About the Author
Miguel Benitez likes to describe himself as a "part-time daydreamer and a full-time doodler." He lives with his wife and two cats in England. Jacqueline Jules is the author of numerous books for children. She is also a librarian, teacher, and poet. She won the CYBILS award for best short chapter book for the first book in the Zapato Power series. She lives in Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
Ready for New York
I was all dressed for my trip to New York. Except for my sneakers. Getting my feet into my purple zapatos took extra time. First, I had to put on band-aids to cover my blisters. Then I had to push and pull and stomp.
Mom watched me from the doorway of my room.
"Freddie?" she asked. "Are your sneakers too tight?"
That was not a question I wanted to answer. My feet had gotten bigger. But the last thing I wanted was a new pair of shoes. The ones I had were special. They gave me super speed and super bounce. I couldn't give them up.
"New York City has great stores," Mom said. "We can buy new shoes on our trip to see Uncle Jorge."
"That's okay, Mom," I said, stomping each foot again. "These are fine."
"I'm not so sure." Mom folded her arms and frowned.
"We can worry about my shoes when we get home," I answered. "In New York, I want to see the things Uncle Jorge told us about on the phone. The huge Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and the lights of Times Square."
"Yo también." Mom smiled. "Are you ready?"
"Almost. Can I say good-bye to my friends?"
Mom held up one finger. "We're leaving in an hour."
"I'll be fast."
With my super zapatos, I could leave 29G and go clear across Starwood Park Apartments in a blink.
"Mr. Vaslov!" I knocked on his toolshed. "It's Freddie!"
No answer. That wasn't strange. Mr. Vaslov takes care of Starwood Park. He was always out fixing leaky sinks and broken toilets. I just felt sad about going to New York without saying good-bye. Mr. Vaslov had changed my life. He invented sneakers with super speed and gave them to me to test out.
I left the toolshed and zoomed back to 28G, where Maria and her little brother, Gio, live. They were our neighbors, and they had our key to 29G so they could feed my guinea pig while we were away. I trusted Maria, but I needed to remind Gio about a few things.
"Don't let Claude the Second out of his cage," I told Gio. "He'll leave poop presents on the carpet."
"I won't," Gio promised.
"And don't forget to give him a carrot every day," I added.
"Don't worry, Freddie," Maria said. "We can take care of your guinea pig for three days."
Three days. This was my first trip to New York. Every other time I'd seen my Uncle Jorge, he had come to visit us.
"Are you going to see a parade with big balloons?" Gio asked. "Like I saw on TV?"
"No," I answered. "That was last month, at Thanksgiving time."
"Then why are you going?" Gio asked.
"Mom said Uncle Jorge is planning something special."
I shrugged my shoulders. "Mom said she couldn't tell me yet."
"Is it a secret?"
Gio asks too many questions, but not all of them are bad. I headed home to get some answers.CHAPTER 2
When I opened the door to 29G, Mr. Vaslov was in my living room talking to Mom. I was going to get a chance to say good-bye after all!
"Can you deliver this for me?" Mr. Vaslov handed Mom a white envelope with an address printed in black letters. "My brother needs these papers tomorrow."
"The zip code is the same as Jorge's," Mom said. "It should be nearby."
"Thank you," Mr. Vaslov said. "This is important to my family."
He nodded his bushy gray head and turned around. That's when he noticed me.
"Freddie!" His face broke into a big smile. "I have a present for you."
Mr. Vaslov picked up a wrapped box. I held my breath. The last time Mr. Vaslov gave me a gift, it was my sneakers with super speed. I wondered what would happen now.
"Open it!" Mr. Vaslov said.
I sat down on the couch and ripped off the red-and-green wrapping paper.
"New sneakers!" Mom clapped. "Mr. Vaslov! This is too generous!"
"Freddie helps me around Starwood Park," Mr. Vaslov told Mom. "Think of this as a thank-you."
"They look just like my old ones!" I held them up. They had the same purple color with silver wings on the sides. "Only bigger! How did you know my old shoes were tight?" I hadn't told anyone before today, not even my guinea pig.
Mr. Vaslov laughed. "You've been growing, Freddie, like all healthy kids."
