EllRay Jakes and the Beanstalk

VIKING

An imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group

Published by the Penguin Group

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First published in the United States of America by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013

 

Text copyright © Sally Warner, 2013

Illustrations copyright © Brian Biggs, 2013

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Warner, Sally, date.

EllRay Jakes and the beanstalk / by Sally Warner ; illustrated by Brian Biggs.

pages cm

Summary: When EllRay's best friend starts hanging out with skateboarders, EllRay tries to learn how to skateboard to win him back.

ISBN 978-0-698-14148-3

[1. Friendship—Fiction. 2. Skateboarding—Fiction. 3. African Americans—Fiction.] I. Biggs, Brian, illustrator. II. Title.

PZ7.W24644Elg 2013

[Fic]—dc23

2012047734

 

Manufactured in China

 

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

 

1 Kevin, Corey, and Me

2 A Wonderful New Assignment

3 Who Are You Going to Be?

4 That Feeling

5 Henry Says

6 Standing Up to Jared

7 Henry and Fly

8 Civilized Conversation

9 This Dumb New Rule

10 The Real Story

11 A Challenge

12 Making It Your Own

13 Part of It

14 Alfie's Big Secret

15 Giant

16 Just An Ordinary Afternoon

17 Brave

18 Freedom

 

Special Excerpt from
EllRay Jakes is Magic!

To Janet Bockus, my Brownie leader—and the last mom—with love and gratitude —S.W.
.
.
.
To Liam —B.B.

1

Kevin, Corey, and Me

“Kevin rode his skateboard to school again. With
Jared
,” my friend Corey Robinson tells me in a gloomy voice a few minutes before school starts. It is Friday, and we are standing together on the playground. It is a cold April day, and a few spatters of rain hit our faces.

“No big deal,” I say, trying to shrug like I mean it.

Corey's voice sounds funny when he's telling me about Kevin McKinley and Jared Matthews, because Jared has been kind of like our
ENEMY
for two years now. The enemy of Kevin, Corey, and me, I mean, because the three of us are best friends. We are all in the third grade at Oak Glen Primary School.

I've known Kevin since first grade, when my family moved to Oak Glen from San Diego. He showed me how to use the pencil sharpener. I still remember how the shavings smelled. He and I were—and still are—the only two boys with brown skin in our class, but that's not why we're friends. Well, it's not the
only
reason. The point is, we go “way back,” as my dad sometimes says. And things should stay the same.

This is hard to explain, but it's embarrassing to me that Kevin is suddenly so good at skating when I haven't even started learning yet. And I'm secretly hating that he's hanging out with Jared, who has done lots of stuff to embarrass me in the past.

I don't know why Jared does it. Teasing me is kind of like his hobby.

It's not official or anything about Kevin, Corey, and me being
BEST FRIENDS
, by the way. It's not like with the girls in my class, who say, “Heather's my
first
best friend, and Kry's my
second
best friend,” as if each girl in my class is keeping her eye on a race that nobody can see. No boy, anyway.

But with us three boys, we just like to hang together, that's all. And some guys are easier to hang with than others. Like I said, Jared can be kind of a pain. His best friend and loyal stooge has always been Stanley Washington, but right now, Jared and
Kevin
are together, putting their skateboards away in the pen in the corner of the playground. I don't see Stanley anywhere.

The pen is where bikes and boards are locked up during the day—since the teachers don't want kids skating out of class when things get dull, I guess.

The rule at Oak Glen is that starting in third grade, you can ride your bike, scooter, or skateboard to school if you wear a helmet. Since my friends and me are in the third grade, this has been a big deal for some of us this year. So far, though, I've only ridden my bike to school four times. But that's because getting up, washing, dressing, eating, then finding my homework, helmet, and bike lock, and still leaving on time for school is too hard for me to pull off.

I'm not that great early in the morning.

And once, when I
did
manage to ride my bike to school, I forgot all about it! I walked home, leaving it locked up and lonely all night long. I got scolded by our school's grouchy custodian, too. You usually only see him when somebody hurls in class and he has to show up with his bucket of sawdust, broom, and dustpan.

That's gotta be one hard job. Corey could never do it. He's so sensitive that he starts to throw up just
thinking
about somebody else doing it. And once, when Fiona McNulty cried in class because someone “looked at her funny,” which isn't even a real thing, in my opinion, Corey started crying, too. I also saw him cry at the movies, when a dog died. He had to blow his nose on his sleeve.

