Read an Excerpt
Patrick and I became friends because of a vegetable.
Not just any vegetable.
And not just any old cabbage. A Korean pickled cabbage. Which isn't a
round cabbage like Peter Rabbit would eat, but a longer, leafier kind. It gets
cut up and salted and packed in big jars with lots of garlic, green onions, and
hot red pepper, and then it's called kimchee. Kimchee is really spicy.
Koreans eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I don't like kimchee. My mom says that when I was little, I used to eat it.
She'd rinse off the spiciness and give me a bite or two. When I got to be six
or seven years old, she stopped rinsing it. Most Korean mothers do that, and
most Korean kids keep eating it.
Not me. I hated the spiciness, and I still do. My mom keeps telling me I
should eat it because it's refreshing. But what's so refreshing about having
your mouth on fire?
My family used to tease me about not liking kimchee. My dad said maybe it
meant I wasn't really Korean. 'We should have your DNA tested,' he'd tell
me. The seven-year-old snotbrain named Kenny who lives with us—otherwise
known as my little brother—would wave big pieces in front of me and threaten
to force me to eat them.
Another thing about kimchee is, it has a really strong smell. Even though it's
stored in jars, you can still smell it, right through the jar and the refrigerator
door. It sends out these feelers through the whole house.
Three years ago, when I was in fourth grade, we were living in Chicago. I'd
made friends with a girl named Sarah. The first time she came over to play,
she stopped dead in theentryway and said, 'Eww! What's that smell?'
I'd never really noticed it. Smells are funny that way—they can sort of
disappear if you live with them all the time. But Sarah was so grossed out
that I was really embarrassed.
The exact same thing happened again a few weeks later, this time with two
friends, a boy named Michael and his sister, Lily. They both stopped dead in
their tracks and grabbed their noses. Then they insisted that we play outside
because they couldn't stand the smell.
I asked my mom to stop making kimchee, but she told me I was
When we moved to Plainfield two years ago, our new apartment
didn't smell like kimchee—for about half a day. Then my mom unpacked
some groceries, including a big jar of kimchee. Sigh.
I met Patrick on our second day in Plainfield, a Saturday morning. Actually, I
saw him on the first day; he was hanging around on his front steps three
doors down, watching the movers. Not just him but his three brothers as well.
I noticed him right away, not because of the way he looked—brown hair in a
normal boy-haircut, a few freckles, a gap between his front teeth that
predicted braces in his future—but because he seemed to be the closest to
my age. The other three boys were little, younger even than Kenny.
On the second day, I took a break from unpacking and went out to have a
good look at the neighborhood. There they were again, the four boys, like
they'd never moved off the steps. This time there was a girl with them, too,
but she was a lot older.
Patrick came down the steps and said hello and told me his name. I said hi
back told him mine.
'Can I see inside your house?' he asked.
'Sure,' I said.
As we started down the sidewalk, we were suddenly surrounded by his three
'Can we come, too?'
'Patrick, we wanna see.'
'Patrick, what's her name?'
Patrick stopped walking. 'Claire!' he yelled.
The girl on the steps looked up from picking at her nails. 'Yeah?'
'Make them stay with you,' Patrick said. 'I can't go barging in
with all of them.'
'I'm leaving soon. Michelle is picking me up to go to the mall.'
'Well, that means I'll be looking after them then. So you take
them for now.'
Claire stood up. 'YOU BEEN ICKY!' she yelled.
At least, that was what it sounded like to me, but later I learned
that their names were Hugh, Ben, and Nicholas, and that Hugh was a year
older than Ben and Nicky, who were twins, and that they usually got
called 'Hugh-Ben-Nicky' all in one breath.
'Pleeeeease can we—'
'Hugh, let's go see if there are any cookies,' Claire said.
Hugh let go of Patrick's arm and turned back toward their house.
Ben and Nicky trotted after him. Patrick grinned at me. 'If you get Hugh to do
something, you've got all three of them,' he explained.
As we walked in the door of my house, Patrick tilted his head and
I braced myself for his reaction.
'Whoa,' he said. 'What's that? It smells great!'
