Juliet Dove, Queen Of Love

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Overview

Shy Juliet Dove leaves Mr. Elives' magic shop with Helen of Troy's amulet--a virtual man magnet. Juliet doesn't know what she's got, but soon every boy in town is swoony for her. Yet, much as she'd like to lose all the unwanted attention, she can't: The amulet won't come off!

A sidesplittingly funny, heartbreaking whirlwind of a book about the high cost of loving, from the award-winning author of My Teacher Is an Alien and The Unicorn ...

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Overview

Shy Juliet Dove leaves Mr. Elives' magic shop with Helen of Troy's amulet--a virtual man magnet. Juliet doesn't know what she's got, but soon every boy in town is swoony for her. Yet, much as she'd like to lose all the unwanted attention, she can't: The amulet won't come off!

A sidesplittingly funny, heartbreaking whirlwind of a book about the high cost of loving, from the award-winning author of My Teacher Is an Alien and The Unicorn Chronicles.

A shy twelve-year-old girl must solve a puzzle involving characters from Greek mythology to free herself from a spell which makes her irresistible to boys.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the fifth installment of Bruce Coville's Magic Shop series, Juliet Dove, Queen of Love, a mysterious woman gives shy, plain Juliet a magic amulet. Suddenly, all the boys in her class start noticing her-and falling in love with her. Juliet doesn't want all the attention, but she can't get the amulet to come off. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Sixth-grader Juliet Dove is painfully shy, although she is capable of responding rather wickedly if teased. In this volume of Coville's "Magic Shop" books, Juliet wanders into the mysterious, ever-shifting shop, where she acquires a strange ivory amulet that causes all the boys she knows to become enamored of her. How embarrassing! The quest to rid herself of the charm, which becomes much more weighty when Juliet discovers that Cupid is trapped inside, takes her to unexpected places and introduces her to Greek deities Athena, Eris (goddess of discord), Hera, and Aphrodite. Along the way Juliet finds the courage to overcome her shyness, learns a bit about Greek mythology (as will readers), and something about love and discord as well. Although this story is not as engaging as, for example, Coville's Magic Shop tale of Jeremy Thatcher and his dragon, nor is it (as claimed on the flap) "side splittingly funny," middle readers who like the idea of magic suddenly appearing in the lives of kids like themselves will probably enjoy the reappearance of crotchety shop proprietor S. H. Elives and the spooky librarian Hyacinth Priest. How do they manage to pop up in so many different towns? And what about the two talking messenger rats who sprout wings to muddle the situation even more? Well, that's magic for you, and, judging from the final message the rodents deliver to Juliet, middle readers who love such mysterious happenings will be meeting both Juliet and Mr. Elives'intriguing shop again. 2003, Harcourt, Ages 8 to 12.
— Barbara L. Talcroft
VOYA
The boy Haoyou is fascinated by the novelty of a thirteenth-century Chinese seaport, but pleasure turns to horror when his father is tossed onto a makeshift kite and killed before his eyes. Haoyou's Uncle Bo gives him to a circus where he flies bound to a huge kite, constantly seeking his father's spirit in the clouds. What he finds instead is the acceptance of the Mongols, a people unlike himself, and the strength of character to act independently. In a thrilling climax, he soars in the great typhoon that turned back the Mongol invasion of Japan. On the last page of the book, he is reunited with his mother and friends on a boat. McCaughrean's fluid prose quickly makes the story real and its context concrete. The exotic surroundings do not detract from the central theme of obligation to authority versus fulfilling one's own sense of right. Haoyou feels his father's spirit as simultaneously protective and threatening. The false father figure of Uncle Bo tests Haoyou's core value of obedience to the breaking point. The owner of the circus, a Chinese nobleman in disguise, labors to fulfill his oath to a dead father despite misgivings. Haoyou's struggle to be his own man will strike a chord with many young people. In England, this book won a Smartie Prize and the 2001 BBC Blue Peter Prize for Best Book to Keep Forever. Readers of this year's Newbery Winner, A Single Shard (Houghton Mifflin, 2001/VOYA April 2002) by Linda Sue Park or her earlier The Kite Fighter (Clarion, 2000/VOYA August 2000) will welcome this story of a boy coming of age long ago and far away. The background of the book is generally well researched with an explanatory note to clarify the author's major departure fromhistory. PLB
— Eve Nyren Okawa
KLIATT