Now, when somebody cries in class, which hardly ever happens because Ms. Sanchez is on top of stuff like that, Corey told me he pinches his leg real hard and stares out the window until the other person has mopped up their tears.
Her
tears, usually.

Corey even
YAWNS
when anyone else yawns, but so does everyone, just about. My dad says there is a scientific reason for yawning—something about people cooling their brains. You might think he's making it up, but maybe he isn't. He's a scientist. He teaches geology—that's mostly about rocks—at a college in San Diego.

Corey is a lot nicer than me, I think. Maybe Corey is nicer than Kevin. I'll never have to worry about
him
dumping me as a friend just because I can't do some random thing like ride a skateboard.

“Dude. They do live kind of close to each other,” I point out to Corey, watching Kevin and Jared laugh and shove each other as the prickly rain gets its act together and starts to fall a little harder. “And they both have boards. So I guess . . . ”

My voice trails off, because I can't think of how to end my sentence.

“I guess Kevin forgot about that time Jared tried to beat you up,” Corey says, like he's finishing my sentence for me. “And it's more like Kevin and Jared are
scooters
, not skaters,” he adds, scoffing.

I think Corey is hoping to make us both feel better when he says this—because he is training to be a swimming champion, so his mom and dad don't want him “risking life and limb” on a skateboard, as they put it. And I don't even have a board. Not yet.

My new neighbor Henry has one, though. And he has a friend named Fly who's a
great
skater.

“Huh?” I say, having missed a few words.

“It's not like they can actually do any tricks,” Corey explains again. “They just push themselves down the sidewalk with one foot. Any baby could do that.”

I can't. Not yet. “It's still faster than walking,” I say, turning away as the buzzer sounds and the rain really starts to fall. Us boys will be steaming in Ms. Sanchez's toasty class with its clanking radiators as our clothes dry, but we don't care.

And I don't care if Kevin has a new friend, I tell myself as Corey and I walk to Ms. Sanchez's class. People make new friends all the time. That it doesn't mean
we
aren't still friends.

Does it?

2

A Wonderful New Assignment

“Settle down, ladies and gentlemen. No matter how damp you may be, nobody's going to melt,” Ms. Sanchez calls out as she prepares to take attendance.

Ms. Sanchez is the prettiest teacher at Oak Glen Primary School. The girls in our class voted about that once. Ms. Sanchez always smells good, too, like those little white flowers that grow on orange trees. She is going to get married someday to a man named Mr. Timberlake, but he's not the famous one from the movies. It's another Mr. Timberlake, one who runs a sports supply store.

The famous Mr. Timberlake lost out, in my opinion.

I don't know what Ms. Sanchez and her Mr. Timberlake are waiting for. How hard can it be to get married? You just say yes or no, and that's it.

The girls in our class all want to be Ms. Sanchez's flower girls when she finally does get married, but good luck with that. It would be like a NASCAR race, with each girl trying to be first in line. They would wreck the wedding.

I take my seat at the same time I'm avoiding looking at Kevin. He's been waving his arms, trying to get my attention—to say hi late, I guess.

Say hi to Jared, Kevin—if he's such a great new friend of yours.

“Settle down,” Ms. Sanchez says again, and she starts calling our names.

Stanley Washington is out sick today, it looks like. Ms. Sanchez frowns—but in a pretty way—as she makes this special mark in the attendance book she sometimes calls her “work of art.” I accidentally spilled water on it once, but she still likes me.

“We are starting a wonderful new assignment today,” she tells us after the usual boring morning announcements have been made. “I got the idea for it when I was reading fables and folk tales last weekend, including some by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.”

“For babies,” Jared cough-says into his hand, and a few seats away, Kevin nods.

Cynthia Harbison's hand shoots up into the air. She is like our class's girl version of Jared, only cleaner and smaller. Her first best friend is Heather Patton, who thinks Cynthia is perfect in every way.

I hear Ms. Sanchez sigh, because she has barely gotten started yet. “Yes, Cynthia?” she asks.

Cynthia stands up like she's about to make an important announcement of her own. “But Ms. Sanchez, it's Friday,” she says. “And we always start new things on Monday, not Friday.”

Heather nods as Cynthia sits back down.

