Visiting Miss Caples by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel;
Dial Books: New York, 2000; $16.99
When I first saw the cover of the book Visiting Miss Caples I thought the story would be downright boring. I put off reading it for a while. When I did start reading the story, I was easily caught up in the book. Jenna's character was easy to relate to—who doesn't have a friend that they look up to and rely and depend upon for support? I cannot imagine having a friend for so long and then suddenly losing her over some stupid prank. Jenna has to choose between following her friend, the most popular girl in school, or to do the right thing and become a social outcast.
There is not a teenager out there who doesn't worry about being liked or having friends. What makes it harder is when someone vows to be your worst enemy. Even after years of torment from Liv and Jenna, Jane had never tried to get back at them. I think if we all tried that approach kids would feel a lot safer at school. There are always going to be kids who think that they are better than everyone else is. I don't think we can get rid of the bullies either. They will always be there. What we can do is try to turn the other way and try non- violent solutions to our problems and accept others for their differences. Those differences that we see in each other are what make people unique. It would be really boring if everyone looked, acted and thought the same. I had an experience like Jenna's a couple of years ago. I used to hang around a group of girls at school. I guess you could say it was the in-crowd. The leader of our group was always getting us into trouble. Finally, one day she thought of this horrible prank to play on this other girl. I told her I wasn't going to go through with it. She became really upset and turned the others against me. I dreaded going to school and facing them or wondering what they were going to do to me that day. I tried to ignore them, found different friends, and eventually the whole thing was forgotten. I became friends with other girls who I can truly call my friends.
Another situation I can relate to was the social studies project that Jenna had to do. Her assignment was to read to an elderly shut-in once a week. I know exactly how Jenna felt the first time she visited Miss Caples. I have volunteered for the past two summers at senior centers. It is really hard to try to get people to open up and talk to you. It is amazing though what you can learn from the stories they tell you. I became really close to a few of the people there. I look forward to it every summer.
My favorite line from the story is "The past is like smoke in the wind." Both Liv and Miss Caples say this. I never really thought about how true that is. We always worry about what happened last month, last week, or the day before. But the past, like smoke, will eventually become fuzzy or fade away and then completely vanish or become absorbed by something else. We need to think more about our present and future and leave the past where it is—behind us.
I truly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading.