Izzy Barr is the star athlete of the third grade: she hits homeruns on her softball team and is one of the fastest runners in her class. But at home, her half-brother, Dustin, seems to be her father's favorite athletewhy else would her dad go to all of his games and miss so many of hers? Izzy pretends that she doesn't care, but as she, her friends Annika Riz and Kelsey Green, and the rest of their class are gearing up for class field day, she can't help but hope her dad will be there to cheer her on in the big race against her rival, Skipper Tipton. Dad doesn't make it to field day, but when he realizes how important it is to Izzy, he and all of her friends and family are there to watch her participate in the citywide 10K run.
About the Author
Claudia Mills is the acclaimed author of many books for children, including Kelsey Green, Reading Queen and Annika Riz, Math Whiz, the first two books in the Franklin School Friends series. She also teaches philosophy at the University of Denver. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.
Rob Shepperson has illustrated many books for children, including the previous books in the Franklin School Friends series and The Memory Bank, a collaboration with Carolyn Coman. He lives in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.
Read an Excerpt
Izzy Barr, Running Star
By Claudia Mills
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2015 Claudia Mills
All rights reserved.
Izzy Barr retied the laces on her running shoes. Once the laces were nice and tight, she finished her jumping jacks. Mr. Tipton, the Franklin School P.E. teacher, wouldn't let Mrs. Molina's third graders start running until they had done some exercises to warm up. Izzy knew this was important, but it was hard to wait.
"All right, Miss Izzy," Mr. Tipton finally told her, grinning. "All right, everybody. Now it's time to run."
Izzy took off around the track that rimmed the school's athletic field. Two of the boys in her third-grade class—Simon Ellis and Cody Harmon—were only a bit behind her. Izzy's two best friends, Kelsey Green and Annika Riz, were way behind them. Kelsey loved reading, not running. Annika loved math, not running. But in Izzy's opinion, everyone should love running—or at least like running—especially on this cool Friday morning in May, with its gentle breezes urging them on: Faster! Faster!
Then someone pulled ahead of Izzy. It was the only person in Izzy's class—girl or boy—who was faster than she was: Skipper Tipton.
Skipper Tipton: Mr. Tipton's daughter.
Izzy picked up her pace.
Skipper picked up her pace, too.
Finally, on the last stretch of the school track, Izzy pulled ahead of Skipper.
They finished the lap with Izzy just one step ahead.
Maybe Izzy would be the fastest runner on third-grade Field Day at the end of next week. And then maybe she'd be the fastest kid her age in the citywide 10K race held on Memorial Day, just three days after Field Day. A 10K race was long—10K meant 10 kilometers, which meant 6.2 miles—but not as long as a whole 26.2-mile marathon. Still, definitely a very long way.
Izzy had been training hard for the 10K race for almost two months now in the Franklin School Fitness Club, coached by Mr. Tipton, as well as doing longer runs on the weekend at home. But Skipper Tipton was training hard with the Fitness Club, too. And she had a P.E. teacher and running coach as her father.
Izzy's father wasn't a teacher or a runner; he was a foreman in a factory just outside of town. And sometimes he didn't even come to her races or softball games because he was too busy attending the sports events of her half brother, Dustin. If only her dad would come to Field Day and the 10K race to see her cross the finish line both times first—ahead of Miss Skipper Tipton!
At least Izzy had come in first today. She couldn't keep herself from grinning.
As if to show how little she cared, Skipper tossed her long blond ponytail.
Then Skipper's face brightened with satisfaction as she stooped down and made a big show of retying the laces on her shoes.
Izzy stared at Skipper's feet. "You got new shoes!"
Skipper's new shoes were the coolest, most beautiful model of running shoes: bright blue with silver arrows along the sides. Izzy had wanted a pair exactly like them forever.
"They cost a hundred dollars," Skipper said. "My dad bought them for me last night at the mall. He said they'll make me run even faster."
Izzy looked down at her old, scuffed running shoes. Well, they weren't that old or that scuffed. But they were discount-store shoes bought on sale. They were dingy gray, not bright blue. They didn't have any silver arrows.
"Your new shoes didn't make you run faster today," Izzy couldn't resist pointing out.
"They're not broken in yet," Skipper said. "But they'll be broken in by Field Day. And definitely in time for the 10K race."
Skipper smiled smugly and retied her already perfectly tied laces one more time.
Annika and Kelsey finished their laps, walking at the end, not running. Izzy was grateful to have an excuse to leave Skipper and go over to join them.
"Skipper has brand-new running shoes," Izzy told her friends as they plopped down on the grass to rest before practicing some of the other Field Day events: long jump, high jump, softball throw. On Field Day there would be other just-for-fun things, like a goofy race with kids bouncing along on huge hoppy balls, but Mr. Tipton didn't have the kids practice for those.
