Nothing prepares a girl for battling the forces of evil like the first year of middle school...
Amanda Price adores all things bug-relatedfrom spiders to mantiseslike, seriously loves them. Unfortunately most of her fellow sixth-graders do not share her invertebrate obsession. They’re grossed out by it. Especially Amanda’s ex-best friend, Emily, who thinks Amanda is creepy weird.
But when mysterious invaders menace the town of Oyster Cove and take both Amanda and Emily’s mothers captive, Amanda unexpectedly develops amazing insectile powers! Newly equipped with antennae and a glistening exoskeleton she uncovers a secret that changes everything.
Now Amanda has to act fast or her town and her mom are doomed! There’s just one complication…she needs Emily’s help.
Suddenly Amanda’s worst enemy becomes her best ally, but working together may be even harder than saving their town from being squashed like a…well…
BUG GIRL. She’s got the buzz.
Sarah Hines Stephens and Benjamin Harper's Bug Girl is a funny and action-packed superhero adventure filled with green illustrations and sidebars featuring real bug facts!
An Imprint Book
“Bearing all the campy hallmarks and high drama of a classic superhero romp, this entertaining ... tale also features interesting entomological tidbits throughout.” Kirkus Reviews
“The villain is dastardly, the heroes are staunch, and the costumes are impressive, making this high-quality standard superhero fare with the added bonus of some poignant details of how even the closest friendships may fade amid the social pressures of middle school.” Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Tucks both middle-school fashion advice and insect facts into a tale that scuttles along to a wildly destructive climactic battle.” Booklist
About the Author
Sarah Hines Stephens has been a children’s book reader, editor, seller, buyer, doctor, author, copyeditor, ghostwriter, and speaker for many yearsand she is still most of those things. She makes her home in Oakland, California where she lives with her husband, two kids, and two dogs. When she is not doing book related things, Sarah enjoys cooking and eating and gardening and traveling. And she’s pretty good at them. Sarah is not a good dancer, but she does that anyway.
Benjamin Harper was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida where he spent his time obsessing over insects, dinosaurs, space travel, and kaiju attacks. He went to Warren Wilson College in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and then moved to New York where he started working in children’s publishing. He’s been involved in children’s books ever since, as both an editor and author. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles, California where he works on super hero stories and lives with his cat Edith Bouvier Beale, III.
Anoosha Syed is a freelance illustrator and concept artist for animation. She is a graduate of Ceruleum; Ecole d'arts Visuels in Switzerland, and is currently living in Toronto. Select clients include Lacoste, Walmart, Simon & Schuster, Nickelodeon, with work also being featured on Buzzfeed and Nerdist.
When Anoosha isn't drawing for work, she's drawing for fun (she doesn't really have any other hobbies).
Read an Excerpt
By Benjamin Harper, Sarah Hines Stephens, Annosha Syed
ImprintCopyright © 2017 Sarah Hines Stephens and Benjamin Harper
All rights reserved.
Amanda Price's day was going as expected. Terribly. It was presentation day in biology, and Amanda had prepared what was, in her mind, a masterpiece explaining one of the many wonders of the natural world. She knew from past experience, however, that her fellow sixth graders at Oyster Cove Middle School would probably feel differently.
When Mrs. Mallard called her to the front of the room, Amanda took a deep breath and gathered her visual aids. All around her she could hear the rest of the class fidgeting nervously in their seats. Some students eyed the door, ready to sprint for freedom if things got out of hand. They knew something icky was about to happen. Something that involved an unsettling number of legs.
It was well known that Amanda was a bug expert. Insects, arachnids, and other arthropods were her hobby — her whole life, really. Her bedroom was lined with tanks housing rare species of bugs, and most of the books on her crammed shelves were dedicated to her invertebrate obsession.
It wasn't a typical pastime. Amanda didn't know many girls (or boys, for that matter) who truly liked spiders and ants. But Amanda didn't just like them. She loved them. She loved them so much that whenever she could, she focused her schoolwork on her favored subject. Praying Mantises and You, The Plight of the Tarantula, and Tree Lobsters: Where Are They Now? were just a few of the reports she'd given in Mrs. Mallard's biology class in an attempt to help others appreciate the wonder of bugs. With eager anticipation, she'd stood in front of the class and allowed walking sticks or luna moths to cling to her arm, only to watch her classmates emit horrified moans and make barf faces at one another.
