Gilly wouldn't call herself wicked, exactly. But when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run-down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly's a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).
Until she gets caught.
Gilly's sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there's more to this school than its heroic mission.
There's a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder...just how good these bad guys really are?
- The Fairy Tale Reform School series is perfect for:
- Tweens and teens - 12 year old girls and 8th grade readers will love this fun, fast-paced series
- Classrooms studying fractured and twisted fairy tales
- Read-alongs between parents and kids
- Engaging reluctant readers
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Fairy Tale Reform School
By Jen Calonita
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Jen Calonita
All rights reserved.
Sometimes spying on low-level royals can be so boring.
They're easy to spot the minute they leave their precious royal world behind. With their pricy clothes, made-up faces, and clouds of perfume wafting behind them, girls like that stick out like sore thumbs when they get dropped off in town in their flashy carriages.
So far this afternoon, I've tailed this bunch from the Gnomeolia Bakery (where they made fun of the gnome serving them their rhubarb cupcakes) to the One Enchanted Evening dress shop (where they scoffed at having dresses spun out of cotton even though there is a silk shortage). Neither shop was a good place for me to steal some loot from them.
But at Combing the Sea, which is overflowing with the most exotic trinkets money can buy, a person could easily be distracted by glittery things ... and accidentally "lose" something. There are racks upon racks of fancy hats and veils, and tables piled high with velvet and silk purses and scarves — everything a princess-in-training might need if she doesn't have a fairy godmother to whip it up for her.
But the jewelry and tiaras are what these royals are desperate to get their hands on.
And they haven't even noticed me following them at all. Ha!
On the other hand, Neil, the shop owner, has. Trolls are good at sniffing out trouble, and he knows my reputation.
"Need help with something, Gilly?" he asks, eyeing me warily as he polishes the jewelry counter for the fourth time.
"Just looking." I make eye contact so he knows I'm not scared of him. What can he do? So far, I'm just a twelve-year-old potential customer. I can't get kicked out for browsing, can I?
To blend in, I grab a ruby tiara and plop it on my head. I giggle when I see myself in the mirror. Me, the shoemaker's oldest daughter, the tomboy with the frizzy brown hair and freckles, in a tiara! One of the royals turns around and frowns. Uh-oh. One look at my overalls and she'll know I can't even afford to buy hair ribbons in this place. I've learned that when I'm stealing goods, it's best if my mark barely notices I'm here. I put the mark at ease so she isn't suspicious, then disappear like fairy dust so she can't even remember the color of my hair. Later, when she's filling out a Dwarf Police Squad report, she won't recall anything out of the ordinary about her day.
I smile, which catches the blond off guard. "Where did you find that amazing boa?" I pretend to look through silk throws on the table in front of me. "I've been looking for one just like it. Not that it would look that good on me. It looks gorgeous on you."
"Doesn't it?" Blondie grins and turns back to the full-length mirror. "It was the last one though, and I'm definitely taking it. Sorry." She smiles thinly. Blondie doesn't look sorry. I won't be either when her hair clip is mine.
"Oh well." I sigh. "I'll have to find something else to get. Thanks!"
"Good luck." The mini royal wraps the boa around her neck twice. It looks like a giant snake ready to squeeze her. "Pink must be my color," she says as the other girls crowd around her.
"It is!" The others fluff her hair and play with the boa like they are professional royal stylists getting her ready for a ball that evening.
"Try it with your hair up," I suggest, and the other girls nod.
Blondie removes the clip from her hair.
I watch what Blondie does next like it's happening in slow motion. This is the moment I've been waiting for. The mini royal drops the glittery golden clip on a table with half a dozen pairs of earrings and forgets all about it.
At least I'm hoping she forgets all about it.
That clip is the reason I'm here. I've been following Blondie and her gaggle of friends around all afternoon, waiting for a time to lift it. It has to be worth ten gold coins, at least. Maybe more. Dragon's tooth products are rare in the kingdom of Enchantasia, and smuggling in goods from other kingdoms has gotten harder now that Princess Ella has cracked down on crooks. Yeah, that Princess Ella, otherwise known as Cinderella. She and the other princesses — Snow White, Rose (a.k.a. the expert sleeper), and Rapunzel — all reign over our kingdom together like one big, happy family.
I hear the princesses have their own issues co-ruling, but their issues can't compare to those of us in the village — the trolls, ogres, gnomes, fairies, and other creatures that are lumped into the commoner category. Money is tough to come by. I could buy a lot with that one clip Blondie has carelessly tossed aside.
I stare at the clip wistfully, then notice Neil out of the corner of my eye. He's looking at me again. I know better than to make my move yet. I walk to another table and pretend to be interested in magic wand holders. Like I would ever carry a sparkly, pink wand holder. Eww.
I notice Blondie pulling up her hair with a ribbon and the girls clapping.
"Much better!" one says and gives her own curls a flip with her hand.
