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The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher

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Paperback
$8.99 US
5.2"W x 7.6"H x 0.66"D  
On sale Jul 14, 2015 | 288 Pages | 978-0-385-37655-6
| Grades 6-8
Reading Level: Lexile 750L | Fountas & Pinnell V

”Fans of Beverly Cleary’s Quimbys, Judy Blume’s Hatchers, and, more recently, Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks will fervently hope that more Fletcher misadventures are yet to come.” —School Library Journal, Starred

The start of the school year is not going as the Fletcher brothers hoped. Each boy finds his plans for success veering off in unexpected and sometimes diastrous directions. And at home, their miserable new neighbor complains about everything. As the year continues, the boys learn the hard and often hilarious lesson that sometimes what you least expect is what you come to care about the most.

 Praise for The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher 
 
A Junior Library Guild Selection 

[set star] ”Their banter is realistic, and the disorder of their everyday lives, convincing. The Fletcher family rules!” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred 

”Dana Alison Levy has gloriously reimagined the classic family story into a thoroughly modern mold, and it works perfectly.” —Bruce Coville, bestselling author of My Teacher Is an Alien and the Unicorn Chronicles
[P1] 
[set star] ”With its semi-episodic structure, laugh-out-loud humor, and mix of zaniness and love, Levy’s debut offers something truly significant: a middle-grade family story featuring gay parents and interracial families that is never about either issue.” —School Library Journal, Starred 

”Levy provides a compelling, compassionate, and frequently hilarious look at their daily concerns. By book’s end readers will want to be part of (or at least friends with) this delightful family.” —The Horn Book 