I guess some things are not easy to hide.
"Put them on, Freddie," Mom suggested. "You can wear them to New York."
My new zapatos slipped on easily. There was no need to stuff in my feet. But comfy toes weren't better than super speed. I headed outside for a test run.
"Where are you going, Freddie?" Mom stopped me. "We have to leave for the bus."
I felt trapped. Our apartment had too many walls for zooming ninety miles an hour. I looked at Mr. Vaslov for help. He was bending down to pick up my old shoes, the ones that were too small.
"I'd like to take these with me." He put them into the box.
"Of course," Mom said. "Maybe you know of another little boy who can use them."
My heart thumped in my chest. Was Mr. Vaslov going to give someone else at Starwood Park my special sneakers? Who?
Super speed is a big responsibility. And it's not easy to control. I had trouble before Mr. Vaslov invented a Zapato Power wristband with on and off buttons.
"Have a good trip!" Mr. Vaslov waved good-bye at my front door.
"Don't go!" I tugged on his arm.
"What is it, Freddie?" Mr. Vaslov glanced over at Mom to remind me she was in the room.
"Uh ..." My tongue felt dry. Mr. Vaslov and I didn't talk about Zapato Power in front of her. Moms get scared at the thought of kids running ninety miles an hour and bouncing twenty feet in the air. A good superhero doesn't make his mom worry.
"Thank you for the shoes," I sputtered.
Mr. Vaslov winked. "I hope they work well for you."
I did too. Was Mr. Vaslov not sure? Some of his inventions didn't do what he expected. At least not at first. What if my new shoes didn't give me super speed?
"Freddie!" Mom put Mr. Vaslov's white envelope into her purse and grabbed the handle of our rolling suitcase. "¡Vamos!"
I stepped outside, sticking close to Mr. Vaslov, hoping we could talk alone while Mom locked the door. But his phone rang in his pocket.
"Dripping faucet?" he repeated. "In 35D? I'll be right there."
Mr. Vaslov hurried off to get his tools, leaving me with a head full of questions.
What was in the white envelope? Who was getting my too-small zapatos? Would my new purple sneakers be as fast as my old ones? And what was Uncle Jorge's surprise?CHAPTER 3
The Lady with the Earbuds
The bus to New York was big. And it was bright orange. I felt like I was walking into a giant pumpkin.
"Take the window seat, Freddie," Mom said. "You'll have fun looking out."
All I could see was brown fields, old buildings, and a few cows here and there. And all I could think about was running. Were my new zapatos as fast as my old ones? Could I zoom along the side of the road and beat the bus? Or outrun the cows if they chased me?
"Try to sit still, Freddie." Mom touched my knee.
Being on the bus was like being in school too long without a playground break. My legs got squirmy.
"Don't kick the back of my seat!" A blond lady wearing earbuds turned to yell at me.
"Sorry!" I hugged my legs against my chest.
"Be patient, Freddie," Mom said. "New York will be worth the wait."
I hoped so. And I hoped I could use Zapato Power there — and that running superfast wouldn't get me super lost in a big city.
Mom handed me a book. The moving bus made the words jump. That left me looking out the window again. I rubbed the buttons on my wristband and pretended I was outside, running to New York with my super zapatos.
A few seconds later, I heard a man's voice.
"Eduardo kissed Vivian on her soft red lips."
Who was talking mushy stuff? On a bus?
I popped my head over the headrest. The blond lady with the earbuds was holding a book in her hands.
"Vivian, you are the love of my life."
I turned to the seat behind me. A little boy had his hand in a bag of cheese puffs. His cheeks looked too orange to be talking in a deep voice to someone named Vivian.
"She closed her dreamy blue eyes."
Yuck! Mom wouldn't want me hearing this! Why wasn't she covering my ears? Because she was asleep! The noise wasn't bothering her at all.
"Eduardo! Run away with me tonight."
I looked all around the bus. The sound wasn't coming from the side or the back. It was coming from the blond lady's earbuds! How come I could hear it?
I stared at my Zapato Power wristband. It was warm. I rubbed the buttons a little. The wristband cooled down and the mushy voices stopped.
