Visionary & Metaphysical

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Clara Voyant
Excerpt

Clara Costa had only been at Kensington Middle School for a month, but already she understood the implications of a Blazer Day. All the Newsies did. When Wesley Ferris, editor-in-chief of the Kensington Middle School Gazette, showed up to school wearing a blazer, she meant business.
So when the last bell rang on Tuesday afternoon, Clara was ready. She’d been watching the clock tick steadily toward 3:15 all through math class. The second it hit, she slammed her textbook shut, hopped out of her desk, and beelined for her meeting.
Unfortunately, it was hard to get anywhere fast at Kensington Middle School, or KMS as the students called it. KMS was enormous—easily three times the size of High Park Public, where Clara had gone to elementary school—and jam-packed with what felt like three hundred times as many kids (though it was probably closer to ten).
They surrounded her in the hallway, sweeping her along with them as they surged toward their lockers, laughing and shouting.
“Excuse me.” She tried to push her way across the hall. “Um, can I get through? I’ve got to—”
A basketball sailed over her head and smacked the wall. Some kids gasped. Others guffawed.
“Watch it,” someone warned. “She’s around here somewhere.”
Everyone paused to glance over their shoulders, including Clara. But Mrs. Major, the KMS custodian, was nowhere in sight. Relieved, she continued on, picking up the pace but being careful not to break into a run. Mrs. Major’s Number One Rule—even more important than No Throwing Basketballs—was No Running in the Halls. And Mrs. Major was not to be disobeyed. Mrs. Major was even more intimidating than Wesley Ferris in a blazer.

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Judy Moody Predicts the Future
Excerpt

Judy went to find the librarian.

"What did you get?" Frank asked when she came back.

"Predict Your Head Off!" said Judy. "It’s all about people who predicted stuff about the future. Lynn helped me find it. She’s the cool librarian with the fork-and-pie earrings. Not the mad-face librarian."

"Hey! It’s a Big Head book. I love those. How come they draw the people with such big heads, anyway?" Frank asked.

"Maybe it’s to hold all those big ideas about the future. Look, see?" said Judy, pointing to her book. "These people predicted earthquakes and fires and babies being born."

"Nobody can predict the future," said Frank. "Can they?"

"Ya-huh!" said Judy. "It says right here. Books don’t lie."

"Let me see," said Frank.

"See? Jeane Dixon, Famous American Fortuneteller. She was some lady in Washington, D.C., who stared into her eggs one morning and predicted that President Kennedy would be shot. And she predicted an earthquake in Alaska."

"It also says she predicted that Martians would come to Earth and take away teenagers. I wish that would happen to my big sister."

"If only Stink were a teenager," said Judy.

"Look! It says here that that Jeane Dixon lady saw stuff in whipped cream!" said Frank.

"I’ve seen stuff in whipped cream, too," said Judy. "Lots of times."

"Like what?"

"Like chocolate sprinkles," Judy said, and they both cracked up.

"Hey, look at this," said Judy. "This book can help us with our spelling test. For real."

"No way."

"Way! See this guy?"

"The bald guy with the bow tie?"

"Yep. It says that he lived right here in Virginia. They called him the Sleeping Prophet. When he was our age, like a hundred years ago, he got into trouble in school for being a bad speller. One night he fell asleep with his spelling book under his head. When he woke up, he knew every word in the book. RARE!"

"I’m still going to study," said Frank.

"Not me!" said Judy, wiggling into her coat.

"What are you going to do?" asked Frank.

"I’m going to go home and sleep," said Judy.

 

When Judy got home, Stink was at the door.

"I don’t have to study for my spelling test," she said, and gave him a big fat hug.

"What’s that for?" asked Stink.

"That’s for just because."

"Just because why?"

"Just because tomorrow I am going to know tons and tons of words, like woodbine."

"Wood what?"

"It’s a creepy vine. It wraps around trees."

"So go find a tree to hug," said Stink.

Instead, Judy went to find the dictionary. The fattest dictionary in the Moody house. She took it from her mom’s office and lugged it up to her room. She did not open it up. She did not look inside. She put the big red dictionary under her pillow. Then she got into her cozy bowling-ball pajamas. She pretended the bowling balls were crystal balls. When she brushed her teeth, she thought she saw a letter in her toothpaste spit. D for Dictionary.

Judy climbed under the covers and leaned back on her pillow. Youch! Too hard. She got two more pillows. At last, she was ready to dream.

Even before she fell asleep, she dreamed of being Queen of the Spelling Bee, just like Jessica Finch was one time for the whole state of Virginia. She dreamed of Mr. Todd’s smiling face when he passed back the tests. Most of all, she dreamed of getting 110% — zero-wrong-plus-extra-credit — on her spelling test.

