Summary: An initially unwilling participant in a class project involving seniors in a local nursing home, Tamara’s attitude changes when she realises her partner, Miss Barclay, may be able to pay for the modelling class she wants to take. At first it seems like Tamara is trying to take advantage of an old lady, but when Miss Barclay realises the modelling class will take place in Vancouver a week after her favourite operas are being performed in Seattle, it is she who concocts an ambitious plan that will benefit them both. Together they put the plan in motion, and embark on a daring adventure they will never forget.
Number of Pages: 232
Age Range: 13-15
Review: As soon as Tamara laughs while she is visiting with Miss Barclay, they seem to recognize kindred spirits in each other. And it’s a beautiful friendship between two equally mischievous souls separated only by age.
Tamara (aka Skinnybones) is a fifteen year-old who has her own problems. Moving through foster homes, Tamara has honed her ability to lie into an art form. Her dream is to be a model, and when she hears about modelling classes that will cost $2500, she is determined to find a way to get the money.
Miss Barclay is eighty-nine years old and considered by Tamara to be a “Wrinkle Queen.” Living in a nursing home after hip and knee surgery, she spends her time suffering the company of her nephew, Byron, and Latoya, the night nurse. Miss Barclay is an avid fan of the opera, and when she hears Wagner’s “The Ring Cycle” operas will be playing in Seattle, she’d do anything to go.
Fate seems to bring the two together, and when Tamara approaches Miss Barclay for the money to attend her modelling classes, Miss Barclay connects the dots and realises Tamara is her ticket to attending the operas. Making the deal to pay for the classes if Tamara will drive her to Seattle and be her companion to the operas, Miss Barclay works out a plan and supplies the money to make it all happen.
But while it is a story about a fanciful journey, I loved the character growth that occurred as it unfolded. Having the goal of making the trip and going to her modelling classes encouraged Tamara to be a better person. First because she was pursuing her own interests, but then because she grew to love her foster family. She realised how her actions had affected them in the end, and eagerly takes the second chance offered to her.
It was Miss Barclay that stole my heart though. She has spirit and determination backed by the wisdom of her years and the sense of adventure of a kid. She was witty and clever, and encountering a time in her life when things were winding down and she was facing her own mortality, she made this outrageous plan to help her recapture her youth. Only it wasn’t so outrageous, because Tamara and Miss Barclay made it happen.
I also loved the literary references to Charles Dickens’ works and ended up wishing I had seen Wagner’s operas because they sounded magnificent.
Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen is a fun, enjoyable read and I would recommend it for early to mid teen readers.
“‘Liar,’ I laugh. ‘Such a harsh term. I’m clever, Tamara. Top of the class when I got my Education degree. My legs have pretty well given out but I haven’t needed any pins put in my brain yet. And, while my mind is still good, I long to sit one last time before the bonfire of the gods.’
This time she does arch those painted eyebrows.
‘Wagner knew,’ I laugh. ‘He lets us glimpse that other world. And what do we see? The reflection of the earth and humanity with all its spectacle and follies. And glory. The stories we come up with will be small, Tamara. Small coinage compared to the currency in which the immortals deal.'” – Miss Barclay talking to Tamara from Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen by Glen Huser, page 70
“I think about the norns, the three fates, spinning the deeds of the world and the overworld of gods.
Somewhere in that spinning is an answer. We weave our own stories. . .but to find the right threads.” – Miss Barclay from Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen by Glen Huser, page 81
“As she gets my walker ready and finds me a sweater, I tell her, ‘If fashion modelling thing doesn’t pan out, you should consider writing fiction. Only you may want to try coming up with names Dickens hasn’t already used.'” – Miss Barclay talking to Tamara from Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen by Glen Huser, page 198
“There is something about September, I think, that makes us hang onto life the way the leaf of a prairie maple hangs, fragile and golden, onto its branch. All the powers of imminent winter cannot force it to let go until it is finally ready. Around us, there is the waning autumn sunlight and the smell of smoke in the air and the sound of birds – their clamorous honking as they head south.” – Miss Barclay from Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen by Glen Huser, page 232