There are a few things / about your best friend
that you can only learn / when you see where he's from.
Minn knew / that Jake was from the city.
But she didn't know / that his grandmother was Korean.
That he liked taking bubble baths. / That his brother, Soup,
might be an eating champion. / That Jake was a cheater,
and that he had a . . . / girlfriend?!
There are some things / about your best friend
that it's better not / to know.
Bouncing free verse and playful black-and-white illustrations combine to make this a charming follow-up to Minn and Jake.
Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
About the Author
JANET S. WONG and GENEVIÈVE CÔTÉ collaborated on Minn and Jake, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book (see page 45). Ms. Wong lives in Hopewell, New Jersey. Ms. Côté lives in Montreal, Quebec.
Read an Excerpt
Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer
By Janet S. Wong
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2008 Janet Wong
All rights reserved.
1 / Summertime
A hundred years from now
when children go to school
all year round, every day,
old humpbacks with wrinkles
and black teeth will say,
Once upon a time,
when I was very young,
there was summer.
No school. You could sleep
until noon and play until midnight.
People ate sweet wet 'fruit'
that dangled down
from living ladders called 'trees.'
Summer was when everyone grew
two inches taller
and five brains wiser.
We had nine months of study,
and summertime to learn.
Jake wakes up and wonders:
is it July yet?
He remembers fireworks,
but he doesn't remember
if the fireworks were
Fourth of July fireworks
or Dodgers game fireworks
or New Year's Day fireworks —
or last year's fireworks.
Has July come and gone?
Every day the same,
nothing to have to do:
Jake's Dream Summer.
Jake had begged for this,
plain old free time,
one big jumble
and playing video games.
was too busy
with tennis camp
and science camp
and swimming lessons
and music lessons
and typing lessons,
camps and lessons,
lessons and camps,
one week after the next.
Jake had begged for nothing to do
because Jake had not expected
his brother Soup bouncing
and bouncing on the bed
every single morning
at six o'clock.
Jake had not expected
to be stuffed,
force-fed five pounds of food each day
by his grandmother,
whose summer project
is to make him grow.
Jake had not expected
that his mother
would plop down on the couch next to him
and try to learn to play video games,
Isn't this too violent?
Do we keep on shooting?
Is he bleeding blue?
Jake had begged — for this?
These days of nothing to do
are moving so achingly s-l-o-w-l-y.
Yesterday seems a full week ago.
At the same time, though,
the weeks seem to be flying by:
vacation will be over in a month!
Jake is wondering
if he has wasted his summer.
Jake is worrying
about the first day of school.
When other kids will brag about trips
and Mount Rushmore
and Niagara Falls
and the Grand Canyon,
Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia —
Jake will have nothing to say.
Jake is wishing he had agreed to go
to chess camp, math camp,
boot camp, any camp.
Jake makes a note in his notebook:
Is there camp in Antarctica?
Jake is wishing
his family were rich.
Jake is wishing
his family went on adventures.
Jake is wishing
he had stayed
in Santa Brunella,
and while his father worked
in the city,
Jake could've spent busy days
with his friend Minn,
and digging tunnels for worms.
Jake doesn't even like catching lizards
and digging tunnels for worms,
but Jake is beginning to feel
like a rotten plum
because he hasn't been a friend
to Minn all summer.
He called her twice
to answer the letters
she sent him every week,
but he didn't leave much of a message
It's been almost two weeks
since the last letter,
so maybe Minn has given up.
Which would be the right thing
for her to do.
Because who ever heard
of such opposites being friends, anyway —
should a tall lizard-catching girl
and a short city boy be best friends?
2 / The Pits
Jake had thought
it would be fun coming back home
to Los Angeles
to play with his old friends.
Jake was wrong.
The worst part of moving
is coming back to visit.
You come back
to the old neighborhood
and everyone asks you,
again and again,
So, how is it there? You like it?
YOU: It's OK.
THEM: New friends?
YOU: One friend.
THEM: ONE friend?
Only one friend?
You hate the way
people ask the same question
over and over
when they don't get the answer they want.
So you let them win:
you change the answer.
YOU: A lot of friends, I guess,
but only one really good friend.
Really, really, really good friend.
THEM: What kind of sports does he do?
Maybe you shouldn't have changed the answer.
Maybe you should've let them ask
the same "one friend" question
until they got thirsty for a soda pop.
YOU: She doesn't do any sports, really. She —
YOU: Yeah, she — she catches lizards.
THEM: Lizards! Lizards?
Jake, she whats? SHE?
Now the trouble really starts.
They can't believe
you have only one friend,
but that's nothing
compared to the fact that it's a girl.
She's a girl. A girl?
And this girl touches lizards?
They ask you to say her name over and over:
Men? A girl named Men?
You spell the name.
You only have one friend —
a girl named Minn
(short for Minnie, you lie) —
who catches lizards.
They look at you
and then they look away.
You know what they're thinking:
If you have become strange
then being friends with you
would make them strange
and unpopular, too.
THEM: She's not your girlfriend, is she?
YOU: No, NO! She's TALL!