She could hardly wait for school tomorrow. For once, she, Judy Moody, not Jessica (Flunk) Finch, would get a Thomas Jefferson tricorn-hat sticker for Great Job, Good Thinking.

JUDY MOODY PREDICTS THE FUTURE by Megan McDonald. Copyright (c) 2003 by Megan McDonald. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

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Alison's Ghosts

Alison's Ghosts

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Yesterday
Excerpt

one
When I wake up I have a pounding headache behind my eyes just like I’ve had every morning lately. At first my eyelids refuse to open fully, and when they do the weak winter light wafting through my window burns my retinas. My brain feels sluggish and confused as I take in my surroundings: the white chest of drawers and matching mirror across from my bed; a collection of freshly laundered clothes folded neatly on top of the dresser, waiting for me to put them away; and a wooden desk with an open fashion magazine lying across it. Sometimes it takes me ten seconds or so to remember where I am and what’s brought me here . . . and as soon as I remember I want to forget again.
My mom says the headache’s probably a remnant from the bad flu we all caught flying back from New Zealand, but the other day I overheard her friend Nancy whisper, as the two of them peeled potatoes in the kitchen, that it could be a grief headache. The kind that strikes when you suddenly lose your father to a gas explosion and the three-­quarters of you left in the family have to move back to a place you barely remember.
Today is unlike the other days since we’ve been back because today I start school here. A Canadian high school with regular Canadian kids whose fathers didn’t die in explosions in a foreign country.
I’ve gone to school in Hong Kong, Argentina, Spain and most recently New Zealand, but Canada—­the country where I was born—­is the one that feels alien. When my grandfather hugged us each in turn at the airport, murmuring “Welcome home,” I felt as though I was in the arms of a stranger. His watery blue eyes, hawklike nose and lined forehead looked just how I remembered, yet he was different in a way I couldn’t pinpoint. And it wasn’t only him. Everything was different—­more dynamic and distinct than the images in my head. Crisp. Limitless.
The shock, probably. The shock and the grief. I’m not myself.
I squint as I kick off the bedcovers, knowing that the headache will dull once I’ve eaten something. While I’m dragging myself down to the kitchen, the voices of my mother and ten-­year-­old sister flit towards me.
“I feel hot,” Olivia complains. “Maybe I shouldn’t go today. What if I’m still contagious?”
My mother humors Olivia and stretches her palm along her forehead as I shuffle into the kitchen. “You’re not hot,” she replies, her gaze flicking over to me. “You’ll be fine. It’s probably just new-­school jitters.”
Olivia glances my way too, her spoon poised to slip back into her cereal. Her top teeth scrape over her bottom lip as she dips her spoon into her cornflakes and slowly stirs. “I’m not nervous. I just don’t want to go.”
I don’t want to go either.
I want to devour last night’s cold pizza leftovers and then lie in front of the TV watching Three’s Company, Leave It to Beaver or whatever dumb repeat I can find. All day long. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
“Morning, Freya,” my mother says.
I squeeze past her and dig into the fridge for last night’s dinner. “Morning,” I mumble to the refrigerator shelves.
“They’re behind the margarine and under the bacon,” my mother advises.
And they are. I pinch the Saran Wrap–covered slices between my fingers and let the fridge door swing shut. Then I plop myself into the seat next to Olivia’s, although she’s junked up my table space with her pencil case and assorted school stuff. I could sit in my father’s place, which is junk-­free, but nobody except Nancy or my grandfather has used his seat since he died. This isn’t even the same table that we had in New Zealand, but still Olivia, Mom and I always leave a chair for my dad.
If he were here now he’d be rushing around with a mug of coffee, looking for his car keys and throwing on his blazer. You’d think a diplomat would be more organized but my father was always in danger of being late. He was brilliant, though. One of the smartest people you’d ever meet. Everyone said so.
I shove Olivia’s school junk aside and cram cold pizza into my mouth with the speed of someone who expects to have it snatched from her hand. My mother shakes her head at me and says, “You’re going to choke on that if you don’t slow down.”
I thought sadness normally killed appetite but for me it’s been the opposite. There are three things I can’t get enough of lately: sleep, food, television.
I roll my eyes at my mother and chew noisily but with forced slowness. Today’s also a first for her—­her first day at the new administrative job Nancy fixed her up with at Sheridan College—­but my mother doesn’t seem nervous, only muted, like a washed-­out version of the person she was when my father was alive. That’s the grief too, and one of the most unsettling things about it is that it drags you into a fog that makes the past seem like something you saw in a movie and the present nearly as fictional.
I don’t feel like I belong in my own life. Not the one here with Olivia and my mom but not the old one in New Zealand either. My father’s death has hollowed me out inside.
No matter how I happen to feel about things, though, I have to go to school. After breakfast Mom drives Olivia to hers on the way to work but since mine is only a couple of blocks away and begins fifteen minutes later I have to walk.

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