Minn and Jake

Minn and Jake

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A surprising friendship

Do you ever feel like you've somehow lost your true best friend? Minn feels this way. So does Jake. But Minn and Jake have no intention of being friends. Minn's a string bean. Jake's a shrimp. Minn's a girl. Jake's a boy. And in fifth grade, who wants a best friend of the opposite sex? But Minn and Jake are forced together by circumstances, which only strengthen their resistance . . . until Minn takes Jake lizard hunting. There are lots of good ways to choose a friend.

This enchanting free-verse novel, accompanied by expressive, humorous black-and-white drawings, proves that sometimes friendship just happens.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374400217
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/02/2008
Series: Sunburst Books
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 1,166,470
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

Janet S. Wong is the author of many poetry collections and acclaimed picture books, including This Next New Year. She lives in Medina, Washington.

Geneviève Côté has illustrated several books for children. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.

Read an Excerpt

Minn and Jake

By Janet S. Wong

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2003 Janet S. Wong
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-9484-6


      1 / Extra Lizardy and Alone

      Do you ever feel


      when you were out digging tunnels
      or rescuing worms,
      chasing lizards
      or throwing rocks,
      baking muffins
      or sleeping —
      when you didn't even know
      it was happening —

      you lost your true best friend?


      And now you have no one
      you can be your dumb self with,
      no one
      you can be your scared self with,
      no one
      you can be your selfish self with?

      Do you ever feel this way?


      This is the way Minn feels today.

      Minn is feeling very empty,
      and very tall,
      and very odd,
      and very pigtailed,
      and very lizardy,
      and very much alone.

      Minn feels empty because
      all she had for breakfast
      was a bruised banana,
      eaten in ninety seconds flat
      after she tied her shoes
      in the car.

      Minn feels tall because
      the class picture came back yesterday,
      and she is standing a full head taller
      than anyone else in her row,
      the tall back row.
      And the top of her head
      is missing.

      Minn feels odd because
      while they were standing
      outside the classroom
      for Mrs. Moss to unlock the door

      before school,
      Lola looked
      at Minn's new red high-top sneakers
      and whispered loud
      to Sabina,
      Is it Valentine's Day already
      or were those shoes 50 percent off?

      And Sabina,
      Minn's true best friend
      until last week,
      covered her mouth
      and whispered something
      in Lola's ear,
      and Lola busted up laughing.

      And maybe
      Minn feels pigtailed
      and lizardy
      and alone
      Minn is pigtailed
      and lizardy
      and an only child,
      the only only child in her class.


      Whatever it is,
      this morning
      Minn is feeling
      extra lizardy and alone,
      and is wishing
      she had a new true best friend,
      who would choose her
      and keep her
      for a true best friend, too.

      2 / How NOT to Choose a True Best

      There are lots of good ways
      to choose a friend.

      You can choose a friend
      because you like the same games,
      or because you live on the same street,
      or because your parents work together,
      or because you need to borrow a pen.

      Or you can choose a friend
      because she smiles at you

      and makes you feel good.


      Minn is not smiling at Jake.
      No one is smiling at Jake,
      and Jake does not feel good.

      His new teacher, Mrs. Moss,
      is almost smiling.

      She seems to be trying to smile,
      but she has a worried look,
      a look that says,
      Boy, do I have a headache —
      and how
      are we ever going to finish this chapter
      before recess?

      And all the kids
      are staring at Jake

      Who is this new kid?
      Why is he coming into fifth grade
      in the middle of the year,
      in the middle of the week,
      in the middle of Morning Reading?

      How can a fifth grader
      be so short?
      He should be a fourth grader,
      or a third grader,
      or a second grader,
      or a first grader,
      or a kindergartner, even!


      Everyone is staring at Jake

      and Jake is staring back,
      his father never took this new job,
      his family never moved
      away from Los Angeles
      here to Santa Brunella,

      he could move back today

      to be with his old friends,
      who never stared at him.


      Jake knows
      everyone is staring at him
      because he is so short,
      and maybe also
      because he has a new spiky haircut
      that he never asked for
      that makes him look
      like a baby crow.

      Jake is feeling bad,
      so bad
      that he is starting to do
      what he always does
      when he needs to feel better,
      which is
      to turn everyone into animals.

      That boy there
      with the striped shirt

      was a tiger in another life —

      no, a snake.

      This boy here
      with the busy hands
      and twitchy nose

      was a housefly

      who died
      stuck between a shut window
      and a screen
      full of fried-chicken grease.

      And her,
      with the freckles
      and the long legs
      and the very long pigtails,

      once upon a time
      she was one giant


      Jake is ready to turn his teacher,
      Mrs. Moss,
      into a

      walrus —
      then she says,
      Pick a book off the shelf, Jake.
      One of the blue ones.

