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THE TWELFTH OF JUNE by Marilyn Gould (Lippincott: $11.95; 183 pp.; ages 9-12).

November 09, 1986|KRISTIANA GREGORY

Out of the dozens of books stacked around our house, it was sheer vanity that drew me to this title. The 12th of June happens to be my birthday, and I felt as expectant as a kid under a pinata. It's probably the only time ego paid off, because by the first chapter it was obvious I had opened a treasure.

This is the sequel to "Golden Daffodils," the Newport Beach author's first novel, which earned high acclaim for her sad yet funny portrayal of a young girl with cerebral palsy.

Southern California again is the setting as 12-year-old Janis narrates her delightful story. Not that having cerebral palsy is fun, she points out, but no way is she going to wallow in the handicapped zone. What makes Janis so special is her matter-of-fact attitude and ability to laugh at herself. "Then there's this twitch in my face that has a way of making me look stupid. Sometimes I can control it, but when I'm tired or nervous, it goes haywire." She shuffles and limps, has seizures, gets hassled on the bus by "jerky kids (who) can't resist tripping a cripple," and , to the incredulity of others, she has sexual fantasies.

There you have the premise, a fine one, that will grab readers on several levels. We're reminded that disabilities come in all forms, and one must simply accept them and get on with things. For instance, how about Barney's last name, Fuchs, the target for merciless teasing? And Rhoda, an only child of divorced parents who feels "love-starved." Janis' beloved grandmother has a stroke, and Stell breaks her leg when training for the Boston Marathon. While this might seem a bit cluttered with disappointments, it's not. The characters orbit smoothly around each other and around the event of the title: June 12th will be Barney's bar mitzvah and an extremely important date for Janis, as you'll see. Marilyn Gould, well done.

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