Isabella's Above-Ground Pool

Isabella's Above-Ground Pool

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466895218
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 112
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

ALICE MEAD is the author of the popular Junebug books, as well as Madame Squidley and Beanie and Year of No Rain. She lives in Maryland.

MARYANN COCCA-LEFFLER has written and/or illustrated many books for children, including Jack’s Talent and A Vacation for Pooch. She lives in Amherst, New Hampshire.

A children's writer has the unusual task of developing a unique voice coupled with evoking the so-called magic of childhood. But is childhood truly a magical kingdom?

I do know that childhood is a time so deeply and purely felt that adulthood can rarely match it. It is a time of great heroism, dashed hopes, leaps of joy, steadfast friendships, explosive frustration, utter hilarity, the shame of betrayal. Certain smells, certain words elicit powerful memories of childhood. For me, the smell of boiled brussels sprouts even now makes me feel utter revulsion. The smell of ethyl alcohol and the words "tetanus booster"cause sheer terror. The clap of an old, dusty book snapped shut and the words "hidden staircase" fill me with wonder. Where? Where? Tell me! How could I not write about childhood?

When I was seven and eight, my family lived in postwar England, in an industrial Yorkshire city that still showed the devastation of World War II and the Nazi bombings. This left a lasting impression on me. The journey there, by ocean liner across the Atlantic, and my later poking about deserted misty castles and the dank Yorkshire moors, and smelling pungent coal fires, all created an unusual and not always pleasant adventure filled with questions. Was Robin Hood real? Was that truly King Arthur's castle? And had I really snapped a photo of the Loch Ness monster? The long, snaky streak still shows plainly in my faded photo.

Back in the United States, I grew up during the Cold War, at the height of the nuclear arms race. I studied Russian for six years, or tried to, endlessly curious about the countries behind the Iron Curtain. And when I was eighteen, there was the Vietnam War. There were antiwar protests, Woodstock, flower children. I went to a Quaker college. I wanted to major in art, but there was no art department, so I majored in English. I started attending Quaker meetings.

One summer, when I was twenty, I worked as an art counselor at a Fresh Air camp for inner-city kids. Watching their sheer delight in using paint and clay, I was hooked. I became an art teacher. I felt privileged to be with kids, to make my classroom a safe place where they could explore their own creativity.

In the meantime, I married and had two sons, both of whom are now in college. One is studying economics and one physics. My husband and I have two dogs, and used to have the occasional rabbit, chameleon, hamster, and goldfish as visitors.

My life was going along smoothly until I was forced to leave teaching because of a chronic illness. I had to rest a lot. That gave me time to work harder on my writing. I began writing a storybook about nature called "Tales of the Maine Woods." Although editors seemed to like the stories, they weren't willing to publish them. Eventually I gave the stories a grandmother, and then I gave the grandmother a granddaughter named Rayanne. Two of those original tales are part of my first book, Crossing the Starlight Bridge.

For two years I watched the war in Bosnia, formerly part of Yugoslavia. In another part of this region, one million Albanian children are among the brutally oppressed. Even under these harsh conditions, they struggle to live in peace and dignity. The family bonds in their culture are extraordinary. I wrote about these children in Adem's Cross. Each day for the past four years, I have worked to help them, and all Balkan people, regain their freedom and human rights.

Recently, other Quaker values besides non-violence became more meaningful to me. These are simplicity and self-reflection. My husband and I moved to a small house near a cliff overlooking the islands in Casco Bay, Maine. I have a flower garden that my dogs like to dig up. When I am stuck writing a story, I can go and sit on the rocks and watch the water for a while, something I have enjoyed doing through my whole life.

Alice Mead was born in 1952 and attended Bryn Mawr College. She received a master's degree in education, and later a B.S. in art education. She founded two preschools for mainstreaming handicapped preschoolers, and taught art at the junior-high-school level for a number of years. She played the flute and piccolo for twenty-eight years, and now she paints, and enjoys gardening and writing--especially about a little boy named Junebug.

