Kissing Tennessee: and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance

by Kathi Appelt

Eight moving and magical stories of teen love and heartbreak.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780152051273
  • ISBN-10: 0152051279
  • Pages: 132
  • Publication Date: 04/01/2004
  • Carton Quantity: 48

About the book

Mason and Carrie Marie can't get up the courage to ask each other to dance. Russ's girlfriend has died, and now he's just trying to live without her. Peggy Lee has grown up with Tennessee--how can she ever think of him as more than a friend?

In these moving tales and others, Kathi Appelt captures the sometimes amusing, sometimes touching missteps of some unforgettable students, who come together one last time for the most memorable night of their young lives.

About the author
Kathi Appelt

Kathi Appelt is the author of many books for children and young adults, including When Otis Courted Mama, illustrated by Jill McElmurry; Oh My Baby, Little One, illustrated by Jane Dyer; and the story collection Kissing Tennessee. Her novel The Underneath was a Newbery Honor book and a National Book Award finalist. She lives in Texas.


Dance with Me

Magic happens, see. It's just like on those bumper stickers, the ones that say MIRACLES HAPPEN, or JESUS HAPPENS. I never really took those too seriously. Imean, they're bumper stickers.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. Miracles? Right. Jesus? Maybe. But magic?

I wouldn't have believed it myself before tonight, even though I loved all those fairy tales that my mom used to read to me when I was a little kid.

My favorite was the one about Snow White. Those funky little guys with the beards. The poisonous apple. And that cool mirror the evil stepmother used to talk to. You know, she'd ask it all these questions: Who's the nicestWho's the sweetest...Who's the fairest of them all? And for a while, everything was hunky-dory. The mirror always said: You are, O fair one. But mirrors never lie, and so one day the mirror told her the truth: Hey, there's this new girl in town, and sorry, witchie, but she's got the edge in the nice, sweet, and fair categories.

Of course, it was all make-believe. That's what I thought, anyway. But now I'm telling you, I'm not so sure.

See, there I was at the Stardust Dance.

And there was Lucy White. (Yeah, I know, coincidence.) I swear she was glowing in the candlelight.

The whole cafeteria was full of glitter. The decorations committee had hung these paper moons and cutout stars from the ceiling. All those stars and moons were covered with glitter, and every time the air conditioner blasted them, they spun around and around and glitter drifted down on top of everyone. The glitter and the candles...they made the place look like a fairy castle or something. And right in the middle of the ceiling hung a giant mirror-ball.

Anyway, there was Lucy White. She had on this short white skirt and a blue blouse, and she had her black hair pulled back in this long ponytail that came down to the top of her waist. She had those fairy-tale princesses beat. Even Snow White. I mean, if the witch had popped her question then, Lucy White would have won big time.

So there we were-Lucy on one side of the cafeteria and me on the other. And man, all I wanted to do was dance with her. That's all. Wanted to wrap my arms around her slim waist, pull her close, dance her across that cafeteria floor beneath the stars and moons.

And I know for a fact that she wanted to dance with me, too. All year long I had sat behind her in our first-period English class, watching that black ponytail swish across her back. And every once in a while, her hair would fall onto my desk. I loved to pull it, and when I did, she'd look back at me and smile. Man, that girl can smile. But that was all. She hardly ever said anything. She's the quiet type.

So I was really surprised last week in school when she passed me that note. Me, Tim Hernandez. The note that said, "Ask me to dance. Love, Lucy." I've still got it. In fact, it was tucked into my back pocket during the dance. I could feel its heat through my pants. All I had to do was ask her. Simple, right?


See, this afternoon before the dance, I had stood in front of my bedroom mirror practicing the words: "Dance with me, Lucy." I mean, I wanted to get them right. I even changed clothes and practiced.

First, I tried saying them in my old faded jeans and T-shirt. But I thought the words seemed sort of faded, too. So I put on the black slacks and white oxford shirt I have to wear for choir concerts. But then the words seemed too stiff. So I took those clothes off and threw them on my bed.

