"Meet the new Ramona Quimby!" Entertainment Weekly
In this hilarious and heartfelt middle grade debut, Gertie is a girl on a mission to be the best fifth grader ever in order to show her estranged mother that Gertie doesn't need hernot one bit!
Gertie Reece Foy is 100% Not-From-Concentrate awesome. She has a daddy who works on an oil rig, a great-aunt who always finds the lowest prices at the Piggly Wiggly, and two loyal best friends. So when her absent mother decides to move away from their small town, Gertie sets out on her greatest mission yet: becoming the best fifth grader in the universe to show her mother exactly what she'll be leaving behind. There's just one problem: Seat-stealing new girl Mary Sue Spivey wants to be the best fifth grader, too. And there is simply not enough room at the top for the two of them.
From author Kate Beasley, and with interior illustrations by Caldecott Honor artist Jillian Tamaki, Gertie's Leap to Greatness is a classic tale of hope and homecoming that will empty your heart, then fill it back up againone laugh at a time.
Praise for Gertie's Leap to Greatness:
"This story is full of fun surprises: zombie bullfrogs, faithful friends, humor, and hope . . . and a fabulous narrator. Not only is Gertie brave enough to see the world through hopeful eyes, but she's bold enough to be her uniquely wonderful self." Natalie Lloyd, author of A Snicker of Magic
"From the first paragraph, I was Gertie’s fan. Her gumption, her voice, her determination, and her sass jump off the page. Realistic social situations combine with over-the-top personalities to make Gertie’s Leap to Greatness a surefire hit for kids who loved Ramona and Fudge and who will one day want to be best friends with Scout. If your mission is to discover a funny, heartwarming, relatable, and entertaining middle grade novel, then jump for joy: Your mission is accomplished. Now dive in and see how Gertie does on hers." Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company
"[Kate Beasley] writes in the spirit of Roald Dahl and Kate DiCamillo with all the spunk and ferocity of a Southern lady, and Gertie’s Leap to Greatness is equal parts Matilda and Because of Winn-Dixie. Heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny." Clara Martin, Lemuria Books
"Gertie is a dynamic, fun, and well-delineated character, like Ramona and Clementine. Be prepared for Gertie to leap into your heart and mind in 2016." John Schumacher, Ambassador of School Libraries
About the Author
Kate Beasley holds a Masters in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her family in Claxton, Georgia, with two dogs, one parrot, lots of cows, and a cat named Edgar. Gertie's Leap to Greatness is her first novel.
Jillian Tamaki is an illustrator and comics artist. She won both a Printz Honor and a Caldecott Honor for the graphic novel This One Summer, which she co-created with Mariko Tamaki. Jillian lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Read an Excerpt
Gertie's Leap to Greatness
By Kate Beasley, Jillian Tamaki
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2016 Kate Beasley
All rights reserved.
A Monstrosity of Science
The bullfrog was only half dead, which was perfect.
He hunkered in the dark culvert under the driveway and gazed at Gertie Reece Foy with a tragical gleam in his eye, as if he knew that her face was the last lovely thing he would ever see.
Gertie stuck her head and shoulders in the culvert and grabbed the frog. His fat legs dangled over her fingers.
She ran to the house and pushed the kitchen door open with her back. Laying the frog on the counter, she ripped open the drawer that held all the unusual and exciting kitchen equipment. She rummaged through cheese graters, bottle openers, and tongs, glancing up every other second to make sure the frog hadn't moved or, worse, died.
"What's going on in there?" Aunt Rae yelled from the living room.
"Nothing!" Gertie whipped out the turkey baster.
She wiggled her index finger between the frog's lips — if you could call them lips — and poked the pipette into his mouth. Then she squeezed the blue bulb at the other end, forcing oxygen into his lungs.
The air must have revived him quickly, or maybe he was a little less dead than Gertie had hoped, because he sprang for the edge of the counter. Gertie lunged sideways and cupped her hands over him.
"There, there," she said. "You're safe now."
She peeked at him through her fingers, and he peeked back at her, his eyeballs quivering with gratitude. Or maybe they quivered with rage. It was hard to tell.
She wrapped her hands around the frog's middle, turned on her heel, and crashed into a soft, flowery stomach.
"Oof," said Aunt Rae. She blinked at the frog in Gertie's hands. "What in the Sam Hill are you doing?"
"I resuscitated him." Gertie held the frog closer.
Aunt Rae moved to stand over the air vent in the kitchen floor, and her housedress ballooned around her legs. "You what?"
