Cover image for Peas and Carrots [electronic resource] :
Peas and Carrots [electronic resource] :
Davis, Tanita S..
A rich and memorable story from a Coretta Scott King honor award-winning author about a teenage foster girl looking for a place to call home.   Dess knows that nothing good lasts. Disappointment is never far away, and that’s a truth that Dess has learned to live with. Dess’s mother’s most recent arrest is just the latest in a long line of disappointments, but this one lands her with her baby brother’s foster family. Dess doesn’t exactly fit in with the Carters. They’re so happy, so comfortable, so normal, and Hope, their teenage daughter, is so hopelessly naïve. Dess and Hope couldn’t be more unlike each other, but Austin loves them both like sisters. Over time their differences, insurmountable at first, fall away to reveal two girls who want the same thing: to belong.             Tanita S. Davis, a Coretta Scott King Honor winner, weaves a tale of two modern teenagers defying stereotypes and deciding for themselves what it means to be a family.
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A rich and memorable story from a Coretta Scott King honor award-winning author about a teenage foster girl looking for a place to call home.

Dess knows that nothing good lasts. Disappointment is never far away, and that's a truth that Dess has learned to live with.

Dess's mother's most recent arrest is just the latest in a long line of disappointments, but this one lands her with her baby brother's foster family. Dess doesn't exactly fit in with the Carters. They're so happy, so comfortable, so normal, and Hope, their teenage daughter, is so hopelessly naïve. Dess and Hope couldn't be more unlike each other, but Austin loves them both like sisters. Over time their differences, insurmountable at first, fall away to reveal two girls who want the same thing: to belong.

Tanita S. Davis, a Coretta Scott King Honor winner, weaves a tale of two modern teenagers defying stereotypes and deciding for themselves what it means to be a family.

Author Notes

Tanita S. Davis was born in San Francisco, California. She received a MFA from Mills College in 2004. She has written several books including A la Carte, Happy Families, Peas and Carrots, and Mare's War, which was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

The daughter of an abusive father and drug-addicted mother, 15-year-old Dess has led a tumultuous life, hopping from one social-service placement to another. Now, with her father in prison and her mother planning to testify against him, Dess has a chance to reunite with her four-year-old brother, Austin, if she can bear living with his rich foster parents. Even harder to tolerate is the Carters' nerdy teenage daughter, Hope, who is the complete opposite of aggressive, hard-edged Dess. Alternating between the girls' perspectives, Davis (Happy Families) insightfully traces the difficult adjustments each teen faces, coexisting in a home where everyone is supposed to "choose kindness" in all things. Davis gracefully and honestly addresses Dess's discomfort in living with parents of another race (she is white, while the Carters are black), and the misunderstandings borne out of prejudice. Yet the central focus remains on Dess and Hope's internal conflicts, which run deeper than their current living arrangements, particularly as Dess faces a hard choice: protecting a member of her birth family or remaining with a family she has almost begun to trust. Ages 12-up. Agent: Steven Chudney, Chudney Agency. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Fifteen-year-old Dess isnt excited about living with the Carters after her mother is arrested, but there is a bright spot. Her half-brother Austin has been their foster child since he was a baby, and Dess remembers him as the one bit of joy she had in an abusive home. But Austin calls the strange woman Mama, and things go from bad to worse when Dess meets Hope, the Carters teenage daughter. The girls immediately dislike each other and compete in every arena, from school to choir to home, with each girl vying for favorite-sister status. Dess cannot stand the Carters positivity, their other foster baby Jamairas debilitating disability, or Hopes naivet. For her part, Hope finds Dess self-centered, and shes jealous when her dad sticks up for Dess. What could be a run-of-the-mill odd-couple/mean-girl story is nuanced, layered, and rarely overwrought in Daviss capable hands. In alternating chapters (first-person for Dess and third-person for Hope), the ugliest