Ruan Sabre, a strange boy with white hair and lavender eyes, is a student at Clinton Street School in Toronto. But he holds an amazing secret: his family was born on a habitable star, Fiddler’s Green.
The Sabre family is light years ahead of humanity. They are able to think rapidly, change their appearance at will and travel at warp speed. Early in the school year, Ruan develops friendships with students that include Astrid Farrow, Alistair Peebles and Finian Gloue. Because of their potential to help others, Ruan’s parents ask the young adults to join the Earthly Circle presided over by Ruan's father, Onyx Sabre.
Meanwhile, Alistair is getting online messages from Not-Ned, an evil creature who spends every waking moment in his laboratory on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter, with his dull-minded but fawning tribe of Morbid Pranksters. He seeks to thwart the Sabres in their attempts to show Earthlings how they must make significant changes to how they look after their planet Earth. Only time will tell whether Alistair will take the bait.
In this novel, advanced people from a distant star recruit young Earthlings to help them rearrange the world’s priorities—while their nemesis works to stop them.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
I saw the constellations reveal themselves. One star at a time.
— The Tragically Hip
"I would like to begin the school year by tossing out the curriculum. I think we can manage without one for now. We'll begin by discussing the weather. Or meteorology, if you like that better." These words were delivered by Mordechai Nudelman, who was beginning his twelfth year of teaching at Clinton Street School in downtown Toronto. He came from a family who revered education and his four scholarship years at Yale had left him with an affinity for Oxford cloth shirts, khaki trousers, penny loafers and amateur theatre. On this particular day his cheeks were pink from the end-of-summer heat and his dark, neatly combed hair looked damp and compressed. Mordechai Nudelman's green eyes, identical to his father's, shone with mysterious intelligence and despite being slightly portly, he looked like he took care of himself. He was a purposeful and earnest man, but more than a decade of students knew that at the most unlikely times he could be very witty, veer far off the path dictated by the school curriculum, and even leave one scratching one's head with curiosity. In other words, he was an interesting and unusual individual. Mr. Nudelman had his own brand of influence in the school, even when it came to the look of his classroom.
Finian Gloue looked down at his desk. It was like no other piece of school furniture he'd ever seen. It was stained the colour of red mahogany and the solid brass hinges, allowing the top to be lifted, gleamed in the clear fall sunlight. He suddenly felt rather adult. As if he were sitting in a study or a library instead of a classroom. When he looked around, he could see that everyone's response was the same. The large, ordinary windows had been transformed. They were framed by heavy mustard-yellow velvet curtains with a series of matching valances. This feels like a theatre set, thought Finn. But there was something pleasurable about a departure from the ordinary. It set the scene for all sorts of opportunities. Finn was the essence of a contemporary young man. Often his mop of red curls was tucked under a black knitted cap, the kind favoured by some skateboarders. He loved that activity and jumped on his board whenever time allowed.
"Good grief, look at the chandelier," Alistair Peebles said in disbelief. He was sitting directly below an ornate, bullet-shaped column of wrought iron from which long arms stretched, each with its own drops of various unrelated shapes. Among the fanciful objects there was a lunging dolphin with a chubby infant hanging onto its tail, a large silver star, and an unusual bird that seemed to be the work of someone's particularly vivid imagination.
Most educators felt that having a functional place to learn and being able to see and hear clearly were all that was important. But for Mr. Nudelman, what was at stake was far beyond functionality and the optimal working of the senses. He knew he could unleash the budding imaginations that were handed to him while at the same time carefully manoeuvring intellectual faucets that would cause the thirst for knowledge to be endless.
Astrid Farrow bent as far forward as she could in order to study the large wall behind the blackboard. It was papered in deep cobalt blue and covered with large gold bees. Astrid loved things that were different and beautiful. Her bedroom had long eaves, a dormer, and a window seat, and the whole thing, ceiling and all, was wallpapered. She felt happy to go home to that special nest every day and knew it was the paper, with its large pale green hydrangeas, that made it feel so cozy. Astrid had often been told that she looked like a young Katherine Hepburn, a revered stage and film actress decades before. She was tall and slender and in her own unobtrusive way was a trend-setter. Not many girls her age wore their hair in braids but Astrid loved the style and particularly the edgy and colourful ribbons that were available.
With a dramatic swing of his arms Mordechai Nudelman, his round face beaming, said to the students, "It seems that you all like this room."
As everyone nodded, some a bit tentatively because they found this kind of extreme change a bit unnerving, he boomed, "Well, you are the first pupils to enjoy its rarefied air. You won't need to memorize anything here. You will simply learn and remember."
There was stillness in the room. It didn't feel like the school these pupils had known. It had an air of sophistication that made them even want to sit differently but most of all, every single student wanted to pay strict attention.
Alistair watched as Mr. Nudelman picked up his gold pen and then put it back on his desk. In the style of Sir Winston Churchill, the famous Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mordechai's desk was supposed to be used only when standing. It was large and made of oak, with what looked like mythological figures inlaid in rosewood, walking one behind the other across the side that faced the class.