MARYANN COCCA-LEFFLER has written and/or illustrated many books for children, including Jack’s Talent, A Vacation for Pooch, and Let It Fall. She lives in Amherst, New Hampshire.

Read an Excerpt

Isabella's Above-Ground Pool

By Alice Mead, Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2006 Alice Mead
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-9521-8


Isabella Speedwalker-Juarez stood in the middle of the mobile home's tiny bedroom, dropped her duffel bag and backpack, and slowly turned all the way around just to be sure. "Nope. This won't work. Hey, Mom?" she called.

"What, Belly?" asked her little brother, Dozer.

"This is awful. Where can I put my armadillo collection? Or my soccer ball? My comic books? My inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex? Oh, Mom? Yoo-hoo! This room is way too small for two of us! I told you that before we moved here, and I'm telling you again!"

"Hush, Izzy, sweetie. I think it'll be all right," said her mother as she hurried in. "Granny Speedwalker bought you and Dozer these bunk beds, and I'm sure we can find a way to fit in your things."

"Mom! No! I need my own room! I can't live squashed into a tiny room with a toddler!"

"Where there's a will, there's a way. You can share a room easily enough."

"No I can't! I hate sharing. Sharing is what grownups make kids do when they're stuck with a bad deal. A nine-year-old girl can't share a room with a two-year-old!" Isabella had just turned nine and Dozer was almost three, but what difference did that make?

Isabella burst into tears. Because she was crying, Dozer sat down on the floor and cried, too.

"Oh, lordy. Come here," their mother said, scooping up the little boy. "Isabella, sit by me on the lower bunk. See, now? Isn't this cozy?"

"No." Isabella sniffled. "It isn't. Why can't I have my own room? Dozer will get into everything. Maybe I can live next door, in Zach's toolshed or something." Isabella hoped her pathetic sniffles would make her mother relent.

"Don't be silly. You're not moving in with a neighbor. I've explained this to you a hundred times. Granny has her hair-cutting salon in the large bedroom, so Granny and I will share the medium-sized bedroom, and you and Dozer will just have to share this one. That's all there is to it."

Isabella stuck out her bottom lip. "I am not happy. This is Mr. Wigglesworth's fault for cutting your hours at the factory. Where's the phone? I'm calling him right now and giving him a piece of my mind."

"Please try to calm down, Izzy. He really can't do anything about it. Everyone's hours were reduced, not just mine. The Longnose Gum factory is in big trouble. I'm lucky to have a job at all."

"Humph." Isabella sulked, wondering what she could do.

Meanwhile, Dozer had slid off the bed and was lugging Isabella's inflatable Tyrannosaurus around by the neck, chanting, "Big, bad teef. Big, bad teef."

Isabella and her mom laughed. Then Dozer stumbled and fell. The dinosaur popped. Slowly the air hissed out.

"Dozer!" shouted Isabella. "You see, Mom? You see what he did?"

"Well, I'm sorry. But he didn't do it on purpose, for heaven's sake!" her mother said.

Granny Speedwalker popped her head into the room. Tight gray curls sprang from her head, and she wore orange rubber gloves to keep the permanent chemicals off her fingers.

"Would y'all keep the noise down? Deborah's mother is here, and she wants some kind of fancy Hollywood-style makeover. This trailer sounds like a bad day in the barnyard. Now, hush!"

"Sorry, Mother," Isabella's mom said, and quietly closed the door. Then she turned to Isabella. "You are too strong-willed for your own good, Izzy. I couldn't afford to keep us in our old house. We have to stay here for now. I know the room is tiny. I know Granny isn't used to having us. And I know you didn't want to change schools. But that's just how things are."

Uh-oh. School! She had forgotten about school. She could stand school better when she played sports.

"I spent three years working my way up from the Pee Wee League in East Longnose, but there's no soccer team here," Isabella said with a big sigh. "I'll go nuts."

"Maybe there's tennis. Or some gymnastics program that you could join."

"No way. Hey! What about that pool we have on layaway? Let's set that up ASAP. Never mind this, Mom. Let's just go get that pool, okay?" Isabella jumped to her feet.

