NOT EVERYONE SEES THE WORLD THROUGH THE SAME LENS. From the author of Something Invisible comes this funny and poignant novel about the hues of friendship.
Spunky Olivia and eccentric Hal are an unlikely pair. While Hal suffers from a neurological condition called synesthesia that causes him to associate things with colors, Olivia tends to see the world in black and white. Still, these two are friends through thick and thin, through rose-colored days and blue days, even when Hal's plan to get rid of his mother's boyfriend backfires by driving his mother away. Olivia's honest, funny and always-opinionated voice tells this story with colorful perception.
About the Author
Siobhan Parkinson is the author of 12 previous novels, including SOMETHING INVISIBLE and SECOND FIDDLE with Roaring Brook Press as well as SISTERS . . . NO WAY!, winner of Ireland's Bisto Book of the Year Award, THE MOON KING, a Bisto Merit Award winner, FOUR KIDS, THREE CATS, TWO COWS, ONE WITCH (MAYBE), also a Bisto Merit Award winner, and KATHLEEN: THE CELTIC KNOT, in the American Girls/Girls of Many Lands series. The first children's writer appointed Writer-in-Residence for the Dublin Corporation/Irish Writers' Centre, she is also currently editor of BOOKBIRD, the magazine of Ibby International, and has been a contributor to The Horn Book and other journals. She lives in Dublin with her husband and son.
SIOBHAN PARKINSON is the author of more than a dozen novels, including Something Invisible, Second Fiddle, and Blue Like Friday. Named the first laureate for children's literature of Ireland, she lives in Dublin with her husband and son.
Read an Excerpt
Blue Like Friday
By Siobhan Parkinson
Roaring Brook PressCopyright © 2008 Siobán Parkinson
All rights reserved.
The thing is, blue is not really a great color for a kite, is it?
"I mean, think about it," I said to Hal. "Where does a kite spend its time?"
He stared at me in that goofy way he has. I know he is not really goofy, just thinking about something else, but he does a very good impression of goofy just the same.
"Its working time, Hal," I explained. "When it's doing its stuff, like."
We were in Hal's garage. His mother had started to have it converted into a playroom for Hal, but she'd lost interest halfway through — typical, according to Hal, and he throws his eyes up as he says it — and the conversion never got finished, so it was sort of stuck halfway between a garage and a room: there was linoleum on the floor, like in a room, but it still had an up-and-over garage door.
Hal said nothing. He is good at saying nothing. He has plenty to say for himself when he wants to, but he can do silence like no one else I know. I could shake him!
But I didn't shake him. Instead, I answered my own question. "In the sky, right? And," I went on, "what color is the sky?"
Well, you can see where that argument was going, can't you? But Hal just said — wait for it! — Hal said the kite had to be blue because of Friday being blue. I ask you!
"Friday is not blue, Hal," I said patiently. "Friday is just a day."
"It's blue," said Hal. He stopped for a bit, and then he said, "It's a light, pretty blue. With frills."
I do try to understand Hal, but it's not easy.
"Pass me the glue," he went on. "Careful!" he said then, as I went to pick it up. "Make sure you don't get it on your fingers, it's very strong. It'd strip your skin off as fast as look at you."
"It's only a tube of glue, Hal," I said, passing it to him. "It doesn't look at people."
"And tangy," Hal added.
"What?" I yelped. "Have you been licking it? I thought you said it would strip your skin off." Then I had a terrible thought. "Or sniffing it? Hal, you shouldn't do that, it's dangerous. Your nose falls off and your brain goes to mush and you die."
That might have been a bit of an exaggeration, and I have promised my mother I will try not to exaggerate so much, but you probably do die in the end, and I'm sure it's not a dignified death, all slobbering, with no nose to speak of.
"Not the glue," said Hal. "Friday."
He can be clear as mud, that boy.
"I don't get it, Hal," I said.
"I mean, it's Friday that's tangy," Hal said. "It's sort of lemony, only sweet, like lemon sherbet."
To you (I hope) and me, Friday is the day after Thursday — right? — and the day the weekend begins, yippee! But if you're Hal, it seems that Friday is a bag of blue lemon sherbet. How weird is that?
I started to unwind my sweatshirt from around my waist so I could put it on. It was kind of drafty in Hal's not-really-a-garage-but-not-quite-a-room.
