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The Infinity Year of Avalon James

The Infinity Year of Avalon James

by Dana Middleton

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Avalon James and Atticus Brightwell have a secret--one that they aren't allowed to discuss with anyone. This secret is shared between two best friends. When you and your best friend turn ten years old magical things are said to happen. You both will receive some kind of magical power. It can be a power you can call on time and time again. Or it can be a power that


Avalon James and Atticus Brightwell have a secret--one that they aren't allowed to discuss with anyone. This secret is shared between two best friends. When you and your best friend turn ten years old magical things are said to happen. You both will receive some kind of magical power. It can be a power you can call on time and time again. Or it can be a power that comes once when you need it most. It's your Infinity Year and the possibilities are endless.

The past year hasn't been great with her family being torn apart and bullying at school, so Avalon is depending on her magical ability to appear soon and help. With the clock ticking and her eleventh birthday approaching, which would be the end of her powers, Avalon's hopes are running high. Will she and Atticus get the powers they so desperately want and need?

Dana Middleton's debut novel is a wonderfully enchanting story of the possibility of magic and the even more magical bond between two best friends.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“When you’re ten years old, your life’s really starting to open up. It’s just kind of a special time, a magical time when anything can happen, where the possibilities are endless.” After a tough year in which Avalon James saw her father go to prison, she and her best friend Atticus are counting on these words from Atticus’s grandfather—and on the magical possibility of “Infinity Year powers,” which supposedly kick in at age 10 and last for a year. But as the months march on, Avie isn’t having luck recognizing any new superpowers in her life. The potentially heavy theme—a parent in prison and the social isolation that follows—is well balanced by Avie’s humor and hope. As she works to be a champion speller, a few mistakes (both spelling and social) lead to severe consequences, but also give her a greater understanding of her father’s mistakes. Blending realism with just a touch of magic, Middleton’s debut novel demonstrates a keen awareness of the infinite possibilities of childhood. Ages 8–12. Agent: Susan Hawk, Bent Agency. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Avalon James and Atticus Brightwell, both aged 10, are waiting for their "infinity" powers now that they are at the height of their Infinity Year. As explained to them by Attitcus's grandfather, your Infinity Year commences when you turn 10; if you obey the rules of the Infinity Year, you will develop magical powers before turning 11. While waiting impatiently for her powers, Avalon deals with a bully who ridicules her for her father's incarceration and she prepares for the upcoming spelling bee. When Avalon inadvertently reveals Atticus's secret, she endangers their friendship and her own Infinity Year. Avalon has a bright and relatable sensibility that will endear her to readers; her friendship with Atticus is genuine and refreshingly free of boy-girl antagonism and snark. Atticus is a vegetarian and requires medication to address bed-wetting issues, two situations not rare among preteens but seldom addressed in middle grade fiction. Though the bullying aspect is resolved a bit swiftly, Middleton subtly tackles outdated adages about bullying and inconsistent zero-tolerance policies. Although dedicated fantasy fans might find the mystical elements too light for their liking, this will appeal to readers looking for an overall upbeat story with realistic drama. VERDICT Featuring a positive depiction of boy-girl friendship and appealing characters, this is recommended for general purchase.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-07-20
It’s Avalon’s 11th year—her Infinity Year—the brief period when she and her very best friend, Atticus, will discover and be able to use their shared magic power.Or that’s what Atticus’ grandfather has told them, and the two credulous children believe him. It will be a year of excruciating challenges for Avalon (who, like Atticus, is depicted as a dark-haired white figure on the cover). Her father is in prison, and everyone in her small school is aware of her shame. She’s relentlessly bullied by classmate Elena and her pair of minions. Her beloved cat goes missing. A week later, Atticus dreams of where the cat may be trapped. When the dream turns out to be unfathomably correct, they’re both sure Atticus has acquired his magic. One of the few highlights of Avalon’s year is when she shares spelling-bee honors with a seventh grader and is bound for the regionals. Then she unwittingly reveals Atticus’ painful secret—that he wets the bed—and the story is shared schoolwide. Atticus abandons her; without his gentle, insightful support, Avalon retaliates against Elena with devastating consequences. All these painfully acquired life lessons are related in Avalon’s genial, evocative voice, convincingly illuminating many of the issues of a year that can offer infinite possibilities, even if the magic is imagined. A fine, tenderly nuanced tale of the remarkable power of friendship. (Fiction. 9-12)
From the Publisher