“Well, I want you all to get a head start on the assignment over the weekend,” Ms. Sanchez explains.

A couple of boys groan, like now their whole weekend is going to be ruined thinking about
fables
, but some of the girls are looking interested. “I love stories like that,” Annie Pat Masterson whispers. She has red hair and sits next to me.

“Me too,” her best friend, Emma McGraw, agrees.

“Let's all quiet down,” Ms. Sanchez says, by which she means us, not her. “It is not yet time for discussion. First I want to tell you about the assignment.”

Some kids get out their pencils and pens so they can take notes, but not me. I may be the shortest kid in our class, boy
or
girl, but I'm a very good rememberer.

“Before we go any further, though,” Ms. Sanchez says with a sharp glance in Jared's direction, “I think I should tell you that these stories aren't for babies. Far from it, in fact. Why, I read an old story from Hans Christian Andersen in which a man's head was cut off and buried in a flowerpot!”

“Eww,” a chorus of voices says, like they've been rehearsing all morning.

Okay. I can tell Ms. Sanchez didn't mean to scare us, telling us this story. She was just trying to get some of the guys interested. But I think I'll stay away from Hans Christian Andersen from now on, whoever he is. He sounds like he should be rated R.

Heather Patton starts to chew the end of the skinny little braid that usually hangs down one of her cheeks. She is eyeing with alarm the two flowerpots Ms. Sanchez keeps on our windowsill. One has a sprouted avocado pit in it, and the other is growing sweet potato vines.
Supposedly
.

But no, I tell myself. Those pots aren't big enough to hold a human head.

“Reading all those old stories got me thinking about why they still mean something to us today,” Ms. Sanchez says, perching on the edge of her desk, one pointy-toed shoe swinging. Fiona McNulty is the best artist in our class, as well as the shyest kid, and she usually keeps a fashion notebook about everything Ms. Sanchez wears. But I think she's too grossed-out about that human head story to get out her notebook and start drawing.

I'm not the best
anything
, except maybe the best loser of friends.

Unless I put up a fight, that is. Maybe I should have waved back at Kevin?

I'M CONFUSED.

“And here's your assignment,” our Ms. Sanchez continues, and she goes to the white board and starts writing.

  1. This weekend, find a folk tale or fairy tale or fable or old story that you think says something about you, either your past, present, or future.
  2. Write it down. Look up more details about your story online, or in books you have at home. Write those details down, too.
  3. Think about why this story is special to you.
  4. On Monday, we will work together in class, and each of you will add your own personal story to your tale. And later in the week, you will get to illustrate your story!

Fiona looks excited about that last part.

“Let me give you an example,” Ms. Sanchez says, returning to her desk. “Let's say I was doing this assignment. I might think, ‘Hmm. What about “Sleeping Beauty” as my choice?' Not that I'm so beautiful,” she adds with a modest laugh, even though she
is
. Everyone says so. “But I might pick that story,” she continues, “because my handsome prince came along, and we're going to get married.”

“And have twelve flower girls, and one
best
flower girl,” Cynthia Harbison chimes in.

“Now, listen,” Ms. Sanchez says, laughing. “I think we can forget about the wedding and ‘Sleeping Beauty' for a while. There are lots of other stories to choose from. If you look at fables, you might choose ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf' or ‘The Grasshopper and the Ant.'”

Annie Pat Masterson's hand goes up. “I choose ‘The Little Mermaid,'” she says after Ms. Sanchez has called on her. “Because she's part fish, and fish are my special thing.”

She wants to be a fish scientist when she grows up. Whatever that is.

“But mermaids are
my
thing,” Heather says, clouding up. “They're even on my sheets.”

“More than one person can use the same story,” Ms. Sanchez assures us. “I promise you that each paper will be unique by the time you've finished with it, even if you all choose ‘The Little Mermaid.'”

“Unique” means one-of-a-kind. My dad told me that once. But
I'm
not choosing “The Little Mermaid,” who ended up turning into sea foam, if I remember right.

Alfie made my mom come up with a different ending.

“EllRay can be an elf,” Jared calls out.

“We'll have none of that,” Ms. Sanchez warns him. “Or I'll start assigning stories
to
you. And I can think of some
DOOZIES
, believe me.”

We do believe her. Ms. Sanchez does not mess around when it comes to keeping her class in order.

Of course, the playground is another matter—and it's almost time for nutrition break.

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