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2002: I would double star this if KLIATT allowed such a thing! And it isn't even really a YA novel as we generally consider them. It's quite amazingly imaginative, exotic, and challenging-and it is in the genre of historical fiction, not fantasy. The kite rider is a 12-year-old boy, living in China in the 13th century, at the time of the Kublai Khan. His name is Haoyou. He is talented with his hands and courageous, with a generous spirit; he is also naive and immature. It isn't only Haoyou's story, however, since his older cousin Mipeng, a young woman who is brilliantly insightful, is an essential part of this novel and shares his adventures, saving him from his naivete, which often results in foolishness. The fact that his naivete rests on the Chinese philosophy of blind obedience to one's superiors and to older relatives, even if they should prove to be mean-spirited and corrupt, ups the ante of interest in the meaning of family unity and sacrifice. The book is lengthy for a children's book, over 300 pages, enough to be filled with adventures and characters, all of which are dazzling. Haoyou does ride a kite, in a harness, flying high in the sky, making money from the awestruck audience who believe he can commune with their dead ancestors up in the clouds. He and Mipeng join an itinerant circus traveling to the court of Kublai Khan, the most powerful man in China now that his Mongol warriors have invaded China and conquered the Chinese people. The young man who has taken in Haoyou and Mipeng, who loves Mipeng, has his own agenda for taking his circus to the presence of the Kublai Khan. He too is wrestling with the Chinese way ofobedience to parents, even if it means death. The breathtaking images of so much of the story, of Haoyou flying, of the acrobats in the circus, the Mongol way of execution that avoids spilling blood on the ground, of the den of iniquity, so to speak, where Haoyou's mother must work, the ghastly uncle who must be obeyed, the other villain of the story, an evil man who lusts after Haoyou's mother and seeks the family's destruction-all make for a truly marvelous story. McCaughrean has won the prestigious Carnegie Medal in England for A Pack of Lies; this book too proves her expertise as an author. KLIATT Codes: JS*-Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, HarperCollins, Trophy, 307p., Ages 12 to 18.
— Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Haoyou is a 12 year old in 13th century China, just conquered by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan. He goes to see his beloved father off on another shipping journey when wicked first mate Di Chou puts in motion a terrible plot. The superstitious Chinese always send aloft a person tied to a large kite to test the wind and the omens to ascertain whether the journey will be profitable. Haoyou's father, Pei, is sent on this mission, and fear makes his heart stop. Haoyou knows Di Chou intentionally arranged this in order to marry Pei's beautiful widow. Adding to the family's problems is the pompous and greedy Uncle Bo, who will do anything for some gold. Haoyou volunteers, somewhat to his horror, to be the kite rider for a ship on which he and his cousin Mipeng have stashed a drunken Di Chou the day before the wedding. The description of Haoyou's combination of complete fear and exhilaration is stirring. The mysterious Miao Je invites Haoyou to join his traveling circus as a kite rider where he becomes a star attraction, always seeking his father's spirit during these dangerous, gut-churning flights. Eventually they meet up with Kublai Khan and Maio Je's secrets are revealed. Details about superstition, codes of behavior and obedience, politics, racism, and daily life in China at this time are superbly conveyed in a beautifully written tale. The full cast recording of the novel by Geraldine McCaughrean (HarperCollins, 2002) is not quite convincing, although narrator Cynthia Bishop is excellent. None of Miao Je's charisma is audible nor is Uncle Bo's character portrayed in a seriously sinister way. However, the story is so wonderful that the recording will surely grip listeners.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An ancient-and terrifying-maritime practice becomes the impetus for a cracking good adventure story set in 13th-century China, after the Mongol conquest. Haoyou's sailor father dies when sent up on a hatch cover, kite-style, to "test the wind," and he, his beautiful mother, and his baby sister are left in the care of his rapacious and dishonest Great-uncle Bo. With the help of his world-weary cousin Mipeng, a young widow who has been forced into the role of medium, Haoyou manages to avoid the worst of his great-uncle's schemes for himself and his mother, but real escape comes only when he comes to the attention of the charismatic owner of a circus. The Great Miao has heard of the practice of testing the wind, has seen Haoyou himself lofted into the air, and has determined that a kite-rider will be the central act of a show he intends to play before the conqueror Kublai Khan himself. McCaughrean (Roman Myths, 2001, etc.) takes her characters on a dizzying adventure across China even as she takes Haoyou on an inner journey to confront his deeply-held beliefs and prejudices. Haoyou and, to a lesser extent, Mipeng and the Great Miao all struggle with the accepted Confucian teaching that obedience to one's elders must be observed at all costs. While the protagonists' decisions regarding obedience and individualism may not have been the norm at the time, they are not out of place for this moment of great cultural upheaval, and their development is sensitively and at times wryly charted. Haoyou's aerial ecstasy springs vividly off the page for some truly thrilling moments as he soars on his kite while Great-uncle Bo provides a low-humor counterpoint. An author's note follows to contextualize the13th-century and to explain the inspiration for Haoyou's unusual vocation. Fast-paced and densely plotted, absorbing, and at times even hilarious. (Fiction. 11-15)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756952501
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Series: Magic Shop Series
  • Pages: 190
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Coville