That was the beginning of Patrick's love affair with kimchee. Whenever he
eats dinner with us, my mom puts one bowl of kimchee on the table for the
family and gives Patrick a whole private bowl for himself.
mouthfuls, sometimes without even adding any rice. I can hardly stand to
Maybe he's the one who needs his DNA tested.
Patrick and I were sitting on the floor of my room. He was reading aloud from
a pamphlet. I was sewing up one of the cushions I keep on my bed. It had
split the week before when we had a pillow fight, and the stuffing was falling
Patrick snorted. 'Not wine, ssswine. You think they'd let us anywhere near
Anyway, we've already decided to do an animal project. Wine is not an
Patrick and I had just joined the Wiggle Club. Its real name is the Work-Grow-
Give-Live! Club (Plainfield Chapter), which means its initials are WGGL,
which is why all the kids call it
The Wiggle Club is supposed to teach kids about farming. Or at least it
started out like that, a long time ago. It used to be for kids who lived on
farms, far apart from each other, and it gave them a way to get together.
These days, hardly anyone lives on farms; most of the land has been taken
over by giant companies. Then the Wiggle clubs got started in cities and
suburbs, so now we have one in Plainfield.
That's what Mr. Maxwell told us, anyway. He's the guy who runs the Wiggle
Club, and he owns one of the only small farms left near Plainfield.
In January, club members sign up to do a project. They work on it for
months, and the best ones get chosen to be exhibited at the state fair in
August. Now it was March, and everyone else in the club had been working
on their projects for a couple of months. Patrick and I signed only a week
ago, so we were going to have to work fast.
We'd just attended our first meeting, where we decided we'd do an Animal
'Mr. Maxwell?' Patrick had waved his hand. 'Why is it called Animal
Husbandry? Are we only allowed to work with male animals?'
Mr. Maxwell laughed. 'No, Patrick, we work with both male and female
animals. It's called husbandry because it's raising animals, taking care of
Patrick interrupted him. 'Then why isn't it called Animal Wifery? Wives take
care of stuff—I mean, like raising babies—more than husbands do, don't
Patrick isn't a rude person, but he really gets into things sometimes, and his
ideas sort of pop out of him like he doesn't have any control over them.
His question made Mr. Maxwell pause a second. 'Hmm. I think maybe it's
because the word 'husband' has another meaning, one that not many people
use anymore. It means to guard or watch over—like if someone's resting, we
say they're 'husbanding their strength."
Patrick thought it over. He said, 'Okay, I get it. But wouldn't it be fairer just to
call it Animal Parentry?'
That made Mr. Maxwell laugh again. 'That would be fairer. Maybe you could
start a campaign to change it. In the meantime—' He handed Patrick a
Wiggle pamphlet on Animal Husbandry projects.
Patrick began reading it right away. He loves to read. He goes to the library
all the time, and if he reads something interesting, he absolutely has to tell
me about it. Once, when he was reading late at night about crows, he got so
excited about how smart they are—they can learn to imitate sounds like car
engines or dogs barking, he told me afterward—that he forgot how late it was
and called me. My dad answered the phone and yelled at him. So now when
Patrick's excited like that, he sends me an e-mail instead.
Wiggle meetings are held in the community recreation building a few blocks
away from where I live. When the meeting ended, we walked to my house.
We went up to my room, and
that was when Patrick started reading the pamphlet out loud to me.
Patrick and I went through the whole list of animals. It was discouraging.
Most of them were big farm animals, and the rest were ordinary pets—dogs,
cats, hamsters. We couldn't pick dogs or cats because the townhouses we
live in don't allow pets that aren't in cages.
'We could do a hamster project,' Patrick said doubtfully.
'Bo-o-o-rring,' I said. I needed one more piece of thread to finish sewing up
the cushion's seam. I licked the end of the thread, held up the needle, and
took a deep breath. I always want to thread a needle on my first try—it's a
thing with me. I poked the thread at the needle's eye.
'Reptiles,' Patrick said. 'Reptiles are more interesting. Maybe we could raise
some kind of...of snake. No, not snakes—lizards. Lizards would be cool.'
I pulled the thread halfway through and knotted the ends together. 'I don't
think so,' I said as I started stitching. 'My mom hates snakes, which means
she probably wouldn't be too keen on lizards, either. And a snake at your
house?' I snorted and shook my head.
