Just as I have done at this time every year, I am standing at my kitchen stove dropping little red globes of organic matter into a pan of boiling water. I watch them scoot around the pot and listen to their evil hiss just before their skins pop open. Then I scoop them out with a slotted spoon into a large metal bowl to cool so I can skin them, just as my mother and grandmother before me did for so many years, so many years ago. Although the very thought of eating the finished product (which my family assures me is delicious) still threatens to turn my stomach inside out, I continue to can the tomatoes I nurture so carefully in my backyard garden all summer long. Every fall, their pungent smell brings me back to a time many years ago when our country was at war and I was fighting my own personal battles.
The Flip-flop Year
A Tale of Teachers, Tormenters and Tomatoes
There are two things Jane Johnson dislikes passionately--- tomato stew and her new teacher, Miss Eldora Coffin, “the meanest teacher in Lowry School.” An unhappy fifth-grader relegated to a “mixed class” of fifth and sixth graders, Jane is befriended by Richard Whitcomb (Dick to his friends), the most “popular boy in Lowry School.” But Dick has a flip side and he unexpectedly turns on Jane, harassing her at every opportunity and making her life a nightmare. Jane thinks his bullying is her fault and puts up with it until he finally goes too far. Help comes from two unexpected sources, one human; the other vegetable, exposing Dick for the bully he is and revealing his dark family secret.
Set against the backdrop of wartime America in the waning days of World War II, The Flip-flop Year deals with such themes as bullying, and integrity, rationing and the War effort while chronicling the flip-flop relationships of ten year-old Jane with her teacher and with Richard.
Well done, June! The Flip-flop Year is a delightful fictionalized memory. I'm amazed at how accurate you are in using details from that era. How did you do it/ Dit you sit and think of yourself as that young girl and imagine your day at school? Did you have a diary? Did you read descriptions of how it was to be living in Minneapolis in the forties Whatever, it worked. I really got a kick out of reliving memories that have evidently been dormant for 64 years. Best of all, you have captured the voice of a young girl, a girl that was precocious and has continued to be observant and creative. This is a skill that is not easy to achieve in fiction. It is an achievement that Salinger was able to pull off. You trick the reader into thinking they are feeling the first person emotions of someone much younger.
You mentioned that I played a part in the story, but unless i was the war hero, I didn't find that to be true. I was not a member of the 28ers (Bobo, Bud, Rags, etc.) who harangued "Baldy." Perhaps I guessed that "Dick" may have been Dana (an important spirit in my life) who lived on that street, who was at that time, a thug and gave me my worst beating in grade school and later became my hero. I remember Miss Coffit. She was really nice to me, in part, perhaps, because she had been so mean to my older sister.
My favorite parts in your book were: the red crayon incident, and the last two lines of your winning poem.
Thanks for the memories, June
About the author“Help!” says the author. “I’m a ten year old girl trapped in the body of a seventy year-old woman!” Born in Northeast Minneapolis, June Gossler-Anderson attended Thomas Lowry School, kindergarten through eighth grade. Three of her four children also went to that school until the family moved to “the country” where they raised horses and chickens and pigs. Now that her children are grown and gone, Mrs. Anderson raises tomatoes in the summer, cans them in the fall, and writes stories the rest of the year while vacationing in “her past.”
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