Tess has never been able to compete with her “perfect” older sister, but now she must—if she wants to inherit her grandmother’s priceless tiara. The two girls have been invited to their grandparent’s lake house for the summer to help take care of Grandma who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The sister who earns the most “helpful points” wins the former beauty queen’s crown.
It’s not easy for Tess, who seems to always get things wrong despite best intentions. But when a secretive family of Muslims moves in nearby and Grandma disappears, Tess learns a lesson about prejudice, fear, and the real value of doing good—a lesson that may be worth even more than the tiara.
Number of Pages: 120
Reviewed Dee Dee, age 13Tess, Terrorist and the Tiara is a book with an exciting adventure but with a great message about prejudice that everyone needs to learn. The main character is easily relatable in that she feels that she is not as good at things as her sister. The book also intertwines many issues that kids in this age face every day such as Alzheimer’s, racism, and autism. I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to any kid in grades 4-8. I’m always looking for a book with adventure and this book is perfect for anyone who loves realistic fiction and a fun main character.
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Read Dee Dee's interview with Terry Baldwin
First, I want to thank you, Dee Dee, for the opportunity for this interview. This is my very first one, so if this book becomes really popular, you'll having bragging rights.
Who was your favorite character in Tess, Terrorists, and the Tiara to write?
Well, of course my favorite character was Tess because she has imagination (sometimes a little too much) and, like all good heroines, she has lots of courage. But, other than her, I'd have to say I most enjoyed the character of Kaidr Shah, the grandfather of the “terrorist.” He doesn't have a big part in the book, but the lesson he helps teach Tess at the end of the book is one of the most important things she learns—and it was the most interesting to write.
Do you see yourself reflected in any of the characters?
I guess some people say that all the characters in a book or story reflect some part of the author. I'm not sure about that, but Tess and I have one important thing in common. I had an older brother (sadly, he passed away) who always seemed to do things perfectly. If I had been in a competition with him, like Tess is with her sister, I would have surely lost. But Tess seems to have a little more patience than her sister, and maybe thinks a little more about other people. These are qualities that I'd also like to have.
Has Alzheimer’s affected you personally?
I've been fortunate not to have Alzheimer's strike anyone in my immediate family. But I have many close friends who have dealt with—or are still dealing with—a parent or grandparent with Alzheimer's. It is, of course, a devastating illness, but I'm amazed by the courage, patience (there's that word again), and pure loving spirit of my friends who suffer with a loved one with Alzheimer's. It's very hard to lose someone you love (I've lost a few), but to lose them slowly in this tragic way can be overwhelming. I really like Tess' grandfather and feel terrible he's losing a wife he obviously loves so much. But no book is complete without a little sadness.
When did you start writing books?
This is a little embarrassing, but I started my first book when I was ten. It was a sci-fi story about people who discover that the sun is about to explode and escape to the planet Pluto. Well, Pluto's not even a planet anymore, and I lost the manuscript a long time ago. I never finished it anyway.
It wasn't until I was in college and took a creative writing class that I started writing again. My teacher said the best way to learn to write was to start with writing poetry because it forces you to think about every single word you use. I think he was right, but I was terrible at writing poetry. So I graduated to short stories, which my teacher said was the next step. I was much better at that and had a bunch published in literary journals.
After that, I felt I was ready to try whole novels.
If you weren't writing, what else could we find you doing?
I love being out on the water. Maybe that's why I set the novel, Tess, on a lake. I like to kayak and row and canoe. My next goal is to learn how to sail. I also like hiking walking. I walk a lot, and that's when I do my best writing (in my head.)
Of course, there's also reading!
If you could rename Tess, Terrorists, and the Tiara, what would it be?
If I could rename it anything else, it would be Harry Potter and the Tiara. It would probably sell a million copies. Of course there would be some problems with that: first, it doesn't have anything to do with Harry Potter. Second, J.K. Rowling would sue me.
Seriously, I'm not sure why, but I like the structure of the title: Someone and the Something. I've written another book called Yasmine and the Million Dollar Jacket with the same structure. But I guess that's for another interview...
Dee Dee, age 13