"Let me tell you something about the history of these bees," Mr. Nudelman said as he waved his hand the length of the blackboard wall. "For centuries bees have been a symbol of wisdom and work. It is the only insect that has a Queen and from there flows a kind of orderliness and the suggestion that there is work to be done by every bee in the hive. We can apply that to ourselves and who the queen bee is can be left to your imagination! You might want to go to the Internet for a broader history of the great symbolic bee."
Mr. Nudelman knew that the students he taught were far beyond an age where they needed to have their work displayed on the walls. He was delighted when his suggestion of built-in bookcases became a reality. A group of capable and willing parents spent many weekends and evenings constructing them, complete with impressive and ornate moulding that Mr. Nudelman himself covered with bronze leaf. The shelves ran from floor to ceiling and were filled to overflowing with all sorts of books, some of which he brought in himself and others that were purchased in consultation with the school's beloved librarian, David Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell was in some ways the heartbeat of Clinton Street School for he was the only staff member who spent time with every single pupil. His mission was to instill a love of books from an early age and he was never too busy to answer questions or to simply have fun.
On the ceiling was a finely painted mural of the universe. It was breathtaking to look at and one couldn't help but think about the famous Sistine Chapel in Rome. However, no one had to stand on a tall ladder and bend backwards to achieve this masterpiece. The ceiling was measured, and a canvas cut to size, allowing for the unpopular fluorescent lights to be replaced by more contemporary halogen, and a generous Toronto artist, a graduate of the school, had given her time to follow the detailed instructions that were provided to her. When it was finished, the stunning canvas was glued into place, the edges hidden by more of the gleaming bronze molding. Just to the right of the sun, in the surrounding asteroid belt, hung the large and ornate black iron chandelier.
Mr. Nudelman's energy assured many of the students they were there to gain a kind of knowledge that would snap their intellects together like jigsaw puzzle pieces in the confident hands of an aficionado. Not to simply learn bits and pieces and then to be shuffled on to whatever was next. Their teacher had what it took to stimulate their sensibilities, to mould them into youthful academics. From the first day they observed that Mordechai Nudelman was one teacher who had spent time studying fascinating things and that maybe as time passed their own interests would become more refined.
Many people connected with the school had heard about Mr. Nudelman's youthful exploits. How he'd gone on an archaeological dig in Greece and had managed to make a significant find that was given to an adjacent museum along with a brass plaque bearing the finder's name. How he'd navigated a sixty-five-foot schooner to Greenland, and how he'd drunk exotic tea on a tabletop in Nepal. The students felt simultaneously excited and anxious at the prospect of a whole year in Mordechai Nudelman's class, but they knew for certain that it was going to be far better than being bored.
Astrid Farrow, her long trademark golden pigtails tied in graffiti-covered ribbons, listened carefully to Mr. Nudelman while at the same time gazing around a classroom that was unlike any other in the school. Her parents had made a contribution, helping to build the expansive bookcases that held volumes that could be borrowed at any time.
Mr. Nudelman produced a small red box and, with a flourish, removed its lid. "I am going to pass around stickers," he said, "and I would like you to place one in the upper left-hand corner of your notebooks."
The students looked puzzled when each one of them was handed an empty round white Circle. "Now please write the word air beside it."
One look at Alistair's face seemed to telegraph what he was thinking. That they'd all been demoted to kindergarten. He pushed his round tortoiseshell glasses up his nose. He was a boy who had always been content being on the periphery of school activities. His grandfather had told him he was a born observer, and that seemed to have stood him in good stead. When he'd become a precocious, computer-savvy toddler, it came as a surprise to no one. His mother's sleek laptop drew him like a magnet, and surfing the Internet became as easy for him as picking up a juice box. He had boundless curiosity and so in some ways attending formal school classes seemed like an extracurricular activity. Alistair seemed to have some insight into the adult he would become. On some days he wore a tweed vest, bottom button undone, with a striped shirt and skinny jeans. His light brown hair fell over his collar and was always perfectly cut. He had a small collection of cashmere V-neck sweaters that he wore, depending on the weather.
Finian Gloue sat with his face resting on his palms. He was a young man who considered most issues very carefully before making a decision on where he stood. In some ways he saw life as a chess match. He was determined to succeed but as a good sport, he didn't want to do it at the expense of others. He believed in giving everyone a chance. That side of his nature paid off when he met Ruan Sabre at summer camp. Once it was discovered that Ruan was going to be a classmate at Clinton Street School, the two boys became fast friends. Physically they looked like an odd duo. Finn had a thatch of curly red hair, pale brown freckles and eyes the colour of good Belgian chocolate. On the other hand, Ruan looked somewhat like a doll from a decorative arts museum. His hair was white and it swirled around his head like a silk sheet in the wind. His porcelain skin was flawless, interrupted only by healthy red lips, a small straight nose and eyes the colour of pale amethyst. A young David Bowie would have danced with envy.