"Resuscitated," said Gertie. "It means I brought him back to life."
"I know what it means." Aunt Rae swayed her weight from foot to foot. "Why'd you resuscitate a ugly old bullfrog? That's what I don't know."
Gertie sighed. She spent a lot of time explaining things that should have been obvious to people. "I did it so he could become a miracle of science," she said.
"Huh." Aunt Rae wrinkled her nose at the frog. "Looks more like a monstrosity of science to me."
Gertie gasped. "Oh my Lord."
"Aunt Rae, that's even better!"
The monstrosity of science wriggled in her hands, and Gertie tried to hold him tighter but not so much tighter that his eyes would pop right out of his head and fall on the floor.
"I've got to get him in his box, Aunt Rae," Gertie said, "before his eyes roll around on the floor and we have to stick them back."
"Why would —" Aunt Rae began.
"Oh my Lord! I don't have time to explain every little detail!"
"All right, all right." Aunt Rae patted down her skirt. "But I want you to use bleach on my counter when you're done, you hear me?"
* * *
Gertie put the frog and some nice wet leaves in a shoe box. Then she rubber-banded on the lid and went out to the porch. The Zapper-2000, a bug zapper big enough to fry baby dragons, hung from the rafters.
Phase One of the mission was off to a good start.
Gertie always had at least one mission in the works, and she never, ever failed to complete her missions. It didn't matter that she wasn't the fastest or the smartest or the tallest, because what made Gertie a force to be reckoned with was the fact that she never gave up. Not ever. Her father liked to say that she was a bulldog with its jaws locked on a car tire.
Gertie was thinking about having that printed on business cards she could hand out to people.
She crouched in the fluorescent blue beam of light beneath the Zapper-2000 and collected a handful of the mosquito bodies that littered the ground. As she worked, the cicadas and crickets started sawing their night song. Gertie stood and watched the sun set on the last day of summer vacation.
With these tasty mosquitoes, the bullfrog was sure to be fat and croaky tomorrow. And with a fat and croaky bullfrog to take with her, Gertie was sure to have the best summer speech of any student at Carroll Elementary. She curled her toes over the edge of the porch boards.
She, Gertie Reece Foy, was going to be the greatest fifth grader in the whole school, world, and universe!
And that was just Phase One.CHAPTER 2
You're in My Seat
Gertie had a reason for wanting to be the greatest fifth grader in the world. Two days before the resuscitation of the bullfrog, something big had happened. She had seen a sign.
Not the kind of Sign with a capital S that people saw in crystal balls or tea leaves or unusual mold formations on cheese. No. Gertie had seen a Sunshine Realty sign.
The sign was in front of the house where Gertie's mother lived, and it said For Sale by Sunshine Realty. That sign was the reason Gertie was on her most important mission yet. And it was the reason why, when she woke up on the first morning of fifth grade, she launched herself out of bed, ran to the bathroom, and brushed her teeth with extra froth in front of the mirror.
Gertie had brown hair which she wore in a ponytail that stuck straight out the top of her head, which encouraged blood flow to her brain, which made her have lots of ideas. She also had a biggish nose and a pointy chin. She had freckles on her face, and she had elbows halfway down her arms. As always, she looked exactly like herself.
She pointed her toothbrush at her reflection. "This is your moment," she said, and she wiped away her toothpaste beard.
In her bedroom, she put on shorts, her favorite blue T-shirt, and the twenty-five-percent-off sandals Aunt Rae had bought her. Then she fastened a gold locket around her neck. Gertie dropped the locket down the front of her shirt and picked up the shoe box, enjoying the weight it had to it. Nothing, she decided, was as comforting as the weight of a nice, healthy bullfrog.
When Gertie marched into the kitchen, Aunt Rae held out a package of Twinkies, and Gertie snatched it out of the air with her free hand. She stepped through the screen door, then stopped and tilted her head, waiting.
"Give 'em hell, baby," called Aunt Rae.
Gertie tapped the Twinkies to her brow in a salute and let the door bang shut behind her.
* * *
On the bus, Gertie sat next to one of her two best friends. His name was Junior Parks.
Junior had a lot of nervous energy, which must have burned up a lot of calories, because he was the skinniest boy in their class. He was so skinny that some people said he had worms, which he didn't, but Gertie would've been friends with him even if he did, because she wasn't squeamish about worms.