Her mother didn't answer immediately. Instead she began neatly laying Dozer's overalls in his drawer. "Er, I don't think so. Not today. Let's unpack the rest of your things."

"We can go later, right?"

Isabella's mom simply handed her a box of stuffed animals to put away.

But just as Isabella had feared, when she unloaded her collection of stuffed armadillos onto the floor of the closet, Dozer happily flopped down on top of them. Then, when she lined up her books on the tiny bookshelf in the room, Dozer busily pulled them down onto the floor. And he noisily tromped back and forth with the now-flattened dinosaur, singing the big-bad-teeth song.

"Dozer, listen! The closet is mine, so stay out of there. And I'm taking the bottom bunk, so you better not —"

"Izzy, no. I need you to take the top bunk. Dozer can't possibly sleep up there. What if he rolled off?"

Isabella opened her eyes wide and stared at her mom. The top bunk? She'd be staring at the ceiling. She'd sit up too fast and bonk her head. But what was the use of arguing? She knew Dozer wouldn't be safe up there. Quickly she yanked her clothes out of the suitcases. Some she hung in the closet, and the rest she stuffed into the two top dresser drawers, which were the only ones she could have. The rest were for Dozer, of course.

Then she ran outside to visit the neighbors.


Because they had moved from East Longnose, Isabella knew the funny thing about Center Longnose, a tiny town in central Texas, was that nearly everyone in town had an unusual name. Like Granny Speedwalker. The Speedwalkers were famous for their fast walk. And then there was the Longnose family, which had first settled here in 1848. There were the Pettifoggers, the Wigglesworths, the Bad-deals, and the Nibblebitzes, among others. Her new teacher for third grade was going to be Mrs. Evalina Longnose Wigglesworth, who was sister-in-law to Isabella's mother's boss, Ernest Wigglesworth.

Deborah Nibblebitz-Fifer lived across the street. Deborah was almost nine, and pretty nice, and probably Isabella's only friend at the moment. She'd offered to help Isabella get used to her new school.

Next door, over the split-rail fence, lived the town handyman, Zachary Joe O'Toole, who specialized in repairing riding mowers. He had the absolute greatest backyard, filled with an old car chassis with a steering wheel, rusty motors, and tires piled high. The yard had a carousel horse with only three legs and a fourth one lying in the tall grass, a small cement mixer full of hardened lumps of old cement, and a boat on a trailer. The boat had a big hole in the side that was maybe from a crash, probably a shipwreck involving scuba divers.

A sign on his garage said ZACH O'TOOLE'S FIX-IT SHOP. OUR MOTTO: I CAN IF YOU CAN'T.

Well, now, thought Isabella, staring at the sign. A motto. That was a good idea. It told everyone exactly where you stood. Maybe she would make herself a motto, too. She'd tell the world precisely how she felt about sharing.

But what about that fix-it part? How could Zach fix things other people couldn't? Then she had a brilliant idea: could he make an extra bedroom, one just for her?

Isabella ran across the yard and climbed the fence. "Hey, howdy!" she called out, peering into the coolness of the rickety fix-it shop. She'd met Zach many times before while visiting her granny.

"Hellooo out there," called a voice. A tall, gangly man wearing a green John Deere cap came to the door. "Howdy, Isabella. Good to see you. What can I do you for?"

"We just moved in next door. But right off the bat, I have a big problem. I need some fix-it help. Could you make my bedroom bigger or build me a brand-new one?" Isabella asked.

"Where's your room?" Zach pushed his cap back off his forehead and looked over at the trailer.

"Right there. Last window." She pointed at Granny Speedwalker's trailer. "Dozer and I have to share a room. One tiny room! He's ruining my stuff! He exploded my dinosaur and leaped on my armadillos. It's just not going to work."

"The back corner bedroom?"

"Yep. Two of us. We absolutely do not fit."

"No. I wouldn't think you would. I'm sorry, Isabella, but I can't make that room bigger."

"Your motto says you fix stuff when other people can't."