"Explain, Hal," I said as I put on my sweatshirt. "Explain about Friday being blue."
Hal said nothing.
"Can you he-ear me?" I asked, knocking on his forehead. "Anybody ho-ome? How is Friday blue?"
"In my head," said Hal, pushing me away.
The inside of Hal's head has to be the weirdest place.
"When I think Friday," he said, "I see blue. That's all."
I wriggled my cold toes in my sandals and wished I'd worn runners and socks. "You live in your head, that's the problem," I told him.
He looked at me blankly for a moment and then he sort of waved his hands about and said, "But where else would I live?"
Which more or less proved my point, since the obvious answer to that is, "In the real world, with the rest of us." I tried to imagine what it must be like to think that Friday is blue, but I couldn't.
"I might say Friday has a rosy glow myself," I said after a while. "But that's a metaphor. Have you heard of metaphors, Hal?"
We did metaphors in English last term, and I think they are cool, but I don't think Hal always listens in class. He's usually doodling or coloring in. So he could easily have missed the metaphors.
"Hmm," said Hal, holding up the frame of the kite and turning it around and around and looking at it from different angles. "I s'pose."
I could see that he wasn't really listening.
"It's when you say something is something else," I explained helpfully, "only you don't mean it's actually something else, it's just that a bit of the meaning of the something else sort of rubs off on the something you first thought of."
Hal's mouth dropped open. He must have been listening after all. He didn't look so marvelous with his mouth hanging open. He has quite a nice face, most of the time. Ordinary, but sort of roundy and smiley and with a lot of fringe and eyebrow.
While I am at it, I should tell you that my face is fairly ordinary too, roundy and freckly, and my hair is curly and pale. I used to say "blond," but my dad laughed at me and said, "You mean hay colored," which I thought didn't sound very grand, so now I describe it as "pale." That's more interesting than "blond" anyway. It drives me mad, though, my hair, because it curls up all by itself into little corkscrews. My so-called friend Rosemarie lent me her hair-straighteners once, but it came out all crinkly instead of straight, and that was worse than actual curls, so I have given up on that.
"So you see, when I say Friday has a rosy glow," I said to Hal, "I don't mean that it's really pink or smells sweet or even that it's like a rose. I just mean there is something nice about Friday. See?"
"No," said Hal.
"Only, of course," I went on, "you can't say things are 'nice' because that is a no-no word. You have to use a metaphor instead. That's how poetry works. Poets never say things are nice. Have you noticed that, Hal? That's why they are poets and we are not. They always find better ways to say ordinary things. That's what poetry is for."
"Hmm," said Hal.
He didn't sound very interested in my explanation about metaphors and poems. He listens more slowly than I talk, that's the trouble.
"Things usually aren't nice, though, are they?" he said then.
"They are," I said. "I think they are. Friday is, anyway, and chocolate cake and kittens and sunshine. You just have to think about the right kind of things. That's how you make yourself happy."
"Hmm," he said again, and he didn't sound very cheerful.CHAPTER 2
" Everyone doesn't have to be normal, Olivia," my mum was always saying when I tried to explain about Hal and how weird he could be sometimes. "And of course, Hal ... Well, poor Hal."
She meant about Hal not having a father. I mean, he did have a father once, but it was a long time ago — I don't remember him, anyway, though I suppose I must have known him when I was small, because Hal and I have been friends, forever.
She means well, I know, my mum, but it's as if all she can see when she looks at Hal is "that poor fatherless boy." That's typical of adults. They feel bad about some awful thing that's happened to a person, and they feel so bad about it that when they look at the person, all they see is the Awful Thing and they forget about the person themselves. It's as if the person has become the Awful Thing, and they don't even notice the other things about them, like their views on Fridays or their kite-making skills or anything.
"Anyway, there's no such thing as normal," my dad added. (My dad is a political economist, by the way. Do not ask me what that means, because all I know is that it seems to mean he could talk gobbledygook for Ireland.)
I don't know why they were banging on about normalness anyway. I never said Hal wasn't normal. I just said he was a bit weird. Lots of normal people have weird sides to them.
My mum, now, is normal, but she's also very psychological. She is not actually a psychologist, not professionally; it's more a sort of hobby. What she actually does is she works in a clinic for people who have had strokes, same as Hal's mum does. That's how we know Hal's family — I mean, apart from Hal and me being in the same class at school — our mums work together. We've been friends since preschool, me and Hal. I suppose we are sort of stuck with each other.