Junior was probably so nervous because of his name. His name wasn't Mitchell Parks Jr. or Benji Parks Jr. His father's name was Junior Parks. So Junior's name was Junior Parks Jr.
He always introduced himself as Junior Parks the Second, but everyone still called him Junior Jr.
"What's in the box?" Junior asked the moment Gertie sat down.
You could always count on Junior to notice little details. He was worried that anything new might be a threat to him. For instance, right now he was probably afraid that the box held something horrible, like a severed hand or a dead rat or a nice present for everyone in the class except him.
Gertie settled the shoe box in her lap and patted the lid. "You'll have to wait and see, won't you?" She nibbled a Twinkie. Most people thought the middles were plain cream-filled, but she could taste a hint of lemon.
Junior gnawed his lip.
Gertie gave in. A little. "It's for my summer speech."
Junior's eyes widened, and his shoes kicked the seat in front of him. "I forgot about the summer speech," he said in a strangled voice.
"How could you forget something this important?" Gertie asked.
On the first day of school, every class at Carroll Elementary spent the morning on the summer speeches. Each student stood in front of their class and told the one most interesting thing that had happened that summer. The teachers said the speeches weren't a competition, but the students knew better.
In first grade, Gertie hadn't known about the speeches, so she hadn't been prepared. She'd only stumbled through, trying at the last moment to think of something juicy.
In second grade, she had carefully reviewed her summer and chosen what had to be the most interesting event — when she'd eaten fifteen oysters without throwing up. But that was the year Roy Caldwell had climbed up a pecan tree and refused to come down for two whole days, just so he would have the best story.
In third grade, Gertie should have won with her reenactment of what had happened on the oil rig where her father worked. Now, that had been a humdinger of a summer speech.
The important thing wasn't what you told, but how you told it. It was one thing to say that your father was working on an oil rig. It was another thing altogether if you said that alarms had gone off because one of the pumps was under pressure, and everybody had jumped off the platform and into the shark-and-eel-infested ocean.
Unfortunately, that was the same summer Ella Jenkins had had her appendix taken out in the hospital, and she had a lumpy purple scar to prove it.
Gertie didn't even want to think about the fourth-grade speeches when Leo Riggs had shaved off his left eyebrow.
But this year was Gertie's year. It had to be. She licked the last of the greasy yellow Twinkie crumbs off her fingers as the bus turned onto Jones Street. Gertie scooted to the edge of her seat.
The houses on Jones Street seemed impressively housey to Gertie. Aunt Rae's house had flaky paint and crooked doorframes. These houses had straight rows of brick and graceful columns and brass knockers that gleamed on tall front doors.
But that wasn't the most interesting thing about Jones Street.
The most interesting thing was that Gertie's mother lived there. Her name was Rachel Collins.
When Gertie was just a baby, Rachel had gone off to live in the house on Jones Street. The only things she'd left behind were the locket, Gertie's father, and Gertie.
Gertie's father, Frank Foy, said that Rachel Collins had left because she wasn't happy and she had to leave to find out if something else would make her happy.
Gertie thought that wasn't any kind of reason to leave. After all, sometimes she wasn't happy about going to school, but she had to anyway. And she was never happy about going to church, but Aunt Rae dragged her along. And plenty of times she was very not happy with Aunt Rae when she wouldn't let Gertie stay up late or wear her pajamas to the grocery store. But she never left Aunt Rae.
Gertie's father explained that Rachel Collins had been a different kind of unhappy. For her, being with them was like wearing a pair of shoes that were too tight. You could limp along for a while, but your feet would just hurt more and more until you were sure that if you walked one step further in those shoes, they'd squeeze your toes off.
Gertie said that plenty of people did just fine without toes.
But it didn't matter what Gertie thought, because Rachel had stepped out of Frank and Gertie's life and into the housiest house on Jones Street, where a big poplar tree grew in the front yard and where now a Sunshine Realty sign was stuck in trimmed grass.
The sign still said For Sale.
Gertie sighed and leaned back against the bus seat.
Rachel Collins's house was for sale because she was moving away because she was getting married to a man named Walter who lived in Mobile with his own family. Everyone around town was talking about it.
Most kids would probably be upset if their mother was getting married to a strange man named Walter and leaving forever and didn't even tell them about it, but Gertie was not most kids.
She was absolutely not upset, because she had a plan. More than a plan. She had a mission.