Dana Alison Levy is the author of many critically acclaimed novels including her latest middle grade, It Wasn't Me. She was born and raised in New England and studied English literature before going to graduate school for business. While there is value in all learning, had she known she would end up writing for a living, she might not have struggled through all those statistics and finance classes. Dana was last seen romping around with her family in Massachusetts. View titles by Dana Alison Levy
Chapter One
In Which We Meet the Fletchers
FROM THE DESK OF JASON FLETCHER
Boys--
Happy First Day of School! Your lunches are on the counter. PLEASE take the one with your name, and only the one with your name, so as to avoid allergic reactions, midday starvation, or the risk of throwing up due to the perceived grossness of your brothers’ lunch choices.
Love, Papa
Eli sat on the wooden porch steps, crammed in with his brothers, while Papa fiddled with the camera. On one side of him, his youngest brother, Frog, was vibrating with excitement. On the other side, the older two weren’t as eager.
“Take. The. Picture,” Sam said through gritted teeth. Clearly his patience with the ritual of first-day-of-school photos was wearing thin by sixth grade.
“Got it!”
The line of four boys separated with the force of bowling pins being knocked every which way. The first day of school meant something different to each of them, but whether they were dreading it or dying to get back, no one wanted to stay on the splintery steps any longer than necessary. This was the first year that all four boys were heading off to real school, if kindergarten counted as real. Eli wasn’t sure any place where you glued cotton balls on construction paper was real school, but Frog thought it was, and was excited to finally be in the photo. And according to Fletcher Family Rules, the photo had to be taken. So it was.
Certainly the boys didn’t look like brothers, apart from the matching grass-stained knees and monogrammed backpacks--Sam with his tan and his surfer shorts; Jax all elbows and knees and wooly black Afro that he refused to cut; Eli slight and freckly-pale with glasses; and Frog, the size of an average four-year-old, despite being six. Frog seemed to have the energy of at least three six-year-olds, but in a very concentrated size.
Eli fidgeted with his backpack and watched as Jax ran into the yard and punted the bright orange soccer ball that had been sitting in the middle of the lawn. It sailed neatly over the low shrub and into the new neighbor’s yard, where it stuck deep in a prickly-looking bush.
“No!” Sam looked up from his phone screen. “That’s my favorite ball! And you know he’s going to be a total jerk about it. Why’d you do that?” He moved to slug Jax, but Jax dodged quickly out of the way. Eli figured Jax’s speed always increased around 20 percent when he was avoiding being whacked by Sam.
“Sorry! I’ll go grab it,” Jax said.
“No! Nobody go anywhere. Sam, we have approximately three million other soccer balls around here, and we need to launch. But, Jax, we have given repeated warnings.” Papa’s voice came from behind the porch chair, where he had dropped his camera lens cap. “I know you miss having the Kellehers next door. We were all sorry when they moved. But for better or worse, we have Mr. Nelson now. And he does not appreciate the balls, street-hockey pucks, and other items that you keep sending over. After the rather difficult conversation with Officer Hollis on Labor Day, the less we bug Mr. Nelson, the better.”
Eli knew he wasn’t kidding. When the family had come home from their vacation last month, the Kelleher house had no longer had the FOR SALE sign swinging in front of it. Instead of a basketball hoop, the driveway now had nothing but an extremely shiny old Buick. And the yard, which had been remarkable only for the dandelions, was now all spruced up with what looked like hundreds of carefully transplanted flowers. Flowers that apparently weren’t able to withstand the occasional ball. Old Mr. Nelson didn’t seem as fancy as his flowers--he was kind of grizzled-looking. He scowled at the boys when he walked his yappy little dog and ignored them the rest of the time. But calling the police on their sing-along had definitely been what Eli’s history book would call an escalation.
“Why couldn’t someone cool with kids have moved in?” Jax mumbled.
No one bothered to answer him.
“Papa! Is it time to go? Will my name tag say ‘Frog’?” Frog jumped up and down in excitement. “Or will it say ‘Jeremiah’? I hate it when it says my real name.”
“Don’t worry, Froggie,” said Jax helpfully. “They’ll probably just call you Doofus.”
“They will not!” Frog retorted. “And, Papa, do you think they’ll keep the seat next to mine saved for Flare? He’s coming today too, you know.”
Papa ignored the mention of Flare, Frog’s imaginary best friend, who happened to be a cheetah, and concentrated on shutting down his camera. Eli agreed with this strategy. It was never a good idea to try to talk Frog out of his imaginary creatures.
Once the camera was carefully placed back in its case, the launch began in earnest. This year Sam and Jax would bike or walk together most of the time, but today, with all the school supplies, they rode with Papa. Eli had a little pang that he and Jax weren’t starting fourth grade together. They had always been in the same grade at the same school, even if they hadn’t been in the same class, and he would miss the comfort of having Jax nearby. But changing schools had been his choice; he wasn’t going to worry about it now. Sam and Jax milled around, double-checking binders and colored pencils, while Papa tried to figure out where he had left his keys. Frog, who was supposed to get into the car with Eli, was--ugh--licking his hand and smoothing down his dark wispy hair in an effort to make it stay flat. Finally he climbed in and started to buckle his booster seat.
Eli watched all this from his own seat, buckled in and waiting patiently for Dad to get in and take him to Narnia, to Hogwarts, to Never Land. Eli was starting a new school this fall, one for gifted students, and he was more than ready.
He opened the car door and shouted out, “Dad? You’re driving me, right? I don’t want to be late!”
“Close the door! Flare is getting chilly!” Frog commanded. Eli ignored him.
“I’m coming, Eli,” Tom Anderson, known to the boys as Dad, answered as he walked down the driveway. He got into the van, clutching his coffee mug with one hand while trying desperately to shove his lunch into his briefcase with the other. “We just have to drop Frog off first. You’ll be there in plenty of time. I’m just hoping I will--I have a department meeting before my first class. But your school’s on the way to Middleton High. Sort of. Well, it’s not the opposite direction.” He sighed, giving up and dropping the lunch onto the already cluttered passenger seat of the van. His coffee spilled slightly as it fell with a clunk on an acorn that was destabilizing the cup holder.
“Craaa . . . napple,” he muttered, trying to keep the coffee off his papers.
“Dad! Was that a rude word?” Eli asked, straining forward against his seat belt. “No rude words in front of us! You owe a quarter to the Rude Box.”
“No. It was ‘cranapple.’ There’s nothing rude about ‘cranapple.’ It’s a kind of juice.” Dad reversed the car out of the driveway. “Okay. Off to Froggie’s kindergarten. I can’t wait to see your classroom!”
Eli sighed. It had been four months and twenty-eight days, or approximately 216,000 minutes, since he’d found out he’d been admitted to Pinnacle. He guessed a little longer wouldn’t matter.