“Painfully acquired life lessons are related in Avalon's genial, evocative voice . . . A fine, tenderly nuanced tale of the remarkable power of friendship.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Avalon’s first-person narrative is forthright and engaging. . . . A well-knit first novel with an involving, affecting story." —Booklist, starred review

"Blending realism with just a touch of magic, Middleton’s debut novel demonstrates a keen awareness of the infinite possibilities of childhood." —Publishers Weekly

"Avalon has a bright and relatable sensibility that will endear her to readers; her friendship with Atticus is genuine and refreshingly free of boy-girl antagonism and snark. Atticus is a vegetarian and requires medication to address bed-wetting issues, two situations not rare among preteens but seldom addressed in middle grade fiction." —School Library Journal

Avie is an appealingly flawed heroine . . . The predicaments in which she finds herself showcase the difficulty of dealing with the keenly felt adult/child disconnect when it comes to fairness both in families and at school, situating this perfectly for the late elementary crowd.” —The Bulletin

Product Details

Feiwel & Friends
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
610L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Infinity Year of Avalon James

By Dana Middleton

Feiwel and Friends

Copyright © 2016 Dana Middleton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08569-6


My name is Avalon James and this is my Infinity Year.

The Infinity Year is such a secret thing that hardly anybody knows about it. But this is how it works. When you turn ten years old (like I did on May 29), you start your Infinity Year. I looked up Infinity Year in the dictionary and found nothing. I did find the definition for the word Infinity, though. It means "endless" or "forever."

There's one main rule to the Infinity Year. You can only talk about it with your best friend. Luckily, my best friend, Atticus, is ten years old, too. If we keep to this rule, and only talk about it with each other and nobody else, we will each develop a magical power before the year is out. It's called our Infinity Year power and it will disappear forever on the day we turn eleven. That means I will have my magical power for fourteen days longer than Atticus because he is fourteen days older than me.

It's been almost three months since my tenth birthday and I haven't gotten my Infinity power yet. I haven't levitated off the ground or turned Elena Maxwell into a bullfrog. I even tried to trade places with my cat, Marmalade (M for short), like in some kind of weird animal-girl body switch movie. So far, I'm still a girl but I am a little afraid of waking up in the body of a mighty fur-ball-hacking cat. Writing with paws could prove difficult.

Neither Atticus nor I had ever heard of the Infinity Year until last spring. Atticus believed in it right away. Of course he did. That's how he is. He has no lie detector whatsoever. It's not like he's dumb or anything. Atticus is supremely smart — about most things. Like books and Titanic trivia. He just sees the best in everybody. Even when he shouldn't.

I, on the other hand, am the kind of person who generally likes to see something first before I believe it. Just because someone says something doesn't mean it's true. And at first I wasn't sure I believed in this Infinity Year business. But it came from a very reliable source — from the most trustworthy person I have ever known. So I'm inclined to believe there must be some truth to it. And I like the idea of having a magical power.

I also like the idea of not being nine anymore. Being nine years old was extremely unlucky for me. I wish I could have skipped that year altogether. Atticus said it was the year I had to grow up too fast.

He was right.

Over the past summer, as our Infinity Year started, things began to feel more normal again. I had left being nine years old behind and was starting to get used to the way things were at ten. My cat, M, was there for me. So was Atticus. Mom was working long hours at the hospital but she was trying. She really was. And I was starting to feel better.

Then we went to our school open house.

In our school — that would be Grover Cleveland K–8 — all the parents and kids go to the school open house the week before school starts. Mr. Peterson, our principal, talks to everyone from the stage of the Grover Cleveland Lunchroom and Auditorium and tells us everything we are supposed to know about the year to come.

