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Richie's Picks: OPERATION YES by Sara Lewis  Holmes, Scholastic/Arthur A. 
Levine, September 2009, 256p., ISBN:  978-0-545-10795-2  

"Ring the bells that still can ring, 
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything, 
That's how the light gets in."
-- Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"
"'What happens when we place an object in the Taped Space?'  she said.  'Do 
we see it differently than if it were in the teachers'  lounge or in a 
living room?  What happens when someone talks to it?   When I insulted it with 
my own weak language and then the bold words of  Shakespeare?  How did you 
feel when I hit the couch?  Did you feel  differently when I treated it kindly?
"Of course, thought Bo.  How could you  not?  His hand twitched as if it 
wanted to rise into the  air.
"Wait.  Maybe no one else had felt sorry for the  couch.  He wanted Miss 
Loupe to keep doing her crazy games, instead of real  school, but he didn't 
want everyone to look at him like he was moldy shredded  cheese either.  He 
sat on his hand and glanced over at the window.  It  was sealed shut under 
rippled coats of yellowed paint.  He wished Miss  Loupe could push it open a 
tiny crack."
The school year has commenced and Miss Loupe has  begun her first-ever 
teaching job.  She is the new sixth grade teacher  at Young Oaks, a school in 
dire need of repair that adjoins the Air Force  base in Reform, North 
Carolina.  Growing up, herself, as part of a military  family, Reunion was one of 
the bases where Miss Loupe lived as a  child.  In fact, the principal at Young 
Oaks who hired her was  Miss Loupe's own sixth grade teacher.  Miss Loupe 
is the only  member of her family not directly serving in the military and  
it caused a deep crack in the family when she dropped out of the Air Force  
Academy after one year.
"Art needs a frame"
"Theater is the art of saying yes"
Miss Loupe's student Bo Whaley is the son  of Reunion's base commander.  
Last year Bo was Young Oaks'  resident trouble-maker-in-chief, but this year's 
teacher seems the opposite  of his fifth-grade nemesis Mr. Nix.  Bo and his 
classmates are  fascinated by this unusual young woman who sports rows of 
earrings, a  tattoo, and a belly ring.  She tells them that they are going to 
learn  regular sixth grade material -- and that they need  to cover the  
Handbook -- but she has also created the Taped Space, a temporary stage  area 
at the front of the classroom.  When she suddenly slips into her  stealthy 
black dance slippers, it is time for the students to "see what happens  when 
we say yes."
For these students, who  are so frequently moved away from friends and 
separated from  family members, there are great psychological benefits in  
getting  the chance to say yes.  
Through Bo and his schoolmates, we get a real sense of what it  is to have 
to change homes and schools every couple of years.  Author Sara  Lewis 
Holmes -- herself, the wife of an Air Force pilot -- does a great job of  showing 
us what this sort of childhood might be like:
"He wondered how many houses from now he would be thinking  back to this 
room, to this house, to this town, and know that everyone here had  mostly 
forgotten who Bo Whaley was.  It was eerie, like thinking about  himself in a 
long hall of mirrors, each one smaller than the last."
What is even worse than the moving around, of course,  is the need to 
confront the fears and loneliness that  accompany having your parent or other 
loved one shipped off to war.  Miss  Loupe has a brother serving in Special 
Forces in Afghanistan.  And  Bo's cousin Gari will arrive in Reform from 
Seattle -- to live with Bo's  family -- when her mother is suddenly required to 
leave everybody and everything  to go serve as a nurse in Iraq.  
"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose  sight of the 
The dramatic arts offer great opportunities for team building  and taking 
chances.  How might what Miss Loupe's students learn about  their classroom 
community while in the safety of the Taped Space be of great  value when 
terrible news about a loved one hits home?  
How can cracks be both painful and good things,  too?
Richie  Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks 
Moderator,  _ 
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