I wouldn't even be able to kiss her
unless I was standing on a ladder!
(Oh, no, why did you say that?!)
You change the subject, quickly.
Want to go to the movies around four o'clock?
they'll come to the movies
and invite you to have dinner,
play video games, sleep over —
just like you used to do all the time —
They have soccer practice.
Grandparents are in town.
Little sister is sick.
Or they look at their moms
and the moms say sorry.
The moms pat your head.
Your best friends.
They used to be your best friends.
Now they can't even find time for a movie.
All summer long Jake has been trading calls
with friends who are too busy to play.
Half the summer has already been swallowed up
like a handful of cherries —
and Jake is left
with nothing but the pits.
3 / The Edeska All-You-Can't-Eat Buffet
Jake's grandmother, his halmoni,
herds Jake toward the fried noodles.
Jake doesn't speak Korean,
but he understands this,
because Halmoni says it ten times a day:
Halmoni weighs only 103 pounds,
but she eats triple
what Jake and his mother combined
can just barely force themselves to swallow.
They make too much money off you,
Halmoni tells her daughter.
Jake's mother frowns at Halmoni.
The frown bounces from Halmoni to Jake.
Jake's stomach hurts.
And his chest.
And his back.
His eyebrows, even.
Jake is beginning to sweat and shake.
Halmoni goes back
to fill her plate an eighth time,
with her favorite spicy tuna sushi.
Soup heads straight to the dessert line.
He fills his ninth plate
with apple sponge cake,
chocolate chunk cheesecake,
a blueberry crepe,
and three slices of watermelon.
Halmoni and Soup
waddle back to the table.
This is not an eating contest.
Better not get sick, Soup!
But just as Jake says it,
he feels an urge to regurgitate
his tiny plate of fried noodles.
Jake pushes Soup out of their booth
and bolts for the bathroom.
He is almost at the bathroom door —
Jake's mother pushes him
into the ladies' room
to finish the lava flow.
She rushes outside
to wipe up the mess.
Jake comes out of the toilet stall
with his pukey shirt.
Two girls point, holding their noses.
Jake walks out the bathroom door
and his mother pushes him in again,
lifting his shirt carefully up
over the back of his head.
She rinses it and wrings it out,
but the shirt is still smelly.
And soaking wet.
Here, wear this, Jake's mother says,
pulling her pink overshirt off
and adjusting her flowery tank top.
Pink? Flower buttons?
Jake pushes the shirt away
and starts walking out the door
when his mother pinches his ear,
yanking him back.
She shoves his arms into the pink shirt
and Jake walks out —
just as Haylee Hirata walks in.
Perfect Haylee Hirata,
the girl Jake had a crush on
and first grade,
not second grade
(when her front teeth were missing) but
and fourth grade, too. Haylee Hirata,
the love he left behind last year
when he moved to Santa Brunella —
the love he would have left behind,
if he had ever gotten up the nerve
to do more than hit her in dodgeball.
Jake, isn't this the girls' bathroom?
Back at the table,
Jake's jacket pocket rings.
Soup answers Jake's cell phone.
Soup stands on his seat and yells,
Jake, it's Minn!
Then Soup shouts into the phone,
loudly enough for the whole restaurant to hear,
Minn, Jake can't talk right now
because he puked
and he just came out of the girls' bathroom
with Mommy's pink shirt on —
and he's busy talking to his girlfriend Haylee —
Girlfriend? Minn asks. Girlfriend?
Haylee Hirata. She's so pretty, Minn!
Prettier than your friend Sabina.
And short like Jake.
Perfect to be his girlfriend! Soup giggles.
Minn, isn't Jake's girlfriend
4 / Boyfriend and Girlfriend
MINN: Hello? (Are you OK?)
JAKE: I'm miserable. Miserable!
(Can you imagine, puking all over the place?)
MINN: Puked all over the place, huh?
(You were in the girls' bathroom?)
JAKE: Five steps from the bathroom door.
MINN: In front of ... your girlfriend?
(Is she really your girlfriend?)
JAKE: (Just a girl from my old school.)
MINN: Yup. (Your mom's shirt?)
JAKE: (Can you believe my mom?)
She put the stupid pink shirt on me,
she buttoned the buttons (daisy buttons!),
she wiped my chin like a baby. PINK!
(I can't even stand to think about it now.)
MINN: Call me later, then.
I need to tell you about my news —
(Will you be home tomorrow?)
JAKE: Call me tomorrow.
I'll be home. Same as every day.
MINN: We need to talk!
(I have news for you!)
JAKE: OK, I'll call you
later. Soon. I promise!
When you talk with a good friend,
half the conversation is in parentheses.
You know what your friend is thinking.
When you talk with a stranger,
it's like homework.
Questions to get answers.
With a true best friend,
the questions are understood,
the answers are automatic,
and knowing you've ruined your friend's day
with your bad news
somehow makes it easier to bear.
Jake has indeed ruined Minn's day.
She had wanted to tell him
that her parents surprised her this morning
by giving her an early birthday present:
a trip to Los Angeles.
