Chapter 1 Town Fair
“I see the top of the Ferris wheel!” I cried. I pointed out the car window. “We’re almost to the fair!”
Mom was driving. Daddy turned around from the front seat and tickled my baby brother, who was in his car seat next to me. “Hey, Val,” Daddy said. “I bet you can’t wait to show Wallace all your favorite things at the fair.”
Wallace moved in next door a few weeks ago. He was supposed to meet me by the petting zoo.
“Daddy, this won’t be all fun and games,” I said. “Wallace and I still have lots of work to do on our TV script. And the deadline is Monday—that’s the day after tomorrow!”
Wallace loved the show Comet Jumpers.
The show was having a contest for people to send in ideas for future episodes. Wallace and I were doing better than that. We were writing a whole script!
Mom chuckled. “So today will be more of a working playdate, huh?”
“Exactly.” I looked out the window again. “Hey, Mom, you just passed the parking lot!”
“Mom is judging the gardening exhibits, remember?” Daddy said. “We get to park in the VIP lot!”
“Cool,” I said. Mom is a botanist. That’s a scientist who works with plants. She knows everything about vegetables and flowers.
After we parked, Daddy picked up the Baby. I picked up my backpack. It was heavy because my favorite book, The Universe, was in there.
Mom waved and hurried off toward the gardening tent. “I’ll walk you to the petting zoo and make sure you find Wallace,” Daddy told me. “The Baby will want to pet the pigs.”
The Baby gurgled. He doesn’t understand many words yet, but he knows the word pig! He also knows the word rocket, since I taught it to him.
The fair was bursting with people, music, animals, bright colors, and interesting smells. Daddy waved to some neighbors as we headed toward the petting zoo. We were almost there when someone called my name. It was Principal Bosko.
“Hello, Val,” she said with a smile. “Are you looking forward to school starting on Monday?”
“Of course,” I said. “Especially science class.”
Principal Bosko started chatting with Daddy. Just then I spotted Wallace. He was leaning over the fence petting a baby goat.
“There’s Wallace,” I told Daddy.
“Okay, have fun, and you kids stick together,” Daddy said. “We’ll meet back here at three o’clock.”
Wallace was standing with a kid I didn’t know. That was a surprise. I thought I knew everyone my age in town.
“Hi, Val,” Wallace said. “Carlos came for a visit before school starts. Isn’t that great?”
Now I was even more surprised. Carlos was Wallace’s friend from his old town. He talked about him a lot.
Carlos grinned. “Yep, it’s me, the one and only Carlos!”
Both boys laughed so loudly, it scared away the baby goat. They didn’t notice. Instead, they did a weird, complicated handshake.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Wallace said. “Carlos, this is Val. She lives next door. You can call her Astronaut Girl if you want.”
“Is she the one you told me about?” Carlos asked. “The one who’s helping you write the script?”
I frowned. “I’m not just helping him.
We’re partners.” I turned to Wallace. “Speaking of the script, we still have a lot to do. We need to figure out a scientifically accurate way for Zixtar to harness the sun’s energy to destroy the ice aliens.”
Wallace pulled out a homemade action figure. Zixtar was an alien who was the hero of our story. “Zixtar’s tentacles can do anything!” Wallace said. “We’ll figure it out.”
“Okay, but let’s eat first,” Carlos said. “I’m starving.”
I was hungry, too. And every scientist knows that the human brain works better when it’s well nourished.
“Fine,” I said. “I’ve been looking forward to my favorite food all year. Follow me.”
I led the way to one of the food booths. The boys wanted to stop at the hot-dog stand and the funnel cakes, but I knew what I wanted.
We stopped in front of a green-painted booth. Carlos stared at the sign and made a face. “What’s a pickle pop?” he asked.
“It’s the best thing ever!” I exclaimed. “It’s a pickle-flavored Popsicle!”
Wallace looked intrigued. “I guess I’ll try one,” he said. “I like pickles.”