"I've got the vapors!" Amanda recalled Sheila Swaddles swooning from the back of the class during one of her more memorable presentations.
Yet Amanda felt certain that one day, something would spark the interest of one of her classmates, and her work would all be worth it.
She had hoped that day would be today, and she had prepared a report titled Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches: Misunderstood and Magnificent. It was perhaps her best report to date, and she could hardly wait to deliver the astonishing information she'd gathered. But before she had even finished the introduction, Amanda heard sniffling from the back row. Allergy season, she thought hopefully as she moved on to her next index card.
The class seemed a little less agitated as Amanda detailed the classification of her favorite cockroach in relation to the wider world of insects. In fact, some students even looked as if they might be learning something from Amanda's lecture. But then she stepped closer to the small tank she'd brought and kept covered with fabric. With a motion that made it look as if she were a magician revealing her latest trick, she swept off the cover. There in the tank were two of the biggest Madagascar hissing cockroaches ever to crawl on the East Coast. They were the size of doughnuts. Black, shiny doughnuts.
Amanda smiled to herself. The silence in the room indicated that her classmates were also anticipating what was to come. She removed the lid of the tank.
"You're not actually going to touch those," Wayne Guttles blurted out. "Are you?"
Of course she was. Her grade depended on a top-level presentation, and she hadn't yet held her pets that morning. Without hesitating, Amanda reached into the cage and grasped one of the gigantic bugs before plucking up its friend with her other hand.
She continued with her report, explaining how the creatures' exoskeletons were so strong that it was hard to crush them. The words were barely out of her mouth when a girl in the front row began openly sobbing.
Amanda ignored the interruption. She needed to focus. The best part of her report was coming up. "The Madagascar hissing cockroach makes its signature sound by forcing gas through breathing pores, or spiracles, located on its thorax and abdomen," she stated, and held up her favorite specimen, Trina, for the class to see.
"You mean it farts?" Darren Dibbles asked. He snickered loudly. Mrs. Mallard stifled the class clown with a look that would curdle milk and then turned it on the rest of the room. It worked.
The students were almost completely silent when Trina hissed.
Until that moment Amanda thought the wide dislike of roaches was simply a PR problem — the bugs had a bad reputation. They needed better marketing to overcome their association with filth. But the horror they elicited was made very clear when Killer, the second cockroach, let out a loud hiss of his own. The arthropods' disturbance signal created such an intense reaction in the room that the school nurse had to be called to dispense mass first aid.
Amanda returned her pets to their travel cage while all around her, students tried to recover. They wiped tears from their eyes, slumped limply on their desks, or sniffed smelling salts. Once the cage was covered, Mrs. Mallard quietly requested that Amanda not bring live examples in the future. "Never again," she said softly.
But it was already too late. Glancing around the classroom, Amanda knew her fate was sealed. She had been unpopular before starting this amazing report — but now things were going to get worse. Way worse. Amanda wished she had a magnificent uncrushable exoskeleton like Trina's. Based on the glares she was getting from her classmates — the ones who were still conscious, anyway — she felt like she might need it.
MADAGASCAR HISSING COCKROACH
Fun Bug Fact: Madagascar hissing cockroaches create their celebrated "hiss" by forcing air through small breathing holes called spiracles.CHAPTER 2
To avoid confrontation and to calm her nerves, Amanda made her way to the back of the class. Aside from being Amanda's favored place for public humiliation, Mrs. Mallard's room also hosted the sixth graders' ongoing biology project. The science teacher had brought each of her students a tadpole, and they were raising them in individual fishbowls. Once the tadpoles had matured and transformed into baby frogs, the class was going to release them into the pond behind the school.
Thanking her lucky stars for the chance to take care of an amphibian (and for a break from the commotion), Amanda huddled over the round containers lining the back of the classroom. While most students thought of their tadpole duties as a chore, Amanda loved her future frog, whom she'd named Cletus, and took her duties as Cletus's foster parent very seriously.
Dropping a piece of wilted lettuce into the water for Cletus to nibble, Amanda tried not to think about the roach situation. The tiny plump tadpole bobbed back and forth, nipping at the leaf. Amanda could not help but worry about his future. What if a fish ate him before he could swim away?
"I want you to be one of the strong ones," Amanda said into the bowl. "You will need to fight. Nature is hard."
