About the Author
Miguel Benítez likes to describe himself as a "part-time daydreamer and a full-time doodler." He lives with his wife and two cats in Surrey, United Kingdom.
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A Squirrel in School
"Is that a new watch?" my friend Geraldo asked as we walked into class.
"No," I said, looking down at my right arm. "Just a wristband."
"The flashing lights are cool," Geraldo said.
I covered my wrist with my left hand. Geraldo had no idea what those clear flashing buttons could do. If I pressed one, I could zoom out of the classroom in a cloud of smoke. My wristband controlled my Zapato Power, the purple sneakers I wore to school every day, ready to be a hero.
Except there weren't too many superhero jobs at Starwood Elementary. The last person who cried "Help!" was my friend Maria, when she dropped her pencil box. Most days were filled with math, social studies, art, and other normal stuff.
Luckily, that day was different, thanks to a gray squirrel with a long bushy tail.
We saw him, coming in from recess. He dashed right by our teacher, Mrs. Lane, as she was holding open the door.
"Look!" Maria shouted. "A squirrel!"
A squirrel running in the school sure got people excited. My class chased after it. Everyone rushed out of their classrooms to watch. The principal, Mrs. Connor, came out of her office. I smiled. This was NOT going to be another boring, quiet day at Starwood Elementary.
"STAY AWAY!" Mrs. Connor shouted. She put her hand up like a crossing guard. "SQUIRRELS CAN BE DANGEROUS!"
Dangerous? That word got my superhero radar going! I never thought I'd need to save my school from a squirrel, but any hero job was a job for me.
A long gray tail dashed around the corner. I tapped my wristband and took off.
My purple zapatos give me super speed. I can run faster than a squirrel. I can run faster than a train. And best of all, you only see a puff of smoke when I pass.
I heard more screaming and followed the noise to the music room, where kids were jumping.
"SQUIRREL!" they shouted. "THAT WAY!"
With super speed, I could search the whole building in two blinks. The problem was finding the squirrel. Squirrels are not just fast, they're small. They can hide.
I ran through the school three times, listening for screams. No luck! I was just about to give up when I saw a flash of gray run into the kindergarten hall. The kindergartners only go half day, so the rooms were quiet. I tiptoed through an open door. Bingo! Something gray and fluffy was sitting on the windowsill, with his paws raised, like he was begging to go outside. Poor squirrel!
I opened a window for him on the other side of the room. Now all I had to do was get him moving.
"BOO!" I stamped my foot. The squirrel ran, but towards the open door, not the window. OOPS! I should have thought of that.
I slammed the door. The squirrel spun around, saw the open window, and escaped.
Freddie, the superhero, saved Starwood Elementary from a squirrel! I was happy until the principal charged into the room.
"Freddie Ramos," Mrs. Connor asked, "did you slam that door?"
Superheroes are supposed to work in secret. That's why so many of them have masks. I didn't have a mask, so I had to talk as fast as I could run.
"Yes, but I was helping get rid of the squirrel."
Mrs. Connor pointed to herself. "That pest is my problem, not yours, Freddie."
The principal marched me back to Mrs. Lane and told her to keep an eye on me. Secret superheroes don't get much credit.CHAPTER 2
A Mystery Present at My Door
With the squirrel gone, I was all out of superhero work. Mrs. Lane kept me busy with schoolwork until the bell rang. Then I ran up the stairs to Starwood Park, where my mom and I live. At my door, I saw something that made my heart beat quick — a package!
"The last time you got a present, it changed your life," a deep voice said.
I turned around to see Mr. Vaslov. He had a plunger in his hand. Mr. Vaslov takes care of Starwood Park Apartments and all the people who live there.
"Did you leave this for me?" I showed him my name on the thick envelope.
He chuckled and shook his bushy gray head. "Not this time, Freddie."
Mr. Vaslov is also an inventor. He made my super zapatos. Except he wasn't sure they worked at first. He left them at my door in a box, so I could test them out.
"You can tell me the truth," I said. "I won't laugh if your new invention is a dud."
Mr. Vaslov walked away with his plunger. "Sorry, Freddie. I have to go. There's a stopped up toilet next door."
He left me alone with the padded brown envelope. I took it inside my apartment, 29G, and pulled the red strip on the bottom. Gray fluffy stuff blew into my face, and I sneezed. Not everything about getting a present is fun.
After I cleaned off my face, I put my hand in the envelope. Inside, I found a pair of super looking
They were silver, just like the wings on the side of my purple zapatos. I ran down the hall to a mirror.
"Fantástico!" The silver goggles looked like a superhero mask. They were just what I wanted! And I knew just who gave them to me.
I zoomed back outside to find Mr. Vaslov. He was hurrying down the sidewalk with his plunger under his arm.
Super speed sure helps when you want to catch up with someone.
"Thanks for the silver goggles!" I said, giving Mr. Vaslov a hug. It got me a little closer to the plunger than I wanted, but that was okay. Mr. Vaslov is a good guy.
He laughed. "Freddie! I told you. It wasn't me."
"It has to be you!" I said. "No one else knows I need them."
Mr. Vaslov rubbed his chin. "We did talk about getting you a costume."
"YES! And this is a great mask for a superhero. Thank you!"
"It wasn't me," Mr. Vaslov repeated, shaking his head. "Sorry."
I was confused. If Mr. Vaslov didn't give me the goggles, who did?
"There's the train!" Mr. Vaslov put his hand by his ear. The metro train was rumbling behind Starwood Park on its overhead track. "Are you going to race it?"
My feet tingled in my purple shoes. Racing the train always made me feel good. And it would be a chance to try out my silver goggles. I hoped they could keep the wind out of my eyes.