This year we were starting fifth grade. As usual, Atticus and I sat next to each other in the assembly and didn't really listen to Mr. Peterson. Atticus was drawing an infinity sign above my knee when his mother, Mrs. Brightwell, pulled the pen out of his hand. On nights like these, Mrs. Brightwell and my mother never sat next to each other. Atticus and I always sat between them. My father used to say that, in the jigsaw puzzle of life, Mrs. Brightwell and my mom were pieces that just didn't fit.

I have gone to this school my whole life. In fact, I am somewhat famous here for three main reasons.

First, M won third prize at our school animal talent show. She excels in coughing up the biggest fur balls in known cat history. The Arcadia Weekly Herald put a picture of M, her fur balls, and me right on the back page.

Second, I took a particular photo of Elena Maxwell and posted it on the fourth-grade bulletin board last year. Elena, who is always dressed better than anybody else, somehow wore white pants with American flag underwear underneath them. How did I know? When she was leaning over her art project, American flag held high, everyone knew. It was just my idea to take a picture of it. Because a picture lasts forever. I named the photo Elena Maxwell: True American and gave myself a photo credit just like they do in the big magazines. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bennett wasn't amused and removed it immediately. I don't know why. It's a well-known fact that Elena Maxwell is my nemesis and that I am hers. We are nemeses. It is also a well-known fact that she has done far worse to me.

Lastly ...

Well, there is a third reason that people know about me but I don't want to talk about that one yet. It's what made being nine so bad.

The open house assembly lasted forever. If I hadn't had to pee so bad, I would have died of boredom. By the time Mr. Peterson introduced the last teacher, Ms. Zeldin, I was sure I was going to burst. Ms. Zeldin ran the sixth-grade science fair, which must have been the greatest darn science fair in human history the way Mr. Peterson went on and on about it. But I couldn't think about that right now.

When he finally finished, I looked at my mom and said, "I gotta go!"

"Okay. I'll be in here," she said as yelling kids of all sizes rushed past. The parents and teachers usually stayed in the auditorium and had refreshments while the kids ran down the halls to see what classrooms and teachers they would have for the year.

"I'll meet you there," I said to Atticus before I sprinted toward the bathroom. He knew what I meant. We'd meet outside of Ms. Smith's room down the fifth-grade hallway.

Ms. Smith has short red hair and round glasses with black rims. She has a fish named Alexander in an aquarium in her classroom and pictures of active volcanoes from around the world on her back wall. Last year, we would always hear laughter coming from Ms. Smith's class. Ms. Smith is the fifth-grade teacher everyone wants to get.

Since second grade, Atticus and I have always been in the same class. Somehow it just worked out that way. We wanted Ms. Smith's class — that was for sure — but as long as we were together, that's what really mattered.

After pushing through what seemed like every kid in the whole school, I slipped into the girls' room.

Empty. Quiet. Perfect.

I was just about to flush when I heard other girls coming into the bathroom. I quietly took my hand off the flusher when I realized those girls were Elena Maxwell's Gang of 3.

The Gang of 3 are:

1. Sissy Mendez. Her mom, Mrs. Mendez, is another fifth-grade teacher. Sissy and Elena have been best friends since preschool. She once scared Augustus Sawyer so much that he climbed a tree and wouldn't come down for twelve hours. Also, she's very tall.

2. Chloe Martin. When we were in kindergarten, Chloe made a crown of daisies for me. She put it on my head and held my hand and said we would be best friends forever. I don't think she knew what forever meant because last time I saw her she poured Jell-O in my book bag.

3. Elena Maxwell. The leader and, as I stated earlier, my nemesis.

The feud between Elena and me began in second grade when I refused to join her gang. I did not like the idea of her bossing me around, and she did not like the idea of me not liking it. So she bossed me into the janitor's closet and locked me inside. It took all of recess and lunch for Mr. Dale, the janitor, to find me and let me out.

It's what happened after the janitor's closet that caused the problem. I'm not very forgiving. Atticus tells me it is a character flaw and I need to work on it. I tell Atticus he's never been locked in a janitor's closet.

