Read an Excerpt
The Secret at the Polk Street School
By Patricia Reilly Giff, Blanche Sims
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1987 Patricia Reilly Giff
All rights reserved.
Dawn Bosco took big steps.
Her cowgirl boots went click-clack.
Jason was click-clacking, too. He had robot boots.
They went into the school yard.
Dawn opened her mouth. "Spring is springing," she sang. "Grass is ringing."
Jason started to laugh. "That's not right."
Dawn laughed, too. "I like the way it sounds."
Drake Evans was kneeling near the picnic table.
He was poking around in the dirt.
"You sound like my dog howling," he told Dawn. He put his nose in the air. "Aaooow!"
"Don't pay attention," Jason said.
"I won't," said Dawn.
Drake Evans was the meanest boy in the school. Everyone knew that.
Dawn was glad he was in Mrs. Gates's class and not in Ms. Rooney's.
In the classroom Dawn put her books away. She made a skinny point on her pencil.
"Happy spring," Ms. Rooney said. She clapped her hands. "Is everybody ready? It's idea time."
Dawn reached into her pocket. She pulled out a piece of paper.
It was a little wrinkled.
She smoothed it out.
"Who has an idea for us?" Ms. Rooney asked.
Dawn put her hand up.
Emily's hand went up, too. So did Richard's and Timothy Barbiero's.
"Yes, Richard," said Ms. Rooney.
"We want to win the banner," Richard said. "Right?"
"Right-a-reeno," said Matthew. "I hope Mr. Mancina gives it to us."
Mr. Mancina was the principal.
This week he was giving the banner to a special class. It was the class that did the most for the school.
The banner was blue and white.
It had long gold strings.
It said BEST.
Ms. Rooney's class wanted to be the best. They hadn't had the banner in a long time.
"My idea is"—Richard took a deep breath —"we could paint the hall."
"That would be doing something good for the school," said Matthew.
"It would be some mess!" said Emily Arrow.
"It's a mess now," said Richard. "All brown and tan."
"I'd like a red hall," said Matthew.
"Me, too," said Jason. "Or orange."
Richard sat up on his desk. "How about stripes?"
Sometimes Richard had good ideas, Dawn thought.
She still thought hers was better.
Everyone was looking at Ms. Rooney.
Everyone was yelling a different color for the hall.
Ms. Rooney was smiling. "It's not practical," she said.
Ms. Rooney always said that, thought Dawn. That meant it wasn't a good idea.
Dawn waved her hand harder.
"Let's listen to Dawn's idea," said Ms. Rooney.
Dawn read her idea paper. "Everyone knows I'm a great detective." She looked around. "Right?"
Linda Lorca made a face.
"You're the best," said Jason.
Dawn reached into her desk.
She pulled out her polka dot detective hat. She pushed it up on her head.
It was a little big.
"We could find a mystery," she said. "I could solve it."
"That would help the school," said Jason.
"You could say that again," Richard said. "Got you, thief."
Matthew gave Richard a punch. "Let the thief have my homework."
They started to laugh.
"That's better than my sister's class. They're having a bake sale," Jason said. "My sister's a terrible baker."
Dawn nodded. She was thrilled. Her idea was great.
She tried not to smile.
"No good," said Linda Lorca.
Dawn made a face at her. Sometimes Linda looked like a horse. "Why not?" she asked.
Linda raised one shoulder. "We don't have a mystery."
"Neigh." Dawn made a horse noise under her breath.
Ms. Rooney smiled. "Mysteries always come along."
Ms. Rooney looked at Timothy. "How about you, Tim?"
Dawn sat down.
She ripped up her idea paper.
She didn't even listen to Timothy's idea.
It probably wasn't practical.
Everyone started to clap.
They liked Timothy's idea. Even Ms. Rooney.
It was probably silly, Dawn thought.
She looked out the window.
She'd find a mystery all by herself.CHAPTER 2
On Tuesday they started to work on Timothy's idea.