“Yuck, not me!” Carlos declared. “I’ll be right back with my hot dog.”
I stared at him. Hadn’t he heard me say that pickle pops were my favorite food?
“Don’t yuck my yum,” I called after him.
Soon we were walking and eating. The rides were up ahead.
“Hey, Val,” Wallace said. “Weren’t you telling me there’s a cool space-themed ride here? What’s it called again?”
“Asteroid Attack,” I said. “It’s my favorite! Let’s go on it now before it gets too crowded.”
Wallace ate the last bite of his pop. “Delicious!”
I grinned. “I knew you’d love it! And you’ll love Asteroid Attack even more. Come on, let’s go!”
Chapter 2 Asteroid Attack!
Halfway to Asteroid Attack, Carlos suddenly stopped short. “Whoa, check out that haunted house!” he cried. “It looks awesome! Let’s do that first!”
“I thought we were going on Asteroid Attack,” I said.
Wallace looked from Carlos to me and back again. “We did say that,” he said. “We can do the haunted house afterward, okay?”
He stuck out his hand. The two of them did their special handshake again. I rolled my eyes and continued toward the ride.
When we got there, lots of people were in line outside the tent that contained the ride. “There are tons of little kids here,” Wallace commented.
“A ton would be two thousand pounds,” I said with a laugh. “I don’t think there are that many little kids here!”
Up ahead, I saw my old babysitter, Tenley, with her baby. One of my neighbors was holding his twin four-year-olds by their hands.
I waved. “Hi, Mr. Marino. Hi, Tenley.”
They both waved back. When I looked at the boys again, they seemed doubtful. “Is this a little kids’ ride?” Carlos asked.
“It’s for everyone,” I said. “Even better, it’s scientifically accurate. It’s based on the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.”
While we waited, I told them more about the asteroid belt. I explained that it’s made up of around a million asteroids at least, ranging in size from a dwarf planet down to a pebble. Many contain valuable minerals like gold, silver, and titanium—and some even contain water!
“I wish we could see the ride,” Carlos interrupted after a while. “I want to know if it’s worth the wait.”
“I already told you, it’s great,” I said. “You’ll see.”
Finally we made it inside the tent. Now we could see the little red rocket ships moving along the track, letting people on and off.
“There are only two seats per row,” Carlos said. “First dibs!”
“Second dibs!” Wallace shouted quickly.
I was confused until they explained. First dibs was a game they played. Whoever called out first dibs got first choice of whatever they were doing.
“I want to sit in the first row,” Carlos said.
“I got second dibs, so I choose to sit there with you,” Wallace said with a grin.
I frowned, realizing what that meant. I would be sitting by myself.
I climbed into the seat behind the boys, feeling a little annoyed. But then the music started, and I smiled.
“Here we go!” I cried as the rocket ship moved along the track. “Look, you can see the asteroids now!” I pointed toward the shapes swirling overhead. “There’s Ceres! And I think that’s Vesta!”
The boys didn’t seem to hear me. They kept whispering and laughing. They weren’t paying much attention to the ride.
I poked Wallace on the shoulder. “Check it out, right up there is a famous asteroid called Psyche!”
Both boys looked back at me. “Did you say you want to ride your bikey?” Carlos said.
Wallace laughed. “I likey to ride my bikey!”
Why was Wallace acting so silly? Usually he liked talking about outer space.
When we got off the ride, I asked what they thought. Carlos shrugged. “I bet little kids love it,” he said. “As for me, I’d rather go on the Super Laser Space Monster roller coaster at the theme park back home.”
“I love that ride!” Wallace exclaimed. “Val, it’s awesome!”
They kept talking about all their favorite rides. I didn’t say anything. I really thought they’d love Asteroid Attack like I did.
That gave me an idea. “I know something you guys will like,” I said. “Follow me!”
Copyright © 2021 by Cathy Hapka and Ellen Vandenberg; Illustrated by Gillian Reid. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.