I had one of my grand ideas. I have a grand idea every few months and this one happened to strike just seconds after Mr. Dale let me out of the closet.

Marcus Johnson was a kid in our class who could not keep his fingers out of his nose. Elena sat next to Marcus and couldn't stand him. "Mrs. Greene," she would say, raising her hand so high you would think she was hailing a taxi, "Mrs. Greene, he's doing it again!" Everyone in Mrs. Greene's second-grade class would turn and look at Marcus, who of course had one finger sticking up a runny nostril.

I liked Marcus and he owed me a favor. So, the next day, on my cue, Marcus walked up behind Elena at recess. I called her name and she turned around. Marcus and Elena were exactly the same height in second grade. And his lips were ready.

Marcus didn't have to do a thing. They were lip-to-lip before Elena knew what hit her.

While Elena was screaming and wiping her mouth on her sleeve, I walked up to Marcus, shook his snotty hand, and said thank you. Then I smiled at Elena.

The feud has raged ever since. Third grade. Fourth grade. Almost three years.

And now, here I was, trapped in a toilet stall with Elena and her minions outside. Quietly, I pulled my feet up onto the toilet seat. What else was I supposed to do? There were three of them and only one of me. So I did what any sane person trapped in a girls' room stall would do. I sat there and listened.

Elena, Sissy, and Chloe talked and talked. They talked about boys. They talked about nail polish. They talked about whose hair was longer and shinier. I was about to go numb with boredom when they started talking about me.

"Did you see Avalon?" Elena suddenly said. "Those shoes are ridiculous. It's like she was raised by wolves or something."

"Fashion-deprived wolves," Chloe said, and laughed.

I looked down at my lime-green saddle shoes, perched on the toilet seat. Fashion deprived? I wasn't the one who wore white pants with American flag underwear.

"I'm finally going to get back at her for that picture she took of me!" Elena exclaimed. "It was so unfair!"

Unfair? Was she kidding? Who does she think filled my cubby with green slime? Or pasted the pages of my math book together? Or taped strips of toilet paper to the bottom of my shoes? Or locked me in a janitor's closet?!

"Avalon thinks she can get away with everything," Elena continued. "Well, we'll just see about that."

"I put Jell-O in her book bag," said Chloe.

"That's not enough!" Elena snarled loudly. I wondered if Cruella or Maleficent got their start this way.

"This is what we're going to do," Elena said, and started to unveil the details of her evil plan. Unfortunately, for dramatic effect, she decided to unveil them in a whisper, which meant I couldn't hear. But eventually she got so pleased with herself that her voice got louder again. "Avalon's so stupid," I heard her say. "She'll never see it coming. And no one can ever know. We just have to act normal. That means you two. Got it?!"

I could practically see Sissy and Chloe nodding through the bathroom stall door.

Sissy giggled. "She'll have no idea what hit her."

"Deal?" Elena said.

"Deal," said Sissy and Chloe together. Then I heard the clap of hands.

I was staring at my saddle shoes when I heard the girls' room door slam behind them as they left. Something bad was going to happen. Something big. I needed to tell Atticus.

By the time I made it to the fifth-grade hallway, my mind was filled with thoughts of Elena and what terrible things she could do to me. It never occurred to me that something even more terrible was about to unfold.

Atticus was leaning against the wall outside of Ms. Smith's classroom. I hurried toward him. "You're never going to believe what just happened," I said, all out of breath, collapsing against the wall beside him. "You were right. Elena's planning to get back at me for the picture I took. They're going to do something really bad to me but I couldn't hear what it was. Elena sounds even crazier and meaner than usual." I looked around. All the kids had gone back to the auditorium. But I started whispering anyway. "I'm so glad we are going to have our Infinity Year powers. I think we might really need them. Like need them, need them." As I paused to think about that, a more frightening thought exploded in my head. "What if Elena, Chloe, and Sissy get them, too?! What if they get Infinity Year powers! That would be horrible! Think about how much worse Elena would be if she actually had magical powers!"

I turned my head toward Atticus but he wasn't looking at me. I'm not sure he was even listening. "Do you hear what I'm saying?" I asked. "This is serious."

