34 pages 1 hour read

Sharon Creech

Heartbeat

Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Middle Grade | Published in 2004

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Heartbeat, by Sharon Creech, is a children’s book written in free verse. The book is aimed toward children ages 10 and up and was first published in 2004. Composed of a series of free verse poems, the story is told from the perspective of Annie, a 12-year-old girl whose love of running anchors her as the world seems to change around her. While her family prepares for her sibling to be born, Annie reckons with her evolving sense of identity and purpose. This coming-of-age story explores relationships, memory, time, and the cyclical nature of life. This guide refers to the 2012 HarperCollins edition.

Plot Summary

Annie, a young girl in a small town, has always been a runner. According to her mother, she was running even before she was born. She runs barefoot through her neighborhood every day, often joined by her mysterious and moody friend, Max. At home, she lives with her parents and her aging grandfather. When Annie’s mother begins feeling ill and exhausted, Annie worries she is dying of a mysterious illness. When she learns that, in fact, her mother is pregnant, she is both fascinated and nervous by how much her life will soon change.

Her grandfather, who suffers from confusion and memory loss in his old age, was a competitive runner in his youth but can no longer always remember why he stopped. Max, like Annie, loves to run, but he becomes caught up in the quest to be the fastest on the track team. Their friendship is tested by Annie’s refusal to turn her favorite pastime into a sport, and Max’s frustration with her attitude.

As the months go by, and her mother’s due date draws closer, Annie works on an art assignment to draw a picture of an apple every day for 100 days. As she works through her fear and confusion over the deteriorating memory of her grandfather and the unimaginable life growing inside her mother, her drawings change with her thoughts about identity, memory, and the cycles of life.

When Annie’s baby brother Joey is born, Annie’s perspective is forever changed by the enormity of a new life within her family. It brings her closer to her mother, grandfather, and even Max. When she completes her apple assignment, the collection of drawings of an aging apple are concluded with a final drawing of a single apple seed.

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