It wasn't a bad idea, thought Dawn.
Not bad at all.
It would be a great surprise for the school.
Dawn walked across the stage.
She took little baby steps.
She had a cake box in one hand.
She had a can of chicken soup in the other.
A loaf of bread was tucked under her arm.
It was quiet on the stage.
She was all alone up there.
Then she heard something.
She looked over her shoulder.
Her red hood fell down over her eyes. She pushed it back.
She tried to walk faster.
Someone was coming from the side of the stage.
She looked again.
She saw hands. They had long pointy fingernails.
She saw a face. Hair was growing all over it.
"I'm going to get you!" the voice whispered.
It was a terrible voice.
Dawn screamed as loud as she could.
Ms. Rooney was sitting in the front row. She clapped her hands. "Wait a minute," she said.
"That's all wrong," said Linda Lorca. Linda was sitting at the piano. "The wolf isn't supposed to say that."
"And Red Riding Hood doesn't scream," said Emily.
"I hope my idea doesn't get wrecked," Timothy said. "This play has to be a good one."
Dawn put the cake box on the floor.
She put the bread on top of it.
She put her hands on her hips.
She looked at the wolf.
"How come you tried to scare me, Jason?" she asked.
The wolf disappeared behind the curtain.
"Jason?" Dawn asked.
Jason didn't answer.
"Some wolf you are," Dawn told him.
"Jason," Ms. Rooney called.
Jason still didn't answer.
Ms. Rooney stood up.
Dawn went to the back of the stage.
No one was there.
"Hey!" she said.
She went out front again. "He's not there."
In back of the auditorium the doors opened.
Everyone turned around.
It was Jason.
He wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "I had to get a drink."
He marched down the aisle.
Dawn's mouth opened.
How did Jason get back there so fast?
One minute he had been on the stage. The next minute he was in the hall.
"You did the wolf part wrong," Sherri Dent told him.
"You didn't even growl a little," said Matthew. He made a wolf face. "Grrr."
"I didn't even do the wolf part yet," said Jason. He crossed his eyes at them. "I'm the best growler in the class."
He went up the stage steps on his hands and knees. "Yuff yiff. Ai ai ai."
Jason was right, Dawn thought. He was a terrific growler.
Jason looked around. "Where's my wolf suit? Where are my fake fingernails?"
Dawn helped him look. "Where did you take them off?"
"I didn't put them on yet," he said.
Linda Lorca stuck out her lip. "Those fingers took a long time to make. You'd better find them."
"Neigh," said Dawn under her breath.
Jason crawled to the edge of the stage. He looked worried. "My sister Peggy will kill me. She doesn't know I took her wolf suit."
Ms. Rooney clapped her hands again. "It's too late to start now," she said. "It's almost time to go home."
The class lined up.
Dawn kept thinking about the wolf suit.
She thought about the long fingernails.
She thought about the voice. "I'm going to get you," it had said.
She looked behind her.
"Are you sure it wasn't you?" she asked Jason.
"Cross my toes," he said.
They went into the classroom.
Dawn wished she were home. She didn't want to tell anyone she was afraid.
She was a detective.
Detectives weren't supposed to be afraid.
She could feel a lump of worry in her chest.
She wondered what would happen next.CHAPTER 3
It was after school.
"Wait for me!" Dawn called to Jason.
She went into the auditorium.
She looked around.
Her red riding cape was on a chair.
She hoped no one had seen it.
The play was a surprise.
She went outside.
She and Jason stopped at the corner.
She wanted to show Carmen, the school crossing guard, how she looked.
Carmen wouldn't tell anyone about the play.
Carmen blew her whistle. "Pretty nifty," she said.
"We're doing Red Riding Hood," Dawn said.
Jason hopped up and down on the curb. "We're going to surprise the school."
"Don't tell anyone," said Dawn.
"Not a soul," Carmen said. She went to the middle of the street. "Watch out for the wolf," she called back.