"So is this," Atticus said.

He was staring at the opposite wall. He hadn't looked at me yet. What could possibly be more serious than what I was telling him? "You know how we thought we'd be in Ms. Smith's class?" he said.

"Yeah," I answered.

Atticus looked at me. "Well, we're not."

"Oh," I said. "Okay." I felt a tingle run up the back of my neck. "What class are we in then?"

"Avie, you don't understand. I'm in Ms. Smith's class."

"What?!" I turned to the list posted on Ms. Smith's door. I read down it as fast as I could. No Avalon James on that list. I looked at Atticus. He nodded toward the room next door.

Mrs. Jackson's class. Mrs. Jackson, who has been teaching for about 110 years. There was no laughter in Mrs. Jackson's class. There was, however, a long whisker growing out of a mole on Mrs. Jackson's chin.

I was in Mrs. Jackson's class.

But that wasn't the worst of it. There were other names on that list, too. Martin ... Maxwell ... Mendez. I was going to be in the same class with Elena, Sissy, and Chloe. The last time we were all in the same class was in second grade. And look how well that turned out.

That evil threesome was going to be with me every day, everywhere. Even when we went to lunch.

Atticus tried to cheer me up. "At least we'll have recess together."

I looked at him sideways. "Great," I said, and slid down the wall. Atticus looked down at me and then sat down beside me.

We sat there for a long time and didn't say a word. This was more serious than Elena and her stupid plan. This was about me and Atticus. How could this have happened?

Atticus nudged his knee against mine. "So what if Elena has a plan. She's had tons of plans. And she's not going to get an Infinity Year power. That only happens between best friends." He knocked my knee again. "And you know Chloe will tell somebody. Whatever Elena is planning, Chloe will tell," he said. "She can't keep a secret."

"She can keep an Elena secret," I said. "She's too scared of her."

"See what I mean. Best friends are not scared of each other. So they're not best friends. You know what that means?"

"No. What?"

"We will be getting our Infinity Year powers," Atticus said, and then grinned. "And Elena Maxwell will not."

The night of the open house, I couldn't sleep. Mostly because of the shock of Atticus and me not being in the same class. But something else was bothering me, too. It was this thing between me and Elena. It had been going on for so long. Sure, she started it. But I'd never been able to end it. I might not be the kind of person who can just let things go.

Sometimes I wished I were that kind of person, though. Sometimes I wished I could travel back in time and take back that kiss I made Marcus give Elena. If I could just take back his snotty handshake and my big fat smile, Elena might have moved on to torture some other undeserving soul. At least that's what Atticus always said.

M was purring and curled up beside me. I curled in closer. None of it mattered now. I was going to be alone with Elena in Mrs. Jackson's class and that was that.

I turned over and M meowed.

Meowed. M-E-O-W-E-D. I spelled it in my head. Meowed.

Hmmm. Maybe there could be an upside to being in Mrs. Jackson's class, even if Atticus wasn't going to be with me. The thing about Mrs. Jackson was that, as well as being a fifth-grade teacher, she was also the faculty sponsor for the School-Wide Spelling Bee.

Some people were good at lots of things. Atticus was good at soccer, comic book reading, and Titanic trivia. Mae Bearman was good at gymnastics, drawing, and hula hooping. Adam Singleton could hold his breath for sixty-five seconds underwater and spit over twelve and a half feet.

I was good at one thing.


It's something I got from my dad. He was a spelling champ when he was in school. They said he had great potential.

He realized I had the gift when I was five. My mom asked how to spell kangarooand I spelled it before he did. After that, he pulled out his old spelling books and gave them to me. We used to practice whenever he could find time.


Excerpted from The Infinity Year of Avalon James by Dana Middleton. Copyright © 2016 Dana Middleton. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Dana Middleton grew up in Georgia before moving to Los Angeles to work in film and theater. She produced the Academy Award–nominated short film Down on the Waterfront and was part of the award-winning cast of La Gioconda, while nurturing her real passion of writing for children. She lives in sunny Hollywood with her British husband, author Peter Atkins.

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