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Review of "Heartbeat"

By Sharon Creech
Joanna Cotler, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 23rd 2004

Annie is twelve years old and will soon become a sister.  Her mother will have the baby at a birthing center and the plan is for both Annie and her father to be present through the whole birth.  Her art teacher gives their class an assignment to draw one apple, the same apple, every day for a hundred days.  At first it seems like a pointless exercise, but soon Annie comes to see that she is learning more about her apple every day.  Her grandfather is losing his memory and is becoming emotionally fragile, starting to have strange ideas.  Her best friend Max is on the running team, and he keeps on pestering her to join the team as well.  But she does not want to join the school team, because she likes to run alone, just for the pleasure of it, barefoot.

Listening to the convincing audio performance of Heartbeat by Mandy Siegfried, the book seems to be a rather enigmatic story, catching glimpses of Annie's thoughts, told in very short chapters.  However, looking at the hardcover version, one discovers that each chapter is written in the form of a free-verse poem.  These thoughts of Annie convey all the wondering of a feisty and creative girl, learning a lot about life quickly.  When her baby brother is born, for a minute or two he isn't breathing, and everyone is very worried.  Occasionally her grandfather talks about his coming death, and Annie becomes extremely uncomfortable.   With her assignment to draw her apple for one hundred times, Annie marks the passing of days and the processes of growth, decay, and loss.  It gives her some perspective on life, and that helps her understand her developing friendship with Max. 

Heartbeat is a charming book with a blend of old-fashioned and new age values.  Annie is aware of possible romance but she is not ready to move in that direction yet.  Her family is close, and there are no terrible hidden secrets or signs of incipient dysfunction between her parents.  Annie does not even think about television, computer messaging, cell phones, or the mall. I don't know whether there are any girls really like Annie in America today, but I hope so. 


© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Note: the CD audiobook is UNABRIDGED.



Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.

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