Monday, August 14, 2017

It all began at PS 117 for Ruth Behar and me...

I can't stop thinking about Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar.  This is how my story goes:

I had been hearing a lot about the book so when it finally came in at the public library, I ran over there to pick it up.  It was probably around 8pm and my husband had already retired upstairs to work on his crossword puzzle.  Both of my kids were at sleepaway camp so the house was quiet.  I settled into the sofa, read the first paragraph, then the second and then I screamed.  OMG! I'm surprised I didn't trip as I galloped up the stairs to Kevin. Hyperventilating, I read the words aloud:

PS 117!  That was MY elementary school! I couldn't believe it.  I talk about PS 117 all the time! I am a firm believer that my upbringing in Briarwood surrounded by diversity helped form who I am today.  Of course, I hated that Ruthie began in the "dumb class" so I was pulling for her from day one to get moved out.  Why weren't the classes heterogenous back then? Even though the book takes place about 10 years before my time at PS 117, we were still tracked in the 70s, too.  Check out Facebook and you can see the success of the cohort of kids from Mrs. Brown's fifth grade class: successful attorneys, journalists, library directors, businessmen and women, chiropractors...

Anyway, back to Lucky Broken Girl.

This is the story of Ruthie, the Hopscotch Queen of Queens, whose Jewish family emigrated from Cuba.  She even has a Bubby and Zady (Grandma and Grandpa in Yiddish).  We just celebrated my Bubby's (my kids call her "Super Bubby") 93rd birthday!

Ruthie's life changes in an instant, when one day, in her dad's new blue Oldsmobile, the family gets into an accident that leaves Ruthie in a body cast for a year.

"My leg is fractured, but all of me broke.  Who'll put me together again?"-p. 52

"Just the other day I felt so grown-up in my go-go boots.  And now I'm like a baby in diapers again."-p.61

Like a famous fictional middle grade character, Margaret, who wrote letters to G-d, so does Ruthie.  "...if I had to choose between going back to the dumb class and not being able to walk, I would ask you to send me to the dumb class." And she can't shake her hatred for the boy who caused the accident.  "Do you think you can help?  Maybe, while I sleep, you can come and snatch away all the hate that is like a stone in my heart?"

Being in bed for one year of your life wouldn't be easy for anyone.  Some days "the sadness arrives and sits on [her] head. It gets comfortable and stays there. Like a dark cloud that won't go away." But with the support and friendship of neighbors Chicho and Mark, tutor, Joy, Mami, Papi, Izzie, her good doctor, ambulance and hospital workers, Bobbie and Clay...Ruthie is brave, optimistic and a survivor. "You helped me survive a terrible experience.  I know that all of you helped me to get through it."

"Why is it that bad things have to happen so you learn there are lots of good people in the world?"- p.174

Lessons learned. Tears shed. Smiles worn.  Giggles heard. This book has it all and will bring out the best in you. You'll be cha-cha-cha-ing in your go-go boots and pulling for Ruthie from Day 1.

Side note to my PS 117 alumni, how easy it will be for you to imagine the sidewalks of Briarwood, Ruthie's apartment, our elementary school.  And I have to ask because I'm only vaguely remembering but wasn't Mrs. Margolis our third grade teacher?


  1. Mrs. Margolis was my 3rd grade teacher!

  2. What fun! I found it an interesting book because I had a friend who broke a leg (sledding) and was in a cast and traction for a protracted period. Those connections can really make us invest in a story.

  3. when did you go to PS 117? I was in Kindergarden in 1990

    1. Ha! Way before that! I left there in 1981!

  4. see you al at