and most vulnerable parts of each character are revealed; neither is a Mary Sue or a villain. Davis does not mince words when voicing Desss ingrained prejudices when she compares the affluence of the African American Carter family to her own experiences of poverty and homelessness as a white person, and both Dess and Hope are capable of slinging insults that would make Regina George proud. The book could easily be described as a touching story about different ways to make a family, but its also a complex look at race, class, bodies, and the judgments people make. sarah hannah gomez (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Odessa, called Dess, likes to be left alone. But that's not happening: she has been placed with a foster family while her mother is in jail, waiting to testify against Dess' felon father. Dess is reunited with her half brother, Baby, and introduced to new foster sister, Hope, in a mainstream, middle-class home, populated by a close-knit, squeaky-clean African American family a huge contrast to Dess' meth-addled, biker-gang parents. Davis writes in alternating perspectives, drawing from her own experience as a foster sister, as she shows each young woman negotiating the new situation. Although Dess faces complex issues including estrangement from her grandmother, fear of her incarcerated father, and conflict over her role in Baby's life, she faces the world with a steely practicality that pampered Hope has never had to adopt. Hope is an equally vivid character who, despite typical teen angst, is supported by her family's kindness, and tries her best to see the world through Dess' eyes. A raw and emotionally moving story of family, both lost and found.--Howerton, Erin Downey Copyright 2016 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Dess and Hope are both 15, and their lives have intersected: Dess has moved from a group home to a foster placement, and Hope is her new foster sister. Resentment and distrust immediately flare on both sides, but Davis avoids the trappings of an issue novel about foster care by giving her characters deep nuance and complexity-enhanced by the girls' narrating alternating chapters. Dess is cynical about whether a family can be as loving as Hope's seems; her own grandmother refused to care for her and her brother upon their mother's incarceration, in part, Dess believes, because her brother is biracial. This experience also makes Dess, who is white, particularly sensitive to being mistaken as racist by Hope and her family, who are black. On Hope's side, isolation and frustration are the major motivators, as Hope struggles to adjust at school after her best friend moves overseas. Yet the two begin to stand up for and help each other-resentfully at first, but with genuine appreciation by the end. While this transition from name-calling enemies to sisterly bond feels quick given the time line of the novel, the overall theme remains strong: family are the people you can trust to care for you, regardless of how you come together. VERDICT Nuance and honesty make this a solid addition to young adult collections.-Amy Koester, Learning Experiences Department, Skokie PL © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Unwillingly brought together, two girls rely on snap judgements to guide their encounters with each other, and as a result, tempers flare. Fifteen-year-old Dess Matthews, a white girl, has bounced from the streets to juvenile homes to foster care. Her dad is an abusive drug dealer. Her mom is a meth addict. Her grandma doesn't want her. And her little brother, Austin, is in foster care. Hope Carter, also 15, a black girl, has lived a very different lifea comfortable oneexcept for the constant barrage of foster children streaming through her parents' house, the latest being Austin. Dess is annoyed when she arrives at the Carters' perfect home. Their daughter, whom she's cruelly nicknamed "Hopeless," is nave, and Austin thinks of the Carters as his real family. One glance at Dess gives Hope all the information she needs to know about her new fashionista foster sister; Dess is trouble, especially with her "dragon-lady nails" and "unfriendly eyes." The dialogue is sometimes clunky and awkward, but Davis' dual narrative effectively portrays two very different but very genuine teenage characterstwo girls learning to accept each other's vastly different lifestyles as they try to coexist. Their relationship is fraught with tension, and their familial situations aren't perfect, fostering an emotionally honest plot and candid conversations about race and class. A worthy read for teens looking to expand their worldviews. (Fiction. 