I folded the letter again. But as I licked the envelope and pressed it closed, something inside me froze. What if this letter didn’t make any sense to Margaret? What if she thought I was losing my mind here or something? My stomach tightened. Was I the only one who’d ever understand this Blue Hill thing? What it’s like to be like this—outof my element is how somebody had described it once—away from everything and everybody that had always been familiar. I held the letter, staring at Margaret’s address. Then I added it to the others already piling up in my desk drawer. Maybe one day, I’d show them all to Margaret, and we could sit and read them together. But I wanted to be there with her when she opened each one—I wanted to show her I was okay, that I had survived. That even with all those crazy words on the paper, nothing had changed between us.
“Woodson’s story frankly confronts issues of color, class, prejudice, and identity.” —Booklist
“A provocative glimpse of the pain and beauty of a gifted girl’s adolescence.” —School Library Journal
Also by Jacqueline Woodson
After Tupac and D Foster
Beneath a Meth Moon
Between Madison and Palmetto
Brown Girl Dreaming
The Dear One
From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun
The House You Pass on the Way
I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This
If You Come Softly
Last Summer with Maizon
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
First published in the United States of America by Delacorte Press, 1992
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2002
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2002
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Maizon at Blue Hill / Jacqueline Woodson.—1st G. P. Putnam’s Sons ed.
Sequel: Between Madison and Palmetto.
Summary: After winning a scholarship to an academically challenging boarding school,
Maizon finds herself one of only five blacks there and wonders if she will ever fit in.
Sequel to “Last Summer with Maizon.”
1. African Americans—Fiction. [1. African Americans—Fiction. 2. Schools—Fiction.
3. Gifted children—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.W868 Mai 2002 [Fic]-dc21 2001041743
For my friends
Table of Contents
Also by Jacqueline Woodson
An Exciting Preview of Brown Girl Dreaming
Would you look at this?“Grandma said. We were sitting on the couch in the living room. Mr. Parsons, from the Blue Hill School, sat across from us, smiling.
“That’s the hill the school was named for,” he said, pointing toward the picture Grandma was looking at. I frowned at him and rolled my eyes. Did he think Grandma and me were bozos or something? The hill was blue—well, sort of. It looked like it was covered with moss and grass at the same time. Flowers, planted to spell out “Blue Hill School” grew around the edge of it.
“Isn’t this beautiful, Maizon?” Grandma pushed the photograph toward me. There was a stack of them on her lap and we had been looking at them all morning. Mr. Parsons was full of pictures and pamphlets and information about Blue Hill. All I wanted was to stay right on Madison Street with my best friend, Margaret, to go to P.S. 102 instead of some school in Connecticut.
I had plans for the fall. I was going to find out where our neighbor, Ms. Dell‘s, special powers came from and if there was a tiny, tiny chance that she might be planning on passing them on to me.
“You’re going to love it, Maizon,” Grandma said. Mr. Parsons smiled and nodded. You don’t even know me, man, I wanted to say to him. How would you know what I’m going to like?
“It looks nice, Grandma,” I said instead, because I knew all summer long Grandma had been bragging to people about me going away to Blue Hill.
“Are there other black girls there, Mr. Parsons?”
Mr. Parsons blinked. “Yes, Maizon. Of course there are other black girls.”
“Then how come there aren’t any in any of these pictures? We must have looked at a hundred of them. And how come there aren’t any in this?” I waved the catalog at him.
“The catalog needs to be updated, Maizon,” he said slowly. “We’re working on doing that this year. Blue Hill is actually somewhat behind other schools, in a way.” Mr. Parsons cleared his throat before continuing. “While we have small classes with caring teachers and some of the best athletic equipment, we’re still working on being more inclusive—bringing in more minorities and students who financially wouldn’t be able to have a boarding school experience if it weren’t for scholarship....”
