Self-esteem & Self-reliance

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A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying
Excerpt

“I know you love unicorns, Rowan, but please stop staring at mine. You’re making him nervous.
”I do not love unicorns, as my aunt Jannah knows. Jerks. All of them. I’m not staring at Courtois. I’m staring him down. Unfortunately, she’s wrong about the third part, too. I can’t make him nervous, no matter how hard I try.
We’re in the castle courtyard, the high stone walls stealing the morning sun. Around us, the royal hunters prepare for their mission. A mission I should be joining. My twin brother, Rhydd, is and I belong at his side, keeping him safe.
As I scowl at Courtois, Rhydd’s hand thumps on my shoulder. “Give it up, Ro.”
“That beast stepped on my foot,” I say. “On purpose.”
“Yep, I’m sure he did. He is a unicorn.”
I move away from Courtois only to stumble over my aunt’s warg, Malric. The giant wolf lifts his head, upper lip curling to reveal canines as long as my hand. The last person who tried to pet him lost two fingers. Even I know better. I quickstep out of his reach.
“Making friends with all the monsters this morning, aren’t you?” Rhydd teases.
As I grumble, he leans in to whisper, “I know you’re upset. You’re worried about me going on the gryphon hunt.”
“I’m not wor—”
“You’re worried, and this is how you show it. By grumbling and scowling and staring down unicorns.”
“It’s not fair.”
“I know,” he says.
My scowl deepens, and I want to kick the dirt and growl and stomp. That would be childish, though, and I am not a child. I’m twelve. I’m a princess. One day, I’ll be queen.
I don’t want to be queen. I’ll be horrible at it. Rhydd should get the throne. Even now, as scared as he is, he’s trying to calm me. That’s what a real leader does.
“Rhydd?” Jannah calls. “Saddle up.”
As Jannah climbs onto Courtois, her sheathed sword swings by her side. I look at that sword, a gleaming ebony-wood center with a razor-sharp obsidian edge. I imagine it in my hands, and a lump rises in my throat.
This is who I want to be. This is who I should be. Not the queen, but the royal monster hunter. Everyone knows it. I hear the whispers, how my thoughtful brother should sit on the ivory throne, how his headstrong twin sister should wield the ebony sword.

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War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories
Excerpt

The swimming pool is shaped like a heart. No, wait — it’s an apple. Of course! The poisonous apple Snow White took a bite of that sent her into a coma. Sort of weird, really, when you think about it. Who’d want to swim in a poisonous pool? No one by the look of it. The pool is empty. All that delicious coolness just lying there, sparkling in the late afternoon sun. …

Poison or not, alligators or not, I’m hot and I want into that pool. I head straight for the diving board, take as big a bounce as I can off the end and cannonball into the water.

Splash!

I drift down into the blue coolness, my eyes wide open. Glug, glug, glug. There is only watery sunlight down here, as if the sun was a big yellow china ball that someone smashed into little shards and sprinkled on the blue tile floor. My goggles aren’t on tight enough and water seeps inside, so with a little kick off the bottom I drift to the surface.

“Hey, you!”

A voice booms above me. I grab the lip of the pool. I also grab a mouthful of water, which makes me cough and cough. There is a large pair of hairy feet planted right beside my hand. I look up, my vision all swimmy through goggles full of water — way up, past a pair of Superman legs, a pair of yellow bathing trunks with palm trees on them, a chest big enough to pitch a tent on, to a face glaring down at me as if I am a toad and the only thing stopping him from squashing me is that he doesn’t have his toad-squashing boots on. Then I see the comic book in his hand. It’s sopping wet.

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