|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Product dimensions:||9.38(w) x 4.47(h) x 0.36(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
Read an Excerpt
Jonathan Rossi was having trouble keeping his eyes on the ball. Even though this was just a pickup soccer game, Jonathan didn't want to let his teammates down. He tried to kick the ball away from the opposing players as they moved it toward the goal, but periodically Jonathan's gaze would shift to the sidelines, where Robin Miller and some of the other sixth-grade girls stood watching the game. At least they were supposed to be watching. At the moment, there was a lot of talking going on ... and giggling. What was so funny? Jonathan wondered.
"Hey, heads up, Rossi!" Mike Stone called.
Jonathan snapped to attention, but it was too late. He could only watch helplessly as the black-and-white soccer ball rolled right past him. Then a big foot appeared and kicked the ball back to the other side of the field.
"Way to go, Mike," Jonathan yelled, happy that someone was doing what he was supposed to.
"Should have been yours." Mike puffed as be ran past Jonathan, following the ball.
Stung, Jonathan was glad to hear the first bell clang. He was better off inside Kennedy Middle School if he was going to daydream the game away.
Walking off the field to the grass where most of the players had dumped their stuff, Jonathan picked up his sweater and Chicago Cubs cap, which he shoved on his head. Then he remembered how the cap mussed his hair, so he took it off and stuck it in his pocket. Running a hand through his straight dark hair, he hoped it was lying flat. Recently, he had noticed that when his hair wasn't combed properly, he looked a little like a porcupine.
"Hey, wait for me, Jon," a husky boy called from a fewfeet away, where he was trying to juggle several books, a lunch bag, and a pair of gym shoes.
"Well, then hurry up, Berger."
Out of the corner of his eye, Jonathan watched Robin and the other girls head toward the red brick building that some of the kids said looked more like a penitentiary than a school. Jonathan had only seen prisons in the movies, but Kennedy, the only middle school in Forest Glen, Illinois, sometimes felt like a jail, especially with Mrs. Volini, his teacher, striding up and down the aisle and monitoring her sixth graders' work. Mrs. Volini was nicknamed "Volcano" because she was always blowing her stack. Sometimes, the kids called her Mt. Volini.
A hand clapped down hard on Jonathan's shoulder. Jon didn't even have to look. Mike was the only one who used a death grip like that. "What is it, Stone?" Jonathan asked, shaking him off, though not very easily.
"Basketball tryouts. "
"How could I forget? Coach Brown has been talking it up since school started. "
Mike shrugged. "Just reminding you. If we re going to have a decent team, we need to start practicing. " Before Jonathan could answer, Mike loped off toward the building. He was in the other sixth-grade class, taught by Mr. Jacobs, who marked people down for being late.
Mrs. Volini was even harder on latecomers. They sat on a bench outside the classroom until she called them back. That would have been all right if it meant missing math, but no one ever did. Mrs. Volini always made sure the tardy ones were called back in plenty of time for math.
Jonathan turned toward the tree where Kevin was now arguing with one of the fifth graders about whether the last goal of the soccer game counted. "Hey, Berger, let's go," Jonathan yelled.
Kevin made a final face at the kid and hurried toward Jonathan. Like Mrs. Volini, he had a nickname, too, even more inevitable"Ham. "
"Sorry," Ham said. "But I thought you were talking to Stone, anyway."
"He was just reminding me about basketball tryouts tomorrow. "
Ham grinned, showing his chipped tooth. Even though his mother was insisting that he get it fixed, he didn't want to because he'd told everyone he had broken it in a touch-football game with some junior high kids. He had been playing that day, but the mishap didn't occur until later when he bit into some stale candy.
"Basketball's going to be great," he enthused. "It's about time we bad a team."
"We had a team last year at the community center," Jonathan pointed out. He bad been captain.
Ham kicked some crunchy dead leaves out of his way. I mean an official team, one that can play other schools. It's just too bad we have to have those dorky fifth graders on it."
"They're not so bad," Jonathan said mildly. "Besides, without them, we might not have enough kids trying out."
"Yeah, usually there are three sixth-grade classes. Now they've stuffed everybody into two." Ham's round face broke into a smile. "But there is one good thing about having such big classes. "
"It makes you harder to find."
The hallway of Kennedy Middle School was filled with fourth, fifth, and sixth graders yelling, pushing, and slamming lockers before the second bell rang. Jonathan decided to keep his sweater with him and he strode into Mrs. Volini's room, almost bumping into Robin Miller.
"Hi, Jon," Robin said.
"Uh, hi." Jonathan turned and went to his seat. What was wrong with him, he wondered? He and Robin had had plenty of conversations since school started; they had even gone to The Hut for ice cream once. Lately, though, Jonathan got a funny feeling in his stomach when he got near Robin. It was the same sensation that he had before a test when he wasn't sure he had studied enough. He liked looking at Robin, and even thinking about her sometimes. Being right next to her was the problem.
As Jonathan got settled in his seat, he turned his attention to Mrs. Volini, who was writing something on the board. He squinted, trying to make out the words. Mrs. Volini wasn't very good at cursive writing. As far as he could tell, her phrase read, Amor Al Dil Emma. Who were Al and Emma?