Jason nodded. "That's what I say."
Dawn and Jason crossed the street.
Dawn looked over her shoulder. "It wasn't a real wolf," she said. "I know that."
"It was a person," said Jason. "He was dressed in my sister Peggy's wolf suit."
"A big person, I think," said Dawn. "A person with a scary voice."
She could feel her lips moving.
Maybe she was going to cry.
She hoped not.
She put her hand up so Jason couldn't see.
Jason thought for a minute. "He couldn't have been so big."
Dawn frowned. "Why not?"
"He was wearing Peggy's suit."
Dawn crossed her fingers. "I knew that all along."
"I hope Peggy doesn't go down to the basement," Jason said. "I hope she doesn't look for her wolf suit."
"Maybe she won't," said Dawn.
Drake Evans was walking ahead of them.
"Arf, arf," he said when he saw Dawn.
Dawn made believe she didn't hear him.
Drake's friend Louie was with him.
Louie was loud.
Louie was big.
Louie was mean.
He was even meaner than Drake Evans.
They were skipping stones across the street.
"You're not supposed to throw stones," Dawn said.
"Dog voice," Drake told her.
"Dog face," Louie said.
Dawn put her tongue out.
Jason did a wolf growl.
Then they started to run.
They stopped on the next street.
"Whew!" said Dawn.
"I just thought of something," said Jason.
Dawn clicked her cowgirl boots. "What?"
Jason scratched his knee. "Itchy," he said. He looked back at Drake and Louie. "Maybe one of them ..."
"One of them what?"
"Maybe one of them was the wolf."
Dawn looked back, too.
"You think Drake wore your wolf suit?"
"Maybe," said Jason. "And my fake fingernails."
Dawn shivered. "You think Drake is going to get me?"
"I hope not," said Jason. "It's a mystery.
Dawn didn't answer. She knew Jason was looking at her.
He was waiting.
She took a breath.
She opened her mouth.
"I'm the Polka Dot Private Eye," she said. "I'm the one who solves mysteries."
"That's what I was thinking," said Jason.
"I'll solve this mystery, too," said Dawn. "I'll call it The Secret at the Polk Street School."CHAPTER 4
"Don't say a word," Dawn whispered.
"Don't even breathe," said Jason.
They were at Drake Evans's house.
They were kneeling behind the bushes.
It was muddy back there.
Dawn could feel her good jeans getting wet.
She tried to kneel on one knee.
One clean knee was better than two dirty ones, she thought.
Jason tapped her arm. "I hear them coming."
They ducked down.
Dawn's clean knee dug into the mud.
Drake had a pile of cookies in his mouth.
So did Louie.
Louie stepped in a puddle. Water went over Drake's jeans.
"Hey!" Drake said. He opened his mouth wide. It looked like sawdust inside.
Louie started to laugh.
Cookies sprayed all over the place.
"Yuck," Dawn whispered.
Drake stopped chewing. "What was that noise?"
Louie raised one shoulder. "The cat. A bird. Who cares?"
Drake and Louie sat down on the steps.
Drake leaned over. He said something to Louie.
Behind the bushes, Dawn tried to hear. She moved closer.
She could feel her knees squish.
"We did it!" said Drake.
"Yup," said Louie.
"Did what?" Jason said to Dawn.
"Sh!" Dawn said.
"Where did you put ..." Drake began. He put a cookie into his mouth.
"In the auditorium," said Louie. "In the stage closet."
Jason and Dawn looked at each other.
Just then, Drake leaned over the bushes.
He saw Dawn looking up at him. "Spies!" he yelled. "Let's go, men!"
Louie stopped. He put a cookie into his mouth.
Then he jumped off the steps, too.
Dawn slid out from behind the bushes. The branches stuck into her cape.
She ran across the lawn.
Jason ran after her.
"Get them!" Drake shouted.
Dawn ran down the street. She went as fast as she could.
Jason was running, too. He was right behind her.
She could hear him taking big breaths.
