Got questions? Try a librarian.

[Rebekah Denn is a guest blogger. The Monitor occasionally invites guest bloggers to share their points of view.] My son broke his arm Thursday, and after our initial panic it was hard not to grouse about how much fun this will spoil for him.

The orthopedist suggests canceling his birthday party, planned for a place called Jump Planet, seeing as he’s not allowed to jump. Our long-awaited beach vacation sounds less fun with a cast that can’t get wet or sandy, and an off-limits playground.

It brought my mind to a book I read as a child, one I haven’t thought of for years, where the protagonist’s summer is ruined by a broken arm... a bait-and-switch of a plot that leads us into much deeper waters, when he later learns his mother is dying of cancer. I still remember reading about how terribly the boy’s cast itched his arm, and how his father wrote him a note for school, “Be kind to [him]. His mother died today.”

I am quite a healthy mom, but I am aware of all the things we have so luckily escaped in my son’s not-quite-seven years of life. For all today’s grumbling, I try to see the glass half-full. But I was still so nagged by that faraway book memory, where I could almost see the book’s jacket – was it plain, with an outline of a baseball player at bat? – but couldn’t remember the title, author, or character’s name.

I called in the big guns, asking “Book Lust” author and Seattle uber-librarian Nancy Pearl if the book rang any bells in her encyclopedic mental library.  She referred me to a completely delightful resource, an online site ( where readers try to match books with titles based on similarly vague, fragmented memories.  And then, before I could even enter my posting there, I got a reply from Laurie Amster-Burton, a Seattle Public Schools librarian who loves a surprising number of the same children’s books I do. She didn’t know this one herself, and the inquiries she sent to librarian friends came up blank, but she managed to sleuth it out online. She sent me a message yesterday that the book is “There Are Two Kinds of Terrible,” by Peggy Mann, published in 1977. The protagonist’s name is Robbie.

It’s too grim a story for my son, but I’m going to track down an out-of-print copy for myself to read through again. Maybe I can find it at the library, a safe, dry, and quiet place where I suspect my son and I will be spending a lot of time this next few weeks. And, because I remain as convinced as I was in my own childhood that librarians can find an answer to any question, I may ask them for advice on what a 6-year-old with a broken arm might like to read.

Rebekah Denn writes at

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.