12-16) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Odessa Matthews, Age Eleven By the door, on the other side of the sheet that divides the room, Baby cries in his car seat. It sounds like the rusted-out springs on Trish's bed, a hoarse over-and-over squeal. The wall above my head vibrates as next door bangs on it, hollering at Baby to shut up. Baby cries kinda hopeless, like he knows nobody's gonna pick him up. I read on the Internet at the library about some babies that nobody ever picks up, in orphanages and stuff. It's not good for them. In orphanages, if nobody picks them up, they stop crying . . . for good. Trish should have taken him out of that seat. She knows he doesn't like it if he wakes up all strapped down. She should have laid him down and given him a bottle and a kiss before he came. She should have left us in the car, instead of Baby in his seat and me on the floor in a corner behind a sheet tacked against the wall. Trish isn't even trying to treat Baby right. Not like Trish ever treats anybody who isn't waving a Benjamin or a dime bag like anything but a crack in the sidewalk, something to step over to get what she wants. Her time for anyone who needs help or a favor, or a bottle and a dry diaper, is pretty limited. On the floor in the corner, I clutch my pillow against me and ball up tighter in my sleeping bag, which smells like old French fries. Baby's still crying. And crying. And crying. And I can't get him, not now. Not with Eddie here, with the spiderweb tatted between his thumb and his first finger, and all the letters in blue-black ink winding up his wrist and the back of his hand. I can't walk past and pick Baby up. I can't even crawl next to the wall, across the room, all the way to the door. I can't get in reach of those hands. The pillow goes over my head, clamped down. I don't want to hear. I don't want to hear the springs of the bed. I don't want to hear Baby. I don't want to hear Eddie getting mad, yelling about Why can't you make that kid shut up. I can't hear any of that, because if I did, I'd have to get up, and You'd better not get out of that bed--that's what Trish said. She always says that even though I'm already eleven, and anyway, Granny Doris says a sleeping bag isn't a real bed, and-- Baby's breath stutters, and I hold mine. Please stop, please stop. Please. Please. For a moment I think he will, but he gets louder. Inside, I feel a twist. It feels like my stomach is trying to jump up my throat. He sounds bad, so bad . . . like he can't even stop himself screaming. But I can't go. I can't. Once, Eddie caught Trish going through his pockets, and that's when I saw that web stretched tight, when his fingers locked around her throat and he held her, eyes watering, heels drumming against the floor. She arched up, and the whites of her eyes went bloodshot and spit foamed up in the corners of her mouth while he held her down, while he told her that was what happened to girls who stole. Only he said "bitches." She'd grabbed his wrist, tried to talk, to beg, and I know she was promising him anything, anything, just to breathe. I know she was, because I was, too. He looked at us, begging and crying and clawing at him, and laughed. But it was me he was looking at when he let Trish up. And every time he comes, I worry about that "anything" we promised. Sorry, Baby. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Baby's just whimpering now, probably all worn out. Maybe he'll fall back asleep soon. It won't kill him to miss one bottle. I guess it's the "one bottle" lots of times that adds up, though. God. If Trish just did what she's supposed to, I wouldn't have to call the social lady. They're going to come and beat on the door like last time, and they're going to cuff her wrists and take her. He'll be gone by then. Those tats on his hands have eyes; they'll never catch him. But her--they'll find her, like they always do when she's wasted. She's going to be a mess--sorry and crying and promising anything, just like before. They'll take us to stay with Granny Doris, who used to pinch if I wiggled at Mass and hollered when I peed the bed or cut paper with her sewing scissors. She doesn't like little kids, and she doesn't like messes. I know she won't like Baby's diapers, and she'll holler at Trish, too, and Trish will be so mad. But I've got to call. I've got to. Somebody needs to look after Baby. Hope First Day Just before the bell rang for third period on the first day of her sophomore