I've always wondered how girls like that get anything done with hair so high-maintenance. Do they spend all day combing their locks? Have to sleep with rollers in their hair? The advertisements for Rapunzel's new hair-care line say her shampoo helps you do away with all that primping. That's why my ten-year-old sister, Anna, wants Rapunzel's shampoo. But I say, what for? At Enchantasia Trade, where I go to school, doing your hair would be a total waste. When you go to shoemaker classes like we do, there is not much need for luminous hair.
Blondie spins around and squeals. "I'm going to get the boa to wear to Petra's thirteenth birthday party."
A snort escapes my lips. Thirteenth birthday party. I won't be having one of those. I'll be lucky if Mother has time to make me a cake with all the hours she puts in with Father at the shoe shop. Uh-oh. All the girls turn and look at me. So does Neil. I start to cough. "Sorry. I think one of the feathers from your boa flew into my mouth."
Blondie turns to Neil and frowns. "Your boas shed?" She quickly unwraps the one around her neck. "Umm, I think I'll pass then."
"I can assure you," Neil says, his stare at me darkening. "My boas do not shed."
That was foolish of me. If Blondie walks out of this shop with her clip, I'll have a tougher time snagging it. People drop things in a place like Combing the Sea all the time. Buying daisies at Everything's Rosy? Not so much. I need to fix this. Time for a distraction.
"Actually, I don't think it was a feather I swallowed," I say, squeezing into the conversation. "These boas definitely do not shed. My cousin has had a feather skirt from here for years, and it still looks like she just bought it."
"Feather skirt?" Blondie's eyes light up. "Oh, I have to have one of those. Neil, do something with this." She drops the boa on the floor and runs to the other end of the store. That's so like a royal.
"I call it first to wear to Laurence's!" says a tall girl with a big nose.
"No fair!" The group heads to the tiny apparel department in the back corner of the shop, and Neil's eyes glow like the gold coins he'll soon be getting. Skirts are way more expensive than boas. See? Neil's lucky to have me. I'm making him money!
I inch my way back toward the table and pick up a crystal hairpin lying next to my clip. I turn it over a couple of times and gaze at it like I'm considering buying it. The girls are still talking about that silly birthday party. I wonder what it would be like to have nothing to worry about other than what filling to pick for my birthday cake.
My hand dangles over the clip.
"Are these made with ostrich feathers?" the tall girl asks Neil.
Closer, closer ...
"Ostrich feathers are totally in right now!" Blondie chimes in.
I cover the clip with my hand. It's warm beneath my fingers.
Almost there ...
I slide it into the sleeve of my brown jacket with one quick motion.
I head to the door, making sure to reach up and hold the bell on top so it doesn't jingle when I exit. Then I'm out and heading down the alley next to the shop before anyone even notices I'm gone.
Told you it was easy. Like taking lunch from a sleeping ogre.CHAPTER 2
The Great Escape
After a mega score like that dragon's tooth comb, I always head home.
No gloating to fellow thieves about my take. No stopping for bread at Gnome-olia Bakery (even if it smells heavenly). And this is definitely not the time to go to the Arabian Nights Pawn Shop to cash in. That is a classic rookie mistake.
Now is the time to blend in, stay out of sight. Disappear.
Never, ever run.
Running is like asking to be followed by the dwarf squad and their henchmen. That's Enchantasia's police. Snow White's dwarves got sick of the mines but love their pickaxes, so Snow found them a job where they could still use weapons — law enforcement.
The squad was a joke at first — not many people are afraid of dwarves — but then Princess Ella got wise and hired a bunch of guys who are rumored to be half ogre to be the squad's muscle. Those guys are scary. They could break you in half with their pudgy pinkie fingers. Now crime has gone way down ... but it hasn't disappeared. To stay ahead of the ogres, I've had to be smarter about my marks. Royals are still easy targets, but I can't be sloppy.
My eyes scan the village laid out in front of me like a map. I watch as shopkeepers call out end-of-the-day deals (half-price bread, free shoe shining with any repair, a sale on scarves for the coming winter). I ignore them all, even if my family could use the scarves. Our boot is always cold. I hurry down the cobblestone streets, switching my route home from the way I came this morning. You never want to be seen in the same spot twice when you're in the middle of a caper.
I hurry past the pricier shops and restaurants I wouldn't dare enter because I'm not of royal blood. I pull up the collar of my coat when I walk past the marketplace where commoners are buying their nightly fish or fresh vegetables from farmers. I skip the row where magical goods are being illegally traded. The dwarf squad is undercover in that row all the time.
When I enter the busy town square, I exhale slightly. With so many people and carriages around, it's easy to blend in. Schoolchildren from the Royal Academy are carelessly throwing their coins in the fountain. (Thief tip: Never steal from those waters. They're always being watched.) Someone from Happily Ever After Scrolls is trying to sell mini magical scrolls (their latest invention) and is drawing a crowd. A carriage driver is offering rides home for two pence, and royal carriages are lined up in the valet area waiting to take the royals' loot home. One look at the dimming skyline and you remember where your place is in Enchantasia. We commoners live down in the village, while high on the hill, the silver turrets of Royal Manor gleam bright as if to say, "You'll never climb your way up here."