She listens to those programs on the radio, my mum, where all these people ring up who think that the problems of the world all come from horrible things that happened in the past that have made people unhappy, and then because they are unhappy they are mean, and then they do more horrible things to other people and make them unhappy, and so it goes on. That part is probably true, up to a point, but people like my mum think that if you could just stop the world spinning around for a few minutes, or maybe more like for about ten years, and let them get their sleeves rolled up and sort things out, then we could all start again from scratch, like Adam and Eve, only this time we'd know about the snake, and we wouldn't listen to it, and then everything would be fine.
If you ask me, those people are bonkers, because an awful lot of the problems in the world have nothing to do with a few nasty things that you could just poke out with a scalpel before sewing everything back together again. Take measles, for example. Or mosquitoes. Or the way you get blisters when you wear new shoes. Measles just are measles, and they aren't caused by someone being horrible to someone. I tried to explain this to my mum, and she said, well, if we were all nicer to each other, we would send antimeasles vaccine all over the world and then no one would ever get the measles again. But that doesn't explain how measles got here in the first place, does it?
And anyway if we got rid of measles, there'd be something else. Bird flu or tsunamis. There just is bad stuff, like Hal not having a dad anymore, and we just have to get on with it, because no matter how many things you put right in the world, there's always other stuff left over. Like when you do division with funny numbers and you are left with a remnant. No, that's not the word. A remainder. That's it.
Hal isn't bonkers, by the way, only a bit weird. But he has one thing in common with my mother (and she's a bit dippy, I have to say, at times). He has these ideas about how you could put things right. He thought that if he could just get rid of this one key person from his life, then things would all go back to the way they were before, and he'd be happy and everything would be rosy in the garden — a sort of permanent Friday with Adam and Eve and no snakes.
I think maybe boys have a different way of looking at things. That could be it.CHAPTER 3
Hal got the idea for the kite one day when we were on the Low Strand. I don't know why they call it that, because it's not as if there is a High Strand. Don't ask me why. I didn't invent the geography, I just live here.
"Here" is Balnamara, and it's a long way from anywhere, my mother always says, which is ridiculous, because every place is just beside the place next to it, isn't it, no matter where it is? What she means is, it's a long way from Dublin, which is her idea of somewhere. We have a set of traffic lights on the main street, though, and a hospital on the other side of town from the strand. There's a golf club just outside town, and a new Thai restaurant in the Market Square, and the old courthouse has been turned into a swanky new arts center with a coffee shop where you can have all kinds of fancy coffees in tall glasses, and there's a big shopping center with a pay-and-display car park. It is not exactly the back of beyond.
The Low Strand is pretty low, I suppose. It is one of those strands that gets totally engulfed when the tide comes in, with water right up to the seawall. I suppose that is the reason it is only a strand and not a beach. It is not very golden or good to lie on, but is large and flat and gray and damp-to-sloppy. The tide seems to be mostly out, and then there's no sign of the sea at all, except for a seaweedy tang on the air and lukewarm little puddles in the gloopy sand, good for splashing in.
It was summertime, or nearly, or we wouldn't have been on the Low Strand in the first place, but it was that bit of summer before the holidays start, a sort of in-between time. It was in-between weather too, not warm like summer should be, but not so cold you'd need a coat. Sort of undecided.
The tide was coming lazily in, and we'd been paddling, me and Hal. The water wasn't deep enough to swim in, because the tide was only half in, and anyway we aren't allowed to swim unless we have a parent with us, even if there is a lifeguard, which is just so yawn-making, but there you go, that's just one of those ways parents (even fairly nice ones) oppress us kids. They call it being responsible. I call it being a pain.
There were these young kids on the strand as well as us. I don't know who let them out on their own, they were only about four. Well, seven, maybe, or eight at the most. There were three or four of them, all together, and they had this kite, a multicolored one with a face, quite funny, with mad purple streamers coming out of it. There was a bit of a breeze, and the kite was bobbing around at a great rate, and the streamers were whizzing over the kids' heads. We watched them while we were drying our toes. We didn't have a towel, of course, so we had to use tissues. I do not recommend this: they melt.
"I'd like a kite," Hal said dreamily, watching the kite soaring overhead.
