Let's find out some more about her!
Barbara Ehrentreu grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Queens. She has lived and taught in Long Island, Buffalo, NY and Westchester, NY as well as a year in Los Angeles, CA. She has a Masters Degree in Reading and Writing K-12. Currently she is retired from teaching and living in Stamford, CT with her family. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor won second prize in Preditors & Editors as Best Young Adult Book for 2011. It was inspired by Paula Danziger for her children's writing workshop at Manhattanville College. Her second book, After, considers what can happen to a teen when her father becomes ill with a heart attack. It is based on her own experiences when her husband had a heart attack and the aftermath of what she and her family experienced. She is preparing the sequel to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor. Barbara also writes poetry and several of her poems are published in the anthologies, Prompted: An International Collection of Poetry, Beyond the Dark Room, Storm Cycle and Backlit Barbell. She has a blog, Barbara's Meanderings, and she hosts a radio show on Blog Talk Radio, Red River Radio Tales from the Pages, once a month.
Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn't help. When she is paired for a math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain. With Carolyn's crush on Jennifer's hunky junior quarterback, Brad, her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. When Jennifer is the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer's silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can't be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to spend the night to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer's secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer's secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again?
EXCERPT FOR IF I COULD BE LIKE JENNIFER TAYLOR
Feeling my old hatred of gym, I glance across the locker room and see Jennifer in red designer shorts and a tight sleeveless shirt to match. She's standing in front of the only mirror in the room turning back and forth.
Becky and I slide into our loose camp shorts and a T-shirt, and once they're on, we race onto the gym floor. Always better to be early for gym the first day. You never knew what kind of teacher you'd have. My athletic ability is zero, so I don’t take chances. Once I was a few minutes late, and the gym teacher in middle school made me run around the gym ten times. It took me the whole gym period.
Becky and I sit on the low seats in the bleachers, but Jennifer and her group saunter into the gym and choose the highest seats avoiding the rest of us. Miss Gaylon, the gym teacher introduces herself and gives us a few minutes until the last stragglers come from the locker room. For those few minutes, I almost feel comfortable. My breathing returns to normal. I hear giggles from Jennifer and her group, but I ignore it.
"Maybe it won't be so bad this year, Carolyn." Becky always tries to cheer me up now. This wasn’t true a few years ago. I had to cheer her up a lot. Becky’s brothers are just turning five, and they’re both in kindergarten. Her mom remarried after being divorced for ten years. Becky was just getting used to her new stepfather when her mom got pregnant. I remember how miserable Becky was the first year of middle school when her mom spent so much time with her twin brothers and didn’t have enough time to help Becky with her homework. Luckily, Becky’s stepfather is a history teacher, so she got very interested in history and current events.
"Right, Becky, and maybe I'll learn to be a gymnast in ten minutes. Reality check, remember last year?"
"Okay, I'm hoping it won't be so bad."
"You mean like the dentist finding you only have one cavity and filling it the same day?"
"You’re so lame, Carolyn. Since we're all older, maybe she'll treat us differently. People change over the summer you know."
"Look at her, Becky."
Becky turns to look over at the group at the top of the bleachers and then turns back to look me in the eye. “You know you have to put that stupid day behind you.”
I pretend not to know what she’s talking about. “What stupid day?”
Like I don’t remember every detail.
“The zip line day.”
“Oh, that day,” I say with a combination grimace and smile. “The day I wound up having to climb off the platform. I wanted to bore a hole into the ground so I wouldn’t have to walk past them but couldn’t, and everyone screamed at me: ‘Breathe, Carolyn, breathe.’”
“You have to admit it was funny the way the gym teacher ran up the ladder like a squirrel to rescue you. Everyone laughed at how stupid she looked. Jennifer got the whole class going with that ridiculous ‘breathe, Carolyn, breathe.’” Becky looks behind her to Jennifer. “You know I wanted to run over and punch her, but I couldn’t because I was still on the platform, and it was my turn to go.”
“Yeah, if I had a few more minutes, I would have been able to get up the courage to grip the zip line and hook myself to it. Stupid teacher didn’t give me a chance. This not breathing thing when I get nervous really sucks.”
Becky nods because she knows me so well.
“So then Jennifer started with that horrible chant, and of course, the whole class followed her, like always.” My eyes fill with tears as I remember, and my breathing is getting worse by the minute.
“I thought it was a dumb idea to do ropes course stuff in school. We did it at my camp the summer before, and no one was forced to do it. Anyone could get nervous with Jennifer in front of them,” Becky comforts me.
I continue talking as if I’m in a trance. “Remember how last year whenever I ran into Jennifer she would whisper ‘breathe, Carolyn, breathe,’ so no one could hear it except me. Once she did it just before I had to go up in front of the class in math. Sometimes she would do it in front of everyone and, of course, get a big laugh while I wanted to turn into a piece of furniture.”
Becky grabs my arm. “Do we have to go back over this again? You need to forget about it.” She takes her hand away from my arm as I continue to speak.
“Becky, I can’t. The thing is it’s this bad movie in my brain looping the same horrible scenes. The funny thing is, most of the time, she would ignore me. I would never know what she was going to do. You have to admire someone so single-minded she managed to get to me at just the right time.