Behind her, a throat cleared. "Are you talking to a tadpole?"
Amanda recognized the mocking voice before she turned. It belonged to Emily Battfield, Amanda's former best friend and the main cause of her descent into the popularity dumpster at OCMS.
"Oh, I was just feeding him, and he looked lonely," Amanda responded quickly, hoping that would wrap up the interaction. She tried to avoid talking to Emily.
"Here." Emily held out a pink envelope decorated with glitter and fat red plastic hearts — a party invitation.
"You shouldn't have," Amanda mumbled, meaning it.
"My mother insisted," Emily shot back with equally biting honesty. "It's tomorrow. Nice report, by the way."
With that, Emily turned around and sashayed back to the group of popular girls sitting in desks on the other side of the room. She was their reigning queen.
Amanda looked down at the invitation. The corners were worn. It had been in Emily's bag for a while. When she looked up at the girls, she found the whole pack staring at her with expressions so intense they could rot fruit.
"Oh, hooray," Amanda mumbled to Cletus. Emily's dreaded birthday party. Amanda had known this was coming. She was invited to Emily's celebration every year and used to look forward to it. But that was before.
Staring at the brightly decorated invitation, Amanda couldn't help wondering, like she often did, what it was that made Emily turn on her so quickly and so horribly.
As far back as Amanda could remember, Emily and Amanda had been friends. Best friends. But on the very first day of middle school, everything changed. Everything. It was as if each student had gotten a memo over summer break notifying them that their elementary school life was over and they all had to start acting and dressing differently.
Well, except for Amanda. Somehow she had missed that memo and had shown up at school with a Dragonfly action hero lunch box and an adorable matching outfit. Amanda had thought her ladybug-print ensemble was cute until she stepped into her first class and Sissy Saffron blurted, "Late for preschool?" At that very moment, her classmates erupted into cruel laughter, and Amanda understood that things were different.
With a sigh of relief, she had spotted Emily sitting on the other side of the room — someone she could count on! She was so happy to see her pal, she'd pretended not to notice that Emily was laughing, too, and hurried over. But Emily had put her hand on the empty chair.
"It's saved," she'd said.
"For who?" Amanda had asked, taken aback.
"It's just saved," Emily had responded a little more quietly, looking down. And that had been that.
Her best friend had dumped her.
Though Amanda had never been able to figure out what exactly had triggered Emily's sudden change of behavior, as time passed, she'd learned to accept it. If only she had been able to avoid it, too.
Looking into Cletus's bulging eyes, Amanda tried not to sigh. She was more than a little sick of reliving that moment, but it was hard not to when she was forced to see Emily so frequently....
"Heavens to Betsy, somebody's getting big! And, Matilda, are you losing your tail?" A cheerful voice interrupted Amanda's sad thoughts. She whirled to see the saving grace of her sixth-grade experience cooing at his own tadpole: Vincent Verbiglia, who had arrived to class tardy, carrying a late pass (allergy shots) and a Megawoman action hero lunch box. Amanda beamed.
"Oh! I am soooo glad you're here," she whispered.
The well-dressed boy was a sixth-grade science geek with a fragile constitution, near-crippling allergies, and a soft spot for cats, eighties music, and fashion. Amanda and Vincent often huddled together in the hallways, did homework in the afternoons, or just sat on the Prices' porch swing and contemplated the universe. Vincent, along with Amanda, was a founding member of the Oyster Cove Entomological Society (a generic collection of geeks with an impressive title). And he had even been picked to represent OCMS at this year's Future Scientists Kiosk at the upcoming Oyster Cove Day celebration, where he was planning to present his thesis on negative electrical charges in nature — a thesis that could earn him a hefty scholarship. He was an ultrabrain and had a permanent seat at the pariah lunch table. And he was pretty much Amanda's new best friend.
"Why, look at Cletus! He's practically a frog!" Vincent clapped like a happy parent while Cletus made small ripples on the surface of his bowl. Then Vincent noticed the mood in the room. He bit his lip. His eyes were full of concern. "Was your report received with the usual level of ... approval?" "Don't ask." Amanda shook her head and then tilted the gaudy invitation in her hand so he could catch a glimpse. "Plus, this."
Vincent nodded knowingly.