Popular author Bruce Coville has more than fourteen million books in print, including the bestselling My Teacher Is an Alien and Jennifer Murdley's Toad. He lives in Syracuse, New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Killer Strikes Again

"Hey, Killer! How's your boyfriend?"

Juliet Dove felt her cheeks begin to burn. Why couldn't Bambi Quilp just leave her alone? Why couldn't everyone just leave her alone?

"I don't have a boyfriend," she said softly.

"Oh, we've seen you walking with Arturo," said Bambi knowingly.

"Yeah, we've seen you walking with Arturo!" repeated Samantha Foster, who was sort of Bambi's official leech.

That Bambi and Samantha had seen Juliet and Arturo walking together was no surprise. Arturo Perez was Juliet's across-the-backyard neighbor, and they had been walking to school together since first grade.

"Artureo and Juliet, the love story of the century!" cried Bambi. Clasping her hands she placed them against her cheek and fluttered her eyelids. "How Juliet does luh-uve that may-unn!"

Juliet flared. "Look who's talking, you pea-brained, metal-mouthed boy chaser! Did you ever see anything in pants that you didn't want? You'll probably have to wait to get the tin off your teeth, though. I hear boys don't like the taste of stainless steel!"

Juliet knew she'd made a mistake the moment the words left her mouth. Bambi had only been wearing braces since Monday and she was still sensitive about them. But Juliet had been desperate to turn the attention away from herself, and the blistering comments had escaped her lips before she even had a chance to think about them.

Explosions like this were what had earned her the ridiculous nickname Killer to begin with-ridiculous because, in truth, Juliet was the most painfully shy person in the entire Venus Harbor Middle School. Or the entire state, by her father's calculation. But Mr. Dove was given to poetic exaggeration.

Juliet hated the nickname, especially because the ferocious comments that earned it for her had never been spoken out of anger. It was just that the minute people started teasing her about personal matters, she felt such an acute panic that she would say anything-anything-to get them to leave her alone. Unfortunately, whenever she tried to explain that she did this because she was shy, people laughed.

"It's because you're too good at it," Arturo had told her once. "I mean, when you set your tongue on slice and dice, it's like you've got a Ginsu knife between your teeth."

Juliet might not have lashed out at Bambi quite so horribly if she hadn't already been upset over their language-arts teacher's announcement that they would be doing oral reports at the end of the month. As far as Juliet was concerned, doing an oral report was not much different from being slowly ground up in a sausage machine-except that, given a choice, she would have opted for the sausage machine. She could not think of anything more excruciating than having to stand up in front of people and speak.

All this was going through Juliet's mind later that afternoon as she pressed herself against the brick wall of the alley that ran alongside the Venus Harbor Cinema. She had ducked around the corner to hide when she saw Bambi and Samantha coming toward her. Though she kept telling herself that the simplest way to deal with the situation would be to walk up to Bambi and apologize, Juliet found the very idea terrifying. So she remained tight against the wall, barely breathing, wishing she could melt right into it, until the girls had gone by.