      Mrs. Moss is pointing
      to the five-shelf bookcase.

      Jake walks to the bookcase
      and reaches for a book

      off the bottom shelf.

      No, Jake,
      not one of those dark blue ones.
      One of these light blue ones,
      this kind.
      They're mixed in with the others,
      on the number-four shelf, see?

      Jake can see them all right,
      there on the fourth-highest shelf,
      two feet above his head.
      He doesn't even bother reaching up,
      because then everyone will see

      that he cannot reach them.

      This kind? he asks Mrs. Moss,
      pointing to a turquoise-colored book
      on the fourth-lowest shelf.
      Oh no, Jake, no —
      pick someone to help you get one, OK?
      Go ahead, choose a friend to help you.


      Jake looks around the room
      at all the eyes.

      There, in the corner,
      glaring at him,
      is Minn (the squid) —
      the tallest kid
      at Santa Brunella Elementary.

      She is the tallest girl he has ever seen.
      She is taller than Jake's mom.

      When Minn is sitting
      she is almost as tall as Jake is
      when he is standing.

      I'll bet she's tall enough to reach
      the ceiling,

      Jake is thinking,
      looking at her long, thin fingers.

      Her, Jake says, pointing to Minn.
      The one with the red shoes.
      Mrs. Moss says,
      Minn, please stand up and get a —


      As Minn grabs a book for Jake,
      everyone rushes out the door to recess,

      leaving Minn and Jake alone
      with Mrs. Moss, who says,
      Stick together at recess, you two, OK?

      3 / Stuck

      The worst thing that can happen
      in fifth grade

      is being stuck all recess long
      with someone you don't like.

      But worse than that
      is when you are stuck
      all recess long
      with someone you don't like

      who doesn't like you, either.


      Jake chose Minn, yes,
      but he didn't choose her
      to be his friend.
      He chose her to pick a book
      off the shelf.

      Minn hates sticking out.
      And she knows
      Jake chose her because she stuck out,
      because she is tall,

      because of these dumb red shoes
      her mother made her buy
      because they were 50 percent off.
      (She doesn't know that Jake chose her
      because she is tall
      and also
      because he wonders
      what the life of a reincarnated giant squid is like.)


      Jake is practical, and a real diplomat.

      Seeing as they're stuck together,
      Jake is thinking
      at least he and Minn should try
      to be nice to one another.

      So Jake says,
      Thank you for helping me get the book.
      What's your name, again? Minn?
      What do you do for recess at this school?

      Minn doesn't answer.
      She is walking fast,
      straight toward the field.

      Four square?

      Minn doesn't answer.
      After they pass Miss Julie,
      the recess teacher,
      Minn breaks into a run.

      Minn is running out to the field,

      running twice as fast as any other kid,
      Come on!
      Hurry up, Jake —
      or it will be too late!


      Jake is not sure he wants to hurry.

      But everyone is running to the field,
      at least all the fifth graders,
      so whatever is going on,
      it must be good.

      Hurry up! The worms!

      Jake thinks, Worms?
      At recess they play with worms?

      But everyone is running,
      so Jake starts to run to the field, too.


      Minn is almost there.
      She turns around
      to look back at Jake,
      who is the slowest runner she has ever seen.

      He is so slow
      and so small
      that he seems to be a quarter mile away.

      Will he ever get here?

      She is standing watching him
      with her hands on her hips,
      when screams
      come out of the crowd
      on the field.

      Yuck! Oooooooh!
      Don't! It's so disgusting!


      Minn cannot wait any longer.
      She turns and starts to run again.

      The whole thing will be over

      by the time Jake catches up.
      Minn sprints to the field.
      Three steps before she gets there,

      screams come from the crowd again.
      I don't believe he did it!
      Yuck! Ugggh!
      I told you!

      And then Henry bolts out of the crowd
      and vomits in the bushes,

      and wipes his mouth on his shirt,

      and smiles.

      Sabina screams,
      Minn, you missed it!
      Henry ate your worms!

      But wait —
      Vik's going to do it now —


      4 / Minn's Worms

      The rest of the day is no picnic.

      Of course
      Miss Julie tells Mrs. Moss
      what happened
      with the worms
      and Henry
      and the vomit,

      and Mrs. Moss decides
      that for one month
      fifth graders are not allowed
      on the field.

      And for the rest of the year
      there is to be
      no more eating live creatures
      of any sort,
      or spiders
      or worms
      or anything

      anywhere on school grounds.
      No more playing with them,


      This last part really hurts Minn,
      who loves more than anything
      to watch the worms
      wriggle across the mud.

