Ellie Everby Nancy Ruth Patterson
Ellie and her mother lost everything in the hurricane: their home, their family business, and, tragically, Ellie's dad. They get a chance at a new life when Ellie's mom gets a job apprenticing as a farrier and managing a horse farm in Virginia. Ellie has a scholarship to Twin Creeks Preparatory School, where her snobby classmates aren't friendly at all—until
Ellie and her mother lost everything in the hurricane: their home, their family business, and, tragically, Ellie's dad. They get a chance at a new life when Ellie's mom gets a job apprenticing as a farrier and managing a horse farm in Virginia. Ellie has a scholarship to Twin Creeks Preparatory School, where her snobby classmates aren't friendly at all—until a rumor begins that Ellie is actually a princess! Suddenly Ellie is the school's most popular girl. But what will happen when the truth comes out?
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- Age Range:
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By Nancy Ruth Patterson
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2010 Nancy Ruth Patterson
All rights reserved.
Ellie Taylor hated it when people called her and the other kids heroes.
"Heroes in hand-me-downs," the church lady giving out sweaters to the children in the homeless shelter said to nobody in particular on Christmas Eve. Ellie wondered how that fake honor could make anybody who'd lost just about everything they had in a "natural disaster" feel better.
Ellie knew full well she wasn't a hero because a hateful hurricane had swallowed her house. It had washed away the shutters and doors and kitchen sink. It had also washed away whole neighborhoods and even managed to kidnap her beloved Saint Bernard, Pandy. But just surviving a hurricane didn't make her a hero.
A hero was somebody who'd done something special, something important, something unselfish. Somebody like her father, who had drowned trying to rescue people afterwards.
Her mother knew they weren't heroes, and they weren't "victims" either, like the TV said, or "homeless people." Her mother really hated that one.
"We're just between homes," her mother had said. "'Tweeners. Let's call ourselves 'tweeners."
'Tweeners sounded so much more hopeful to Ellie than homeless.
The used sweaters and sweatshirts had been donated for children the hurricane had left homeless. When the church lady turned her back, one of the bigger kids tried to take two sweaters from one of the boxes.
"Remember, one per customer," she said kindly as she turned around and saw him. "There are so many other children who need them, too. Why, I'm going to another shelter as soon as I leave here. We need to save some for those children."
The boy sheepishly put one sweater back.
It was Ellie's turn to rummage through the giveaway box labeled MEDIUM in search of a sweater that would fit a nine-year-old.
Ellie spied one she thought would be perfect for Christmas. True, the neck had been stretched to the size of a soup bowl, and the sleeves hung an inch below her fingertips. But it was bright red, and it looked like it would keep her warm. Best of all, it had a basset hound wearing a silly Santa hat woven into the front. Just perfect for an animal lover like me, Ellie thought. She thanked the lady politely and turned to leave.
But as she turned, she spotted a puffy little face in the pile. She reached in and pulled out a reindeer sweater with a soft red nose fashioned from yarn. It was too big for her, but the perfect size for her mom. And a reindeer looked a little bit like a horse, she figured. She wondered if reindeer wore horseshoes. Horseshoes like the ones her father used to make when he was alive and had his farrier business, Taylor-Made Horseshoes. Horseshoes like the ones her mother kept saying she wanted to make someday.
But the church lady had said one to a customer. Ellie started to walk away; then she decided she'd rather have the one with the fuzzy-nosed reindeer. It would be a perfect Christmas present for her mom. She went to the back of the line and waited while the children in front of her each picked a sweater. She hoped nobody else would like the reindeer sweater as much as she did.
Beth, who lived in the room next to theirs at the shelter, patted the red yarn of the reindeer's nose, then put it back. "It's too big for you," the lady told her, handing her a snowman sweatshirt instead. Beth sprinted out of the room, smiling.
As the line inched its way shorter and shorter, Ellie felt her heart beat faster and faster. She thought — she hoped — that the last three boys would want the Dallas Cowboys sweatshirts that she had seen in the box, not the reindeer sweater. Ellie felt relieved when they grabbed them and began to run around the room throwing imaginary touchdowns.
