PRH Canada Young Readers

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The Clouded Sky

The Clouded Sky

Earth And Sky Trilogy Book 2
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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Kens

Kens

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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Chicken Girl
Excerpt

I had one leg in the feathery yellow costume my boss called a uniform when Cam stomped into my room like a runway model on crack and thrust his chest out at the end of my bed.
“Pops? Be honest. Do I have”—he paused for effect—“moobs?”
It was a running gag, our use of word blends. He was obviously trying to one-up me after I’d used automagically earlier that day.
“Nice try,” I said. “But if it doesn’t fit organically into a conversation it doesn’t count.”
He looked down at his torso. “If you must know, the development of man boobs are a genuine concern of mine.”
I gave his naturally athletic body a once-over. “Pfssh. Yeah, right.”
I stepped into the other leg of my costume. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m running late and don’t have time for this meaningless”—I paused for effect—“nonversation.”
He groaned in defeat. “Damn you, Poppy.”
I was almost out the door when he said, “Pops?”
I turned around. “Yeah?”
“I love seeing you happy.”
And just like that, the smile fell from my face.
“What’s wrong, Pops?”
My sweet Cam. Didn’t he know? Happiness was only temporary.
I put on my head. “I’m fine. I’m late, that’s all.”
It was true.
I only had ten minutes before I had to be curbside holding a sign: Hot and spicy chicken wings, $8.99 a dozen.

I walked down Churchill Street identifying each house as I passed: Plan 47-17, Plan 47-28, Plan 47-6. I’d been obsessed with wartime houses ever since I’d found the blueprints in the basement when I was ten. Each design was outlined in an affordable housing pamphlet for returning vets. Discovering that I lived in a home built during the war sent my imagination soaring. I became obsessed not only with wartime housing but with the whole era. It made me feel a longing, for what I didn’t know. Simpler times, maybe. I figured everyone was happier in the forties.
I followed the railway tracks into the downtown core. If I kept walking I’d reach the nicer part of downtown and eventually my school, but I stopped smack-dab in the middle of Elgin Street, where the surroundings were rundown and shabby. One building stood out though: Chen Chicken. Its white fairy lights twinkled all year round and the crisp white storefront looked warm and inviting.
I snuck in the back door and grabbed my sign. I was ten minutes late. With any luck Mr. Chen would think I had been there all along.
I walked up and down Elgin doing my usual moves—the hop, the skip, the jump. The sweat rolled off me. It wasn’t the best summer job in the world but it was nice to be someone else for a change. Even if that someone was a bird.

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Broken Strings
Excerpt

The bell sounded. People jumped to their feet and gathered their things.
“And don’t forget there’s a unit test on Friday!” Mr. Herman, our math teacher, called out over the noise.
A collective groan rose up from the class. Some people started to argue for a postponement till Monday to give them more time to study. On any other day I would have stuck around and joined in the argument. But not today. Today I needed to get out of the classroom as fast as I could. I had something more important to think about than a math test. I threw my books into my bag and joined the crowd funneling out of the room. I’d gone only a few steps when I almost bumped into Natasha, my best friend. She flashed me a big smile. Smiling was the last thing on my mind.
“Are you ready, Shirli?” Natasha asked.
“No!”
“We don’t have to go,” she said. “We could go to the mall, get a soda instead, maybe buy something.”
“And just not look at the cast list?” I asked.
“It’ll still be there tomorrow.”
“Tash, I’ve waited all week. Do you really think I can wait another day?”
She flashed that smile again. “Patience is a virtue.”
“This coming from you, the least patient person I know?” I asked.
“Okay, you’re right, and I was just joking. Let’s go and look.”
The hallway was packed, and it felt as if we were salmon fighting our way upstream. We were the largest junior high in New Jersey, but the building didn’t seem big enough to hold all 1,600 of us who called this place our home away from home. We squirmed and shuffled our way forward.
“You know you have nothing to worry about,” Natasha said.
“Thanks. Neither do you.”
“Oh, I’m not worried, Shirli. You know that.”
Natasha and I had been friends, and pretty much inseparable, since third grade—like two peas in a pod, or peanut butter and jam. But there was a big difference between us. Natasha had never been in a school show before. In fact, she had only tried out this time because I’d practically dragged her to the auditions. It really didn’t matter to her whether she got a part or not. The problem was that for me it mattered way too much.
“Ms. Ramsey really likes you,” she pointed out. I knew she was trying to reassure me.
“She likes everybody,” I said.
“It’s more than that. I think she sees herself when she looks at you.”
I laughed. “Like she’s looking in some sort of fun-house mirror?”
Ms. Ramsey was our drama teacher. She was in her early thirties but looked a lot younger. She was blond and slim and moved in this slinky, smooth way like someone who’d had years of dance training. We couldn’t have been more different in appearance, but I guess I had the same way of moving, thanks to my own dance classes.
“I didn’t mean the way you two look,” Natasha continued. “Ms. Ramsey is so beautiful.”
“Gee, thanks.”
“Come on, you know what I mean. You’re really pretty, but not like her. You look more like me!”
Well, true, we did look a lot alike, even though my family was eastern European and Jewish, and Natasha’s was Portuguese and Catholic. But where the heck was this going?
“I mean she sees you as being talented like her.”
“Thanks, Tash.” Now that was a compliment.

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