I listened to him drone on for a while. I hated the word minorities. I mean, who decides who becomes a minority? Personally, I don’t consider myself less than anyone. When Mr. Parsons got to the part in his speech about the great founders of Blue Hill, I tuned him out. It was a trick I had. I could make a person disappear just by not listening to him.
“I wish I could take the whole trip up there....” Grandma was saying when I tuned back in.
“You can‘t, Grandma. Your legs.” Grandma had been having trouble with her legs all summer. Even though the doctor said it was nothing to worry about, he had warned her that she shouldn’t walk far distances and shouldn’t take long rides. Blue Hill was three hours away by train. “And plus, you promised that if I went there, I could take the train up most of the way by myself. You promised.”
Grandma sighed and put up her hand. “I know, I know, Maizon. You’re a big girl now. Don’t worry. I won’t go back on my word.”
Mr. Parsons rose and Grandma handed him the stack of pictures. “The board was really impressed with your interview, Maizon,” he said. “They think you’ll be an asset to Blue Hill.”
I nodded. It had been so long ago, I had nearly forgotten the day Grandma took me to Queens to meet with a group of teachers from Blue Hill. They seemed nice enough. Teachers were teachers. They were always asking you questions and then acting surprised because you knew the right answers. The Blue Hill people asked questions like all the others, opening their eyes wide when I answered them correctly, shaking their heads like they were disappointed in me when I didn’t.
I got up and locked the door behind Mr. Parsons, then came back to sit beside Grandma. She was knitting me a red sweater. The collar would be black. Those were my favorite colors together—black and red. If Blue Hill had black-and-red uniforms, I’d be there in a quick minute. But sixth graders—or lower school freshmen, as Mr. Parsons called them—had to wear blue plaid skirts with white blouses and blue blazers. I hated plaid anything.
Grandma rested her knitting in her lap and pulled me closer to her. “Maizon,” she said softly, “I know you think I’m evil for sending you away ...”
I swallowed. Evil is not the word I would have used.
“But,” Grandma continued, “you have to understand that going away is going to make you a different person.”
“I don’t want to be differ—”
“Shush, Maizon,” Grandma said softly. “Let me explain. Everybody wants a safe place. For me it was Colorado on the reservation. But I knew if I wanted to grow I had to leave. Madison Street is your safe place. But if you stay here too long, you’ll begin to think that this is all there is to life. I want you to see that there is more, that there are other people who have lives that are different from lives you know here. I want you to experience difference, Maizon. You were the only girl in Brooklyn to pass the exam for Blue Hill. The only one. Don’t you understand what that means? It means this is a chance for you to learn beyond the boundaries of Brooklyn. Outside of New York City. There is more than this, Maizon. There’s a whole world. You need to see that. And the only way to do so is to leave. This is a beginning for you. I think you’re ready.”
Beyond the boundaries of Brooklyn. Margaret and I had never stepped a foot outside of Brooklyn. We had made a promise to see Manhattan together when we saw it for the first time. Margaret and I had made lots of promises to each other. We wanted to be best friends ... always.
“Anybody could have passed that stupid test, Grandma. They didn’t even let Margaret take it. She would’ve passed and then at least me and her could still be together....”
“You’ll be together, Maizon. You and Margaret will always be together. Right here.” She pressed her finger to my chest. “That’s what makes best friends. It’s not whether or not you live on the same block or go to the same school, but how you feel about each other in your hearts.”
I felt a lump rising in the back of my throat and swallowed. “What if we change, Grandma? What if I come home and Margaret’s not my best friend anymore? Then I won’t have anybody.”
Grandma shook my shoulders and grinned. “What about this old lady, Maizon?”
I looked up at Grandma. We had been together since I was a baby. Leaving her was too hard even to think about. “You’re in my heart, Grandma.”
Grandma smiled, picking up her needles again and snapping them together so quickly they nearly blurred. “Maizon, Maizon, Maizon ...” she said softly. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Well, you could not send me to Blue Hill. That would be a start.”
“And then what? You’re too smart for the schools here in Brooklyn.”