Unfortunately, Bambi and Samantha-Did either of them ever go anywhere alone? Juliet wondered-did not keep walking. Instead, they stopped to examine the poster for the weekend's big event, the Third Annual Venus Harbor Valentine's Day Poetry Jam.

Go away, thought Juliet desperately. Go away!

The mental command didn't work. Bambi and Samantha stayed right where they were.

"My pathetic mother is totally jazzed because Scott Willis is coming to this," said Bambi.

"Who cares about a fat weatherman?" scoffed Samantha. "Corey Falcon is the one I'm excited about!"

"Just because you've got fifteen pictures of him on your wall?"

"You think he's hot, too!" protested Samantha. "Besides, did you ever read any of his poems? He's not just a great actor. He's got a beautiful soul!"

Juliet tried not to betray her hiding spot by making puking noises. The whole poetry jam was her father's idea and he had been grumbling for months about having to bring in "fake poets" like Scott Willis and Corey Falcon. She felt a twitch of irritation at Bambi and Samantha for even looking at the poster.

"So are you going to go?" asked Samantha, after a few minutes.

"Are you kidding?" said Bambi. "And miss a chance to see Corey Falcon in person? Besides, it's going to be fun. People are coming from all over. They even did a thing about it on Fox News last night." Suddenly she laughed.

"What's so funny?" asked Samantha.

"Remember what happened to Juliet the first year they did this?"

Samantha snorted. "That was so pathetic!"

Juliet's cheeks blazed nearly as red as the brick wall behind her as the unwanted memory swept over her. More than ever she wished she could just disappear.

"So-what are you going to do about her?" asked Samantha.

"About who?" said Bambi, sounding genuinely puzzled.

"Juliet!"

"Why should I do anything? Everyone knows what a jerk she is. I've got more important things to do than worry about getting back at Killer."

"I can't believe you're going to let her get away with saying those things," growled Samantha. "In fact, when I see her, I'm going to slap her face for you!"

A horrible panic, too powerful to resist, seized Juliet, and she turned to flee. She did not run because she was afraid of being slapped by Samantha. She ran simply because she was afraid of being seen by either of them.

The back end of the alley opened into the parking lot behind Cosgrove's grocery. Juliet raced across the lot, ignoring the hello called to her by Suzy Cosgrove. She shot behind the teddy-bear store, turned up Dell Street, then turned right, toward the beach. But somehow she must have gotten turned around, because the beach was only two blocks away, and she kept running and running. To her surprise, she found herself on a street she did not recognize-which seemed impossible, since she had lived in Venus Harbor all her life, and it wasn't that big a town.

Juliet slowed to a walk, pressing her hand against her side where a sharp pain had blossomed. She noticed that a mist had started to rise. Early fogs were not unknown in Venus Harbor, but this was thicker than usual, and the tendrils of it seemed to cling to her feet. She pulled her drab sweater more tightly around her shoulders and looked from side to side.

The street was lined with old-fashioned-looking shops. Like the fog, this was not unusual for Venus Harbor, where quaint was the official town style and nine-tenths of the stores-half of them selling either fudge or seashells-were designed to catch the eye of tourists. But the shop at the end of the street was even more old-fashioned-looking than the others. Its curved front window, divided into many panes, said in bold letters:

ELIVES' MAGIC SUPPLIES

S. H. ELIVES, PROP.

Where did that come from? wondered Juliet, finding it hard to believe Venus Harbor could possibly contain such a cool store-or that she had been unaware of it until now. Forgetting Bambi and Samantha, she waded through the fog, which was swirling around her knees now and seemed to get thicker as she approached the shop.

The door was made of carved wood instead of metal and glass like those of most of the stores in town. Juliet pressed on it.

The door swung open without a sound. A small bell tinkled overhead as she crossed the threshold.

She looked around for a clerk but there was no one in sight.

"Hello?" she called. "Anyone here?"

No answer.

Juliet thought about leaving but figured if the door was unlocked it must mean the store was open for business. Maybe whoever ran the place was in the bathroom. Juliet actually preferred it like this, since she wouldn't have to talk to anyone. She hated the way people who worked in stores were always asking if you wanted something; most of the time what she wanted was to be left alone.