"Haven't I seen you before?" the church lady asked when Ellie reached the boxes.
Ellie looked at the sweater she wanted for her mother. She tickled the reindeer's nose tenderly.
"You really like this one, don't you?" the lady asked. "It's one of my favorites, too. As a matter of fact, it was mine once, until I outgrew it." She patted her stomach playfully. "I thought one of the older, larger children might like it. It must have gotten mixed up in the box of sweaters for younger kids."
"I was just wondering if maybe, if possibly I could trade this one" — Ellie held out her basset hound sweater — "for the reindeer one?"
"But it's way too big for you," said the lady, holding it up to Ellie's shoulders. "See, it's even big enough for your mother."
Ellie looked down.
"Is that why you want it? It is, isn't it? You want a Christmas present for your mother."
Ellie nodded. She had heard that the church ladies who volunteered at the shelter would have special presents for children spending Christmas there, but Ellie wanted something special for her mother, too. She folded her basset hound sweater neatly and put it back in the box.
"Tell you what," the lady said. "If you won't tell the other kids, you can have them both."
"Wouldn't be fair," Ellie said. "You said one per customer."
"Well, everybody sure left these boxes in a mess. I saw how neatly you folded your sweater just now." The lady looked into Ellie's eyes. "I've got a great idea," she said. "Why don't you help me fold the rest of these sweaters and make sure they are in the right boxes according to size. Then you can take a second sweater. That would be fair. We'll consider it your paycheck."
"I could really use your help," the lady said convincingly. "I'm already late to my next stop."
Ellie spent fifteen minutes folding sweaters and sweatshirts and putting them in the boxes marked SMALL, MEDIUM, and LARGE. Then she helped the church lady take the three boxes out to her car.
Ellie raced back to her room with both the reindeer sweater and the basset hound one. She hid the reindeer sweater under her blanket.
Now she would have something to give her mother tomorrow morning.
For the first time, Ellie had a feeling that this Christmas might turn out to be pretty good after all.CHAPTER 2
Ellie woke up Christmas morning in Noah's Ark, which was the name on the door of the Taylors' room in the homeless shelter. Run by a church, this shelter was their home between homes, her mother had explained when they moved in that fall. It was much nicer than the overcrowded gym where they had slept on cots and showered in a locker room for a month after the hurricane.
She and her mother had become the first residents of the dozen studio apartments converted from unused Sunday School classrooms to house kids and their families temporarily. Ellie's mom had told her she could pick out their apartment, and Ellie had chosen the one with a mural of Noah's Ark on one wall. In its previous life, the apartment had been the church nursery. Ellie gave each of the animals on the deck of the ark in the mural a name and tried to learn every fact about them from an old encyclopedia in the church library. She wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up, and she thought the knowledge might come in handy.
Besides, seeing Noah and the animals on his ark gave Ellie hope that someone like Noah had rescued Pandy. Pandy had been recuperating from surgery at an animal hospital across town when the threat of a hurricane forced them to evacuate. Her mother had tried to pick Pandy up before they fled, but she couldn't fight the bumper-to-bumper traffic. "Your father will join us with Pandy after he helps with the evacuation," her mother had said. But her father never came. The animal hospital had been flooded, and nobody seemed to know what had happened to the veterinarian, let alone the animals in his care.
Ellie knew this Christmas would be different from the ones they had spent in their old home.
Just last Christmas her father had helped her make ornaments for their extra-tall spruce tree. Ellie had cut out pictures of animals from a magazine, and he had varnished them onto small circles of balsa wood. When the varnish was dry, her mother had poked red and green ribbons through the holes drilled in the top of the ornaments, and Pandy had barked when Ellie tied them on the tree.
"We probably have the only tree in America with a polar bear, a platypus, and a prairie dog," her father had said.
Ellie knew the hurricane had stolen those ornaments, too, but she tried not to think about it. Instead, she thought of their Christmas traditions that would stay the same.