Chapter Two
In Which Jax Considers Survival of the Fittest
FROM THE DESK OF JASON FLETCHER
Jax--
Congratulations! By forgetting to scoop the litter box, you’ve inspired Zeus to branch out. He has returned to his wildcat roots and peed in Dad’s potted ficus plant in the living room. Over to you to clean it up and explain to Dad.
Love, Papa
Jax was freaking out, just a little. It was the first day of fourth grade, and everything depended on Sam. Sam was royalty, kind of like a carnivore with a bunch of gazelles and zebras and wildebeests around him. As a sixth grader, he was already the top of the food chain, but Sam was also the best goalie the Shipton soccer coach had seen in ages; the talk was that Sam might even make the Elite Team next year. And he was funny. Funny like he made Jax snort milk out of his nose at least once a week at dinner, which actually hurt more than Jax would have thought. Everyone loved Sam.
No one loved Jax.
Well, to be fair, no one knew him. Jax had spent third grade hidden in the world of Star Wars, drawing battle scenes with his best friend, Henry, during every recess and debating who would win various superhero fights. Sometimes Eli had joined them, and he’d always had cool ideas for battles, though usually he’d been too busy reading some crazy book to bother with them. Although he didn’t really think about it a lot, Jax knew having a total genius brother like Eli in the same grade didn’t exactly help his coolness factor. Guiltily, he was kind of relieved Eli had wanted to switch schools this year. Of course, he would always stand up for Eli if other kids teased him. Still, it would be easier to be cool with Sam as the only other Fletcher in the building.
This year could be different. Sure, Star Wars was still awesome, but he’d now read all the Harry Potter books and seen most of the movies, and had even seen a PG-13 movie with a babysitter who hadn’t known he wasn’t allowed. And, most importantly, unlike the third graders, the fourth graders were in the Upper Elementary, which meant Jax would be in the same building as Sam. He could be cool this year. If Sam backed him up. If he treated Jax as a goober the first week of school, all was lost.
It was time to take action. Still thinking about carnivores, Jax pictured the remoras that swam alongside the huge sharks, helping them out by eating any bugs and dirt and stuff that stuck to them. Not that he wanted to eat bugs off Sam. But maybe he could make himself useful.
“Hey, Sam?” Jax asked, peering over the back of the front passenger seat, where Sam was finally allowed to sit. “I know it’s your night to walk Sir Puggleton, but if you want, I’ll do it. When we get home, I mean. Just remind me.”
“Thanks, J. That’d be great,” Sam answered absently, not looking up from his phone, where he was still texting. He’d gotten it for his birthday that summer, and it seemed to be attached to his hand.
“And, um . . . if you want, I’ll do it next time too. I don’t mind.” Jax thought about offering to take over Sam’s litter box duties as well, since the boys traded off, but he really hated litter box duty. He’d save that in case he needed it.
There was no answer from the front seat, though Jax saw Papa’s eyes swivel toward him in the rearview mirror.
Jax avoided Papa’s glance. Papa would not get the need to be on Sam’s good side, and would launch into a lecture that would include references to some philosophers, Walt Whitman (his favorite poet), and the Beatles. But Papa worked from home, creating some kind of wizard-like technical computer models, so what did he know? He hadn’t even met most of the people he worked with--they were off in China or India or across the country in California. Dad taught high school history. He would understand the survival of the fittest.
Jax was desperate. If only he could make his brother crack up, or impress him in some way before they got to school . . . Something! The car stopped at a red light, and as they sat, Jax looked at the leafy green trees that lined the streets of their historic town.
“Hey! What’s black and white and red all over?” he asked, hoping his voice didn’t sound as panicked as he felt.
“A newspaper,” said Papa automatically.
“A zebra,” answered Sam at the same time.
“Nope! A skunk in a blender!” Jax started laughing hysterically. Oh, no. It was happening. The nervous hysterical laughter that led to tears, then the hiccups. This was the worst.
The car lurched forward, and Sam turned around.
“Jax? You okay, man? Breathe, dude, breathe! You sound like you’re dying.” Sam had finally put down his phone. “What’s up? Are you nervous about Upper El? It’s not that different, seriously. Just remember, most kids are going to play football at recess. If you want to be totally down, start bringing your own ball. Some dorks play four square, but trust me, you don’t want to do that.”
Papa snorted. “Please, Samuel,” he said. “Tell me you didn’t just judge a kid’s coolness on whether he throws a football or a rubber ball during your fifteen minutes on the playground.”
Sam shrugged. “I don’t make the rules, but it’s true. Jax’ll see it for himself. I’m just trying to help.”
Jax shook his head, willing himself to get a grip. Slowly he breathed in through his nose, out through his mouth, the way Jedis did when preparing for battle. No hiccups. Thank goodness.
“I’m not nervous,” he said faintly, wondering how he could possibly explain. He just wanted Sam to . . . to . . .
Too late. They pulled up in a line of cars at the school.
“Have a marvelous Monday, boys,” Papa said as they unpacked themselves from the car. “Jackson, enjoy Upper El--I can’t wait to hear about it.” Then he drove away.
Jax gave a faint wave, not wanting to look too eager, and stood on the sidewalk. He peered around the playground, wondering where Henry was. When he stepped forward, he tripped and flew against the curb, his backpack jouncing up and hitting him in the head before he landed, hard, on his hands and knees on the asphalt. He quickly rolled and performed an impressive almost-somersault, and landed back on his feet before five seconds had passed. Panting, he stood up, looking around frantically to see if anyone had noticed. What a disaster! He couldn’t imagine a worse start, unless he had barfed on his shoes like Teddy had done back in first grade. Trying to be inconspicuous, Jax picked bits of bloody gravel out of the palm of his hand. Luckily, it didn’t look like anyone had seen him. Carefully he walked forward into the playground.
Sam had already found his crowd and was engaging in a complicated series of fist bumps with his best friend, Tyler, and five other guys. They all looked enormous, way taller than Jax, who was still hoping for a growth spurt. Before Jax could move, his brother walked over and slung an arm over his shoulder.
  • NOMINEE | 2017
    Connecticut Nutmeg Children's Book Award
  • NOMINEE | 2017
    Washington Sasquatch Reading Program
  • NOMINEE | 2017
    New Jersey Garden State Children's Book Award
  • NOMINEE | 2017
    Rhode Island Children's Book Award
  • NOMINEE | 2016
    Hawaii Nene Award
  • AWARD | 2015
    Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
  • SELECTION | 2015
    ALSC Notable Children's Recordings
  • NOMINEE | 2015
    Notable Children's Books
  • NOMINEE | 2015
    Maine Student Book Award
Kirkus starred review, June 1, 2014:
"The Fletcher family rules!"