You remember don’t you? And today did you see how she wore the same outfit as me? It’s spooky.”
My funny breathing returns as Miss Gaylon tells us to line up on the yellow line alphabetically. I hope there will be someone to go between Jennifer and me. No luck. Jennifer is going to be behind me all year. I hold my breath. I couldn't stand more of the same this year. I pray for the day to end soon. A glance at my new watch shows me fifteen more minutes left of the period. Is Miss Gaylon's voice getting lower? What is that pounding in my ears?
Jennifer turns to face me, and I hear, "Breathe, Carolyn, breathe.” Then my world turns black.
After” is a story about the struggles Lauren Walstein, a fifteen-year-old girl, has to go through when her father suddenly has a heart attack and undergoes bypass surgery. In one phone call her life changes completely. Lauren is a character with whom most teens will relate. Her best friend since kindergarten, Joey, is going out with her enemy and they have grown apart. Before the phone call all she thought about was getting a scholarship for softball, and the Mets. Suddenly she must deal with both her father’s illness and being in school. The demands on her from both ends complicate the story. In the middle of all this, she finds she is developing feelings for her best friend that are more than friendly. Is he feeling the same or is he just comforting her? In addition there is Joey’s mean girl friend Amber, who doesn’t appreciate Lauren being in the picture. Will Lauren’s father recover? How will Lauren cope with her new feelings for Joey?
EXCERPT FOR AFTER
Let me go back and tell a little bit about myself. First of all, you might be thinking I’m a boy, but you’re wrong. My name is Lauren. I’m fifteen, and my sister is seventeen. I’m one hundred percent female. We learned about stereotypes in social studies and thinking sports can be only a boy’s thing is one of those. The teacher used blondes—and how people think they’re dumb or playing dumb—as an example. We had to come up with a few stereotypes of our own as our ticket to leave that day. It was then I realized my own parents thought in stereotypes.
I go against the stereotype for girls. I’ve always loved baseball. Joey loves it differently than I do. He likes to play it, but he memorizes all the facts and can spew them out any time they’re needed. I like the flow of the game and the feel of the perfect pitch leaving my hand.
Our friendship goes against the stereotypes, too. He and I clicked in kindergarten. The first day of school, Joey and I sat together and didn’t stop talking the whole morning. My parents told me that when the teacher tried to separate us we both put our feet on the ground and refused to be moved. She let us sit together for the rest of the year. But the next year the teachers were onto us and separated Joey and me for the whole year into different classes. We’d see each other in the hallway and wave. Sometimes I’d have a little tear in my eye when I saw him and it didn’t go away for a long time.
Before the phone call, there I was, eyelids drooping, in front of the TV, about to go upstairs to bed. Mom joined me for the last couple of innings. It looked like the Mets might do it. Though I tried, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was in the process of raising my tall, lean body off the sofa and placing one foot on the floor when the phone rang. Dad usually called Mom late when he worked nights, so I handed the phone to Mom and started upstairs. I didn’t get far. As soon as my foot touched the first step I stopped in mid-step. Mom was screaming into the phone.
“What? You want me to go out now and buy you Alka-Seltzer? You have indigestion?”
Dad never has anything wrong with his stomach. You could say it’s made of iron. I turned around and went back to the living room, catching bits of Mom’s conversation as I approached her. Even though I didn’t understand the reason for the phone call my heart started pounding and a sick feeling started in my stomach. I stood behind Mom.
“You have pain in your back, and indigestion? Go to the hospital! No, I’m not going out to buy you Alka-Seltzer.” She slammed down the phone and gave into hysterics.
“That stupid man. He has to go to the hospital. He’s having a heart attack. He is so insufferable. I’m calling the doctor.” Tears rolled down her face as she frantically punched in the number for the doctors we use. She described Dad’s symptoms to the answering crew and they put her through directly to the coronary doctor on call.
“Okay, I’m calling him back. He’s insane,” she said to no one in particular, but really to me and my sister. Diane, hearing all the screaming, had run down the steps and put her arms around Mom, who was now sobbing uncontrollably, but still punching in Dad’s number.
Holding the phone and wiping away tears she spoke to him again. This time it sounded a lot more like the way she spoke to my sister and me when she wanted something done for her. I wrapped my arms around myself and prayed this was a nightmare.
“I called the doctor and he said you need to go to the Emergency Room as soon as possible.” Then she added her own Mom advice. “Take two aspirin and we’ll meet you there.”
My life changed at that precise moment: 9:30 p.m. Sunday, September 24.And I never even realized it had happened.
Here are some links to learn more about Barbara and her books:
For Nook on Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/after-barbara-ehrentreu/1120349821?ean=2940046242980
If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor: (print and ebook)
MuseItUp Publishing: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museityoung/if-i-could-be-like-jennifer-taylor-detail
For Nook on Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/reviews/If-I-Could-Be-Like-Jennifer-Taylor%2FBarbara-Ehrentreu/1105870667?csrfToken=7tl0EbMuS9kryS71CGU8jWQqfAkqgZfa&sort=3#reviews
Blog: Barbara’s Meanderings: http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/BarbaraEhrentreu
Thanks so much for being on my blog today, Barbara! It was fun to swap blogs with you. Readers, please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question!