swimmer, and he
drowned. I have a lot of questions, but Lizzie, I mean my Mother will not
talk about it. The only time that we ever go anywhere is on Saturday. Sophie
calls it Family Fun Day, I call it Bare Minimum for Survival Day. About
three o’clock every Saturday, we gather up our dirty clothes and go to
the Laundromat. After we get the clothes into the dryer, we walk a block
and a half to the grocery store. We always buy two loaves of bread, two
boxes of cereals, milk, bananas, chips, peanut butter and jelly, 6 frozen
pizzas two bags of tater tots and 6 microwave bean burritos. Then we walk
back to the Laundromat and get our clothes and go home. That had been our
life for years. Well one Sunday, after Lizzie, I mean my Mom got up from
her morning and afternoon naps, she looked at us, and said, “Get your shoes!
Get your shoes and jackets!
Soon, we were all in the navy
blue pick-up and headed somewhere. We saw a sign for a ferry and soon we
were on the ferry. In the back of the truck was a sign that said FOR SALE
BY OWNER. We had no idea what we were doing or where we were going. We
drove up to a huge old house. It was like a palace, but one that was under
a dark spell. There was another ordinary house right next door that looked
like it had been plucked from a regular housing development. But we drove
into the driveway, and Sophie and I wanted to move in right away. Lizzie,
er Mom, lit her cigarette, and said, “Take that sign and put it in the
middle of the yard, and write our phone number on the bottom with this
marker.” I honestly tried to get it in the ground but the ground was too
hard. I wanted to explore a little, but Sophie got in trouble by going
too close to the water. So after Sophie was stuck back in the truck, while
Lizzie stomped around. She sent me to the back of the house to get a shovel.
I just wanted a peek inside this strange house. The back door was opened
just a crack and I stepped inside. It was packed floor to ceiling with
things. Things you think about and things you don’t, things that make up
the world. There were wooden pickle barrels, rusted gates, tools to fix
a car, tools to fix a tooth, tools to build a house. There were bicycle
horns, and balls of string, and at least a dozen different mannequin hands,
all with chipped red nail polish. There were stubs of candles and old-fashioned
ruffled dresses, and doll heads with missing hair, and baby bottles, cans
of food without labels, garbage sacks full of toilet paper. I could have
stayed on that porch for days. I took a step forward, tripped over a box
of old encyclopedias, and rusty fishing poles and then looked down at an
old wooden crate that I had crashed through. And that’s when I saw it,
a package that was addressed to Elizabeth Clairmont, (MY MOTHER). Someone
had sent this to my Mother. I had to see what was inside. I stuffed it
in my jeans and under my sweatshirt. And I took it home. What was in it?
A Key, A champion’s swimming
medal, and A graphic novel entitled Ratt Volume 1.
You will need to read How To
Completely Disappear and Never Be Found to find out what it all means!!
Marilyn Bunker (Colorado
Blue Spruce Children's Award)
My name is Margaret. I am about
to enter the weirdest adventure of my life. My father, a champion swimmer,
drowned four years ago. My mother, sister and I have just visited a mysterious
house by the sea where I found a package addressed to my mom that said
“return to sender.” What’s in that package?
My name is Boyd. I saw that
girl, Margaret, enter the strange mansion next door. Then, I found a new
comic book at the library with that house and that girl in the story. Why
do I keep getting comic books that keep telling the future?
How to Disappear Completely
and Never be Found is a surprising mystery told through words and comics
about friendship, fate and family secrets. (Melissa Bowman, Melissa.Bowman@pisd.edu,
Armstrong Middle School, Lone Star Book Award nominee, 2003-2004)