As Finian stared at the white circle in his notebook, he remembered the day he had met Ruan's family. He'd been invited for a picnic and recalled being surprised when he reached the Sabres' house that everything seemed so still. There was no sign of people playing in the garden. Mrs. Sabre wasn't unloading bags of groceries from the car. The house stood stark in the sunlight and even the trees seemed motionless. He noticed a white cat standing like a figurine underneath a weeping willow tree. The cat preceded him to the front door that was quickly opened by Ruan's mother. Finian was jolted backwards when he realized that she looked exactly like her son. And it wasn't just a mere resemblance. They were identical. She was taller and her hair was longer but those were really the only noticeable differences. Delphine Sabre was like a vision in a dream. She was dressed in what looked like crisp but voluminous white linen and around her neck was a large link chain from which hung what appeared to be three pieces of coloured sea glass. One was sky blue, another jade green and the last a milky white. Finn remembered how quickly he looked past her, into the living room. The whole Sabre family was there and every one of them looked exactly like Ruan. It was stunning. Onyx Sabre, Ruan's father, rose to his feet, his pale hand outstretched to shake Finn's.
"Don't be alarmed, lad. In most ways we're a regular family, or at least that's the way we see it. We're happy that Ruan has made a good friend. That's a first for him here and he's told us a great deal about you. For that reason we'd like you to join our Circle."
Finian had no idea what joining a Circle implied although he smiled back weakly and his body language must have been affirmative. Before he knew it he was part of the single file of platinum people headed for who knew where. It turned out to be the back garden. Perfectly tended grass was ringed by stately poplars that were so close to one another that their leaves were intertwined like old pots of ivy. Finn couldn't help but notice a large exotic bird nestled comfortably in the branches of one straight and solid tree. The creature was bright and colourful like a parrot but was somehow more lustrous, regal looking. The bird was sitting back on its haunches eating an apple that was gripped tightly in one claw. Ruan noticed Finian's amazed stare and quickly said, "Oh, that's Elizabeth, our beloved pet. She's been part of our family for a couple of centuries and is always around to keep us company. We think of her as the guardian of our household. But besides that, she's a Bach Oratorio specialist and has even been recorded."
What on Earth does she guard? thought Finn. We don't need anyone, or anything, to do that at our house. And then the word Bach popped back into his head. He looked at Ruan. "I know vaguely who Bach is but what does that have to do with the bird?"
"She sings. In fact she is probably the most proficient performer of the work of Johan Sebastian Bach in the world. And she didn't even have to be taught. At least we don't think she did. We have a diary about her that was kept by what you would call our forefathers and the fact that Elizabeth has this great gift is mentioned over and over."
Finn felt slightly light-headed. This was his fifth year attending the Royal Conservatory of Music once a week for piano lessons and he knew no one would rave about his talent.
Suddenly the bird waved a multi-hued wing and her azure eyes looked directly into Finn's. He wondered if he'd stepped into another dimension. He looked up to the sky and saw the sun, the usual wispy clouds and a flock of sparrows winging their way past. Feet planted firmly on the ground, he waited for whatever was to happen next. Mr. Sabre bowed his head and began chanting in a language that sounded more like a song. Electra, the eldest daughter, translated simultaneously.
"Oh trustworthy Finian Gloue, we welcome you into our Circle of Starlings. We are an ancient tribe from far away. We came into being as caregivers for those in need. We are the custodians of all that lives and breathes. We understand the essence of life and our mission is to rescue what we see being destroyed. It is with sadness I tell you that Earth people are destructive to the planet they call home. We have a long-standing liaison with Earthlings. You have now been chosen to live some of your life with us. Some day you will know your true place. May all that occurs within our Circle live only in your mind. But there will be exceptions and you will recognize them when they reveal themselves."
With that, seven pairs of pale lavender eyes were beamed on him. Finian felt pride, confusion and an intense sense of cool peace all at the same time. Beyond the family there was a flurry of momentary activity and what looked like a banquet was sitting on a long table that stretched the length of the garden. Mr. Sabre caught Finn's curious expression and said, "The Water Babies have been here. Food preparation is part of their mission and we are eternally grateful."
Finn couldn't help but marvel at the way the food was arranged. He knew enough to appreciate that what he was seeing was far from ordinary. It was the quintessential still life painting. Perfect fruits had been arranged in stylized pyramids, crystal goblets were filled with a pale green bubbly liquid he knew couldn't be anything as mundane as Sprite, and small cakes were decorated with the detailed care and precision of jewel encrusted eggs. Mr. Sabre directed them to a separate round table. Small, plump, agile babies, dressed in wispy bits of what appeared to be seersucker, were climbing on the chairs and quickly removing dozens of candles from the smooth, flat surface.
Excerpted from "Burn It Blue"
Copyright © 2017 Audrey Ogilvie.
Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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