Minn's mother needs to work in Los Angeles
and her father found cheap plane tickets
so they could join her.
They'll be there tomorrow night!
Minn wanted so badly to tell,
but Jake didn't seem to want to hear.
Anyway, you cannot tell someone this kind of news
when they are still in shock
and being forced to wear a pink shirt.
And Minn has seen that pink shirt
on Jake's mom.
It has perky daisy buttons,
and dainty white lace around the collar.
Poor dainty Jake.
Why did Jake never talk about her before?
Small, just like him. Pretty.
Is she the kind that wears fingernail polish
and glitter lip gloss, like Sabina?
Minn wonders if Jake likes Sabina.
How else would Soup know who Sabina was?
How would Soup know that Sabina was pretty,
if Jake hadn't said anything?
Jake and Sabina did spend a lot of time
talking with each other,
after Jake became a hero
on Valentine's Day,
to fish Minn out of the Gulch.
Sabina even hugged him!
And she had no excuse for hugging him.
Minn should've been the only one
doing the hugging,
since she was the one Jake rescued.
Minn replays the scene in her mind,
like a video:
The Hug. The HUG. Sabina's H-U-G.
And Jake almost kind-of hugged back!
Minn looks at her fingernails.
Her short, chipped fingernails,
caked with dirt.
She looks at her lips in the mirror.
Her dry, plain lips.
Jake hasn't answered any of her letters.
Is it because of her dry, plain lips?
Would Jake like her better
if she wore fingernail polish
and lip gloss?
And if he liked her better that way,
would she still like him?
Minn runs outside
and jumps up into a tree,
using her leather belt
to climb it like a pro.
Sitting in the oak tree,
she watches squirrels chase each other
and chitter-chatter around her.
Minn pulls her notebook out of her pocket
and draws three squirrels.
Thursday, July 17, 3:10 p.m.:
Description of squirrels:
Big Bushy Light Gray one (BB)
with part of her very bushy tail bitten off,
likes to pause a lot,
chases Medium-sized Dark Gray one (MD),
then almost falls off a branch and gives up
seems BB wants MD for a boyfriend
(but probably just wants to play)
MD runs away
MD does not want BB for a girlfriend
MD then starts chasing
Tiny Shiny Brownish Gray one (TS)
TS likes being chased
(what a tease!)
Minn pauses. She watches the hawks. She finishes:
Poor lonely clumsy big BB.
Excerpted from Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer by Janet S. Wong. Copyright © 2008 Janet 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
1 / Summertime,
2 / The Pits,
3 / The Edeska All-You-Can't-Eat Buffet,
4 / Boyfriend and Girlfriend,
5 / Wake Up, Jake!,
6 / Instant Brown,
7 / Venice Beach,
8 / Halmoni's Spending Sprees,
9 / The Happiest Place on Earth,
10 / Wheelchair,
11 / Three Little Lizards,
12 / 59 Seconds,
About the Authors,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the second in a series of books about two unlikely friends, Minn ¿ a tall, lizard- loving girl, and Jake, a very small boy. Separation, misunderstandings, and Jake¿s often meddlesome little brother, Soup, almost combine to ruin Minn and Jake¿s fifth grade summer; but honesty and a little dose of humility help to save summer.This book has a lot going for it, including the humorous sketches by Geneviève Côté. Its short length and minimal text on each page make it a good choice for reluctant readers. Additionally, protagonists of both sexes make this series appealing to boys as well as girls. The revelation that Jake is part Korean, adds a hint of multiculturalism and interest. When Minn meets Jake¿s grandmother,¿She whispers,You didn¿t tell me you were Asian! Jake whispers back,Did you ever tell me that you¿re white?Jake explains his hapa heritage.Hapa = slang for half-white, half-Asian.His mother is half-Korean, half-Norwegian.His father is half-German, half-French.Minn points out that Jake is not hapa, then,but three-quarters white,and only one-quarter Asian.OK, then, Jake says. Quarpa, I¿m quarpa.Jake likes the sound of quarpa.It sounds like something with superpowers.¿The best feature of Minn and Jake¿s Almost Terrible Summer, though, is humor that children can relate to ¿ as when Jake vomits at the all-you-can-eat buffet and is forced to wear his mother¿s pink shirt. Minn and Jake are believable fifth grade friends.The free-verse style is appealing, but the choice of punctuation is distracting. In most instances, dialogue (including unspoken thought) is differentiated solely by the use of italics. However, Minn and Jake¿s phone conversations and conversations between Jake and the boys from his old neighborhood, are written in script format,¿MINN: Yup. (Your mom¿s shirt?)JAKE: (Can you believe my mom?)She put the stupid pink shirt on me,she buttoned the buttons (daisy buttons!),she wiped my chin like a baby. PINK!(I can¿t even stand to think about it now.)¿Of course, today's kids, raised on IM, are not hung up on punctuation ¿ or spelling, and perhaps they¿ll find Wong¿s format refreshing. Minn and Jake are likeable, believable fifth grade friends.The first title in this series, Minn and Jake, was a Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year and A Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon Book.