Uh-oh! Did my new zapatos give me super hearing? What about super speed? And super bounce? Could they do all three? I had two buttons on my wristband. What if two powers was all I got? Which ones did I want the most?
Super hearing would be good when I wanted to hear what grownups were saying. Would I like it as much as running fast?
I had to get off the bus and find out what my new shoes could do! But I was stuck in the window seat, watching more brown fields and buildings go by. How much longer till New York?
Just when I thought I couldn't wait another second, I heard another sound. This time, it was something everybody on the bus heard, not just the lady with earbuds and the boy with Zapato Power.
Bang! Bumpity! Bumpity! Bump! Bump!
Mom sat straight up. "What was that?"
The driver pulled over beside an open field and told us to get out. We had a flat tire.
"Mala suerte," Mom complained.
It was bad luck for Mom and lots of grumpy-faced people getting off the bus. Not for me! I could finally test my new sneakers.
I circled the field three times. Just like always, Zapato Power smoke whooshed out of my heels. It covered me in a cloud, making me invisible. No one, not even my mom, noticed me disappear and come back in a blink.
¡Fantástico! I still had super speed!CHAPTER 4
The flat tire made us late. By the time we arrived in New York, it was dark and chilly outside. Uncle Jorge said that was okay.
"Times Square looks better at night! You'll love it!"
Uncle Jorge led us through the busy streets to a place full of bright neon signs. Everywhere I looked, I saw a gigantic picture. One of them had a lady with a green face and a pointed black hat.
"Do you have a wicked witch in New York?" I asked Uncle Jorge.
"Wicked is a Broadway show, Freddie," Uncle Jorge explained. "A play with singing and dancing."
New York had a lot to get used to. Singing green witches. Tall buildings everywhere. And more people packed together in one place than I'd ever seen.
"Hold on to me, Freddie," Mom kept saying.
Mom squeezed my hand like she thought I could jump over everyone's heads with Zapato Power. I didn't even know if that was true. When the bus stopped for the flat tire, I'd been so busy testing my super speed, I'd forgotten to see if I still had super bounce.
"This way!" Uncle Jorge waved a gloved hand at us.
It wasn't always easy to follow him in the crowd. Luckily, Uncle Jorge was wearing a funky hat with lots of colorful stripes and a row of short strings sticking up. It made him look a little like a rooster. Whenever we got too far apart, I looked for that hat.
Ten minutes later, we turned the corner to a quieter street. Mom finally let go of my hand. I shook it out a little to make sure it wasn't broken.
We crossed an intersection and stepped onto the curb behind an old man with a cane. He was carrying a large brown envelope. A sudden gust of wind blew it out of his hand and down the street.
"¡Ayúdame! Help me!" the old man cried.
Uncle Jorge rushed to help, but the wind snatched the envelope away. New York was big and crowded, but it needed Zapato Power just like Starwood Park. I pressed the first button on my wristband.
In a blink, I had the envelope for the old man.
"¡Gracias! ¡Gracias!" he exclaimed. "These papers are for my green card."
I knew what a green card was. It was important if you came from another country and wanted to stay in the United States. When someone at Starwood Park got a green card, they invited the neighbors to a party.
"De nada," I said. "No problem."
The old man hugged me and my chest filled up like a balloon. Helping people was the best part of Zapato Power! I was so glad my new shoes worked!
"That was amazing," Mom said. "I didn't know you could run so fast."
"You're like lightning," Uncle Jorge added.
For a split second, I worried my mom had somehow figured out I had super speed. But her face wasn't scrunched up, like it gets when she thinks I'm going to hurt myself. She was smiling, proud of me.
"You have a good heart, mi hijo."
We waved good-bye to the old man with the cane and walked a few more blocks to Uncle Jorge's apartment.
"This is where I live." Uncle Jorge pointed to a sand-colored building. "Before we go in, I'd like to go next door."
"Why?" I asked.
"You'll see." Uncle Jorge smiled bigger than a cartoon cat.
We followed him into a bodega store with fruits, vegetables, and other foods. A dark-haired girl stood behind the register. She was taller than me, about middle school size.
Uncle Jorge introduced us. "This is Juanita, the daughter of a very special lady I want you to meet."