I went to my closet to look for something else, but almost all my regular clothes were on the floor in a heap.

Ever since my mom had her "big revelation," I've been doing my own laundry. Man, that was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. One afternoon I was playing this new video game, Blood and Guts. I was controlling Gruesome Gus versus the Crimson Menace, and I had totally waxed the guy. It was this really complex sequence of moves, and I was so excited about conquering the game that I wanted to show it to someone. Unfortunately, the only one home at the time was Mom.

But hey, an audience is an audience, right? So I dragged her out of the laundry room to witness my dexterity.

"My God!" she exclaimed when Gus decapitated the Crimson Menace and red video-blood coated the screen. "You can do that?"

Uh-oh, I'm thinking, here it comes. I was sure, after all that carnage, my mom would banish the game forever. I could almost see the little wheels turning in her head.

But then she said, "If you can do that, I know you can operate something as simple as the washer and dryer."

So I've been in charge of my own clothes ever since. Which means, most of the time, my clothes are...Well...see, I figure that whatever's been on the bottom of the heap has had the longest time to air out, so I always try to choose stuff from the bottom. But that was before I got the note from Lucy.


Dark eyes and darker hair. So quiet. So pretty.


She takes up all the space inside me. For the past week I've found myself waiting at corners until she's passed and then I've followed her down the hall. I've found myself daydreaming about her. I've even found myself sitting beside her at lunch.


Who wrote me a note: "Ask me to dance. Love, Lucy."

So there I was, standing in front of my bedroom mirror in my Fruit Of The Loom underwear, with not one clean shirt. I sniffed my armpits and decided to use both my own Arrid Extra Dry and my dad's Old Spice deodorant for extra protection.

Dad! There was the answer. I'd borrow a shirt from Dad. I didn't think he'd mind. The one I picked out was red-blue-and-green plaid, the one he'd bought from the new Eddie Bauer shop at the Dogwood Mall. Okay, it was a couple of sizes too big. But that just made my shoulders look broader. If I didn't tuck it in, it looked okay. I thought Lucy would like it.

So I looked at myself again in the mirror, with Dad's shirt on, and I thought, Fine, this is fine. And I started practicing some more: "Dance with me, Lucy." I tried it with all these expressions. See, my choir teacher, Mrs. Applegate, is always telling us to stand in front of a mirror when we're practicing a song.

"Dance with me, Lucy" isn't exactly a song, but I still wanted to get it just right. First I went "dancewithmelucy," almost in a whisper. But I could hardly hear it myself. Then I tried it with this movie star face. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no movie star, but I'm not that hard to look at, either.

I kept trying it over and over, probably a hundred times, from a hundred different positions-one foot in front of the other, both feet firmly planted, legs crossed, arms crossed, hands on my hips, hands behind my neck, one hand over my heart. You'd have thought I was auditioning for a play or something.

Well, here's where the magic started up. See, that mirror must've gotten sick and tired of me saying those words, "Dance with me, Lucy," because on about the one-hundred-and-first try, I felt them come flying back at me from the mirror's surface and jam into the back of my throat.

No kidding. I thought I was going to choke. All I could do was stand there, paralyzed. I swear I could hear that stupid mirror laughing. Like maybe it was trying to say, "Hey, Romeo, get a life!"

I turned away from the mirror, sweating from head to toe. I kept trying to swallow, but I could still feel those words stuck right at the back of my tongue, pushing up against my soft palate. I felt queasy.

When I got downstairs, Mom already had dinner on the table, but I just sort of waved to her. She said something like, "Oh, I guess there'll be refreshments at the dance." I nodded. I was afraid if I opened my mouth, I might lose it all


"Powerful."--School Library Journal

"This satisfying book will grow on the reader. So mix the punch and

start the glitter ball revolving--the Stardust Dance is about to begin."

--VOYA (5Q, highest rating)