I hear a neigh and then a "whoa," and I turn back toward the fountain, quickly pulling my hood over my head.
"You there!" I freeze. "Have you seen anyone running through the square with a green satchel?" says Pete, the chief of the dwarf squad, in a deep voice that makes him sound much more menacing than he looks. "The baker has lost his shipment for Royal Manor, which was waiting on his steps to be taken to the castle."
I picture Pete high on his horse, looking tough although he isn't even three feet tall on the ground. With his pudgy midsection (he likes cinnamon rolls) and long black beard, he resembles a troll. But his wide, red nose and oversized ears remind me he's a dwarf. The two of us have a love-hate relationship. I've gotten out of a few jams by feeding him info about other thieves, but when I catch a big haul, he comes after me hard.
"Nah," says the small boy standing right next to me. "Haven't seen nuthin'."
Pete sighs and I exhale. "You mean 'I haven't Seen anything.' Schools these days," he mumbles. "Okay, go about your business. Find Olaf if you hear of anything." I hear Pete kick the horse's sides with his small feet and gallop off into the square.
I reach into the pocket of my overalls Mother just patched and give the boy two pence. "Thanks, kid," I say, patting the satchel under my cloak. I lifted that this afternoon when the royals left the bakery. No surprise it took Pete 'til now to realize it was gone.
Then I disappear through a narrow alleyway off the square that leads to the smaller, poorer streets on my side of town where oversized teacups, boots, and thatched huts replace the nicer brick buildings. The streets are already dark — we don't have lanterns to light the way — but I would know this trail blindfolded. I hurry past the panhandler, dropping a biscuit into his outstretched hand, and move toward the smell of shoe polish that always leads me home. My boot is one of four on this tiny block. With one last look around to make sure I am not being followed, I turn the key and head inside.
"Gilly!" My four-year-old twin brothers, Han and Hamish, knock me backward into the door I just came through. They're so light, they roll off me. I see they got into the shoe polish again. There is black all over their cheeks, foreheads, and identical plaid rompers.
"What did you get?" Six-year-old Trixie, with her rosy cheeks and bright red hair, runs into the room at the sound of the collision. "Jam? Cheese? That good pepperoni you got last week?"
"Shh...." Felix, my five-year-old brother, hushes her as he comes down the ladder from the loft where we all sleep in bunk beds. Felix is the wise-beyond-his-years one and looks the most like Father. His dark brown eyes seem to see right through me. "You didn't get caught, did you?"
"No," I assure him and lift my cloak to reveal a satchel full of dinner rolls. My siblings try to grab some. "Wait!" I say, looking around the room. We can barely fit in the living room despite only having a fireplace and one shabby couch.
The walls of the boot have patches to keep out the cold from cracks in the leather exterior. The patches look like paintings, of which we have none. A single drawing of a field of lilies hangs above our fireplace. My sister Anna drew it one night when we were too cold to sleep. The cuckoo clock on the wall chimes six, and I know Father will be home from the shop soon. "Where's Mother?"
"Mother is in the kitchen with Anna, finishing her birthday cake," Trixie says. "Do you want me to go around the back of the boot, knock, and leave the rolls there again?"
"Yes, after you've each eaten a roll first." I open the satchel again and let them each take a roll. They devour the bread within seconds.
The shoe business isn't what it used to be and money is scarce. Sure, we have three meals, if you call half a cup of chicken broth a meal. If it weren't for my hauls from the market, my siblings would waste away. Instead, the twins finally have a little weight on them and the dark rings around Trixie's eyes have disappeared.
I do what I can to help out around here. And that includes making sure my siblings are fed enough and get a birthday gift. I could buy a lot with that dragon tooth clip I stole today, but the minute I saw it, I knew I was going to keep it for Anna. The green in the clip matches her eyes, and I could picture her using it to pull back her long hair. She will never let that clip out of her sight, unlike that spoiled royal. That's for sure.
That's why I targeted Blondie today. I only pluck from people who can afford to lose things. Royals can definitely afford to lose a few trinkets. So can the baker whose business is booming and who treats Mother poorly whenever she comes in to see if he has any day-old bread on sale. The royals are part of the reason we live in this overcrowded boot, so I don't feel bad taking from them.
"Gilly? Is that you?" I hear Mother's voice and quickly give Trixie the satchel to deposit on the back steps.
Mother looks tired as she comes over to give me a hug, smelling like a mixture of flour and leather, which means she must have had to help Father in the shop earlier. I sink into her like I would a soft pillow.
"You okay?" she asks. Her blue eyes look tired. "Your cheeks are flushed."
Excerpted from Flunked by Jen Calonita. Copyright © 2015 Jen Calonita. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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