year, Hope Carter realized what the looks were about. There'd been an intermittent buzz for the past half hour, with sidelong glances, while Ms. Mallory, the geometry teacher, was going on about congruent angles. Hope, who actually liked geometry so far, was squinting through her caffeine-withdrawal headache and taking notes like mad. She'd even gone to the board a couple of times. Ms. Mallory was one of the nice teachers, and Hope didn't actually mind all that much that she got called on. But when she got back to her seat the second time, a square of folded notebook paper sailed through the air from behind and landed in the middle of her binder. You've got a spot on your skirt. Hope clutched the piece of paper and twisted in her seat. Natalie Chenowith, her usual lab partner in biology, was two seats behind her and was nodding hard, her green eyes wide behind her glasses. Hope frowned and pulled on the edge of her skirt. She'd wondered if she'd sat in something. It felt as if there was a little cold spot. She was just considering raising her hand for a pass when the bell rang. "Homework is due at the beginning of class tomorrow," Ms. Mallory said, raising her voice over the chaos of twenty-four sophomores pushing out of desks and hurrying toward the door. Hope bent over and picked up her pencil before standing. She found Natalie next to her, her hand pressing down on her shoulder. "Wait," Natalie hissed through clenched teeth. "Your skirt!" "What?" Hope asked, craning to look at her own backside. "Big spot," Natalie replied, barely moving her lips. "Major. Sorry I don't have a sweater. I didn't bring a PE uniform today, either. You might have to call your mom." "It's that bad?" asked Hope, suddenly panicked. It couldn't be that, could it? She was two weeks away, according to the calendar, and she'd always been regular . . . usually. She stood and awkwardly edged away from her seat. Carefully she picked up her backpack, then held it behind herself and hustled out of the classroom, head down, heart pounding. She headed for the nearest bathroom, where she yanked her skirt, twisted around, and . . . stared. "Oh, crap . . ." In the nurses' station, Ms. Jerston took one look at Hope's face and clicked her tongue sympathetically. "Is your stomach hurting? Looks like you need to lie down." "No, thank you," Hope said. "Can I get a pass to sit here . . . until my mom comes?" Ms. Jerston's brows climbed to her hairline. "You want to go home? Why don't you rest awhile--see if the pain will pass." Wordlessly, Hope spun around and pointed to the back of her skirt. "Oh, honey!" Ms. Jerston said, and patted her on her back. Her mother's sympathetic sigh came down the line. "Oh, honey." "Can you just come get me?" Hope begged, already tired of hearing "Oh, honey" in that particular tone. "Sweet, I can't," Mom said, her voice tense. In the background, Austin, who was four, was singing to himself. "Jamaira's at the nursery, and I'm on my way to North Highlands, to the county offices. The Department of Children's Services just phoned with our placement. We're getting Austin's sister--now." "What? Nooo!" Hope's voice was just short of a wail. Why did her mother have to have foster-parent stuff today of all days? North Highlands was nearly three hours away from Walnut Hills. Was she just supposed to sit here and ooze? "Mom, there's blood on my skirt, and it's a yellow skirt. What am I supposed to do?" "Oh, Hope," Mom groaned. Through the phone Hope heard a crinkling sound and Austin's insistent "Mama. Look. Mama!" In a muffled voice Mom said, "Just a minute, Austin," then added in a louder tone, "I'm so sorry, Hope. Have you got supplies? Did you try to wash it out?" "Of course I have supplies. I tried to wash it out, but--" "Ma! Where's my car?" Austin's voice was louder. "--Mom, it's a yellow skirt!" Hope bellowed. Her mother spoke over Austin's voice and hers. "Well, see if the secretary has a stain stick--or ask Ms. Jerston. If that doesn't work, call Henry." Hope recoiled. "Mom! I can't call Aunt Henry--" Of course, he was really her uncle Henry, but it had made him laugh when Hope was tiny and she'd insisted on calling him "Aunt" Henry. Hope didn't have any aunts. Dad was a "lonely only," and Mom was an only girl, with four brothers. Mom's little brother, Henry, had agreed with Hope that everybody needed an aunt and had offered to be her honorary aunt forever. "Oh, honey, I know Henry's not your first choice, but-- Austin, leave the seat belt alone. Hon, the firehouse is right on Broadway. Your other choice is to ask if they've