Fried chicken and waffles for breakfast! That Taylor Christmas tradition would be the same, her mother had promised. Mrs. Taylor had a temporary job every weekday morning as a short-order cook in town, and she also cooked for the shelter on weekends and holidays. "Earning our keep," she called it. Everybody at the shelter looked forward to her mother's cooking, and Ellie felt sure they would love the Taylor tradition of fried chicken and waffles for Christmas breakfast.
Ellie peeked under the cover to be sure her mother's secret gift was still safe. Then she brushed her teeth, smoothed her hair as best she could, pulled on her basset hound sweater and jeans, and headed to the dining room. She could hear some of the children who had already gathered shrieking with delight, the smell of frying chicken thick in the air.
Miss Helen Beckwith, who had come out of retirement to volunteer at the shelter, was wearing a Santa hat and ho-ho-ho-ing hugs at the door. Ellie saw at once why the other kids were shrieking. Packages of every size and shape circled the artificial tree. Ellie counted sixteen packages — one for every child. She could tell from its shape that one package was a skateboard — probably for a kid named Jason, who talked about skateboarding all the time. A handlebar had punctured the paper on another package, a bike, for sure. Mike Stanley had asked for that, and she hoped it was his. A small package peeked out of a velvet stocking hanging on the tree. She wondered what could possibly be that tiny. The tags on the packages were turned so that the names didn't show. Ellie wondered which one would have her name.
Ellie's mom announced that breakfast could wait. She would keep it warm in the oven while the kids saw what Santa had left. One by one, Miss Beckwith called their names. One by one, the children exclaimed that Santa had left exactly what they had asked for. Then Miss Beckwith handed each adult a big box of chocolates.
She left Ellie's package, the tiny one peeking from the stocking, for last. "You might want to wait until you're alone with your mother to open it," Miss Beckwith whispered to her. Ellie couldn't imagine what was in the package. Oh, she had written the letter Miss Beckwith had asked them to write, but it couldn't be that. What she had asked for in that letter couldn't be wrapped up and tied with a bow. She could hardly wait to finish her fried chicken and syrup-drenched waffles to find out what was inside.
When they were back at Noah's Ark, Ellie gave her mother the sweater. "It's so cute," Mrs. Taylor exclaimed, pinching the reindeer's nose, then Ellie's. "Now it's your turn, Ellie."
Ellie sat on the side of her cot, prying the paper off the little box while her mother sat beside her, smiling. "You already know what's in it, don't you?" Ellie asked. Her mother smiled bigger.
In the box was a piece of folded stationery.
Ellie began to read the letter.
My name is Charles Beckwith. Helen Beckwith is my sister. She sent me the letters all the children at the shelter had written so that I could help Santa find the right gift for everyone. Most of the children's wishes were easy to find, but your Christmas wishes were a little harder to come by.
Santa said in his whole career no other child had ever asked him to help her mother become a farrier.
We checked with your mother to be sure that she really did want to shoe horses. Then we went to work.
I remembered that a college roommate of mine, Jake Hunter, had just purchased a large farm in Virginia horse country. His hobby is rescuing horses whose owners think are too old or too lame or too sick to keep. He wants those horses to live out their lives in the green pastures of his new farm. But because he and his wife spend winters at their Florida home, he needs somebody to live on the farm to take care of the horses. The great news is that he has offered the job to your mother, who has agreed to start work January 1. The job at the horse farm will only take a few hours a day, allowing her to work as an apprentice to one of the best farriers in Virginia, who lives nearby.
Mr. Hunter regrets that he will be unable to meet you in January. He'll be returning to the farm in April. Meanwhile, the farm manager, Grover Cook, will stay on long enough to show you and your mother around. He'll be retiring after you're settled in.
My sister told me about your father's heroism. She also wrote me that the principal at the school you've been attending told her you are one of the best students she has ever seen. My sister convinced me that you deserve a truly fine education. Twin Creeks Preparatory School, one of the most prestigious private girls' schools in the country, is not too far from the Hunters' estate. I asked your mother to send the headmaster there copies of your report cards and test scores. Because of your remarkable academic gifts, the school is pleased to award you a full scholarship for as long as you live near Twin Creeks and keep up your excellent grades. My sister and I know you will excel there.
