JUST IMAGINE
Houghton Mifflin & Co., 2001
I SBN 0-618-05603-3

Mary Francis's world is split in two when her father loses his job in California during the Great Depression and finds another one in Hardenville, MA. Unwilling to give up her dreams of a film career for her son, Leland, Mary Francis's mother refuses to leave their home in Beverly Hills. So Mary Francis, her father, and grandmother go on to New England without them. Determined to keep an eye on the other half of her family, Mary Francis works on 'her gift,' the ability to have "out-of-body" experiences. She hopes to get so good at it that she'll be able to travel to California to check on her mother and Leland. While Mary Fancis practices her developing talent, her parents become more estranged, and she begins to fear they'll never all be living in the same place again.

"The leaving part had become too easy, though, and this frightened me as well, because I didn't want to take off before I was good and ready. So I waited. I looked over the valley, drew in a deep breath, and waited. I thought of Leland. I thought of Mama. I thought of how they needed me. Of how we needed each other.

I probably should have eased more gently into all of that because this time, before I was at all prepared, it happened. Like a blink of an eye or a sudden memory, I could feel the material world slip away and a peaceful rush lifting my inner self up and up. When I realized I was on my way, I tried to master my terror and will my spirit to speed up; I pictured the globe of the world at school marked with my destination and the arc I would need to get to Beverly Hills. I was sure I was turning, gaining speed, going higher and higher. I was so excited about seeing Mama and Leland. I was certain I was on my way."

"Through Mary Francis's eyes, the story is revealed with unconditional love and refreshingly unflappable candor. Collins has typified the paradox of the 1930s - the irresistable glamour of the Hollywood Golden Era masking the downtrodden gray of the Great Depression. Juggled between these vastly different realities, Mary Francis emerges as an endearing and memorable character. Teachers will love this novel's authentic feel of the period, and readers will love Mary Francis." –School Library Journal

"Well-rounded characters, a myriad of details grounding the story in time, and the emotional angst add up to entertaining historical fiction, with a contemporary feel." –Kirkus

"This is a captivating story of family loyalties, self-awareness, and the power of belief." –Booklist

Nominated for the California Library Association John and Patricia Beatty Award.