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She awakened the next morning to the smell of freshly popped popcorn. The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was a brand-new tree outside of her bedroom window that hadn't been there the night before. Its branches were so full of fluffy white popcorn that they drooped toward the ground. Surely I must be dreaming, she thought. She reached out the window and grabbed a handful. It was the best-tasting popcorn she had ever had. I have to be the luckiest girl in the world! she thought while getting ready for school.
Anna Marie decided to pack a bag of popcorn in her lunch. She went out in the backyard to collect it and realized that there was enough for her friends as well. She packed three full bags.
During lunch, Anna shared her story about the shooting star and the popcorn tree with her friends. Not a single one of them believed her story, but they were thankful for the incredible popcorn.
Immediately after school, Anna ran to the backyard for a snack. She was shocked to see seven more trees. Each new tree had sprouted and grown to full size while she was at school. There was so much popcorn that Anna threw herself to the ground and made popcorn angels. She was standing knee deep in popcorn when her mom opened the back door to welcome her home from school. The popcorn rolled into the house and nearly swept her mom off of her feet.
"Anna, what in the world is going on?" her mother asked. "Where did all this popcorn come from?" Anna tried to explain her experience with the shooting star and her wish, but her mom didn't believe her. She could only see the mess that the popcorn had created. "Anna, please clean this up before dinner," her mother said.
Anna raked the yard and filled ten garbage bags with popcorn, snacking the whole time. She remembered that her school had a dumpster in which she could throw it away.
She was sad to see such good popcorn go to waste, but she reminded herself that she would have more tomorrow. She tossed the bags in the dumpster and returned home only to find more popcorn. It looked like she hadn't even started raking. She filled ten more bags and took them to the dumpster.
It was getting dark by the time she got home. She didn't even go to the back yard for a snack; she was feeling sick from eating so much popcorn. Exhausted from all the raking, she quickly finished her homework and went to bed, falling asleep immediately.
Anna Marie awoke the next morning to the sound of her principal's voice. Her parents were watching an interview with Principal Webster on the morning news. "School has been cancelled for today because there is a thick forest of popcorn trees on the school property and we can't seem to find the building."
Anna and her friends met at the school property and had a wonderful day. The sun warmed them while they rolled in the popcorn. They jumped in it, built popcorn forts, had popcorn fights, and made popcorn angels. They threw popcorn up into the air to catch it in their mouths. They all went home with popcorn falling out of their hair, pockets, and pant legs. Anna's friends thanked her for making such a great wish.
Early the next morning, Anna really began to worry about her wish. Looking out the window, she could only see popcorn and popcorn trees. She couldn't see grass, roads, or sidewalks. There were new popcorn trees as far as she could see.
The mayor declared a state of emergency in the town. No one was allowed to leave home. Mayor Stitwell had a group of people working on a solution to the problem, but no one seemed to have an idea on how to get rid of all of the popcorn. He called in the snowplows to make a path for him to get to Anna's house.
"Anna, the town is a mess, and school will be cancelled for weeks. You have to find a way to take back your wish," the mayor pleaded.
Every night for three weeks, Anna lay awake watching out the window for a shooting star, but as luck would have it, there were none to be seen. Then something incredible happened:
It was a late fall day like all others; Anna woke to look out the window at the fluffy white popcorn. On that day, though, she noticed that the popcorn trees were droopy, wilted and dying. The white fluff in the yard was sparkly. "Snow!" Anna screamed. "I have the answer! Mom, Dad, get the mayor on the phone; I have an idea."
Anna explained to the mayor that popcorn needed heat to pop. The cold weather and snow would prevent it from popping. A massive cleanup effort would be needed if the townsfolk ever wanted to see their grass, roads and sidewalks again. The mayor called in all of the heavy equipment-the dozers, loaders, dump trucks, and plows. He went on television to tell the town that everyone needed to help. No kernel could be left on the ground, no stone could be left unturned; every nook, cranny, and crevice would need to be cleaned.
Everyone worked together until the community was popcorn-free. They loaded the popcorn on train cars, as Anna had suggested, and shipped it to the North Pole. Anna was positive that it wouldn't cause any problems in the cold weather up there, and the reindeer were happy to have such a special treat. She would be happy to never see or smell popcorn again!
Anna decided that she would never make a wish again without thinking it through first, because she knew that she might just get what she wished for.
Excerpted from Anna Marie and the Popcorn Tree by Michelle Cook Copyright © 2010 by Michelle Cook. Excerpted by permission.
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