word craft


A Place Called Ugly

A Place Called Ugly

Pan­theon, 1981

out of print; look for this book at your favorite used book­seller or library

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What’s this book about?

There’s no rea­son­ing with Owen. The island cot­tage where he and his fam­i­ly have spent the last ten sum­mers must be pre­served. And he’s going to do it. Nev­er mind that a bull­doz­er stands out­side, ready to move in and lev­el the place for a mod­ern hotel. Nev­er mind that summer’s over and Owen’s fam­i­ly is hur­ry­ing to catch the last ferry—or that school is starting—or that nobody sees it his way. Alone, four­teen-year-old Owen is going to stay and save the beau­ti­ful place oth­ers call ugly.

Story Behind the Story

My par­ents had a retire­ment home on Shel­ter Island, a quite enchant­i­ng and rather unusu­al island (wild canaries, bam­boo groves, and bays filled with oys­ters and clams) at the end of Long Island, New York—about a hun­dred miles from New York City.

It was around Labor Day one year that I, along with my fam­i­ly, had been vis­it­ing my par­ents. My youngest son was end­less­ly grum­bling about the fact that he was about to end his sum­mer vaca­tion and need­ed to return to school. Could he not, he con­stant­ly begged, just stay with his grand­par­ents in this idyl­lic place? Well, no.

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Awards and Recognition

  • School Library Jour­nal, starred review


“Avi … may be start­ing a whole new trend in nov­els for young peo­ple. His hero, 14-year-old Owen Cough­lin, is not on drugs, does­n’t drink, likes his col­lege bound broth­er and sis­ter when they are around, and lives with par­ents who do not exhib­it signs of get­ting divorced. His folks are in the same boat as are most adults who encounter Owen. They don’t under­stand him … he gives the islanders a mem­o­ry of splen­dif­er­ous youth they will not for­get. I found myself cheer­ing Owen on all the way.” (The New York Times)

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