Crossing Jordan

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Crossing JordanWhat do readers say…

I don’t get why they make such a big deal that Jemmie’s skin is black. She’s a regular human being.” – Chris

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” – Mary

“I like this book for three reasons. First, it has awesome similes. Next, it has rad descriptions. Last, but certainly not least, Crossing Jordan teaches the reader not to judge someone by their color.” – Peyton

“Out of all the books I’ve ever read, Crossing Jordan is the best one yet.” – Joseph

“C-R-O-S-S-I-N-G- J-O-R-D-A-N ROCKS!!!!! Go Chocolate milk go!! My name is Noah Perry Escobar and I’m 9, I live in Florida just like you. I love your Books!”

Adrian Fogelin
Like most houses in “the neighborhood” this one is surrounded by live oaks.

What’s the Story? It looks like it’s going to be a long hot summer for Cass Bodine who is home with her older sister, Lou Anne, and her baby sister, Missy.

Cass has nothing to do but her daily run at the nearby school track, and cook supper for her family, until the house next door gets sold.

When her father hears that the new family is black, he builds a fence. According to Mr. Bodine, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

But there’s a knothole in just the right place for Cass to watch the goings-on next door. She gets caught by Jemmie, the daughter of the new family. Jemmie is twelve too, and she loves to run. Who’s faster? Cass challenges Jemmie to meet her at the school track to find out.

The girls are so evenly matched, it’s hard to say who won. The only way to resolve it is to meet again. And again.

A secret friendship develops, known only to Jemmie’s grandmother, Nana Grace. Nana Grace, who lived through the tough early days of the civil rights movement in Tallahassee, encourages the girls.

Things go along fine until Cass’s Dad catches them and forbids Cass to see Jemmie. It takes a medical emergency involving Cass’s baby sister to bring the two families together.

Old prejudices don’t change overnight. Both sets of adults have to work on becoming friends and neighbors. Crossing Jordan shows that young people can sometimes be the ones who make change possible.

Where did the story idea come from? First, let me say “Crossing Jordan” isn’t a book I planned to write. I was working on something entirely different when I had a conversation with the nine-year-old white girl who lived next door.

Adrian Fogelin
Neighborhood girl, Brittney Laporsha Brown, shows off her attitude.

Miss Adrian,” she said. “We’re going to have to move soon because there are getting to be too many black people in this neighborhood.”

When I asked her what was wrong with that she told me, “You know. They break in your house. They rob you and they shoot you.”

“Did that happen to your family?” I asked.

So I asked if it had ever happened to anyone she knew.

“Well…no.” she said.

“If it didn’t happen to you or anyone you know, what makes you think those stories are true?” I asked.

She looked at me like I was crazy. “Oh, Miss Adrian.” She rolled her eyes. “Everyone knows it’s true.”

I tried to change her mind but when she wouldn’t budge I realized I wasn’t hearing a nine-year-old speaking for herself. She was repeating what she had been told by someone she really trusted, probably a parent.

Sometimes an author writes a book because they feel they have to do something. “Crossing Jordan” is that kind of book. I wrote it for the girl next door and for any other kid who is being taught prejudice.

What’s Real? Is the fence real? No. The girl next door and her family picked up and moved away, just like she’d said. That would not have made much of a story. How would anything change if the family left instead of getting to know their neighbors? It wouldn’t. And that’s what stories are about; change. So I built the fence for them (out of words).

In “Crossing Jordan” Cass and Jemmie read an old, old book called “Jane Eyre.” Why did the girls read that particular book? My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Silliman, challenged my class to read “Jane Eyre” because it was her favorite. It was a struggle, but seven of us (all girls) read it. When Cass and Jemmie complain about how tough it is to read, believe them!

I had to find a way to bring the two families together–and I remembered something that happened to my baby brother when I was growing up. When Cass’s baby sister suffers from “the heat prostration” I’m describing the seizures I witnessed while taking care of my brother when I was Cass’s age. Scare-y.

Crossing Jordan
Crossing Jordan performed on stage

Crossing Jordan On StageThe book has been adapted for the stage and was produced for the first time in the summer of 2011 in Apalachicola, Florida, by the staff and students of Project Impact, an afterschool and summer program which provides learning opportunities for students who attend high poverty, low performing schools.

For the onstage version seven songs were added, composed by Dr. Kary Kublin and Craig Reeder.

Staged using minimal sets, the adaptation emphasizes the story’s universal message of tolerance and is designed to be easily produced by schools and regional theater groups.

To see more photos and learn more about the play visit: http://crossingjordanonstage.wordpress.com

Teachers: To see a lesson plan designed by Florida teacher, Tammy Williams, that will help you incorporate Crossing Jordan across the curriculum, click here: Lesson Plan

Crossing Jordan is being read around the world!

There are versions printed in Italian, French, Korean, and even Japanese!