My name is Phoebe. Sometimes my parents call me Pheebs, but my whole entire
name is Phoebe Gertrude Green. That’s too many letters for me to write at the top of my homework, so I just write Phoebe G. Green. I’m a very lucky girl (at least that’s what my mom says all the time). My mom bought me this sparkly purple notebook because I like purple and I like to make lists. Here’s a list of why I’m so lucky:
1 I live in a house with a blue door. Nobody else I know has a blue door.
2 My school is just around the corner and I get to walk there.
3 I have chocolate-brown, extra-curly hair.
4 I have exactly twenty-seven freckles on my face, which is my lucky number.
5 I have a best friend named Sage, who’s a boy, if you were wondering.
6 I have a blue betta fish named Betty #2. She’s named after Betty #1, a good fish who lived a long, happy fish life, but it makes me too sad to talk about Betty #1, so I won’t.
Today was the first day of the rest of my life (that’s what my dad always says). I started third grade and I wasn’t even nervous because my new teacher, Mrs. B, had the curliest, reddest hair I’ve ever seen and played the guitar. My older sister, Molly, who’s thirteen and thinks she rules the world, had Mrs. B as her third-grade teacher, too, and said she was “totally cool.” Also, Sage was in my class. Double also, I had a new girl in my class from France, named Camille, who was very tall and looked very embarrassed, because her cheeks were always red.
Mrs. B did the coolest thing today. She covered the whole wall with brown paper and told us to “go to it,” which meant we could paint anything we wanted on it about our summer. I thought and thought about it because you don’t get many chances to paint on the wall in your classroom.
Mrs. B came up to me and smiled. “Phoebe, do you need help deciding what to paint?”
“Well,” I said, “we went to the beach and we went to a fair. I can’t choose.”
“Which trip is clearer in your mind? Then it will be easier to paint.”
So I painted myself throwing up after I ate too much cotton candy at the fair. Sage also painted me throwing up because I guess it was clear in his mind, too.
“Phoebe, that certainly is a clear painting,” Mrs. B said after looking at it. Isn’t Mrs. B the best?
Then, at lunchtime, Camille brought the weirdest lunch I’ve ever seen. I had to do a whole separate list for it:
1 A tiny loaf of bread wrapped in a cloth napkin
2 A piece of cheese with blue dots on it that smelled funny
3 A green salad in a little plastic bowl with tan-colored beans and pieces of meat
When I asked about it, Camille told me it was a butter lettuce salad with pieces of DUCK in it! She said this very quietly. Who puts butter on their lettuce and eats a duck? That sounds a little crazy to me.
4 A small box of strawberries that she sprinkled with powdery sugar
One of my soggy noodles slipped off my plate and splatted on the floor. Sage took one look at Camille’s lunch and pointed at the cheese with blue dots on it.
“That cheese smells like rotten eggs,” he said. Camille looked down at her lap and started turning red.
“Sage,” I said, pointing at him, because sometimes Sage needs to be pointed at.
“Just saying,” he said. His older brother says that all the time.
“Well, say something else,” I told him, and smiled at Camille. Her face was still a little red, but a happier red this time.
“Sorry,” Sage said.
On the second day of the rest of my life, we were sitting at lunch and I watched Camille very carefully to see if she brought another crazy lunch. Sage and I had the school lunch like most of the kids. I looked at Camille’s lunch and asked her what was what. She answered in her movie-star French voice. This is what she had:
1 More tiny bread
2 A beet salad with cheese from a goat
I’ve never had cheese from a goat, so I asked her for a taste. It was creamy and not smelly at all.
3 A tiny little raspberry pie
She called it a tart, but it wasn’t tart. She said her own father made it because he’s—get this—a pastry chef! That means he’s like a regular chef, but he only makes desserts. Pretty cool, huh? I can’t believe that’s actually a real job.
I looked down at my sticky mac and cheese and mushy peas and sighed a big sigh.
That night at dinner we had meat loaf. We pretty much eat the same things every week:
Monday: Dad’s famous spaghetti and salad from a bag
Tuesday: Mom’s famous baked chicken with mashed potatoes from a box and salad from a bag
Wednesday: Mom brings home meat loaf from the store and salad from a bag
Thursday: Leftovers and salad from a bag
Friday: Pizza and salad from the pizza place
Saturday: Turkey sandwiches and knishes from the kosher deli
Sunday: Wonton soup and beef and broccoli (my favorite!) froma Chinese restaurant
I decided to ask my mom if maybe she could find a place that sells cheese from a goat and get some. She looked at me funny.