She gazed around the shop. It was filled with all sorts of things that magicians-professional magicians-might use in their acts. To the right was a wall filled with cages. She saw rabbits, which she figured were for pulling out of hats. But there were also toads, lizards, bats, and a spider the size of a dinner plate. She shuddered, and turned her attention elsewhere.

In the center of the room stood a tall, glossy black cabinet with brilliantly colored Asian dragons painted on its sides. Swords had been thrust through the cabinet from all directions.

Beside the cabinet was a bin filled with a rainbow's worth of silk scarves.

A glass-topped counter ran against the wall to the left, its shelves filled with Chinese rings, big decks of cards, and other magician's paraphernalia. On top of the counter was a rack of magic wands.

At the back of the shop was another counter. This one, made of wood, had a dragon carved on its front. On top of the counter sat an old-fashioned brass cash register. Juliet thought it was quite beautiful, but she was even more impressed by the stuffed owl perched on top of it. At least she assumed the owl was stuffed, until it turned its head, looked right at her, blinked twice, then uttered a low hoot.

"Peace, Uwila!" cried a sharp voice from the back of the shop. "I know she's there."

The owl looked startled.

A moment later a woman strode through the beaded curtain that covered the door behind the counter. She was attractive, or would have been if not for a leanness in her features that made what beauty she had seem harsh and forbidding. She wore black pants, a high-necked white blouse, and a long overshirt made of red fabric and covered in designs so sharp and pointed they seemed to jab your eyes.

Juliet wondered if she was the owner of the shop. If so, was she Mrs. Elives, Miss Elives, or Ms. Elives? She hated trying to figure out what to call an adult woman. Why couldn't it be as simple as it was for men, where there was just one choice?

The owl swiveled its head toward the woman, then ruffled its feathers and hooted questioningly.

"Peace, Uwila!" said the woman again.

The owl returned to its motionless state. Juliet could not help but notice that its eyes seemed to be filled with terror. She felt a surge of anger. Did this woman mistreat the poor thing? How could you have something as wonderful as an owl for a pet and be cruel to it?

"Welcome," said the woman. Her voice was dry and husky, as if she had not used it in some time. "My name is...Iris. How can I help you?"

Juliet stared at her for a moment before she was able to say, "I just came in to look around. I hadn't seen the store before. I thought I knew all the shops in town."

The woman smiled. "We're a little off the beaten path." She paused, stared at Juliet for a moment, then nodded in satisfaction. "Let me show you something." Reaching into the pocket of her overshirt, she extracted a gold chain from which hung a small, delicately carved pendant-ivory, by the look of it.

"Cupid's choice," murmured the woman, her voice suddenly softer and more enticing than Juliet would have thought possible. "Here, take a closer look. Hold it for a moment!"

When Juliet took a step forward, the woman grabbed her hand, pulled it toward her, and dropped the pendant into it.

Startled by the sudden action, Juliet nearly turned to run out of the shop. But she was too fascinated to leave. Lifting the pendant so she could examine it more closely, she felt her heart captured by the strangely beautiful face carved into the ivory, found herself filled with a desire to own it. She noticed a tiny pair of golden hinges on one side and a miniature keyhole, also made of gold, on the other. Her fingers moved toward them.

"Don't!" said the woman urgently. Lowering her voice she added, "Not that you could. The hinges don't work. Still, best not to try. You might ruin everything."

Juliet looked at the woman nervously. She was talking as if she were crazy. Juliet was tempted to drop the pendant and flee. But the thing was so lovely, she couldn't help looking at it again. She couldn't remember ever wanting an object so desperately.

"How much is it?" she asked, knowing full well that she could never afford such an exquisite item.

"How badly do you want it?" countered the woman.

"Not much," replied Juliet. This was not true. However, Juliet didn't consider it a lie; her father had taught her about bargaining, and this was just part of the process. You never let someone know how much you wanted something.

The woman laughed. "Fine. Just put it down and leave."

Juliet did place the pendant on the counter. But she found that, somehow, she couldn't bring herself to let go of it.

"How badly do you want it?" asked the woman again. Her face was tighter now, her eyes as steely gray as the ocean in midwinter.

