The Girl Who Knew Too Much: Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee
"Bigfoot, what do you think about my green book?" said Julia Gillian.
Sometimes she liked to ask her dog questions about troublesome matters. In answer to her question, Bigfoot wagged his tail. That was his usual response, and Julia Gillian found it encouraging. She kept going.
"Because I'm worried that the ending will be unhappy. I'm worried about the dog."
Julia Gillian considered whether or not she should reveal her deepest suspicion about the ending to Bigfoot. She was afraid to think too much about the possibly sad ending of the green book, but the more she didn't think about it, the more she ended up thinking about it.
"What I'm really worried about," said Julia Gillian, "is that the dog might die."
Julia is an almost fifth-grader, happy in her life in urban Minneapolis where she lives with her teacher parents and walks the familiar nine-block square daily with her nine-year-old St. Bernard dog Bigfoot. She loves Yang's Vietnamese Restaurant and their best-in-the world egg rolls on Saturday night, Bryant's Hardware, where twice a week for three years she has tried and failed to win a toy meerkat from the "claw machine," and Enzo and Zap, teen-aged brother and sister who are her sometimes sitters and sometimes friends. But most of all she loves Bigfoot, who has been a part of her life since even before she came into the world.
And Julia is smart enough to know that Bigfoot is already on borrowed time for such a big dog. Julia has realized that she has a gift, what she calls the Art of Knowing. Not that she is clairvoyant--just that she knows how to put observations together with common sense to predict how things are going to happen. But sometimes, Julia Gillian realizes, knowing what is going to happen seems not to be much of a gift.
So when she asks her parents to buy her a green book at the used book store, they are overjoyed. They are teachers after all and have been disappointed that she has never enjoyed reading very much--but as soon as Julia gets into the story of a boy and his big old dog, she knows all too well how the book is going to end, and it is not an ending that Julia wants to think about for herself and Bigfoot.
Julia tries not thinking about it. She even banishes the book to the fire escape outside her bedroom window, sealed shut with two ponytail holders and exposed to the elements. Still, that possibly unhappy ending haunts her, even though she piles up her pillows and plush whistling marmot into a tower to block the view of the fire escape when she awakes. Her parents, devoted to newspapers from which they daily read each other disturbing headlines at breakfast, don't seem to be likely sources of solace for her worries, but at last her friend Enzo gives her some hard advice that rings true:
"I think I made a mistake," Julia Gillian says.
"Are we talking about a certain green book?" asked Enzo.
"It boils down to this, Noodlie," said Enzo. "Are you going to risk an unhappy ending, or are you going to live in fear?"
"... Noodlie," she said. "Sometimes the only way out is through."
And Julia Gillian does make it through, finishing the green book, making her own peace with the knowable-unknowable future, and finding the courage to live with it. Alison McGhee's Julia Gillian (and The Art Of Knowing) is the first in a proposed trilogy about this smart and perceptive character. The forthcoming second book in the series will be Julia Gillian and the Quest For Joy.
Labels: Fears--Fiction (Grades 3-6)