“You mean goat cheese, Phoebe?” she asked me.
“Yes, that’s the one!”
“Sure, but where did you have goat cheese?” she asked.
“This girl from France had it at school. She also ate a duck.”
“Hmmm,” my dad said.
“Huh,” my mom said.
Now they seemed confused. When this happens, I have to keep saying the same thing over and over for many days in a row until they understand.
I might as well be speaking in French.Chapter Two
Camille kept bringing in all these weird and beautiful lunches every day, and I started to get very curious about what dinner at her house might be like. Did they eat with gold plates and crystal glasses? Did her dad make piles of pretty cakes and cookies and tiny little pies every night? So I asked my mom in my nicest, cutest voice possible if she could call Camille’s mom and see if I could come over, but Mom said that it’s impolite to ask myself over to people’s houses and that I had to wait to be invited over. Since Camille barely ever talked, I didn’t think she’d ask me over anytime soon. So this was my three-step plan:
Sit next to Camille during lunch all next week and look really hungry.
Tell her that no matter what anyone thinks about her lunches, I think they’re nice and strange in a good way.
Ask her over to my house for dinner, but then tell her we’re having spoiled leftovers that she’d probably think were gross. Then she’ll have to ask me over!
So that’s what I did. I finished my hamburger and fries really quickly so I could pretend I had no food and was starving. Then I leaned over and whispered to her, “I know people think your lunches are strange, and they are. But in a really good way.”
She looked at me and smiled her small smile, where her lips curl up in the shape of a heart. Then she held out her sandwich for a taste. She said it was smoky salmon with pickles and eggs. I took a bite and it wasn’t smoky at all, just sort of crunchy, chewy, salty, and sweet all at the same time. It was the craziest sandwich I ever liked.
“Yum! I always seem to be so hungry, the kind of hungry that lasts all the way to dinner!” I said.
Camille nodded as she ate her sandwich.
“Maybe you could come over to my house for dinner one night?” Sage stared at me when I said this. Camille stopped chewing.
“Okay,” she said, and went back to eating.
“Um, except that you should know that if we’re having leftovers, they might be spoiled.”
“It’s okay. I’ll ask my parents,” she said, and smiled the rest of the time she ate her smoky sandwich. Bummer.
After school, when we were walking home, Sage said, “Why didn’t you ask me to dinner, too?” He looked down, kicking a rock as he walked.
I took a deep breath and tried to explain. “I actually want Camille to invite me over for dinner so I can check out what her family eats. But I have to invite her over first.”
“Oh. Okay. You can come over to my house, if you want. My mom will make you potato pakoras.”
“Sounds great!” I said. I didn’t want Sage to feel bad, but I had been over tons of times. Sage’s mom is Indian, so sometimes she makes Indian food, which I really like as long as it’s not super spicy. Potato pakoras are these fried potato thingies that taste kind of like latkes, which are also fried potato thingies.
Once at Hanukkah, which my family celebrates because we’re Jewish, Sage came over to light the candles with us and brought pakoras. We had latkes and pakoras, which was extra fun. But most of the time Sage’s family eats lots of chicken, pasta, and pizza, just like us.
After school, I told my mom she had to make something better than what we normally eat when Camille comes over. She frowned, which is not a good sign at all.
“Phoebe, you have to talk to me in a nicer way. Please go to your room and think about that,” Mom said.
“Good one,” said Molly, going off to her room to do her homework. I gave her my best angry face. Then I walked very slowly into my room with my head down and my knees a little bendy so Mom would know how not nice it was to make me stay in my room just because I didn’t want to eat old leftovers when Camille came over. What I thought about instead was what we could serve Camille for dinner.
When I was let out of my room, I grabbed my parents’ only cookbook, called The Wonders of Cooking
, and looked through all the recipes. Then I made a menu and drew pictures of Betty #2 and lots of stars and a big rainbow on the top to make it extra special. I showed Dad instead of Mom. This was my menu:
1 Beef bourguignon
(I can’t say it, but I think it’s like beef stew.)
2 Chicken cordon bleu
(Dad said bleu is French for blue, but the picture of the chicken doesn’t look blue. I’m hoping it will be at least a little blue.)
3 Tomato and cheese tart
(It’s like a fancy pizza pie!)
4 Baked Alaska
(It’s not a piece of Alaska that’s baked, which is what I thought. It’s a dessert that has ice cream in it and is set on fire.)
Dad said he would help me cook something, but he changed the menu, which now is:
Beef bourguignon, with salad from a bag and ice cream that’s not set on fire.
. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.