Read an Excerpt
Giant Yo-Yo Mystery
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2006 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
An Unhappy Neighbor
"Hey, everyone!" six-year-old Benny Alden cried as he ran into the living room dragging an old red yo-yo by its string. "You'll never guess what I just did!"
Benny's ten-year-old sister, Violet, glanced up from her book. "What did you do, Benny?"
"Yes, tell us," twelve-year-old Jessie said eagerly. She and fourteen-year-old Henry were in the middle of a game of checkers.
Their grandfather, James Alden, set his newspaper aside. "Whatever it is must be pretty exciting. You're all out of breath, Benny."
Benny grinned. "I know," he said, panting. "And my news is exciting." He took a deep breath, then said, "I just broke my own record!"
"Record for what?" Henry asked.
"Yo-yoing!" Benny held up his yo-yo. "My old record was 42. But I just made this yo-yo go down and up 57 times!"
"That's wonderful, Benny," Jessie said.
"It sure is," Grandfather agreed. He looked closer at the yo-yo in Benny's hand. "Hey, where did you get that yo-yo?"
"I found it out in the boxcar," Benny replied.
Back before the children had come to live with their grandfather, they lived in an old boxcar. Their parents had died and they didn't know their grandfather. They were afraid he'd be mean, so they ran away. They found an old boxcar in the woods and decided to live there.
When their grandfather found them, the children discovered he wasn't mean at all.
He brought them to live with him. He even had their boxcar moved to his backyard so they could play there anytime they wanted to.
Grandfather picked up the yo-yo and turned it around in his hand. The initials J.A. were carved into one side of the yo-yo.
"This looks like my old yo-yo," Grandfather said with a smile. "I thought this was in a box of old toys in the basement. I wonder how it got out to the boxcar?"
Benny looked the yo-yo over. "I bet I know," he said after a little while. He pointed to some tiny gouges in the wood. "See the teeth marks? I think Watch found it in the basement and took it outside."
The Aldens' dog slapped his tail on the floor and let out a friendly woof when he heard his name.
"I'll bet you're right," Henry said.
"Good detective work, Benny," Jessie said, scratching Watch behind the ears.
The Aldens were known for their detective skills. They had solved many mysteries since coming to live with their grandfather.
"Well, I'm glad you found it," Grandfather said, turning the yo-yo around in his hand. "I used to be quite good at this when I was a boy. I knew several tricks."
"Can you show us?" Violet asked.
"I don't know if I can still do this," Grandfather said. "Let's see ..." He brought his hand up to his shoulder, flicked his wrist and sent the yo-yo down to the floor. It rolled along the carpet for a few feet, then Grandfather rolled it back up again.
"Wow!" Benny said, clapping his hands. "What's that trick called?"
"It's called 'walk the dog,'" Grandfather said.
"Can you show me how to do it?" Benny asked.
"Sure," Grandfather said. "First you have to learn to make the yo-yo 'sleep.'"
"Sleep?" Benny wrinkled his nose. "I thought only people and animals could go to sleep."
Grandfather chuckled. "Yo-yos can sleep, too. When a yo-yo sleeps, that just means it's spinning at the bottom of the string. Like this." Grandfather brought his hand up to his shoulder once again and sent the yo-yo down. The yo-yo stayed at the bottom of the string and spun around and around. It didn't come back up until Grandfather turned his hand around and pulled it back up.
"How did you do that?" Benny asked, wide-eyed.
"Let me show you," Grandfather said. He handed the yo-yo back to Benny. "Now, raise your arm up like you're lifting a weight. Then throw your arm forward and drop the yo-yo."
Benny tried to do what Grandfather said, but the yo-yo just wobbled at the bottom of the string and came to a stop. It didn't spin at all.
"It takes practice," Grandfather said. "If you learn how to throw a sleeper, then I'll show you how to walk the dog."
Benny nodded. "I'll keep working on it."
"What other tricks do you know, Grandfather?" Jessie asked.