"Not in this case. I'd have to knock out Granny's outside wall on that trailer, build a cement slab, run out new wiring, change the roofline. Nope. Can't do it. Can't make you any smaller either."


"There's probably other ways to solve that dilemma."

"Like what?"

"We'll think of an alternative. Something we can do."

Think about something else? Why did grownups always talk that way? Isabella narrowed her eyes. "Can I live here in your fix-it shop? I wouldn't be in the way, I promise."

Zach looked thoughtful. "Well, that's one alternative. But it kind of makes me the one to fix your problem, don't you think? I bet there are much better Isabella-style solutions to be found."

"No, there aren't."

"First off, whoever said bedrooms end at outside walls?" Zach asked.

Isabella plunked down on the ground and pulled up a stalk of timothy, lightly running it up and down her leg, while Zach went back to fixing a large green riding mower. He tipped it up on its side. The big blade looked like a ceiling fan coated with matted grass.

What on earth did Zach mean? Set up a tent? She could live in that, but not when it rained. Or maybe he meant build a tree house. But that was so much hard work. Lugging old boards up a tree. Getting splinters. Hammering your thumb. Ouch.

No, Isabella decided, it was too hard to come up with something entirely new. It was so much easier to pester people until they caved in and did what you wanted. That was the route to go.

She was going to have a motto, the way Zach did. Hers would be "I won't share 'cuz it's not fair!" If she kept saying that, maybe her mom would move Dozer into her own much bigger bedroom.

"I gotta go now. See ya later, Zach," she said, scrambling to her feet. "It's motto time!"


Minutes later, Isabella sat at Granny's kitchen table, drawing the outlines of the letters for her motto. She wrote I WON'T SHARE 'CUZ IT'S NOT FAIR in big, messy, wobbly letters, each one a different color.

Dozer leaned against her leg, watching. "Can I draw, too, Belly?" he asked.

"Sure. Mom gave you some chunky crayons. You can go draw with those. Now scoot."

After she had taped the signs to the refrigerator, the back door, her bedroom door, the bathroom door, and the medicine cabinet, she felt restless and twitchy. She yelled for her mother. "Yoo-hoo, Mom! Take a look at my motto. What do you think?"

Her mother came in with a basket full of laundry and stood in front of the refrigerator, reading. "What is this, Izzy?"

"I'm protesting. You guys aren't listening to me, so I decided to have a motto like Zach."

"Isn't his motto about helping people fix things?"

"Well, yeah."

"And yours is about helping yourself to more than your share?"

"No it's not!" Izzy argued hotly. "You just don't get it."

"Hold on here. What's this? There's another one in the hallway?"

"Yep. They're all over the house," Izzy said proudly.

"I think you should take them down," her mother said.


"As soon as you are able would be nice."

"No way."

Izzy went to her room and closed the door. She sat on the armadillos inside her closet. Once Isabella got worked up about something, it took her a long, long time to settle down again. Sometimes listening to music helped. Sometimes rocking in a rocking chair helped. But that was what she did at her old house. She had no idea what to do here.

The closet was too hot. So she climbed onto her top bunk and stared at a spidery stain on the ceiling. She was lying stock still, like a mummy in a coffin. Even that wasn't calming her one bit.

Maybe she needed to run around and exercise her speedy Speedwalker legs. She could run over to Deborah's. But no, now she remembered that Deborah wasn't home. Granny had told her that Deborah was over at her dad's for the day. Isabella had a dad, too, but she couldn't visit him. He'd left for California soon after Dozer had been born.

The problem right now was fixing her bedroom. She couldn't remove Dozer, and Zach couldn't expand the room. There were other ways, he had said.

Isabella's thoughts returned to the pool. They could put the pool right outside her bedroom window. She could make a plastic chute running from her window right down into it. Any time she felt hot or tired or needed to get away, she could climb out the bedroom window and slide kersploosh! into the cool water. Then she would have the best bedroom in the whole world!

"Mom?" She sat up and banged her head on the ceiling. "Ouch. Mom?"