Now she touched the front of her shirt so that the locket could remind her of what she had to do. As soon as she gave the best summer speech and claimed her rightful position as the greatest fifth grader in the world, she would launch Phase Two. She was going to take the locket back to her mother. She'd show up on her mother's front porch, gleaming with greatness, swinging the locket on its chain, and she'd say, breezy as a gale-force wind, Didn't want you to forget this while you were packing. And then Rachel Collins would know that Gertie Foy was one-hundred-percent, not-from-concentrate awesome and that she didn't need a mother anyway. So there.
Gertie patted the shoe box.
"It's a bullfrog," she told Junior in a voice low enough that the other kids wouldn't hear.
"Wow." Junior looked even more miserable. "Bet your speech is going to be good."
Junior never did well at speeches. He got so nervous that his feet started kicking around, and he wound up knocking over desks and bruising people's shins. But Gertie was an excellent public speaker because she practiced all the time in front of the bathroom mirror.
"It'll be the best," she promised.
* * *
As they walked to their new classroom, Gertie was careful not to let her fingers cover the air holes on the shoe box.
She pushed through the noisy students and set her shoe box on a desk in the front row. Junior put his bag on the chair beside hers, his arms swinging by his sides even though he wasn't walking anymore.
Gertie's classmates were choosing seats, saying hello to friends they hadn't seen all summer, and arranging new school supplies in their cubbies. Jean Zeller was turning away from the pencil sharpener.
Jean was Gertie's other best friend, and she was the smartest person Gertie had ever met. A long time ago, Roy Caldwell and his friends had called her Jean-ius to tease her, but Jean had liked the nickname so much that she had started writing it at the top of her assignments. Jean blew the shavings off her lethally sharp pencil points and walked over to Gertie and Junior.
"They're number twos," Jean said, brandishing the pencils. "I made sure they were number twos. What kind are yours?" She narrowed her eyes at Junior's empty desk.
"Umm." Junior unzipped his bag and peered inside. "Yellows?"
Jean rolled her eyes. "It's okay, I brought extras."
Jean took the last seat in the front row, right beside Gertie. Gertie was sandwiched between her two best friends, holding a new pencil, and thinking that she'd accomplish this mission in record time, when something poked the back of her neck.
"You're in my seat."CHAPTER 3
The finger that had poked Gertie's neck was bony and had a pink-polished nail. Its owner was a yellow-haired girl who had green eyes and shimmery lip gloss.
"Did you hear me?" the girl said, and raised her eyebrows. "You're in my seat."
Gertie reassured herself that her shoe box with her frog was sitting on top of her desk before she answered the girl. "I'm already sitting here," she said.
"Yes, but I'm new here." The girl crossed her arms and began to tap her foot, waiting for Gertie to move out of her way.
Kids who had been examining each other's new shoes and haircuts looked up at the girl.
"Well, we're old here," Jean said, and crossed her arms, too.
The foot stopped tapping.
"But we could move," said Junior quickly, looking from one girl to another. "We could sit in the back or just go away somewhere and ... and ..."
Gertie stared at Junior until his voice dried up like a raisin.
"But Ms. Simms said I could sit here." The girl smiled. "Because I'm new. I need to sit in the front so I can keep up with everything."
New people weren't the only ones who had special reasons for needing to sit in the front. For instance, Gertie needed the front because when they watched movies she didn't want to have to look past other people's heads. And Jean liked the front row because she needed to make sure teachers saw her when she raised her hand. And Junior Jr. hated the front row, but he had to sit there anyway to be with Gertie and Jean.
"Ms. Simms didn't say any such thing," Gertie said.
Excerpted from Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, Jillian Tamaki. Copyright © 2016 Kate Beasley. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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 Monstrosity of Science,
2 You're in My Seat,
4 What's a Mary Sue Spivey?,
6 Upset About North Dakota,
7 With a G,
8 That Superior Smoothness,
9 No Way You Could Be Born on Krypton,
10 Who Wants to Go Next?,
11 Well Done, Gertie,
12 There's Right and Then There's Right,
13 People Are Fickle,
15 Oh, Junior,
16 A Very Good Opportunity,
17 What Happens to the Junk Food?,
18 I Loathe Peas,
19 A Potato Never Quivers,
20 I Won't Tell,
21 It's at Six,
22 How Will I Carry On?,
23 Ger-tie! Ger-tie! Ger-tie!,
24 Everybody Messes Up,
25 You Stupid Ham Hock!,
26 More Bath Tissue,
27 I'm Fatty and Delicious,
EPILOGUE Glory, Glory, Glory,
About the Author and Illustrator,