"See you later!" I waved at Mr. Vaslov.CHAPTER 3
The grass beside the overhead train track is the world's best place to run. I spread out my arms, pretending to be an airplane. Airplanes can beat trains, and that's how fast I am.
My legs spun faster and faster. A light cloud swirled around me. Rápido! The train fell behind me as the wind whooshed hard against my face. But it didn't hurt my eyes, not with the silver goggles protecting them.
I ran past the train station, down a trail that leads to a bridge over the tracks. Then I stopped and checked my watch just as the 5:35 came speeding in beneath me. That's my mom's train. I love to watch it come through. She leaves work at the same time every day, and walks from the station. When she comes home she expects to see me with open books, doing my homework. No hay problema. Mom wouldn't beat me home.
Smoke whooshed out of my super shoes as I ran down the trail. Between the trees, I could see the track getting higher as it rose to meet the station. And I could see the letter "W" on a red baseball cap stuck in a tree.
Zapato Power smoke gave me super vision, like looking through a telescope. And with my silver goggles, I didn't have to squint in the wind anymore. Next to my super sneakers, they were the best gift ever.
When I got home, my guinea pig, Claude the Second, stood up in his cage.
"WHEET!" That's Claude the Second's way of saying hello. "WHEET!"
I gave him a carrot and went to the mirror to look at my silver goggles again. Who gave them to me?
My Uncle Jorge mailed presents sometimes. I looked at the padded envelope the goggles came in. The return address was Cleveland, Ohio. Uncle Jorge lived in New York. I didn't know anybody in Ohio.
There were no clues inside the envelope, either. Just more of that gray fluffy stuff that made me sneeze.
It was a mystery I'd have to figure out after my homework.
"How was your day, Freddie?" Mom came through the door and smiled to see me with my math book open. "Anything exciting happen?"
I told her about the squirrel. She thought it was so funny, I didn't have to add anything else, like how I got a mystery package with silver goggles. Besides, Mom was excited to show me something.
"Look what I bought for you on my lunch hour." She held up an orange bathing suit with palm trees all over it. Orange was not my favorite color, and I wasn't so sure about the palm trees, either.
"It was on sale," she said.
That didn't surprise me. Mom loved sales. But why did she get me a bathing suit?
"Where am I going to wear it?" I asked.
"Summer camp!" Mom said. "I signed you up!"
"Isn't that expensive?"
"A little," Mom admitted. "But your Uncle Jorge sent me some money to help pay for it. He wants you to learn how to swim."
"He didn't tell me that! We talked last week."
Uncle Jorge called me a couple of times a month to ask if I was still playing basketball and wearing my hair short like a soldier. My dad was a hero in the army. And ever since we lost him, Uncle Jorge helps my mom and me out whenever he can.
"Summer will be here soon," Mom said. "Only one month."
Camp didn't seem like such a bad idea. And I'd always wanted to learn how to swim. It was a good skill for a superhero to have.CHAPTER 4
That night, just after I went to bed, we had a thunderstorm. It was a really loud one, the kind that sounds like horses stamping on the roof while some crazy cowboy shoots a rifle. My mom got a little scared, so I ran out of my bedroom to keep her company.
"What was that?" Mom shouted.
I thought about putting on my purple sneakers and silver goggles. Superheroes are supposed to be brave and check out loud noises. But it was dark outside, and my mom looked like she needed me.
"No te preocupes."
She touched my cheek. "Don't worry. We're together."
Another crash of thunder made us both jump. We hugged on the couch until all the roaring, pounding, and booming stopped. It was nice to have a mom to take care of.
In the morning, I left the house with my purple zapatos on my feet, my wristband on my arm, and my silver goggles in my backpack. If there was a superhero job at school, I'd be ready.
Mr. Vaslov met me at the stairs leading down to Starwood Elementary.
"Look at that!" He pointed at the school.
A huge tree had fallen, hitting the edge of the gym roof, making a hole. Mrs. Connor wasn't going to be happy about this.
"The winds were really high last night," Mr. Vaslov said.
"And loud. I'm glad it's over."
"The storm is," he answered, "but not the clean up. More trees could fall."
"Really?" I asked.
Mr. Vaslov nodded. "Bad storms weaken them."
We talked about falling trees until Mr. Vaslov looked at his watch. "You're going to be late, Freddie."
"No, I'm not!" I said, taking off. "I have Zapato Power."
I walked into my classroom just as the bell rang. Everyone, including Mrs. Lane, was crowded around the window. At first we all looked at the big tree on the gym roof.
Then Geraldo shouted. "Check out that squirrel!"
"He's purple!" Jason called.
"It can't be," Maria said. "Squirrels aren't purple."
But the one standing outside our window was. His fur looked like he had fallen into a bucket of grape soda.
"He looks hungry!" Geraldo said.
His paws were raised, like he was begging. He reminded me of the gray squirrel I'd chased out of the kindergarten room.
"Why is he purple?" Maria asked. "Did someone paint him?"
"Let's hope not," Mrs. Lane answered. "That would be cruel."
Who would hurt a squirrel? I thought about my guinea pig, Claude the Second. He was such a small, friendly, furry guy. I'd sure be upset if someone was mean to him.
When Mrs. Lane told us to put our backpacks away and get ready for math, I checked on my silver goggles. They were right where I left them, between my lunch and my library book. If someone was hurting little animals, I would need Zapato Power soon.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Zapato Power Freddie Ramos Zooms to the Rescue"
Copyright © 2011 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. A Squirrel in School,
2. A Mystery Present at My Door,
3. Silver Goggles,
4. The Storm,
5. The Man in the Yellow Vest,
6. A Trip to the Principal's Office,
7. Stop the Train!,
8. A Hero (at Last),