Drake came next.
Louie pounded after him.
At the corner Dawn ran one way. Jason went the other.
"Which way?" yelled Louie.
"You get her!" shouted Drake. "I'll get Jason."
Dawn reached the A&P. She pushed open the doors.
She ran down the aisle.
"Excuse me," she said to a lady with a shopping cart.
She dashed around her.
She looked over her shoulder.
Louie was behind her. He was stuck in back of the lady with the cart.
The lady was reaching for a can of peaches.
Dawn dived around the corner.
She hid behind a stack of cereal boxes.
Louie ran past her.
Dawn waited a minute. Then another.
She peeked out.
The lady with the cart reached for a box of Krispies.
She jumped when she saw Dawn.
"Excuse me," Dawn said.
She looked around the lady.
Louie was gone.
Dawn tiptoed down the aisle. She passed the frozen foods.
She stopped to see if they had any orange ice.
It was her favorite.
There were a zillion boxes in the freezer.
Too bad she didn't have any money.
She looked out the window. Sherri Dent's mother was talking with Mrs. Arrow outside.
No one else was around.
She went outside.
She hoped Jason was all right. She wondered where he went.
For a minute she stood there.
There was something she had to do.
She had to go back to school.
Too bad it was getting dark. The street lights were on. It was almost suppertime.
She was a detective.
She couldn't even cry.CHAPTER 5
The wind was blowing. It had gotten colder.
Dawn put her hands into her cape pockets.
A pack of gum was in one pocket. A piece of paper was in the other.
Dawn turned in at the school-yard gate.
No one was in the yard. Everyone had gone home.
She hoped she could still get into school.
She pulled on the handle. "Whew!" she said. The door was open.
It was good to get inside. Everything looked different, though.
The lights were on.
There was no noise.
She could hear Ms. Rooney in the office. She and Mrs. Gates were laughing.
Dawn loved to hear Ms. Rooney's laugh. It had a nice "ha-ha" sound.
Dawn tiptoed past the office. If Ms. Rooney saw her, she'd be in trouble.
The door to the auditorium was closed.
She opened it quietly. It always squeaked.
The lights were off. She could just about see the seats.
The stage curtain looked black instead of blue.
She went down the aisle. She had to see what Drake had put in the closet.
She bet it was the wolf suit. And the fake nails, too.
It was really dark on the stage.
She couldn't find the closet door.
She reached around the wall with her hands.
Then she felt the knob.
The door swung open.
Inside it was black.
Dawn blinked. She couldn't see a thing.
She heard Ms. Rooney call, "Good-night, Clara."
The outside door banged open and shut.
Dawn stepped away from the closet.
She was ready to run.
"Don't do that," she told herself. "Be brave."
She opened her mouth. She started to sing: "Don't be afraid. Be brave as a wave. Brave as a cave."
She put her hand into the closet.
"Plain air," she sang. "Not a bear."
She took a step inside.
There was stuff on the floor. She felt around.
There should be a wolf suit somewhere.
There should be fingernails, too.
No. Just some old tools.
The door slammed shut.
She pushed it hard.
It wouldn't open.
"Yeow!" she yelled. "Noni, save me!"
She pushed again.
"Let me out! Drake? Louie?"
No one answered.
She put her ear against the door.
She couldn't hear anything. Not one thing.
She sank down on the floor.
There were probably spider webs.
She'd have to stay in there all night.
She was starving. All she had was some gum.
Her grandmother, Noni, would look for her.
She'd never find her, though.
Dawn couldn't even cry. Detectives don't cry.
She leaned against the door.
Then she heard something.
Maybe it was Drake or Louie.
Suppose it was someone else?
Maybe someone was going to get her.
She backed up against the closet wall.
The footsteps were louder.
They were click-clacking.
She began to scream.
Excerpted from The Secret at the Polk Street School by Patricia Reilly Giff, Blanche Sims. Copyright © 1987 Patricia Reilly Giff. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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