got something for you to wear from the lost-and-found." Wear something out of the lost-and-found? Hope's skin crawled. "On the first day of school? Mom, I doubt there's anything in--" "Maaaa-ma!" Austin's voice was getting louder. "I just want to get my car!" Hope heaved a sigh and spoke louder. "Mom? Can't I take the bus and go home?" "On the first day? Sweetheart, no. Absolutely not. Austin Matthews, put your bottom on the seat right now. Do not touch that seat belt. Hope--" Hope ground her teeth. As usual, her mother's attention was divided between Hope and everything else, and as usual, everything else won and Hope lost. It felt as if she always lost. The foster kids were important, she knew. Austin had come to them as a tiny baby whose grandma was too old to take him and whose mother was in jail. Jamaira's mother had abandoned her in a gas station recycling bin when she was just a few hours old. Hope knew her family was doing a good thing for the community, giving back and making a positive contribution to society. Giving back was important. Hope just wished sometimes that her mother would maybe give back to her. "Fine, Mom. Whatever. I'll call Aunt Henry. Bye." She hung up, not even sure her mother was listening anymore. Dess, Age Fifteen North Highlands County Services This place reeks like coffee. Like coffee and old people, and I don't know which is worse. I packed my stuff this morning--one bag. Rena at the group home tried to get me to take some books and things, but I don't want things. If I don't own it, nobody can steal it. I can't lose what I don't have. So no things for me. I like my life to fit all in one bag. Only the clothes I chose and my sewing kit--and nothing more than that. I've been waiting for almost forty minutes, but I don't care. There are no books, but I've got my music, and that's all I need. If I were at Stanton High with the rest of the sophomores, it would be study hall, last period before lunch, and I'd be more bored than I am now. Boredom's nothing. If you're bored, at least nobody's in your face, yelling at you, crowding you, or making you do what you don't want. There's a desk with three chairs in front of it and a big office chair behind it. On a bookshelf in the corner there are magazines, and there's a little table with one of those wire maze things, with wooden blocks threaded on it. I wouldn't touch that for money; I read on the Internet at the library last summer that there are fecal coliform germs on computer keyboards and doorknobs and clothes people try on at the mall. Not even the pump bottle of hand sanitizer on the wall makes me want to touch anything. I hate the posters in here. What little kid smiles like that about an apple? Nobody gets that excited over apples. The door opens, and it's not the guard checking on me this time, just some big old black lady with long cornrows and dangly earrings. Rena at the group home always says that each person we meet gives us "limitless new possibilities," but I don't pay any attention when the lady smiles. I know some black lady has not got "limitless new possibilities" for me. Then I see the little kid with her. She's talking, but it's just noise, my heart's beating so hard. With sweet, smooth skin like creamy peanut butter, in a striped shirt and jeans, he's a bigger version of the baby in the picture Rena got me when I first came to the group home. He leans against the lady's leg, staring at me like I'm staring at him. It's . . . he's . . . He's darker than he used to be, darker than he was when he was a tiny baby and only the skin around his fingernails was even a little bit tan. I don't even know how to feel, seeing his little Charlie Brown head, bigger now. Once it held just a fringe of baby naps, just a line of raggedy curls, but now it's covered in sandy fuzz. His big old head on that little scrawny neck is the same, though. Why do babies have such big heads? I pull out my earbuds. The black Amazon lady's still talking. ". . . and, Austin, this is your sister. Her name is Odessa." "Dess," I correct, stepping hard and loud on the end of her sentence, even while my heart pounds. Trish picked the dumbest name of the dumbest city she could find to have me in, and I'm not having some foster lady tag me with that forever. Trish is crap with names; she had another baby, Dallas, but he died. Dallas, Odessa, Austin. Three for Trish from Texas. Just as well that poor baby died. The state would have taken him, too. Excerpted from Peas and Carrots by Tanita S. Davis All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.