"Mamá isn't here," Juanita explained. "She went home to make pollo asado for dinner tonight."
"That's my Angela!" Uncle Jorge clapped like he'd won the lottery.
"How nice!" Mom clapped too. "I can't wait to meet her."
A funny feeling came over me. Mom and Uncle Jorge were way too excited about a chicken dinner, even if they were hungry. Something was happening. Something no one had told me yet.CHAPTER 5
Uncle Jorge's Secret
We had to go up five flights to my uncle's apartment.
"Sorry, folks," Uncle Jorge said. "There's no elevator."
All those stairs were asking for Zapato Power. I try to save my shoes for superhero jobs but sometimes I can't resist.
Uncle Jorge's apartment had two bedrooms. He put our suitcase in the first one where there was a single bed for Mom and a sleeping bag for me. It had pink butterflies.
"I borrowed it from Juanita," Uncle Jorge said.
While I was looking over my pink sleeping bag, Mom pulled Uncle Jorge out into the hallway and whispered something I couldn't make out. Could I hear what Mom and Uncle Jorge were saying if I rubbed the buttons on my wristband? Before I could try, the doorbell rang.
"That's Angela!" Uncle Jorge grinned. He opened the front door and a woman with dark hair, who looked a lot like Juanita, walked in. She was carrying a large covered tray that smelled delicious.
"I hope you're hungry!" Angela said.
Right away, I noticed that Angela had dimples in her cheeks, making her smile look extra happy.
Juanita came into the apartment carrying a smaller tray. She put it down on the table and whipped off the foil like a magician doing a scarf trick.
"Arroz con leche," she said. "My favorite dessert!"
"Mine too!" I said.
"And mine." Uncle Jorge kissed Angela on the cheek. "You're as sweet as your rice pudding."
The way Uncle Jorge was acting reminded me of the mushy story coming out of the blond lady's earbuds on the bus.
I looked over at Juanita to see how she felt about this. She kept smiling like it was no big deal that Uncle Jorge kissed her mother. I wondered what it would be like if my mom had a special friend. Sometimes it was lonely with just the two of us. Dad was a soldier and a hero. We both missed him a lot.
"Tengo hambre," Juanita said, sitting down at the table first.
I was hungry too. I stuffed myself with chicken, beans, and rice pudding. Everybody did. Then we leaned back in our chairs to talk about the next day.
"I'm sorry," Uncle Jorge said. "I have to work."
Uncle Jorge was a manager at a restaurant. Angela owned the bodega next door, and she had to work too.
"Juanita is on winter vacation, just like Freddie," Angela said. "She will take you sightseeing."
"¡Excelente!" Mom said. "Only first we need to deliver something for a friend from Starwood Park."
Mom got Mr. Vaslov's white envelope out of her purse. She showed the address to Juanita.
"Can you find this apartment?"
Juanita nodded. "Sí. We can stop by on our way."
Mom put the envelope on a table by the front door. "Let's not forget in the morning."
When Juanita and Angela went home, Mom sent me to bed. I wasn't used to sleeping on the floor in a pink bag. And I wasn't tired. Besides, there were voices outside my room keeping me up — Mom's voice and Uncle Jorge's voice. They were whispering again. I got out of my sleeping bag and rubbed the buttons on my purple wristband until they got warm. It was like turning up the volume control on the TV. I could hear everything through the door.
"I'm nervous," Uncle Jorge said.
"You'll be fine," Mom said.
"I can't express my feelings," Uncle Jorge said. "I get tongue-tied."
"Write her a letter," Mom suggested.
"¡Buena idea!" Uncle Jorge snapped his fingers. "And I'll put the ring inside."
"You won't have to say a word." Mom laughed.
I turned off my Zapato Power hearing. There was no need to listen anymore. I knew what was going on. Uncle Jorge was going to ask Angela to marry him. I was going to have a new aunt and a new cousin!(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Freddie Ramos Rules New York"
Copyright © 2016 Jacqueline Jules.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
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.
Table of Contents
1. Ready for New York,
2. A Present,
3. The Lady with the Earbuds,
4. Times Square,
5. Uncle Jorge's Secret,
6. The White Envelope,
7. Traffic Jam,
8. The President,