"Oh, I used to do the 'rattlesnake,' 'man on the flying trapeze,' 'double or nothing,' 'the pinwheel' ..." Grandfather smiled as he remembered. "But I'm not sure I can do any of those tricks anymore. Say, if you kids are interested in yo-yos, I should introduce you to my friend, Jeff Naylor. He's a furniture builder, but he knows some really fancy yo-yo tricks. In fact, he's in the middle of a new project that I think you kids would find interesting."
"What kind of project?" Henry asked.
"Jeff is trying to build the world's largest yo-yo," Grandfather explained. "It's pretty incredible. I saw it when I was in his shop just the other day."
"How big is the world's largest yo-yo?" Benny asked.
"I'm not sure," Grandfather said. "But I know that when Jeff's yo-yo is done, it's going to be so big that it'll be launched from a big crane."
"You mean it's actually going to go up and down like a regular yo-yo?" Jessie asked.
"That's what Jeff says," Grandfather replied.
"Can we see it go up and down?" Benny asked.
"I'm sure we can," Grandfather said. "Jeff says the whole town will be invited. Would you like me to take you to meet Jeff right now?"
"Oh yes," the children said eagerly.
The Aldens hopped into the car and Grandfather drove across town. Jeff's shop was in an over-sized, white building that sat on a corner of a residential street. It had a huge garage door in the front. The door looked big enough to drive a semi truck though. Beside it was a regular door. A sign in the small parking lot read: Jeff's Custom Furniture.
The children followed Grandfather across the parking lot. They could hear hammering, sawing, and loud music coming from inside the building.
Grandfather pushed open the door and the Aldens walked inside. The hammering, sawing, and music were so loud that Benny put his bands over his ears.
The inside of the building was one large open space. There were several unfinished wood cabinets scattered in the middle of the room, and a video camera sat on a tripod in the back corner.
A woman dressed in faded overalls was sawing boards at one end of the shop. Her brown, curly hair was tied back in a pony-tail. She didn't notice the Aldens at first.
The man who was hammering boards together at the other end of the shop saw them walk in. He reached behind him and turned down the volume on the radio.
"James!" he exclaimed. "I'm so glad you stopped back. These must be your grandchildren."
"Yes. This is Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny." Grandfather introduced them. "Kids, this is my good friend, Jeff Naylor."
Jeff was a tall, thin man with very short hair and a nice smile. He shook hands with each of the children. "It's nice to meet you all."
Jeff cupped his hands around his mouth and called, "Emily!" to the woman in overalls. He motioned for her to stop sawing for a minute.
Emily turned off the saw. "Yes?" she said loudly.
"I want to introduce you to some friends of mine," Jeff said. "These are the Aldens. Everyone, this is my assistant, Emily Kaye."
"Pleased to meet you," Emily said politely. Then she turned the saw back on and got right back to work.
"Emily is amazing," Jeff said loudly, leading the Aldens away from the noise. "I just hired her a couple months ago, but she jumped right in on this order of cabinets I have. I hardly had to train her. And then besides working hard for me all day, she's been staying after hours to help me with this yo-yo project."
"That's wonderful," Grandfather said. "I know you've had a hard time finding another carpenter after your old friend Gary Richmond quit."
A cloud passed in front of Jeff's eyes. "Gary Richmond is no friend of mine. And I don't want to talk about him." He turned to the children. "Did you kids know I'm trying to build the world's largest yo-yo?"
"Yes. Grandfather told us," Jessie said in a loud voice so she could be heard over the saw.
"Is this it?" Benny asked as he gazed at the huge, round, wooden object behind Jeff. It was more than twice as wide across as Benny was tall. But it didn't look much like a yo-yo. It looked more like a huge bicycle wheel with spokes.
"Yes, this is it," Jeff said proudly. "Half of it, anyway. I have to build each half separately, then connect them with an axle."
"How big is it going to be when it's finished?" Jessie asked.
"Well, each of these halves will have a diameter of twelve feet," Jeff said.
"Twelve feet?" Benny cried, his eyes wide as golf balls. "That's as tall as the deep end of the swimming pool!"
"That's right." Jeff smiled. "And when the yo-yo is put together, it'll probably be about five feet wide and will weigh more than a thousand pounds."
"That's incredible," Henry said. "And it'll really go up and down, too?"