* * *

Her mother was sitting on the back steps of the deck, reading Goodnight Moon to Dozer in the hope that he would soon take one of his famous power naps. Once he fell asleep, Dozer could sleep through anything.

"Mom!" Isabella yelped, rushing out the door. "We have to go to Ray's. We have to buy the pool. Then I can make this spectacular combination bedroom/pool/indoor/outdoor —"

"Shhh! Granny has a customer."

"Oh. Sorry. But, about the pool? Can we get it today?"

Her mother looked uncomfortable. "We already talked about that. Besides, it's April first, Isabella. We don't need that pool right now, do we?"

"You said we'd still finish paying for it no matter what. You said that, Mom. That was the deal about moving here. You said when Granny was busy, we could play in the pool. Remember that?"

Her mother sighed. "I did say that. But our old house isn't sold yet, Izzy. We just don't have four hundred dollars to spare."

Disappointed, Isabella sank down on the wooden steps. First half of a tiny bedroom and now no pool? "When will you have the money?" she asked in a small voice.

"I don't know. I'm afraid to promise you anything right now, in case things don't turn out quite the way we hope."

"I hate that Mr. Wigglesworth," Isabella said. "I'm mad at him."

"Yeah," said her mom. "I'm pretty mad, too."

"You are?" Isabella said in surprise.

Her mom nodded.

"Let's close our eyes and be really, really mad," suggested Isabella.

So she and her mom sat on the steps and closed their eyes. When they opened them again, they saw that Dozer had finally fallen asleep in his mom's lap.

"Awww. Look at him. Isn't he cute?" her mom asked.

Dozer was a cute kid. Even cuter when he was sleeping, because his cheeks looked extra round and rosy and his dark hair got a little bit curlier. Isabella's mother stood up carefully, tiptoed into the bedroom, and gently laid Dozer on the bottom bunk, quietly closing the door.

"And now the bedroom is off limits, right, while he naps?" Isabella said.


"You do see that this is unfair?"

"Yes. But I also see, especially from your motto, that you are thinking about yourself a lot and hardly thinking at all about how you can give to others."

"Give? Give? I don't think so."

"My point exactly," Isabella's mom said.

Deborah's mother, Mrs. Nibblebitz-Fifer, came out to the back door. "Well, ladies? What do you think of my new look? Stylish, isn't it?"

"Very nice," said Isabella's mom.

"It's okay. Can Deborah play later?" Isabella asked.

"I'm afraid not. She usually gets home from her dad's around eight. And then it's a bath and to bed at nine."

"Oh. Bed at nine. Yikes. Well, tell her I said howdy."

"I will. Bye, now."

When Mrs. Nibblebitz-Fifer had left, Isabella said, "I'm having a very bad day, Mom."

Her mom hugged her. "I'm sorry. But you know what else is bad? I'm sharing a bed, a double bed, with my own mother! And she snores!"

Isabella smiled and wrinkled her nose. "Poor you."

"I'll say. If you want to get away from Dozer, I'd be willing to trade with you. You can sleep with Granny. That top bunk looks fine to me."

"No way! I'll be okay. Really, Mom."

Her mother laughed.


After lunch, Isabella and her mother heard the creak of the mailbox at the front door. Granny appeared at the back door with a letter addressed to Joann Speedwalker-Juarez.

Isabella seized it. "Look, Mom. Our first letter at Granny's house. That's cool."

It was from Discount Ray's Bargain Warehouse in downtown Longnose.

March 30, 2000

Dear Joann Speedwalker-Juarez,

This is to notify you that you have had our last full-sized above -ground pool on layaway for over ONE YEAR. Layaway is not intended to be a PERMANENT STATE OF AFFAIRS. If we do not receive $400 by the end of April 2000, your money will be returned and you can kiss that pool goodbye.


Raymond Baddeal
Owner and Manager

"We'll never get the money in time," wailed Isabella. "Oh, Mom."


Excerpted from Isabella's Above-Ground Pool by Alice Mead, Maryann Cocca-Leffler. Copyright © 2006 Alice Mead. 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.

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