At least Amanda had someone who understood how much she dreaded extracurricular time with Emily and her klatch. That alone made Amanda feel a teensy bit lighter, as she gave her tadpole a last loving glance and returned to her seat.CHAPTER 3
When the bell rang for lunch, Amanda hoped the excitement surrounding the highly anticipated and fast-approaching Oyster Cove Day would keep news of her cockroach situation confined to room 12B. She prayed to the universe that the main topics of conversation in the halls would be students' entries in the Krafters Korner competition or how fat the animals they were entering in the Porky Pet Parade were. Rides, fun houses, deep-fried foods. Those things.
But no. Amanda was the one and only topic on everyone's lips. Gossip in middle school spread faster than desert locusts — that means FAST.
The instant biology was over, her classmates had run screaming out of the room, and news of what had happened traveled through the hallways. Amanda was barely out Mrs. Mallard's door when she heard the whispers of "Bug Girl" accompanied by snickers and fingers pointing directly at her. It took three minutes for Trixie Symcox to get up the nerve to call Amanda "Bug Girl" to her face.
And once Trixie Symcox did something, everyone did it. That was just the way school worked.
"Ignore them," Vincent commanded, pushing Amanda past a gaggle of laughing seventh graders. (Even the seventh graders were involved — this was bad.) "Let's get to lunch. I'm starving!" he insisted.
Amanda and Vincent found their way to the outcast lunch table, where a handful of their socially awkward sixth-grade friends had already gathered. At least things can't get any worse, Amanda told herself as she opened her Dragonfly lunch box. If only that were true. She was removing her food items one at a time when it happened.
The plastic container her mother had filled with homemade banana pudding malfunctioned. The lid popped right off, spilling slimy yellow-and-brown goo across the table. And as that pudding oozed onto the seat and ultimately to the floor, there was a chain reaction, exactly the type of thing Amanda tried her hardest to avoid.
First, Yelba Marcos, one of the school's nosiest popular kids and also a world-class tattletale, spied the situation from across the cafeteria. Unable to resist what she saw as an amazing opportunity, she sprang into action.
"Oh. My. God. Amanda barfed! BUG GIRL BARFED!" Yelba screamed, popping up and pointing to the other side of the room. Amanda, meanwhile, was frantically trying to get the uncooperative pudding back into its container.
But it was already too late.
"Bug Girl barfed!" students started shouting in unison. "Bug Girl barfed!" The chant increased in volume, repetition, and pitch until it reverberated like speakers about to blow out at a concert. "Bug Girl barfed!" Then the lunch monitor, Mrs. Ladles, added to the horror by storming up and down the cafeteria aisles waving her hands and shouting. As usual, everyone ignored her commands.
The commotion grew until it resembled the now infamous chaos of the "Lunch Meat Riots" that had happened when the cafeteria staff accidentally scheduled "The Wonderful World of Bologna" on the same day as the annual "Bring Your Pet to School" event. The aroma of the featured Bologna Boats entrée (fried lunch meat topped with a scoop of mashed potato, plus cheese) created a canine frenzy that had lasted a full four hours. Amanda hoped this mob madness would end more quickly.
"Bug Girl! Bug Girl!" Students banged their trays on the table for effect.
It still could be worse, Amanda thought.... She'd managed to avoid having a school nickname for nearly two semesters. And "Bug Girl" was a far cry better than some of the insulting labels she'd overheard (like Gaggy, and Dumpers, and Crud Bucket, and Zits McGillicuddy, and Underarm). Besides, in many ways, the name was accurate. She did love bugs.
"Just ignore them," Vincent said, loud enough for Amanda to hear him over the din. He did not make eye contact. They both knew that the best way to deal with this sort of bullying hysteria was to pretend it wasn't happening. Any show of horror or protest would prolong the episode. And there was no point in any of Amanda's fellow outcasts standing up for her — they would only add fuel to the fire. So the entire Oyster Cove Entomological Society simply sat and waited for it to end.
Amanda inhaled and exhaled slowly. She was strong enough to handle this, she knew.
But was she strong enough to handle Emily's party? She wasn't so sure about that. More than anything, she wished she could curl into a tight little armored ball, like a pill bug, and stay that way until Sunday.
Excerpted from Bug Girl by Benjamin Harper, Sarah Hines Stephens, Annosha Syed. Copyright © 2017 Sarah Hines Stephens and Benjamin Harper. Excerpted by permission of Imprint.
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