"Do you mean 'will it yo?'" Jeff asked. "That's what we say when a yo-yo goes up and down. And to answer your question, Henry, yes, when it's done this yo-yo should yo. It won't break the previous record if it doesn't."
"How can something so big ... yo?" Jessie asked, trying out the new word. "Won't it be too heavy?"
"I'll have to use an extra strong cable for the string. And I'm planning to launch it from a two-hundred-foot crane. It should be fine—if I build it right. I've been working on this design for a couple of years. I've talked with engineers, geometry teachers, and physics teachers over at the community college. There's a lot of math involved in a project like this."
"I'm sure there is," Grandfather said.
"Would you like to see my drawings?" Jeff asked.
"Sure," the children said.
Jeff led everyone over to a pair of desks in the corner. One had a computer and printer on it. The other was a regular desk with drawers. Jeff opened the top drawer and pulled out some papers. But before he could explain what the papers were, the front door burst open and a very angry-looking older woman barged in.
"Mr. Naylor," the woman said through gritted teeth. "I know you run a business here, but it's after hours. Surely, you don't really need to be sawing now! Greenfield does have a city noise ordinance, you know."
Jeff motioned for Emily to stop sawing again. With a heavy sigh, Emily shut off the saw.
"I'm sorry about the noise, Mrs. Thorton," Jeff said. "We didn't mean to disturb you. But this project isn't anything I've been hired to do, so I didn't feel right working on it during business hours."
Mrs. Thorton's eyes narrowed. "What exactly are you doing?" she asked.
"He's building the world's largest yo-yo!" Benny said.
"Really?" Mrs. Thorton said.
"Yes." Jeff spread out his papers on top of the desk and started to explain how the yo-yo would work.
But Mrs. Thorton interrupted him. "I don't like the sound of this, Jeff. It sounds dangerous."
"I assure you, Mrs. Thorton, I am taking every possible safety precaution."
"But you're talking about launching a thousand-pound yo-yo from two hundred feet in the air! How can that possibly be safe?"
"Well—" Jeff began.
"No!" Mrs. Thorton shook her head. "I'm asking you as a good neighbor, Jeff. Please don't do this."
Jeff took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Thorton. I can try and do something about the noise, but I can't give up this project. Karl's Lumber is donating wood. A-l Wrecking is donating use of the crane. People are excited about this project. If the yo-yo works, it'll put Greenfield on the map!"
"But what if that yo-yo falls from the crane and rolls into the crowd?" Mrs. Thorton asked. "Someone could get hurt. Maybe even killed."
Jeff opened his mouth to protest, but Mrs. Thorton cut him off. "I'm warning you, Jeff, if you don't stop this project, I'll find a way to stop you."
And with that, Mrs. Thorton stormed out of the shop.CHAPTER 2
"Who was that lady?" Benny asked. "She didn't seem very friendly."
"Than Mrs. Thorton," Jeff replied. "She lives in that little yellow house across the street. And it's not that she's unfriendly. She just worries a lot."
"What does she worry about?" Violet asked.
"You name it, Mrs. Thorton worries about it," Emily muttered as she carried an armload of wood pieces over to where Jeff had been assembling the yo-yo.
"But why is she so worried about the yo-yo?" Benny asked. "Could it really fall from the crane and roll into the crowd and hurt people?"
Jeff got down on his knees so he was at eye-level with Benny. "I promise you, Benny, I won't put the yo-yo up on the crane if I'm not one-hundred-percent sure it's safe. I don't want people to get hurt any more than you or Mrs. Thorton do."
"I'm sure Jeff knows what he's doing, Benny," Grandfather said.
"That's right," Emily said. "He's been poring over those plans for months. He probably knows more about building huge yo-yos than he does about building furniture."
Jeff laughed. "That's probably true."
"Do you think Mrs. Thorton will really try and stop you from building the yo-yo?" Jessie asked.
"She might try," Jeff said. "She'll probably talk to the mayor. I know the two of them are good friends. But I don't think she'll have any luck stopping the project. The only reason she might have to complain would be noise. And I'm going to see what I can do about that."
