Books Summarised


Krisher once commented: “My father, through his love of history, taught me to value the telling detail, and my mother, through her concern for the welfare of others, taught me the gift of compassion. My own love of literature has taught me the value of true and honest work.” Krisher’s life struggles have also served her writing well. Her first book, Kathy’s Hats, was inspired by her daughter Kathy’s battle with cancer.

Kathy’s Hats begins as Kathy discusses her fondness for hats: she wore a hat when she was a baby and still wears them during the winter and the summer and at Easter. Yet when Kathy is diagnosed with cancer and her chemotherapy treatments make her hair fall out, Kathy’s perspective on hats changes. Her treatments are difficult and painful; she especially dislikes the long needles the nurses use to inject her medicine. Having to wear hats is another aspect of her cancer treatment Kathy resents. Finally, Kathy’s mother explains that the young girl can think of her hats as thinking caps which can help her fight her disease. Kathy finds this advice helpful and changes her attitude about hats. By the time the children in her class enjoy a favorite hat party with Kathy, she is far along the road to recovery.

Some reviewers appreciated the positive tone of the book, its realistic portrayal of cancer treatment, and the bright illustrations that accompany Krisher’s text. A Kirkus Reviews contributor appreciated the story as a “straightforward and upbeat picture of a child coping with cancer,” and Ilene Cooper in Booklist noted that Kathy’s Hats is a “good piece of bibliotherapy” which may be useful in the classroom.

Krisher once commented that Spite Fences “marks a young girl’s evolving social consciousness, and it has its roots in my childhood in the Jim Crow South at the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.” Life for thirteen-year-old Magnolia “Maggie” Pugh has never been blissful. Her father is withdrawn, and her emotionally and physically abusive mother cares only about helping Maggie’s little sister, Gardenia, win a beauty pageant.

Yet events in the summer of 1960 in Kinship, Georgia, add to Maggie’s troubles. First, her friend Zeke, a black man who has listened to Maggie’s concerns and even given her a camera, is arrested after he uses a restroom designated for white people. Later, while Maggie is high up in a tree, she witnesses a terrible scene. A group of men, which includes one of her neighbors, strips Zeke, humiliates him, and beats him mercilessly. Although she would like to help Zeke, Maggie stays in the tree, and after the incident, she is afraid to tell anyone what she has seen. To make matters worse, Virgil Boggs, one of Zeke’s attackers, maliciously harasses Maggie and her little sister. At one point in the story, Virgil almost rapes Maggie.

Maggie’s life begins to change when Zeke finds Maggie a job as a housekeeper for a highly educated black man who has moved to Kinship. George Hardy, a lawyer, teaches Maggie about the civil rights movement. She gradually gains respect for him and begins to fight for civil rights herself. Maggie even tells Mr. Hardy about Zeke’s beating. Maggie’s parents are upset about her friendship with Mr. Hardy and his friends, and the townspeople of Kinship ostracize her. Despite this lack of support, Maggie manages to overcome the ignorance and cruelty surrounding her, and she uses the camera Zeke gave her to understand and communicate the white community’s abuse of the black.

According to a critic writing in Publishers Weekly, Maggie’s “final triumph is a tribute to all who have suffered for justice.” Spite Fences was lauded by other critics as well. Spite Fences, wrote Margaret Cole in School Library Journal, “is to climb inside the narrator’s skin, share her emotions, and gain the wisdom she acquires.” Frances Bradburn in Booklist described the book as “a superbly crafted first novel” and “a masterful, sobering display.”

Krisher continues where Spite Fences left off with Kinship, which explores the difference between family and kin. To explore the nature of relationships, and to create a realistic vision of Happy Trails trailer park of Kinship, Georgia, where the second novel is set, Krisher wandered through trailer parks. She explained to an interviewer for the University of Dayton: “I found a trailer park to be a wonderful metaphor for what the story is all about—commitment.” The main character is Pert Wilson, a friend of Maggie’s introduced in Spite Fences. Pert is fifteen when her long-absent father comes back into her life; she first greets him joyfully but soon realizes everything might not be as wonderful as she had imagined. Krisher explained to the University of Dayton interviewer: “When I was writing Spite Fences, the process of creation through up a friend for Maggie Pugh by the name of Pert Wilson. Where Maggie was cautious, Pert was impulsive. Where Maggie was shy, Pert was brash.” Krisher also noted: “I was eager to learn more about this spunky spitfire who was Pert Wilson. I knew she was a character strong enough to deserve her own book.”

The third of Krisher’s historical novels, Uncommon Faith, focuses on women’s rights activists in the 1840s. The 1837 livery fire in Millbrook, Massachusetts, which killed six people and wounded several others, becomes a starting point for characters concerned about both rights for women and rights for workers. The novel has ten narrators, each of whom tells a different story, some focusing on family issues, others focusing on large scale issues like slavery and helping slaves to escape along the Underground Railroad. One of the narrators is Faith Common, a fourteen-year-old champion of women’s rights who leads her classmates to rebel against a cruel teacher who thinks that girls are incapable of learning math. “Able teens with an interest in women’s history will be particularly drawn to this uncommon tale,” wrote Kathleen Isaacs in the School Library Journal, calling the novel, “a crackerjack piece of historical fiction.”

In her 2006 book, Fallout, Krisher tells the story of Genevieve, a young girl growing up during the Cold War in the 1950s. As grownups and the noted Senator McCarthy on television increasingly warn about Communists and the threat of nuclear war, Genevieve believes them like all of her other classmates. Then she meets the new girl in school, Brenda, who has a more liberal and less fearful view of the world. “This is an excellent novel for teens searching for a good story with a well-paced and action-filled plot that challenges them to think,” Pat Scales wrote in the School Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that “the author … paints a vibrant picture of Senator McCarthy’s influence on American society.”

“I am happiest when I am dreaming about, planning, working out, sharing, or revising a piece of writing,” Krisher once commented. “Writing enables me to put the events in my life and those of my characters into perspective. It enables me to deepen my compassion for others and to probe the mystery of the human condition. I believe that my strengths as a writer are an eye for detail, a compassion for the joys, pains, struggles, and dreams of other human beings, and uncompromising honesty. I hope to continue to write books that promote the highest values of which we as human beings are capable.”

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