That Smudge of Smoke

Cover of book That Smudge of SmokeComing in Spring 2023 from BeaLu Books…

In February of 1929, life as she has known it changes for 12-year-old Piper Sinclair after her mother’s sudden death from pneumonia. Her kind-hearted teacher, Miss Oliver, gives her a diary as a means to continue her creative flair for writing when Piper goes to live aboard the S.S. City of Atlanta with her father, the captain of the Chesapeake Bay steamboat.  She calls her diary, Dorie, short for Dorothea, and proceeds to write life into her, with every scratch of her pen.  Soon Piper comes to think of Dorie as her closest friend, the only one she can talk to with absolute honesty.  When she suspects Dorie is being read by a snooping ship’s steward, she finds a hideaway for the diary in the hole behind a loose panel in her cabin door.

Eighty-six years later in October of 2015, life has changed drastically for 12-year-old Garrett Stevens, whose Army Sergeant dad has been injured in Afghanistan and is now in a military hospital in Washington, DC. He and his mother come to live with his grandparents in their Maryland home to be close to the hospital. When Garrett slams his bedroom door in anger—a door salvaged from the old S.S. City of Atlanta—the panel falls off and he discovers Piper’s long-lost diary.  Garrett begins reading, immediately drawn into Piper’s story, and comes to believe his hope for his dad’s recovery is somehow entwined with Piper’s hopes for her future.  

That Smudge of Smoke spans the years from 1929 to 2015 in a middle grade novel about these two 12-year-olds navigating crucial changes in their lives.  The diary, known as Dorie, becomes the vital link between Piper and Garrett, and soon takes on the unexpected role of narrator, a compelling character in itself.  This is a multi-generational story of hope, friendship, family, and of the far-reaching influence of history and music.


Published by BeaLu Books