—Booklist, starred review
- Pages: 272 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Dutton Books for Young Readers
- ISBN: 9781101127193
An Excerpt From
Twice Told: Original Stories Inspired by Original Artwork
But the thought occurred to me that maybe we could take the storytelling/illustration collaboration and stand it on its head. Why, I thought, couldn’t authors interpret my illustrations? Thus was born Twice Told.”
-- Scott Hunt
Kafka was a one-hundred-fifty-pound teddy bear that filled a corner of Bettina’s bedroom. His thick brown acrylic coat was almost indistinguishable from the real thing, and his eyes were genuine imitation amethyst gems. He hadn’t come with the name Kafka—just a little tag above his tail that said MADE IN HONG KONG. The name was Bettina’s idea. Once at one of her mother’s parties, her mother had been talking to friends about literature, and the many, many writers she didn’t like.
“Kafka’s the worst of them,” Bettina had heard her mother say. “I could never understand a thing he wrote.”
And so when her parents presented her with the bear, she promptly named him Kafka, knowing there must be some merit to something her mother couldn’t understand. For most of his early life, Kafka would sit in the corner, his fixed gaze directed out the window, staring at dazzling sunsets that refracted through his amethyst eyes. He would observe on the occasions Bettina brought classmates over, holding his silence as those children made snide comments, turning their noses up at Bettina’s less-than-elegant lifestyle. He would say nothing as Bettina tried desperately to win the friendship of these privileged children who were used to having their friendship bought.
“You can’t get friends by acting like you want them,” Marla Korkel had told Bettina. Marla was a popular girl at school, who, Bettina had concluded, was exactly what her mother must have been like at twelve. “You have to act like you couldn’t care less,” Marla had said. “Then people will want to be your friend.”
This tactic failed on every level, because the snooty kids at Ravenscroft Academy were content to be ignored by Bettina. Kafka, however, was always there for her in those moments she felt so utterly alone. She would throw her arms around him and cry, her tears running down his stain-proofed pelt. If she pressed deeply enough against him, his arms would rise from the pressure, and Bettina could imagine he was hugging her back.
-- From “Smells Like Kafka” by Neal Shusterman
BEAR image from Cover.
I'd never let myself get that close to one of them. There was something in their eyes that spooked me. Sadness. But a light, too. Like they could think. They were smarter than the rabbits or the mice. That was for sure. But I didn't want to dwell on how smart they might be. I'd hate to feel they really understood what we'd taken from them. It was better to just believe that they were dumb beasts.
As much as I wanted to drift back to sleep, I knew there was no point trying until Grandma was finished. The growls and shouts seemed to go on forever. Two stubborn old females. But then the sounds softened. Murmurs, whispers, snuffles. Finally, I heard Grandma lumber back in and close the door.
"She go?" I asked.
"You give her something?"
"You know that only encourages them."
"I know. So, you give her something?"
"Why would I? Shameless beggars."
"What'd you give her?"
Already, I was halfway back to sleep. But I lifted my head briefly and glanced out toward the rise. I could just see her disappearing among the trees, hunched over as if she clutched something to her belly. Her dress rippled as she wove her way deeper into the woods. Her thin white legs seemed so fragile, so unsuited to life in the hills. Wispy gray hair peeked from the scarf on her head. I couldn't imagine what life would be like without fur. How cold they must get. Poor creatures.
-- From “Habitat for Humanity” by David Lubar