School Library Journl starred review, June 14, 2014:
Fans of Beverly Cleary’s Quimbys, Judy Blume’s Hatchers, and, more recently, Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks will fervently hope that more Fletcher misadventures are yet to come.

About

”Fans of Beverly Cleary’s Quimbys, Judy Blume’s Hatchers, and, more recently, Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks will fervently hope that more Fletcher misadventures are yet to come.” —School Library Journal, Starred

The start of the school year is not going as the Fletcher brothers hoped. Each boy finds his plans for success veering off in unexpected and sometimes diastrous directions. And at home, their miserable new neighbor complains about everything. As the year continues, the boys learn the hard and often hilarious lesson that sometimes what you least expect is what you come to care about the most.

 Praise for The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher 
 
A Junior Library Guild Selection 

[set star] ”Their banter is realistic, and the disorder of their everyday lives, convincing. The Fletcher family rules!” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred 

”Dana Alison Levy has gloriously reimagined the classic family story into a thoroughly modern mold, and it works perfectly.” —Bruce Coville, bestselling author of My Teacher Is an Alien and the Unicorn Chronicles
[P1] 
[set star] ”With its semi-episodic structure, laugh-out-loud humor, and mix of zaniness and love, Levy’s debut offers something truly significant: a middle-grade family story featuring gay parents and interracial families that is never about either issue.” —School Library Journal, Starred 

”Levy provides a compelling, compassionate, and frequently hilarious look at their daily concerns. By book’s end readers will want to be part of (or at least friends with) this delightful family.” —The Horn Book 

Author

Dana Alison Levy is the author of many critically acclaimed novels including her latest middle grade, It Wasn't Me. She was born and raised in New England and studied English literature before going to graduate school for business. While there is value in all learning, had she known she would end up writing for a living, she might not have struggled through all those statistics and finance classes. Dana was last seen romping around with her family in Massachusetts. View titles by Dana Alison Levy

Excerpt

Chapter One
In Which We Meet the Fletchers
FROM THE DESK OF JASON FLETCHER
Boys--
Happy First Day of School! Your lunches are on the counter. PLEASE take the one with your name, and only the one with your name, so as to avoid allergic reactions, midday starvation, or the risk of throwing up due to the perceived grossness of your brothers’ lunch choices.
Love, Papa
Eli sat on the wooden porch steps, crammed in with his brothers, while Papa fiddled with the camera. On one side of him, his youngest brother, Frog, was vibrating with excitement. On the other side, the older two weren’t as eager.
“Take. The. Picture,” Sam said through gritted teeth. Clearly his patience with the ritual of first-day-of-school photos was wearing thin by sixth grade.
“Got it!”
The line of four boys separated with the force of bowling pins being knocked every which way. The first day of school meant something different to each of them, but whether they were dreading it or dying to get back, no one wanted to stay on the splintery steps any longer than necessary. This was the first year that all four boys were heading off to real school, if kindergarten counted as real. Eli wasn’t sure any place where you glued cotton balls on construction paper was real school, but Frog thought it was, and was excited to finally be in the photo. And according to Fletcher Family Rules, the photo had to be taken. So it was.
Certainly the boys didn’t look like brothers, apart from the matching grass-stained knees and monogrammed backpacks--Sam with his tan and his surfer shorts; Jax all elbows and knees and wooly black Afro that he refused to cut; Eli slight and freckly-pale with glasses; and Frog, the size of an average four-year-old, despite being six. Frog seemed to have the energy of at least three six-year-olds, but in a very concentrated size.
Eli fidgeted with his backpack and watched as Jax ran into the yard and punted the bright orange soccer ball that had been sitting in the middle of the lawn. It sailed neatly over the low shrub and into the new neighbor’s yard, where it stuck deep in a prickly-looking bush.
“No!” Sam looked up from his phone screen. “That’s my favorite ball! And you know he’s going to be a total jerk about it. Why’d you do that?” He moved to slug Jax, but Jax dodged quickly out of the way. Eli figured Jax’s speed always increased around 20 percent when he was avoiding being whacked by Sam.
“Sorry! I’ll go grab it,” Jax said.
“No! Nobody go anywhere. Sam, we have approximately three million other soccer balls around here, and we need to launch. But, Jax, we have given repeated warnings.” Papa’s voice came from behind the porch chair, where he had dropped his camera lens cap. “I know you miss having the Kellehers next door. We were all sorry when they moved. But for better or worse, we have Mr. Nelson now. And he does not appreciate the balls, street-hockey pucks, and other items that you keep sending over. After the rather difficult conversation with Officer Hollis on Labor Day, the less we bug Mr. Nelson, the better.”
Eli knew he wasn’t kidding. When the family had come home from their vacation last month, the Kelleher house had no longer had the FOR SALE sign swinging in front of it. Instead of a basketball hoop, the driveway now had nothing but an extremely shiny old Buick. And the yard, which had been remarkable only for the dandelions, was now all spruced up with what looked like hundreds of carefully transplanted flowers. Flowers that apparently weren’t able to withstand the occasional ball. Old Mr. Nelson didn’t seem as fancy as his flowers--he was kind of grizzled-looking. He scowled at the boys when he walked his yappy little dog and ignored them the rest of the time. But calling the police on their sing-along had definitely been what Eli’s history book would call an escalation.
“Why couldn’t someone cool with kids have moved in?” Jax mumbled.
No one bothered to answer him.
“Papa! Is it time to go? Will my name tag say ‘Frog’?” Frog jumped up and down in excitement. “Or will it say ‘Jeremiah’? I hate it when it says my real name.”
“Don’t worry, Froggie,” said Jax helpfully. “They’ll probably just call you Doofus.”
“They will not!” Frog retorted. “And, Papa, do you think they’ll keep the seat next to mine saved for Flare? He’s coming today too, you know.”
Papa ignored the mention of Flare, Frog’s imaginary best friend, who happened to be a cheetah, and concentrated on shutting down his camera. Eli agreed with this strategy. It was never a good idea to try to talk Frog out of his imaginary creatures.
Once the camera was carefully placed back in its case, the launch began in earnest. This year Sam and Jax would bike or walk together most of the time, but today, with all the school supplies, they rode with Papa. Eli had a little pang that he and Jax weren’t starting fourth grade together. They had always been in the same grade at the same school, even if they hadn’t been in the same class, and he would miss the comfort of having Jax nearby. But changing schools had been his choice; he wasn’t going to worry about it now. Sam and Jax milled around, double-checking binders and colored pencils, while Papa tried to figure out where he had left his keys. Frog, who was supposed to get into the car with Eli, was--ugh--licking his hand and smoothing down his dark wispy hair in an effort to make it stay flat. Finally he climbed in and started to buckle his booster seat.
Eli watched all this from his own seat, buckled in and waiting patiently for Dad to get in and take him to Narnia, to Hogwarts, to Never Land. Eli was starting a new school this fall, one for gifted students, and he was more than ready.
He opened the car door and shouted out, “Dad? You’re driving me, right? I don’t want to be late!”
“Close the door! Flare is getting chilly!” Frog commanded. Eli ignored him.
“I’m coming, Eli,” Tom Anderson, known to the boys as Dad, answered as he walked down the driveway. He got into the van, clutching his coffee mug with one hand while trying desperately to shove his lunch into his briefcase with the other. “We just have to drop Frog off first. You’ll be there in plenty of time. I’m just hoping I will--I have a department meeting before my first class. But your school’s on the way to Middleton High. Sort of. Well, it’s not the opposite direction.” He sighed, giving up and dropping the lunch onto the already cluttered passenger seat of the van. His coffee spilled slightly as it fell with a clunk on an acorn that was destabilizing the cup holder.
“Craaa . . . napple,” he muttered, trying to keep the coffee off his papers.
“Dad! Was that a rude word?” Eli asked, straining forward against his seat belt. “No rude words in front of us! You owe a quarter to the Rude Box.”
“No. It was ‘cranapple.’ There’s nothing rude about ‘cranapple.’ It’s a kind of juice.” Dad reversed the car out of the driveway. “Okay. Off to Froggie’s kindergarten. I can’t wait to see your classroom!”
Eli sighed. It had been four months and twenty-eight days, or approximately 216,000 minutes, since he’d found out he’d been admitted to Pinnacle. He guessed a little longer wouldn’t matter.

Chapter Two
In Which Jax Considers Survival of the Fittest
FROM THE DESK OF JASON FLETCHER
Jax--
Congratulations! By forgetting to scoop the litter box, you’ve inspired Zeus to branch out. He has returned to his wildcat roots and peed in Dad’s potted ficus plant in the living room. Over to you to clean it up and explain to Dad.
Love, Papa
Jax was freaking out, just a little. It was the first day of fourth grade, and everything depended on Sam. Sam was royalty, kind of like a carnivore with a bunch of gazelles and zebras and wildebeests around him. As a sixth grader, he was already the top of the food chain, but Sam was also the best goalie the Shipton soccer coach had seen in ages; the talk was that Sam might even make the Elite Team next year. And he was funny. Funny like he made Jax snort milk out of his nose at least once a week at dinner, which actually hurt more than Jax would have thought. Everyone loved Sam.
No one loved Jax.
Well, to be fair, no one knew him. Jax had spent third grade hidden in the world of Star Wars, drawing battle scenes with his best friend, Henry, during every recess and debating who would win various superhero fights. Sometimes Eli had joined them, and he’d always had cool ideas for battles, though usually he’d been too busy reading some crazy book to bother with them. Although he didn’t really think about it a lot, Jax knew having a total genius brother like Eli in the same grade didn’t exactly help his coolness factor. Guiltily, he was kind of relieved Eli had wanted to switch schools this year. Of course, he would always stand up for Eli if other kids teased him. Still, it would be easier to be cool with Sam as the only other Fletcher in the building.
This year could be different. Sure, Star Wars was still awesome, but he’d now read all the Harry Potter books and seen most of the movies, and had even seen a PG-13 movie with a babysitter who hadn’t known he wasn’t allowed. And, most importantly, unlike the third graders, the fourth graders were in the Upper Elementary, which meant Jax would be in the same building as Sam. He could be cool this year. If Sam backed him up. If he treated Jax as a goober the first week of school, all was lost.
It was time to take action. Still thinking about carnivores, Jax pictured the remoras that swam alongside the huge sharks, helping them out by eating any bugs and dirt and stuff that stuck to them. Not that he wanted to eat bugs off Sam. But maybe he could make himself useful.
“Hey, Sam?” Jax asked, peering over the back of the front passenger seat, where Sam was finally allowed to sit. “I know it’s your night to walk Sir Puggleton, but if you want, I’ll do it. When we get home, I mean. Just remind me.”
“Thanks, J. That’d be great,” Sam answered absently, not looking up from his phone, where he was still texting. He’d gotten it for his birthday that summer, and it seemed to be attached to his hand.
“And, um . . . if you want, I’ll do it next time too. I don’t mind.” Jax thought about offering to take over Sam’s litter box duties as well, since the boys traded off, but he really hated litter box duty. He’d save that in case he needed it.
There was no answer from the front seat, though Jax saw Papa’s eyes swivel toward him in the rearview mirror.
Jax avoided Papa’s glance. Papa would not get the need to be on Sam’s good side, and would launch into a lecture that would include references to some philosophers, Walt Whitman (his favorite poet), and the Beatles. But Papa worked from home, creating some kind of wizard-like technical computer models, so what did he know? He hadn’t even met most of the people he worked with--they were off in China or India or across the country in California. Dad taught high school history. He would understand the survival of the fittest.
Jax was desperate. If only he could make his brother crack up, or impress him in some way before they got to school . . . Something! The car stopped at a red light, and as they sat, Jax looked at the leafy green trees that lined the streets of their historic town.
“Hey! What’s black and white and red all over?” he asked, hoping his voice didn’t sound as panicked as he felt.
“A newspaper,” said Papa automatically.
“A zebra,” answered Sam at the same time.
“Nope! A skunk in a blender!” Jax started laughing hysterically. Oh, no. It was happening. The nervous hysterical laughter that led to tears, then the hiccups. This was the worst.
The car lurched forward, and Sam turned around.
“Jax? You okay, man? Breathe, dude, breathe! You sound like you’re dying.” Sam had finally put down his phone. “What’s up? Are you nervous about Upper El? It’s not that different, seriously. Just remember, most kids are going to play football at recess. If you want to be totally down, start bringing your own ball. Some dorks play four square, but trust me, you don’t want to do that.”
Papa snorted. “Please, Samuel,” he said. “Tell me you didn’t just judge a kid’s coolness on whether he throws a football or a rubber ball during your fifteen minutes on the playground.”
Sam shrugged. “I don’t make the rules, but it’s true. Jax’ll see it for himself. I’m just trying to help.”
Jax shook his head, willing himself to get a grip. Slowly he breathed in through his nose, out through his mouth, the way Jedis did when preparing for battle. No hiccups. Thank goodness.
“I’m not nervous,” he said faintly, wondering how he could possibly explain. He just wanted Sam to . . . to . . .
Too late. They pulled up in a line of cars at the school.
“Have a marvelous Monday, boys,” Papa said as they unpacked themselves from the car. “Jackson, enjoy Upper El--I can’t wait to hear about it.” Then he drove away.
Jax gave a faint wave, not wanting to look too eager, and stood on the sidewalk. He peered around the playground, wondering where Henry was. When he stepped forward, he tripped and flew against the curb, his backpack jouncing up and hitting him in the head before he landed, hard, on his hands and knees on the asphalt. He quickly rolled and performed an impressive almost-somersault, and landed back on his feet before five seconds had passed. Panting, he stood up, looking around frantically to see if anyone had noticed. What a disaster! He couldn’t imagine a worse start, unless he had barfed on his shoes like Teddy had done back in first grade. Trying to be inconspicuous, Jax picked bits of bloody gravel out of the palm of his hand. Luckily, it didn’t look like anyone had seen him. Carefully he walked forward into the playground.
Sam had already found his crowd and was engaging in a complicated series of fist bumps with his best friend, Tyler, and five other guys. They all looked enormous, way taller than Jax, who was still hoping for a growth spurt. Before Jax could move, his brother walked over and slung an arm over his shoulder.

Awards

  • NOMINEE | 2017
    Connecticut Nutmeg Children's Book Award
  • NOMINEE | 2017
    Washington Sasquatch Reading Program
  • NOMINEE | 2017
    New Jersey Garden State Children's Book Award
  • NOMINEE | 2017
    Rhode Island Children's Book Award
  • NOMINEE | 2016
    Hawaii Nene Award
  • AWARD | 2015
    Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
  • SELECTION | 2015
    ALSC Notable Children's Recordings
  • NOMINEE | 2015
    Notable Children's Books
  • NOMINEE | 2015
    Maine Student Book Award

Praise

Kirkus starred review, June 1, 2014:
"The Fletcher family rules!"

School Library Journl starred review, June 14, 2014:
Fans of Beverly Cleary’s Quimbys, Judy Blume’s Hatchers, and, more recently, Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks will fervently hope that more Fletcher misadventures are yet to come.

Books for LGBTQIA+ Pride Month

In June we celebrate Pride Month, which honors the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan and highlights the accomplishments of those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual + (LGBTQIA+) community, while recognizing the ongoing struggles faced by many across the world who wish to live as their most authentic selves. Here is

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PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

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PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

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PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

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