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Authors: Sally Warner

Excellent Emma

BOOK: Excellent Emma
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
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Viking
Published by Penguin Group
Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
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Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632,
New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank,
Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England First published in 2009 by Viking, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
 
 
Text copyright © Sally Warner, 2009 Illustrations copyright © Jamie Harper, 2009
All rights reserved
 
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA IS AVAILABLE
ISBN : 978-1-101-56457-8
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

For the excellent Yane Willi—S.W.
 
For Ros—J.H.
1
Ka-Pow!
Ka-pow!
“Take that, Lettice Wallingford,” I whisper under my breath—and the liquidambar pod bounces away toward Oak Glen Primary School, where I am in the third grade.
I aim the scuffed toe of my red sneaker at the small pod—which is also called a sweet-gum ball, even though that name is like cheating, because it makes the spiky pod sound like something good to eat—and I kick it again, as hard as I can.
Lettice
. What a stupid name, I think, as I watch the pod roll to a stop in front of me on the sidewalk. “Hello, my name is Lettice,” I say in a fakey-English voice, trying it out.
“And these are my best friends, Asparagus and Baked Potato.”
Lettice Wallingford is eight years old, just like me. She is fancy Annabelle’s favorite English niece. Annabelle is my dad’s new English wife. Well, she’s not so new anymore, I remind myself, taking aim at the pod again, because they’ve been married for two years, ever since I was six. They get to live in London, England, while I, Emma McGraw, am stuck here with my mom in boring old Oak Glen, California.
Lettice is “almost like a daughter” to Annabelle, my dad keeps telling me. And pretty soon, Lettice will probably start seeming like a daughter to
him.
Ka-pow!
Lettice probably thinks she’s so great, just because she’s a champion horseback rider who won a silver cup last weekend. My dad told me all about it in his latest e-mail, like he thought I’d be interested.
Thanks,
Dad
. That was just what I needed to read on my computer screen on a rainy December night.
“I could win a silver cup if
I
had a beautiful horse,” I say under my breath. “Anyone could, probably. That’s not so wonderful.”
But my dad—who I haven’t even seen for eight months!—seems to think it is extremely wonderful, and that Lettice and I would really, really like each other.
“Right, like Lettice Wallingford is so amazing,” I say sarcastically, kicking the poor innocent pod once more. “Just because she has a horse, and she is probably really cute, and she speaks with an English accent.
“I
hate
her,” I whisper, and hot tears fill my eyes.
Well, maybe I can’t really blame Lettice for her accent, I think, trying to be a little bit fair. After all, she lives in Engand. They probably don’t even call it an English accent there. They just called it
talking
.
Ka-pow!
“I still hate her,” I decide, and I wipe a tear away with the back of my hand. “Lettice is a champion now, and I’ll bet she gets to see my dad all the time, because of stupid, fancy Annabelle. They probably have tea parties together, with chocolate cupcakes, my favorite. And now Daddy is going to start comparing me to Lettice,” I tell myself. “And I’m not that good at
anything
. Anything that shows, anyway. How am I supposed to compete?”
Grown-ups don’t hand out silver cups to a kid just because she wants to be a nature scientist when she grows up. Or because she’s brave when her parents get divorced and her father moves to a whole different country.
Ka-pow!
“What are you doing?” a croaky voice asks, seeming to come out of nowhere. “Trying to kick the spiky ball all the way to school?”
It is EllRay Jakes, the smallest kid in my third-grade class. I am only second smallest, which is something to be grateful for, I guess. “Maybe I am,” I tell him. “I wasn’t really thinking about it. You can have it, if you want.”
“But we’re almost there,” he says, pointing to the school’s crowded front steps.
“So don’t take it,” I tell him, shrugging. “I don’t care if you want it or not.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t want it,” EllRay tells me quickly, and he picks up the battered spiky ball and jams it into his backpack, which already looks full. “Thanks, Emma.”
“Oh, leave me alone!” I say. All of a sudden, I am pretty sure I am about to start crying again, because EllRay’s friendly, smiling face is only making things worse. And crying is something I could never live down at school.
It isn’t even eight thirty in the morning yet! This is going to be a lo-o-o-ong day.
“Hey, what’d I do?” EllRay asks, confused. “You can have it back if you—”
“I said, leave me
alone
,” I shout, and I start running as fast as I can toward the school’s front steps.
And that’s pretty fast!
2
BOOK: Excellent Emma
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