"Where did it come from?" asked Juliet, partly to gain time to think, partly because she was frightened. "Who made it?"

The woman stared directly into her eyes. "It is the key to the world's desire."

Juliet forced herself to open her fingers and let go of the pendant. She turned to go but had not walked more than three steps toward the door before she turned back. Though she was frightened by her desire for the object, she had to know more. Putting her hands firmly on either side of the ivory bauble, but refusing to allow herself to actually touch it, she asked again, "How much is it?"

"It's not for sale," said the woman, smiling for the first time.

Juliet stared at her, puzzled. What kind of gimmick was this?

The woman's face grew solemn. "It's not for sale," she repeated. "Even so, if you want it enough, you can have it. But you must want it, Juliet, really want it. Otherwise it's no deal."

Juliet looked up at the woman. "How do you know my name?"

"That's not the real question right now. The question is, how much do you want this amulet?"

"I don't understand."

The woman shrugged. "No one does. That's part of what makes life so interesting." She gestured toward the chain. "Go ahead, pick it up again."

Juliet hesitated, then reached for the amulet. To her surprise, she was not able to lift it off the counter. She felt a ripple of fear. What was going on here?

The woman shrugged again, looking disappointed. "I guess you don't want it badly enough after all." She put her own hand over the amulet and began to slide it toward her.

"Wait!" cried Juliet.

The woman stopped, lifted her hand.

Juliet reached out again. The amulet felt warm beneath her fingers. Suddenly a powerful longing swept over her, a strange and passionate need to possess it. She closed her hand over the ivory bauble and, without the slightest effort, scooped it up.

The owl hooted ominously and ruffled its feathers. A gust of wind battered the shop windows.

The woman, on the other hand, looked pleased. Giving Juliet a dazzling smile, she said, "I thought you might be the one. I was hoping-" She stopped and glanced over her shoulder, as if she had heard a sound, then turned back to Juliet. "You should go! Take the side door, it will get you home more quickly. Go. Go now!"

Terrified by the change in the woman's tone, Juliet turned. But before she could leave, the woman cried, "Wait!"

Juliet turned back. The woman's eyes were blazing.

"Speak of this to no one!" she commanded.

Juliet nodded, turned once more, and fled through the side door. To her astonishment, she found herself back in the alley where she had started.

Had she made some sort of big circle when she ran from Bambi and Samantha? She didn't think so-but if not, how had she arrived back here? She glanced around and was relieved to find the two girls nowhere in sight. She spent no more time thinking about them, for something stronger and stranger and more frightening was occupying her mind.

It was what she had seen when she glanced back before leaving the shop. The woman behind the counter had been smiling-a fierce, eager smile. And her eyes had been lit with a look that was both hungry and triumphant.

The very memory of it made Juliet shudder.

She opened her hand to stare at the amulet again. Extending the forefinger of her left hand, she touched the beautifully carved ivory. A jolt of power, almost like an electric shock, stung her. Juliet stared at the amulet in awe, then crammed it into her pocket and ran for home.

Copyright © 2003 by Bruce Coville

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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Table of Contents

Killer Strikes Again Spring Fever Boy Trouble Voices in the Attic Roxanne and Jerome Clarice and Mr. Toe Strange Messages Tales of the Gods The Other Realm She Who Wanders Field of Gold Prisoner of Love Cupid's Little Helpers Uproar Downfall Love on the Half Shell

Epilogue

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First Chapter

The Kite Rider

Chapter One

Testing the Winds

Gou Haoyou knew that his father's spirit lived among the clouds. For he had seen him go up there with a soul and come down again without one.

It happened down at the harbor, the day the Chabi put to sea. When she set sail, Haoyou's father, Gou Pei, would be among her crew and gone for months on end. So Haoyou went with him, down to the docks, to make the most of him on this, their last day together. "When I get home this time," said Pei, "we must see about you becoming an apprenticed seaman."

Haoyou's heart quickened with fear and pride at the thought of stepping out of childhood and into his father's saltwater world.

For the first time ever, Pei took him aboard'showed him where the anchor was lodged, where the sailors slept, how the ship was steered, where the cargo would be stowed. And the biggest excitement of all was still to come: Soon, the Chabi's captain would be "testing the wind," checking the omens for a prosperous voyage.