      When it is hot and dry,
      too hot and dry for the worms,
      Minn is the one who squirts the dirt
      with the water bottle
      she fills up at the drinking fountain.


      This is how
      she learned the rivers and lakes
      of the United States
      for the fourth-grade geography unit.

      Squirt! Squirt!
      The Snake River!

      Squirt! Squirt! Squirt! Squirt!
      The Mississippi River!

      Squirt! Dig! Splot!
      Crater Lake!


      Minn takes care of her worms.
      Once a week
      she scoops up topsoil
      in her two hands
      from under the plum tree
      near the school fence,
      dark black soil
      with bits of rotted plums mixed in,

      and dumps it in the spot
      where she knows the worms are.

      Whenever it rains, after the rain,
      Minn spends her recess time
      searching the basketball court
      for her worms.
      When she finds them struggling,
      she moves them back to the mud.


      These were Minn's worms
      that Henry ate.

      Vik had dared Henry to do it
      to show everyone that he (Henry)
      is not in love
      with Minn.

      (And now everyone knows that he — Henry —
      definitely is in love with Minn.)


      This day
      is turning into Minn's most rotten day.
      Can it possibly get worse?

      5 / Yes

      it can get worse.
      And it does.


      this is the day that Minn's mother
      calls the school office
      to say she is stuck in traffic

      a very long ways
      behind some kind of
      on the jam-packed
      and helicopters are flying around
      and Minn's father is busy
      in a meeting in the city

      and so
      yak yak yak
      she will be an hour late,
      at least.

      Can you send Minn home with a friend?
      Minn's mother asks.
      Just leave a note on the classroom door
      so I'll know where she is, OK?


      But by the time the office tells Mrs. Moss,

      all of Minn's friends
      have been picked up
      by parents who came on time.

      All of the kids are gone

      except for Jake

      and his preschooler brother
      and his mother who is busy
      asking questions about homework.

      The secretary has to leave now
      for her dentist appointment,

      and Mrs. Moss has to leave now
      to pick her daughter up from school,

      and the principal went home
      ten minutes ago —

      so Mrs. Moss asks,
      Jake, you like to play with worms?

      Before Jake can open his mouth,
      Jake's preschooler brother screams,


Excerpted from Minn and Jake by Janet S. Wong. Copyright © 2003 Janet S. Wong. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
1 / Extra Lizardy and Alone,
2 / How NOT to Choose a True Best Friend,
3 / Stuck,
4 / Minn's Worms,
5 / Yes,
6 / Soup,
7 / Jake's Fish,
8 / The Long Hike Home,
9 / The Hunt,
10 / Mad,
11 / 4:05 p.m.,
12 / An Invitation (Part One),
13 / An Invitation (Part Two),
14 / An Invitation (Part Three),
15 / The Lizard Lesson,
16 / The Lizard-Tail Trail,
17 / Jake Makes a Deal,
18 / Minn Makes a Deal,
19 / Patching Up,
20 / The Lizard Gods,
21 / Jake's Lizard Dream,
22 / Minn's Lizard Dream,
23 / Two Heads,
24 / Sharing Time,
25 / My Gummy Valentine,
26 / Jake Loves Minn,
27 / Lizard Revenge,
28 / Minn Loves Jake,
29 / The Gulch,
30 / Truth or Dare,
31 / Rescue,
32 / Happy Valentine's Day, Jake!,
33 / Crime and Punishment,
34 / Storm,
35 / The Long Sleep,
36 / The Goodbye Surprise,
About the Authors,
Also by Janet S. Wong,

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Minn and Jake 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BornBookish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a young-readers novel told in free verse. Unfortunately, I didn¿t find the free verse format to fit with this story at all. There was nothing poetic about it, the lines didn¿t flow together, or paint a beautiful picture with words like most verse novels do.Not only did I not like the format of the story, but I didn¿t much care for the story itself. Going into it I thought it was going to be this sweet story of new friendship, but it turned out to be an awkward story about two kids who can¿t stand each other at first and then without you really realizing what happened, bam, they¿re best friends.And then there¿s the whole lizard thing, Minn is obsessed with catching lizards and she tries to teach Jake even though he hates them. I felt like the whole book was used to talk about lizards; catching lizards, studying lizards, dreaming about lizards, dancing and chanting to the lizard gods, etc¿The best part about this story were the cute sketch-like illustrations that accompanied it, and to go along with the lizard theme there was a lizard shaped cloud, shadow, or something in each picture.I¿m thinking this story was meant more for boys than girls, who would enjoy all the lizard talk and not care so much that the friendship seemed disjointed.