Patrick nodded. 'Gak,' he said, which is what he always says when he's
frustrated. 'Yeah, you're right.' Both of his parents work, so during the day
his grandmother looks after the family. Patrick is the third oldest, after Claire
and Katie, and then Hugh-Ben-Nicky. Their gram does the best she can, but
nothing, and I mean nothing, is safe from those three.
Patrick shares a bedroom with his three brothers, and ages ago he started
storing all his important stuff at my house. My mom doesn't mind, because
he's very tidy about it. He even leaves his backpack here most days, and
picks it up every morning when we walk to school. It's easy, because we
always do our homework together anyway.
'Maybe we should do a gardening project instead,' Patrick said. 'Remember
that girl Mr. Maxwell told us about who grew three different kinds of
strawberries, and made jam from them, and wrote about which made the best
'Bo-o-o-rring,' I said again.
'Well, don't forget, Jules, she won a prize at the state fair.'
Patrick usually calls me Jules, which I kind of like. Everyone else calls me
Julia. A long time ago I tried out 'Pat' in my head as a nickname for him, but
it didn't seem to fit.
'Yeah, but not for the gardening,' I said. 'She won a ribbon for the jam. For
the cooking part—you know, that cooking and sewing category.'
'Domestic Arts,' Patrick said. 'But it was still a really good project. Mr.
Maxwell said so, because it counted in two categories, Gardening and
Domestic Arts. I wish we could think of an animal project like that.'
Patrick looked at the alarm clock on the bedside table. It was almost five
o'clock. 'I'd better go,' he said. Now that his older sisters are in high school,
they're almost never home, and Patrick usually helps his gram give Hugh-
Ben-Nicky an early supper. He stood up and put the pamphlet next to the
clock. 'I'm leaving this here. Read it before you go to bed. I've already read it,
so I'll think about it. Maybe one of us will wake up with a good idea.'
That's one of Patrick's favorite theories. He read somewhere that people
remember stuff better if they read or think about it right before they fall
asleep. We always try to study for a test together at bedtime, on the phone
or by instant messaging.
I glanced at the pamphlet as we left the room. It would probably take a while
before I got around to reading it. I don't like to read, not the way Patrick does.
Besides, he reads enough for both of us.
I've got another story to tell you, and I'm going to do it here, between the
Every story has another story inside, but you don't usually get to read the
inside one. It's deleted or torn up or maybe filed away before the story
becomes a book; lots of times it doesn't even get written down in the first
place. If you'd rather read my story without interruption, you can skip these
sections. Really and truly. I hereby give you official permission.
But if you're interested in learning about how this book was written—
background information, mistakes, maybe even a secret or two—you've
come to the right place. Some people like that sort of thing. It's mostly
conversations between me and the author of my story, Ms. Park. We had a
lot of discussions while she was writing. Here we go.
Me: Why am I named Julia?
Ms. Park: You're named after my sister. Sort of. Her name is Julie.
Me: What about Patrick?
Ms. Park: Oh, that's just a name I like. But his character is partly based on a
boy named Mark who lived across the street from me when I was growing up.
Mark had five or six brothers and sisters, and he always had some kind of
project going. I liked hanging out with him and was sad when he moved away
after only a year in the neighborhood. I guess writing about Patrick is a way
for me to spend more time with Mark.
Me: Do you know what's going to happen in the story? Do you already know
Ms. Park: I have a general idea of how I want the story to go, but nothing
definite yet. Really just you and Patrick and the Wiggle project—that's all I've
got so far.
Me: Hmm. It looks like you could use some help. Good thing I'm here. And I
have one more question. That part about the friends who thought the house
smelled awful. Did that really happen?
Ms. Park: To me or to you?
Me: To you, of course. I know it happened to me.
Ms. Park: Yes. But it happened to me in third grade, not fourth grade.
Me: Is that, like, legal? To change stuff like that?
Ms. Park: It is if you're writing fiction.... Fiction is about the truth, even if
it's not always factual. I changed the fact about the grade, but not the truth
about the feelings. Get it?
Me: Yeah. I think so.
Okay, do you see how this is going to work? On to chapter two now, and I'll
see you on the other side.
Copyright © 2005 by Linda Sue Park. Reprinted by permission of Clarion
Books / Houghton Mifflin Company.