Meet My Dear Phebe

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Click on cover to order book

"My Dear Phebe." That is how Uncle James began each letter he wrote to his niece. Her name was really "Phoebe," but Uncle James wasn't a very good speller.
Sometimes the people in your favorite books seem as real as your best friend. Other times, the characters are real people, but the author tries to show a little bit more about them than we really know.
Phebe Irvine was a real little girl. She was 10 years old when the Civil War broke out. She lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. When her mother was too busy to write to Uncle James, Phebe decided to carry on with the letter exchange.
Those letters are the basis of the book My Dear Phebe. The author, Janet Elaine Smith, has the original letters. They are very special to her. You see, Phebe Irvine was Janet's great-grandfather's mother-in-law. This might seem confusing, but that didn't make Phebe Janet's great-great-grandmother, because her great-grandfather had been married before to another woman. I guess you could say that Phebe Irvine (Tuttle, after she got married) was Janet's great-great-step-grandmother.
Ask your grandparents if they remember the old song, "I'm My Own Grandpa." Phebe Irvine is sort of mixed up like that to Janet.
Oh, and if you click on the cover of My Dear Phebe up above, you can order it. At the back of the book, you will be able to read the exact letters that Uncle James sent to Phebe, complete with the misspelled words and all.

I love it when people pop into my life, totally unexpectedly, but they turn out to become good friends with just the exchange of a few words, or e-mails in today's modern world. Such was the case with my new cover for My Dear Phebe.
I was looking for a Civil War girl, and a Google search led me to e-bay, where I found the girl you see on the cover. She was perfect. She was just--so Phebe! I contacted the woman who was selling the costume and she granted me permission to use the photo, if it was OK with the photographer.

I contacted the photographer, Jamie Zdziarski, and learned that the model was her 6-year-old daughter, Chloe. I also learned that we had a lot in common. She is a Christian. Her husband's name is Jon. Her father was the director of Child Evangelism Fellowship in South Dakota. For years my husband has told me about attending CEF classes in school in Aberdeen, SD. She has done missionary work in Africa; mine was in Venezuela, SA. And that's just in a few days that we have learned that much.


But soon, not to be outdone or forgotten, Janet Elaine Smith learned that there was another Zdziarski sister. Yes, here you will meet Rebekah Grace, affectionately known by her family and friends as "Bekah." She is the older sister; she is eight. So, she was fondly added to the mixture, and you can find out all about Bekah by clicking here.
There are two younger brothers: Judah, 5, and Samuel, 3.
And so, to the whole Zdziarski clan, welcome to the virtual home of Janet Elaine Smith and all her zany characters. 

Bekah is an 8-year-old 3rd grader. Her favorite color is blue, she loves music, and if you give her a choice of food to eat she will opt for her mom's corn-flake chicken fingers. She does best in school in math, followed closely by geography. She enjoys reading, and goes through about 3 books a week. She collects elephants and Webkins. She loves to ride her bike and all sorts of outdoor activities. She is even trying her hand at writing a book herself, and she enjoys art and drawing. Bekah and her sister and brothers are being homeschooled. She lives in New England with her mom and dad, her sister Chloe, and her two little brothers, Judah, 5,  and Samuel, 3.

Even a model can be part tomboy!

Strike up the band, then give her a hand
Music sets her feet to tapping--always

She's at her best when in blue she's dressed

Poor Bekah! Just like Humpty Dumpty, she fell off and broke into a whole bunch of little pieces. Can you play the part of all the king's horses and all the king's men, and see if you can get poor Bekah together again?

OK, kids, it's your turn for some fun! Print off a copy of the black and white bookcover of My Dear Phebe, or have your parents print it for you. Color it the colors you would have used if you had done the cover. Then e-mail me a picture of your colored cover at or send me the picture at Janet Elaine Smith, P.O. Box 126, East Grand Forks, MN 56721 and I will send you an autographed postcard. Make sure you include your mailing address so I can send them to you.



A great book is like a great mind; it keeps on giving
over and over and over again!
Check Janet's books out here.