"Well, I'm sure you could get one," I said. I am the practical one, in case you haven't noticed. "I'd say they have them in Spóirt na Mara." That's the name of the sports shop in the new shopping center. Very TG4, my father says.
"Oh no," Hal said. "I'd have to make it. Otherwise it wouldn't be the same."
The same as what, I never did find out.
After a while, we got tired of watching the purple-streaming kite and the kids, and we started to mooch off home. As we got to the edge of the strand — there's a rocky bit just before the seawall — Hal stooped down and grabbed a handful of beach pebbles and put them in his pocket.
"What are you going to do with those?" I asked him.
"They're for Him. I mean, for his shoes. I need to keep my supply replenished."
"What?" I asked suspiciously.
Have I mentioned that my friend Hal is a bit of a weirdo? Not megaweird, not so's you'd notice on a good day with the wind to his back, but still quite peculiar at times. I could feel one of Hal's weirdnesses coming on, with this business of the pebbles.
"Well, you know," he said, as if it were the most reasonable thing in the world to be discussing, "if you put a pebble in each shoe every night, then the stock soon runs down."
"Him," by the way, the one with the shoes, is Hal's sort-of-stepfather. His real name is Alec, but Hal never calls him anything except "Him." As you can gather, Hal is not too fond of Alec.
Alec and Hal's mum weren't actually married. I don't know why — most people of that age seem to be — but Hal had this theory that they had something up their sleeves, because Alec had moved in with them only a few weeks before "on a trial basis," and Hal said that meant they were probably going to get hitched, and he was desperate to make sure that they didn't.
Fat chance of preventing that, if you ask me. Grown-ups have their own ideas when it comes to who they want to marry, and there's no point in kids having an opinion, that's for sure, because it'll only End in Tears, as my mum says. (My mum is not bad for an adult, but like all mothers, she has these maddening little sayings.)
"You put pebbles in Alec's shoes every night?" I imagine you could have heard the surprise in my voice several miles (or knots or fathoms or whatever it is) out to sea.
"Yeah," said Hal offhandedly, as if everyone did it.
"But that's mean," I said. "Also ineffective."
"What do you mean, 'ineffective'?"
"Well, Hal, think about it. If you found there were stones in your shoes every single morning, what would you think?"
"I'd think it must be a poor, unhappy boy trying to give me the message that I am not welcome in his family."
"No, you wouldn't, Hal. What you'd think is: somehow or other, for some unfathomable reason, there are pebbles in my shoes every morning; therefore, I should shake out my shoes before I put them on."
"Oh," said Hal. "I never thought of that."
"So there's no point, is there?" I said.
But I bet he went on doing it anyway.
Excerpted from Blue Like Friday by Siobhan Parkinson. Copyright © 2008 Siobán Parkinson. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mondays are a sort of colbalt, Tuesdays are a pale yellowy green, Wednesdays are sky blue with silver seams, Thursdays are bright green similar to Friday, Friday is leafy green yellow highlights, Saturdays are chocolate brown mixed with crimson red, and Sundays are bright but not neon yellow. And my rl name, which is Katie, is bright yellow with purple spots.
I couldn't visulize any scenes or characters in the book, though that is something i am exceptionally good at. I could not finish the book due to boredom. The book was pathetic all in all. However i have synesthesia and find it interesting. I love to relate to other synesthetes. I suggest to read a good book about synesthesia you read A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass and take a look at some of this author's other books.
Ok, i havent read this book, but like pretty much everyone who wrot a post on here, i think that i have synesthesia. For me, mondays are a bright red with pretty silver highlights, tuesday is a deep leaf-green, wednesday is a lovely shade of a light orange color, thursday is a pretty yellow similair to wednesday, friday a deep red with magenta highlights, saturday is a bouncy spring green, and sunday is REALLY shiny and silver. I would also like to say that synesthesia is a gift, not a disorder, and all who have it should be happy to be so special. Okay, im done now...
FRIDAYS ARE NOT BLUE, THEY ARE GREEN!!!
This book means a great deal to me for a few reasons but the most important one is the fact that it helped me discover about myself. I never realized I had synesthesia until I read this book. I always knew the way I perceived the world was different from the way that others did, but I never connected it to a condition such as this. I thank Mr. Parkinson for writing such an enthralling piece and for helping me learn about myself.