I wish I could tell you that Santa's helpers had located your dog, Pandy, whom you also mentioned in your letter. My sister forwarded me a copy of the picture you showed her. As you may know, thousands of dogs were rescued during the hurricane, and many of them are still waiting for their owners at shelters across the country. We will continue to do what we can to help find Pandy.
Merry Christmas, Ellie. I hope this letter comes as good tidings in response to your Christmas wish.
Most sincerely, Charles Beckwith
Ellie had never seen the word tidings before, but she was pretty sure the letter meant that her mother had a job with the prospect of an even better job when she learned to shoe horses. Ellie knew her father had made a nice living as a farrier. Why couldn't her mother become the Taylor in Taylor-Made Horseshoes? She could almost picture her father smiling.
She was pretty sure that good tidings also meant they wouldn't be 'tweeners anymore — that they wouldn't have to worry so much about spending the last of the small insurance settlement her father had left them, and pretty soon they might even have enough money to buy a new house.
Her mother hugged Ellie tight. The reindeer's nose on her sweater poked Ellie, and she found herself giggling and crying at the same time.
Ellie thought the whole world smelled wonderful again, even better than fried chicken and waffles.CHAPTER 3
"What kind of people live in places like these?" Ellie asked as they wound their way past all the sprawling horse farms en route to the Hunters' estate. Sometimes she could see gigantic houses behind the white fences. Sometimes an enormous gate hinted at the size of the house it protected.
"Rich ones, I suppose," her mother said.
"These people don't have neighbors, at least not ones I can see. They can't just run next door to borrow a cup of sugar like we used to do."
"Not unless they're long-distance runners. This must be where we turn."
"It's the biggest house I've ever seen!" Ellie said as the Blue Goose rolled to a stop in front of a massive iron gate. The Blue Goose, their truck, was almost like part of the family. Her father had called it his office on wheels, the only office he ever needed for visiting his customers. They affectionately called it the Blue Goose because of the goose-honking sound of its horn, and when her mother honked at the gate, Ellie recalled that she could not remember a day when she hadn't heard that goose-honk at least once. She was glad her mother had driven away from the hurricane in the Blue Goose instead of using their old Chevy, even though the memory of her father at the wheel still made her sad.
Before Mrs. Taylor could find the right button to punch on the intercom, the gate opened up. The Blue Goose began to bounce over the cattle guards embedded into the sides of a shallow pit.
"Is that where we're going to live?" Ellie exclaimed as she eyed the mansion at the end of the long driveway.
"Just who do you think you are?" her mother asked, laughing.
As the Blue Goose pulled to a stop, a grizzly of a man in khakis and a heavy green jacket waved them to a spot on the circular driveway. Ellie and her mom got out of the truck. He lumbered toward them. "Looks like you made it," the man said. "I'm Grover Cook, the farm manager." Ellie thought his voice sounded gruff.
Excerpted from Ellie Ever by Nancy Ruth Patterson. Copyright © 2010 Nancy Ruth Patterson. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
NANCY RUTH PATTERSON is the author of several novels for children, including The Winner's Walk, which appeared on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List as well as four other state lists. She lives in Roanoke, Virginia.
PATTY WEISE is an artist who lives in northwestern Connecticut.
NANCY RUTH PATTERSON has written three other novels for children, including A Simple Gift. She lives in Roanoke, Virginia.
PATTY WEISE is an artist who lives in northwestern Connecticut. She is the illustrator of Ellie Ever.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is SUCH a touching story. Poor little Ellie and her mother have lost everything, but a better life is in store for them. However, Ellie is teased and made of by the snobby fourth grade girls at her new school... until a ridiculous rumor changes everything. Now the whole fourth grade believes that Ellie belongs to a royal family... and while that may be nice for a while, people are gonna have to find out about her rough past evantually... Full of heartfelt illustrations and touching quotes, this book is a must read and I highly recommend it.
It is such a good book who ever is thinking to bye it ,BYE IT!!!!