"Could you do the noisy work earlier in the day?" Violet suggested.
"That's exactly what I was thinking," Jeff said. "I've been doing my regular work during the day and saving the yo-yo for after hours. But lately, my regular work has been staining cabinets. Staining cabinets doesn't make any noise. I could do that just as easily at night."
"Mrs. Thorton isn't even home until late afternoon," Emily said. "We could do the sawing for the yo-yo during the day while she's gone. As long as we meet the deadline on these cabinets, it probably doesn't matter what we do when, does it?"
"I don't think so," Jeff said. "It's settled then. Starting tomorrow, we'll do the yo-yo work during the day and the cabinet work at night."
Honk! Honk! A horn blared outside.
Emily turned toward the door. "Oh, that's probably Todd," she said. She took off her safety goggles and hung them on a hook in the corner. Then she grabbed her purse and sweater.
"It was nice meeting you," Emily told the Aldens. "I'll see you tomorrow, Jeff." She waved, then hurried out the door just as the car outside honked again.
Jeff shook his head. "That Emily is a nice girl, but I don't think much of her boyfriend, Todd. Every night it's the same. He comes to pick her up, but instead of coming inside to see if she's ready, he just sits out front and honks until she comes out."
"That's not very polite," Violet said.
"No, it isn't," Jeff agreed. "I know he doesn't like her working late, so I wonder what he's going to say when we start working on the yo-yo during the day and then doing our other work at night? She won't be able to leave when he honks then. But I guess it's not my place to worry about it."
Jeff turned back to the papers on his desk. "I just hope I don't have any trouble with Mrs. Thorton. I've always had a passion for yo-yos, and I would really like to build the world's largest yo-yo."
"We hope you don't have any trouble with her, either," Violet said.
Jeff smiled. "Say, did you kids know that the word yo-yo means 'come come?'"
"No," the children all said at once.
"It's true," Jeff said. "It comes from a Tagalog word. Tagalog is a language that's spoken in the Philippines."
"Is that where the yo-yo was invented?" Violet asked.
"No, I think the yo-yo was invented in China," Jeff said. "It was certainly used in the Philippines, though. In fact, at one time it was used as a hunting weapon. Hunters would throw it out to try and catch an animal by the legs."
"Really?" Henry said. "That's interesting."
"Yes. The yo-yo has a pretty interesting history," Jeff said. "I've got some articles here if you'd like to read more about it."
"I'd like to," Violet said. "I'll bring them back as soon as I've finished reading them."
"Take your time," Jeff said. "You know, I sure could use some more help with this yo-yo. What do you kids say? Would you like to help build the world's largest yo-yo?"
"Oh boy!" Benny cried. "Could we, Grandfather?"
"I don't know why not," Grandfather said.
"What would you want us to do?" Jessie asked.
"Nothing too hard," Jeff said. "Looks like Emily has mostly finished cutting the pieces for the first half of the yo-yo, so until I get another delivery of wood, it's just a matter of screwing the pieces together. Eventually, I'll need help getting the two halves connected to the axle and then we'll need to paint the outside."
"We can help with all of that!" Violet said eagerly.
"I'll also need someone to run the video camera every now and then." Jeff pointed to the camera that was sitting on a tripod in the corner.
"Are you making a movie about building the yo-yo?" Grandfather asked.
"Sort of," Jeff said. "If you want to break a world's record, you need to document every step along the way so that people know you really did it."
"I know how to run a video camera," Benny said, jumping up and down.
"That's good, Benny," Jeff said with a smile. "It sounds like you're all good helpers. Do you think you could come back tomorrow morning?"
"We'd love to!" The children nodded eagerly.
"In that case, we'd better get home and get you all to bed," Grandfather said.
"Okay," the children agreed. They all said their goodbyes, then the Aldens headed out to the car.
Grandfather's car was parked on the street, right in front of a gray station wagon. It looked like there was somebody inside the station wagon wearing a dark baseball cap. It was too dark to tell whether the person was a man or a woman, but Henry wondered why the person was just sitting there.
Excerpted from Giant Yo-Yo Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp. Copyright © 2006 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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