Farther along the harbor wall, a great commotion started up, as a ship, newly arrived from the south, disembarked its passengers: a traveling circus. For the first time in his life, Haoyou saw elephants ponderously picking their way across the gangplank, while tumblers somersaulted off the ship's rail and onto the dockside. There were acrobats in jade-green, close-fitting costumes, twirling banners of green and red, and jugglers and stilt walkers, and a man laden from head to foot with noisy birdcages. There were horses, too, ridden ashore across the sagging gangplank as recklessly as if it were a broad, stone bridge by Tartar horsemen in sky-blue shirts.

"Ragamuffin beggars," grunted Haoyou's father -- which made Haoyou laugh, since the gorgeous circus people, finding his father's tattered rice-straw jacket, would probably have fed it to one of their elephants. The Gou family was not exactly the cream of elegant Dagu society. Still, he sensed that he should not ask to see the circus perform: Circus people were obviously not respectable -- especially when they included Tartars.

The ship on which his father, Pei, was about to set sail had a Tartar name now. Last season she had had a perfectly good Chinese name, but in an effort to curry favor with the conquering barbarians, the captain had renamed her after the Khan's favorite wife: Chabi. Pei muttered gloomily about it. Her hull had been retimbered, a new layer of wood hammered on over the old, so that she was beamier than the year before. "It looks as if the Khan's wife has been eating too many cakes," said Pei. He laughed and put a loving arm round Haoyou's shoulders.

"Impertinent dog," said a voice close behind them, and the Chabi's first mate took hold of Pei by his jacket and pushed him over the edge of an open hatchway.

It was no great way to fall, but Pei landed awkwardly, his leg twisted under him, and lay gasping on top of the sacks of rice that were the ship's provisions. Haoyou went to the hatchway and lowered one leg over its edge, going to help his father. But the first mate took hold of him by the collar, wrestled him along to the gangplank, and threw him off the ship.

Haoyou wondered whether to run home and tell his mother, or stay and see what happened. His father injured on the eve of a voyage? It was not good, not lucky. Lucky for Haoyou (who hated his father going away for months on a voyage), but not for the family dependent on his sailor's wages.

Haoyou decided his mother should know, and turned to run. But he found his way barred by the corpulent bellies of the merchants mustering on the dockside. Word had gone out that the Chabi was testing the wind this morning, and it seemed as if every merchant in Dagu had hurried down to judge the omens for themselves. The prosperity of the whole voyage depended on how the "wind tester" behaved.

Only if it flew well would they entrust their cargoes to the Chabi. If it flew badly, they would use some rival ship.

It was for this magnificent sight that Gou Pei had brought his son to the harbor; Haoyou had asked a hundred times to see it.

"I'm not sure," his mother had said. "What about the poor soul on the hurdle?"

But Pei had only shrugged and said that worse things happened at sea.

Haoyou looked back at the ship. He did not want to miss the testing of the wind. Perhaps his father had only twisted his ankle, and would be fit to sail after all. The boy stood on tiptoe to estimate the depth of the crowd, his chances of pushing his way through them. None, he decided, and stayed where he was.

A strong, gusty breeze was blowing. Members of the crowd held up wetted fingers and nodded sagely. All the signs were auspicious. A cheerful sunlight brightened all the colors in their silken clothes, bleached the rust-red sails of the Chabi.

A foreigner stood among the crowd -- neither Chinese nor Mongol, but a tan-colored man with eyes shaped like a horse's or a dog's. The Chinese man alongside him was explaining the process of testing the wind.

"A hurdle is hooked to the end of a rope and set flying in the breeze . . ."

"Like a flag?" asked the foreigner.

"Not a flag exactly . . . more like a kite. Pardon my foolishness: I don't believe you have the word in your language: 'kite.' As the men tug on the rope's end, the hurdle rises up higher and higher on the wind. If it rises up straight, the voyage will prosper. If it flies out so" -- the guide's hand, in darting out at an angle, dislodged Haoyou's cap -- "there may be problems...

The Kite Rider. Copyright © by Geraldine McCaughrean. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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