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Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell

Carpe Diem
y Autumn Cornwell

Publishing Information: Feiwel and Friends: New York, 2007
ISBN: 9780312367923 / 0739363972 (Audio)
: 360 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

Sixteen-year-old Vassar Spore's detailed plans for the next twenty years of her life are derailed when her bohemian grandmother insists that she join her in Southeast Asia for the summer, but as she writes a novel about her experiences, Vassar discovers new possibilities.

Book Talk:
How could her parents have permitted this? Valedictorian hopeful Vassar Spore has her summer all planned out, devoted to furthering her life plan-to become class valedictorian and win a Pulitzer Prize. Well, it has something to do with what Vassar overhears and comes to call “The Big Secret”. Will she solve the mystery before she's completely undone by Grandma's Gerd’s LIM (Live in the moment) philosophy of life? She finds herself hiking through jungles with her bohemian artist grandma and an Asian cowboy chaperone, battling food poisoning, venom-carrying critters and primitive tribes. As the trio trek through cities and the lush and humid jungles of Cambodia and Laos, Grandma Gerd offers cryptic hints about the mysterious family secret.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Adventures and adventurers
Family secrets
Life Skills
Southeast Asia

Awards & Reviews:
Booklist¸ August 1, 2007, p. 63
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007
Publishers Weekly, September 3, 2007, p. 60
School Library Journal, November 1, 2007,  p.118 (Starred Review)
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, October 1, 2007

Discussion Questions:

    1. What would you pack in a suitcase to take to Southeast Asia?
    2. Create a collage of things you might see or what would remind you of Southeast Asia.
    3. Compare and contrast our life and culture with that of Southeast Asia.
    4. Make up a list of your own personal goals.
    5. Plot how many frequent flyer miles Vassar accumulated?

Curriculum Tie-ins :
Social Studies
Language Arts
Study Skills

Related Websites:
Author’s website:

Interview with Autumn Cornwell:

"The Best Sights in South East Asia," Times:

Blind Faith by Ellen Whittlinger, 2006
Elephant Run by Roland Smith, 2007
First Daughter:Extreme American Makeover by Mitali Perkins, 2007
Girl, (Nearly) 16, Absolute Torture by Sue Limb, 2--5
Grave of the Roti Men by Geoff Havel, 2003
by Heather Waldorf, 2006
Kampung Boy by Lat, 2004
The Killing Sea by Carolyn Marsden, 2008
Little Cricket
by Jackie Brown, 2004
Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins, 2004 (2005 RITBA Nominee)
Other Echoes by Adele Geras, 1982
by Elizabeth Fama, 2002
Rice Without Rain
by Minfong Ho, 1990
Sheer Abandon
by Penny Vincenz, 2007
Song of the Buffalo Boy by Sherry Garland, 1992
The Stone Goddess
by Minfong Ho, 2003
Water Dancers
by Terry Gamble, 2003
When Heaven Fell by Carolyn Marsden, 2007

About the Author:
A travel junkie, Autumn has explored twenty-two countries and counting. She has spent the last couple of summers working with refugees in Burma Thailand and Laos. Southeast Asia remains close to her heart since her days as a missionary kid in New Papua - where she ate her weight in guavas and mingled with reformed headhunters and cannibals.

After spending the rest of her childhood in Washington State, Autumn moved to Southern California for college and refused to leave. She lives in Los Feliz, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, with her husband J.C. who works in visual effects in Imageworks.  With his assistance, she’s produced her biggest project to date: son Dexter, born August, 2006-- who thankfully doesn’t require much editing. (taken from the author's website)

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair