- Author: Megan McDonald
- Illustrators: Robert Hunt, Susan McAliley
- First Published: 2007
- Setting: Autumn 1975
- Julie Albright
- Tracy Albright
- Joyce Albright
- Daniel Albright
- Coach Manley
- Ivy Ling
- Ms. Hunter
- The Water Fountain Girls
Only in Julie Tells Her Story
Chapter by Chapter Summary
Chapter One: Homework!
Julie thinks how she never got so much homework before. Julie recalls having fun homework assignments at her old school, like reading books and doing crossword puzzles. But at her new school, Julie had to write reports, memorize words and draw out maps. To make things more difficult, her teacher assigned a new 'family project' that would span over multiple weeks. Julie winced at the idea of writing about her family, the recent divorce still affecting her. She writes the topic of the project 'The Story of My Life' on top of her paper and T.J. passes a note to Julie.
He wrote the new assignment was too much homework and Julie grins at him before writing out the rest of the assignment. She would have to write about her first memory, her siblings, a story about her parents when they were Julie's age, and the best and worst thing to happen to her. Julie thinks up some responses to the subjects: her first memory was sneaking into her parent's room to jump on their bed when she was four, and the best thing that ever happened to her was making the boy's basketball team. But Julie couldn't even consider writing about her parent's divorce as her worst thing ever as she didn't even like thinking about it. Ms. Hunter tells the class she expects them to interview their parents for more information, write up a page of information for each subject, and give an oral report on what they have learned. Julie panics as she didn't want to tell the entire class about the divorce.
After school, as Julie grabbed her gym bag and headed for basketball practice, she overhears the Water Fountain Girls gossiping about their new project. Alison, Angela, and Amanda all mention a memory they have for their project that involved their entire parents, causing Julie to sigh. She thinks how it was easy for others who had regular families to work on the project Julie considers making up a story for her worst thing ever, but turns it down as it would be cheating. Julie snaps out of her thoughts when T.J. waves his hand in front of her face and asks if she was ready practice. Julie apologizes, explaining she was thinking about the project. T.J. asks Julie what she chose for her best thing ever and Julie tells him it was making the basketball team for sure. T.J. then tells Julie they'd better hurry to practice if they didn't want to write about getting kicked off the team as the worst thing ever.After practice, Julie's dad picks his daughter up and drives her to his house for the weekend. Julie thinks how funny it was that she thought her old house as 'dad's house' nowadays. As they drive, Julie practices for her assignment as she thinks about the best three things about going to her dad's house: 1. Shooting hoops with her dad, 2. Seeing Ivy, and 3. Seeing Nutmeg. She also thinks about the worst three things: 1. Missing mom, 2. Missing Tracy, who always refused to stay with dad for the weekend, and 3. Most of Julie's stuff was back home.
When they arrive, Julie announces she was going to pick up Nutmeg, but her dad mentions he already picked her up and was waiting in Julie's room. As Julie enters her room, she was surprised how unfamiliar her room she had for her entire life looked. Julie grabs Nutmeg and leaves quickly, happy to leave the empty feeling the room gave her. Julie plays with Nutmeg as her dad peels an apple in the kitchen when he comments Julie was quieter then usual. He asks about Julie's school team and Julie, not wanting to tell her dad about the names the other boys called her, tells him about her three steals. She mentions their team has a big game against the Wild Cats in two weeks and asks if her dad would make it. He assures Julie he would come, and Julie sighs as she mentions her school family project. Her dad notices Julie didn't sound happy about the project. Julie, not wanting to tell her dad he was part of the reason she was upset about the assignment, instead says she had a lot of homework.
Julie explains her assignment and her dad thinks it would be fun reporting about her own life. He suggests for Julie to tell about the time she tried to eat a banana slug, thinking it was a banana. Julie says she was only two, and it was too embarrassing to tell. She threatens to tell about the time her dad fell into the duck pond and her dad declares a truce. Julie mentions she has to interview her dad and he gets an idea. He walks back into the room with both his hands behind his back. He tells Julie he got her something in Japan that he planned to give her at Christmas, but he figured it would really help with her project. Julie opens up the box her dad gives her and asks if it was a transistor radio. He explains it was a portable tape recorder and says it would be great for Julie's interviews. Julie thanks her dad and asks if she could show off the recorder at Ivy's house. He tells her to be back by dinner, but Julie was already half way out the door at that point.
Julie runs into Ivy's house as soon as she opened the door and shows the tape recorder. Ivy, while sucking a Popsicle, suggests they try it out in her room. Julie tells Ivy to keep making slurping sounds as she prepared the microphone and Ivy exaggerates her slurping noises. The two replay the tape and collapse with laughter on Ivy's bed, laughing. Julie says her voice sounds weird, and Ivy says she sounds like a garbage disposal, prompting more giggles. The two walk around Ivy's house, taping various things like Ivy's little sister Missy crying and Ivy's mom singing Chinese as she cooked.
When they play back the tape, Julie comments Missy sounds adorable, even when crying. Ivy says that's because Julie doesn't get stuck babysitting her. Julie wishes she did, adding she couldn't wait until she was old enough to babysit. Ivy suggests they record some sound effects. The girls do various sound effects from wooden clogs stomping to flushing the toilet. When they replay the tape, they laugh.
When Julie leaves for dinner, Ivy reminds her about their secret goodnight code, blinking their lights twice. On Saturday, Julie and Ivy played with the tape recorder all day and on Sunday, Julie realized she had to interview her dad before she left. She turns on the tape as she asks him to tell a story from when he was Julie's age. Her dad tells about an incident where during his summer vacation, his jeans got snagged on his bike chains as he jumped a ramp, and he ended up breaking his foot. Julie asks if it healed up okay and her dad tells Julie something the doctor told him. In the spot where the bone was broken, it had knitted itself up stronger than before. She shows Julie a small bump on top of his foot and says that's all that's left from the break.
Julie went back home that evening, still happy from the weekend's events. She feels a familiar pang though, as she waved goodbye to her dad, knowing he was going back to an empty home. Julie walks into the kitchen and sees her mom cooking. She pulls out her tape recorder and pretends to interview her mom, asking what was for dinner. Ms. Albright says she's making meatloaf and cherry pie, also asking Julie to put away the microphone and set the table. Julie says it was Tracy's turn and goes upstairs to get her sister. When she tells her sister it was her turn, but Tracy insists it isn't. The two argue whose turn it was before Ms. Albright stops them and asks them both to set the table. Julie murmurs that Tracy started it and her mom threatens to take away the cherry pie desert. Tracy is surprised about the pie and mentions cherry pie is something she and Julie could agree on.
Chapter Two: Meet CharlotteThe next day after school, Julie enters her mom's store and calls for her. She finds Ms. Albright in the back room and Julie asks her if she could interview her. Mrs. Albright agrees, but as she tries to explain she would have to stop if customers arrived, Julie already dashed to her room. She runs back downstairs with the tape recorder and interviews her mom.
Mrs. Albright recalls the time she grew up on an apple farm in Santa Rosa. She explains about a horse she got for her 10th birthday but before she could get on it, the horse got spooked and ran around the farm until she stopped. Julie asks what spooked the horse and her mom explains they found out she got stung on her nose. As her mom explains how she was too afraid for a while to ride the horse again, Tracy enters and drops her books on the counter. Julie signals for her sister to be quiet until her mom finished and when they finish, Tracy shows off her new spider plant Charlotte. Julie catches the pun of calling a spider plant Charlotte after 'Charlotte's Web' and asks if a boy gave her the plant.
Tracy explains about the project she's doing for biology where she had to take care of the plant and record any changes. She also mentions it better not die on her as it was worth twenty points of her grade. Julie turns on her tape recorder and suggests her sister to sing 'Eensy Weensy Spider' to help the plant grow. Tracy refuses and asks her mom for a flower pot. Her mom pulls out a clay hippo pot, saying a local guy made it and gave her a sample to see if she would sell them.
Tracy thanks her mom and goes into the kitchen, Julie following her with her tape recorder. Julie asks if she could record her sister for her project, but Tracy says she needed to re-pot the plant. Julie helps her sister and when they're finished, Julie repeats her question. Tracy says she has an important call to make as she stretches out the kitchen phone cord into her room.
Deciding to get Tracy on tape one way or another, she sneaks into her mom's room and tapes Tracy's conversation on the other end of the receiver. Julie sneaks back to her room and waits until her sister hung up the phone. Julie goes back to her mom's room, grabs her tape recorder, and listens to the tape in her closet. Tracy talks about normal, boring stuff at first until Julie finds out a secret.
She pulls the phone cord into her own room and calls Ivy to tell her she has a secret. Julie plays the recording to show the conversation between Tracy and her friend Suzanne. They talk about a trip to the movie Jaws Tracy went to last Saturday and Tracy talks about how she sat next to Matt, a boy she liked. She says he shared his sweet tarts with her and held her hand but after the movie, he told her she chewed her gum too loudly during the scary parts of the movie. Julie stops the tape and chants that her sister had a boyfriend. Ivy asks if she was going to tell Tracy she knew, but Julie says she didn't want to let her sister know she was eavesdropping. But she says she doesn't want to waste a chance to bug her sister.
The entire family was helping take out the new shipment for the store when Mrs. Albright shows off one of the new night lights. When she turns it on, Julie flashes back to when her family was decorating the Christmas tree and her father was putting up the star on top. As they continue to help, Julie realizes if her parents hadn't split up, her mom's store wouldn't exist. Julie sighs, torn between life as it once was and life as it was now.
Tracy pulls out a conch and pretends to be the shark from Jaws. Julie asks casually if Tracy enjoyed the movie and Tracy says she was going to see it again. She explains there was a theater that still played Jaws all the time and the theater even had a giant model of the shark named Bruce. Julie asks how she knew that and Tracy says she found out from a friend. Julie hears the word 'he' used and asks if it was a boyfriend, but Tracy calmly tells her sister that it wasn't a big deal in high school to have friends who were boys. Julie knew her sister was acting superior again, so she was pleased she had inside information.
Julie mentions how much fun it was to chew gum loudly during the scary part of the movie and Tracy opens her eyes wide in shock. Julie could tell her sister was trying to think how Julie could of found out about the movie. Ms. Albright comments the girls were quiet all of a sudden and Tracy asks if they could leave to do their homework. Ms. Albright allows them and the two run to their rooms.
Tracy accuses her sister of eavesdropping while in Julie's room, but Julie acts innocent. Julie then asks "How's Matt the gnat?" and chants that Tracy had a boyfriend. Tracy denies it and Julie says she had proof. She takes out her tape and Tracy, calling Julie 'Little Miss Watergate', grabs the tape away. Julie asks for it back, saying it was for her project, and Tracy explains it was illegal to tape someone without telling them. Julie felt a twinge of guilt and asks if Tracy would report her to the police. Tracy hesitates before throwing the tape to Julie and tells her she'd better not tell anyone about it.
Tracy leaves the room just as Ms. Albright enters and asks "What was that all about?" Julie says nothing happened and asked what was Watergate. Mrs. Albright explains the incident where the previous president was revealed to be lying when someone secretly taped him. Mrs. Albright asks why Julie was asking about it and Julie explains the name Tracy called her. Julie says she was trying to tape her sister for her project and Mrs. Albright tells Julie not to bother her sister with her tape recorder without permission.
Chapter Three: This Little Piggy
The next day at school, as the class picked out biographies to read, Julie asks if T.J. will be at practice today. T.J. says yes, saying it was two weeks until the big game. Julie whispers her surprise at how soon the big game was and T.J. tells her how the team they were against were undefeated Before he could explain about a star player the Wildcats had, Ms. Hunter reminds the class it was silent reading.
After a hard basketball practice, Coach Manly tells the team some improvements they need to make before the team leave. Everyone grumbles at the criticisms the coach told them and T.J. mentions at this rate, they'd be too tired to play the Wildcats. He tells the others about one of the Wildcat's players who was six feet tall and was called Dunk for being able to shoot hoops very well. Julie sarcastically says Dunk would love playing against a girl and T.J. tells her not to think that way. He tells her about the nickname 'Cool Hand Albright' the boys gave her since she was so good at ball handling. As she walked back home, Julie was nervous about the big game, but also pleased at her new nickname and the compliment she got from the boys.
On Saturday morning, Julie was practicing her dribbling on the sidewalk when Tracy arrives. She offers to help Julie practice, but Julie is suspicious. She points out that Tracy was being friendly for someone who told her she wasn't going to talk to her anymore, but Tracy says she couldn't be mad at her sister forever. Julie says she won't do the dishes tonight and Tracy assures that Julie wouldn't. The two practice until Tracy calls for a time out.
During their break, Tracy comments that Julie always wanted to babysit and when Julie asks if she knew someone who needed a sitter, Tracey says sort of. Excited about the chance to babysit, Julie fires questions at Tracy, including how much she would get paid. Tracy explains Julie wouldn't get paid as this job was just for experience. Julie comments that wasn't how it worked in the Brady Bunch and then she asks for the kid's name. Tracy hesitates before saying the name Charlotte.
Julie realizes her sister was being so friendly to her because she wanted Julie to babysit a plant Tracy explains that all Julie would have to do was water the plant and record any changes she saw. Julie says she couldn't do the job as she was going to have Ivy over for a sleepover and asks why her sister couldn't do it herself. Tracy says her friends were going to see how many kids could squeeze into a VW Bug and she was going to spend the night at Jill's house. She explains if she skips two days in her biology journal, she would lose points from her grade. Tracy tells Julie people have gotten paid for plant sitting, so Julie asks for two dollars. Tracy bargains it down to one and Julie agrees to it.
During the sleepover, Julie and Ivy sing to the plant. Ivy asks why they were singing and Julie explains how she read in a magazine singing to a plant helped it grow and if the plant grew, it could possibly get Tracy extra credit. Julie decides to tape their singing and play it to the plant so the two could do something else. Julie suggests that they could shoot hoops and Ivy agrees saying she just had to put on her shoes. Julie quickly passes the ball to Ivy, but her friend had already bent over her shoes. The ball hit the dresser and bounced the way to Julie's window. Julie tries to catch the ball before it fell out the window, but the ball bounced off the window sill and landed in Julie's hands.Ivy stared at the window in horror as the girls hear a crash. Julie realizes Charlotte wasn't on the window anymore and the two look out the window to see the pot smashed to pieces. The two dash outside to the plant and Julie asks what to do. Ivy says the plant was salvageable, but the pot wasn't. Julie explains to Ivy that was the only hippo pot they had, but Ivy says she saw a hippo pot for sale in the 'Five and Ten Shop' in Chinatown. As there was a local 'Five and Ten Shop' in Julie's neighborhood, Julie gets a bag to put Charlotte in and the two head to the store. Julie comments now she knew why her mom told her not to play basketball in the house.
The girls reach the store and look for a hippo pot when a saleswoman offers her assistance. She tells the girls the store didn't have any hippos, but they had pigs. Julie and Ivy agree that the pig pot looked close enough to the hippo and the saleswoman offers to put the plant inside the pot for free as it was an emergency. Julie and Ivy look around the pet section of the store as they wait for Charlotte to get planted and they come back 15 minutes later to pick it up and pay for the pot. They thank the saleswoman as they agree the leaves were able to hide the pot so others wouldn't be able to tell it wasn't a hippo.
The next afternoon, the two play Chinese checkers when Ivy asks if Tracy would notice if something happened to her plant. Julie hopes not since if the plant dies, Tracy might flunk her assignment. Julie tries to look on the bright side as she had two new memories for her own assignment. Her first plant sitting job could be the best thing ever while breaking the pot could be the worst thing ever.
Tracy arrives home and doesn't ask Julie about Charlotte. Its until Tracy goes upstairs to her room that Julie and Ivy hear a shriek. Tracy asks Julie what she had done to her plant and the two girls run to Tracy's room. Tracy says her plant looked like it shrunk and the tips were brown. Julie and Ivy explained they watered it under the sink for five minutes and kept it on Julie's windowsill so it would get more sun. Tracy assumes they over watered the plant and the sun burnt the leaves as it wasn't supposed to be in direct sunlight. Tracy sighs she will just have to record the changes and Julie and Ivy leave the room. Ivy points out at least Tracy didn't notice the pig pot
Chapter Four: The Big Game
Julie had crossed each day on her calendar up to the big game with a red pen. Julie gets another idea for her report: the best and worst thing ever would be the big game finally arriving. As Julie packs the items she needed for the big game, her mother pops her head into Julie's room and asks if she was nervous. Julie says a little, but she was also excited and wished her mother could watch. Mrs. Albright had a meeting with the bank about her business loan, but Julie thinks at least her dad could watch the game. As Mrs. Albright drops the girls off at school, she and Tracy wish Julie good luck and Tracy tells Julie she'll try to see Julie's second half if her tennis practice ended early.
During the game, Julie double-teamed with T.J. to block Dunk. As he passed by Julie, he snickered that Julie forgot her pom-poms as he stole the ball and fouled her for the third time. The referee didn't call on it, however, despite Julie's and T.J.'s complaints. Julie couldn't spare the time to look for her dad in the crowd, but she thinks how her dad wouldn't be happy about the rough playing. Julie dribbles and passes the ball to T.J. who passed it back. As the ball reached Julie's hands, Dunk lunged for the ball and knocked Julie onto the floor.
The referee blows his whistle and Julie holds her hand to her chest when Tracy helps Julie off court. Julie asks where dad was and Tracy says she had just arrived herself. Coach Manly looks at Julie's finger and says she needs to go to a hospital to have it checked. Julie, not wanting the leave the game and have others think girls couldn't play basketball, asks if she could at least make her free-throw shot, but he says no.
He asks if Julie's parents were here. Julie says it was just her sister and Tracy explains how their dad was supposed to be there. T.J. tells Julie his mom was here and she would drive Julie and he goes off to tell her. As Julie leaves the gymnasium with Tracy helping her, she thinks how leaving the big game hurt almost as much as throbbing of her finger.
As Julie waited in the hospital's waiting room, T.J's mom asks Julie if she could get her anything. Julie says she just wanted her parents and T.J.'s mom explains that Tracy was calling them right now and they would probably arrive when Julie was done with the doctor. Julie explains her parents were divorced, her dad wasn't at the game for some reason, and Tracy couldn't reach their mom. T.J.'s mother assures Julie she would stay with her until her parents arrive and Tracy returns to say she wasn't able to reach them. She says that she left on dad's answering machine when Julie's name is called by the nurse.
After an hour in the doctor's office, Julie comes out with an arm sling and sees both of her parents waiting for her. They all go into a group hug and Mrs. Albright thanks T.J.'s mom for everything. Julie and Tracy tell their parents about the events of the game and Julie comments now her arm was like a robot. Mrs. Albright apologizes for letting this happen and Mr. Albright tells his daughters he was proud of them.
He tries to apologize to Tracy, but she snaps that he was supposed to be at the game and she didn't want to think what would have happened if she hadn't come. Mrs. Albright comforts Tracy and tells her that her father couldn't help the fact that his flight had a weather delay. Tracy bitterly tells her mother she called multiple times, and her mother tells her she did the right thing as Mr. Albright heard the message on his answering machine and told her about the news right away. Tracy asks if her parents really did go to the hospital together and in the same car and she relaxes when her mom says yes.
A nurse comes over and tell Julie she could go and dad asks if anyone wanted to head out for pizza. Mrs. Albright and Julie agree to it, and Julie looks at her sister, hoping she would say yes. Tracy says she'll go only if they go to the old place in North Beach and order a Very, Very Veggie pizza. Mrs. Albright starts to tell Tracy they couldn't, but Mr. Albright assures her that he didn't mind driving to the restaurant and back to Julie's house as well as getting a second pizza for her. Julie looks at both of her parents and comments "Wow! I should break my finger more often!"
Chapter Five: The Best Thing Ever
Mrs. Albright told Julie that's since it was Friday and the doctor suggested she rest, Julie could stay home from school today. Julie and her mom were playing Kerplunk all morning when her mom says she needed to hopne the store. Julie jokes that her mom was leaving because she was losing. Julie tells her mother her project was due Monday and while she had most of it on tape, she had to write a page. Julie suddenly realizes she couldn't write anything with her broken finger and her mom asks if Julie wanted her to ask for an extension. Julie gets an idea to do her entire project on tape and Mrs. Albright comments it was a clever solution.
For the rest of the morning, Julie edited the tapes and added introductions. As she checked the list of topics, she reaches the best thing ever and thinks about her basketball petition for a moment. However, Julie remembers last night how her family was all together again for a moment and Julie thinks that was the best thing ever. but if she were to mention that, then Julie would have to explain about the divorce, and she couldn't even mention the word into the microphone Looking at her finger in discouragement, Julie suddenly gets an idea to say missing out on the big game was the worst thing ever. In the end, Julie records herself talking about her petition and missing out on the big game.
Tracy arrives home from school just as Julie finishes and Julie asks if she haded in her science journal. Tracy says yes and adds she got an 'A' despite the plant dying. Julie sighs a breath of relief and nervously tells Tracy what happened. Tracy says she figured that Julie had broke the pot when she noticed the pig pot. She asks why Julie didn't just tell her the truth and Julie apologizes. She explains she was going to tell Tracy before she handed in her journal, but she got so mad at dad yesterday for letting her down, Julie lost her nerve.
Julie was afraid her sister was going to sound angry, but she sounded sad as she admitted she shouldn't have blown up at him about the game. She explains she felt as if dad had let the family down by getting a divorce. Julie points out it wasn't fair to blame the whole thing on dad was their mom wanted a divorce as well. Tracy is silent as she leaves the room, but she turns around for a moment and asks Julie to promise to talk to her instead of lying. Julie promises and the two hug each other.
On Monday morning, as Julie fumbled with her locker, T.J. comes up and asks Julie if she could check out her cast. Julie shows it off as she thanks him for telling her the results of th big game. They were both disappointed they lost, but T.J. says Coach Manly said tat was their best game yet. T.J. jokes they would have won if they didn't lose their star player and Julie thanks him as they head to class.
At class, everyone was buzzing and gossiping over Julie's cast and the big game. Julie thinks how she wasn't this popular since her mom came in for Career Day. Ms. Hunter gets the class' attention as she announced it was time to give their reports. Angela and T.J. share funny memories, then it was Julie's turn. She explains to her class how she taped everything since she wouldn't write, and plays the tape.
When it reaches Julie's worst thing ever, Julie turns off the tape recorder. She nervously asks Ms. Hunter if she could tell the last part aloud as she changed her mind on the subject, and she allows her. Julie then tells her class what she had originally said on the tape recorder, says how the divorce truly felt like the worst thing ever, and how happy she was when her family was whole for a moment after her accident.
When Julie finishes her report she realizes there was still one more thing she wanted to say. She tells the class about how she thinks families are like broken bones. "They can break too but in some ways, it makes you even stronger. And when one person's in trouble or gets hurt, families pull together, and you can still count on them to be there for you."
Julie concludes her presentation and everyone claps as Julie went back to her seat. Her heart was still pounding, but now she was more sure of her feelings. While the break in her heart caused by the divorce would never leave, the love she had for her sister and parents were still as strong as ever and could never be broken.
Looking Back: School in the 1970s
Discusses public education during the 1970s. Topics covered:
- The similarities between modern schools and schools operating during the 1970s
- Learning materials of the time, such as filmstrips instead of videos or DVDs
- The lack of accessible technology for schools, such as computers, photocopiers, and videocassette recorders for students and how it put them at a technological disadvantage
- Methods teachers used to teach the school curriculum, with the hands-on learning approach being the most popular
- Laws that enabled children to have an equal opportunity in education and sports
- Cities allowing school buses to take Black children to formerly all-white schools to help desegregate the schools, with some people disagreeing with the idea of integrating the schools
- Financial challenges San Francisco's school district faced in the 1970s, forcing the cancellation of sports and after-school programs
- The Students Need Athletics, Culture, and Kicks (commonly shortened as SNACK) rock benefit concert promoted by Bill Graham on March 23, 1975 to help raise money for the school district
Items associated with Julie Tells Her Story
Julie's parents are explicitly named in this book.