"You're still a better runner than she is," Kelsey said, pushing her straight brown hair back from her face.
It wasn't true, but Izzy was glad Kelsey had said it.
Annika fanned herself with the end of one of her long blond braids. Annika's hair was even longer than Skipper's. "I bet she'll brag about her shoes all the time," Annika said.
That was true.
"Look at Mr. Boone!" Kelsey said then.
Izzy could hardly believe her eyes. Finishing the lap around the track last of all was their school principal.
He must have joined the lap partway through; Izzy hadn't seen him at the start of the run. Mr. Boone was chubby, and he was wearing his regular principal clothes—suit and tie—so he looked silly puffing along behind everyone else. But Mr. Boone never minded looking silly. He had shaved off his big, bushy beard once for a school reading contest. He had let himself be dunked twenty-seven times at the school carnival. Now he was pretending to train for Field Day.
When he puffed across the finish line, far behind even the slowest students, he clasped his hands together and raised them high in a victory cheer.
The kids all laughed. Everyone loved Mr. Boone.
"Keep—on—running!" Mr. Boone gasped. Izzy knew he was acting more winded than he actually was. He mopped his brow with his handkerchief. "Go—Mrs.—Molina's—third—graders!"
Then, giving a final wave, he jogged off slowly toward the school building, his tie flapping.
Izzy planned to keep on running, even with her old, uncool shoes.
The only trouble was that Skipper Tipton was going to keep on running, too.
And Skipper had brand-new, bright blue shoes with silver arrows.CHAPTER 2
After P.E. class, Izzy fell in line for the water fountain. When her turn came, she gulped down huge mouthfuls of cold water.
Back in their classroom, it was time for language arts. Their classroom teacher, Mrs. Molina, looked impatient as the stragglers wandered in from the water break.
"All right, class," she said, once everyone was seated. "I want to tell you about our upcoming language arts assignment due next Friday, a week from today."
On the chalkboard she wrote two words: Famous Footprints.
Izzy copied the words onto a blank page toward the end of her language arts notebook. She liked the assignment so far, from the name of it. She liked anything to do with feet! And it was appropriate that the Famous Footprint report happened to be due on the same day that the third graders were having their Field Day.
"Each one of you will pick some famous person whose footprints you'd like to follow someday," Mrs. Molina went on. "If you'd like to grow up to be a scientist, you could pick a famous scientist like Marie Curie. If you'd like to be a musician, you could pick a famous composer like Beethoven."
Izzy could pick a famous runner!
Skipper would probably pick a famous runner, too.
Mrs. Molina continued. "You'll get a book from the library about your famous person and read it. The more you learn about your famous person, the more you'll know what you need to do to follow in that person's footsteps."
She held up a piece of paper on which she had traced around two large shoes to make the outline of two footprints.
"I have blank footprints here for everyone. When you're ready to do your report, you'll write some of the things you learn about your famous person inside these footprints. Then next Friday we'll hang all of them in the hallway outside our room so that everyone can see what inspires each one of us to be the best we can be."
Simon raised his hand.
"What if our report is too long to fit inside two footprints? Can we write the rest of it on regular paper? Or on extra footprints?"
Simon's reports were always the longest and the best. Izzy giggled to herself as she imagined twenty or thirty footprints marching from Mrs. Molina's room down to Mr. Boone's office to contain Simon's enormous report.
Mrs. Molina shook her head. "Just write enough interesting and important facts to fit inside the footprints."
Simon looked disappointed.
Cody raised his hand next. Cody's reports were always the shortest and the worst.
"Do we have to fill up both footprints?" he asked.
"I'm sure you can find enough material to fill two footprints, if your person is famous enough, Cody," Mrs. Molina replied.
Cody looked disappointed, too.
The class lined up to walk down to the library together. Izzy bounced in place as she stood in line between Annika and Kelsey. She liked going anywhere more than she liked sitting still.
At the library Mrs. Molina helped Izzy find a biography of a famous runner named Wilma Rudolph. Izzy had never heard of Wilma Rudolph; Wilma had died before Izzy was even born. The back of the book said Wilma Rudolph had been the fastest woman on earth despite having a foot twisted from a disease called polio.
Izzy hugged the book. Mrs. Molina might be a strict teacher who didn't like long water breaks, but she knew how to find a good book.
She saw Skipper holding a book about another famous woman runner: Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Izzy hoped that Jackie Joyner-Kersee wasn't a faster runner than Wilma Rudolph.
Annika found a biography of Albert Einstein; Einstein used a lot of math to make his scientific theories.
"Look at his hair!" Annika said to Izzy and Kelsey. In one picture, Einstein had the messiest hair Izzy had ever seen, long white wisps sticking out from his head in every direction. In another picture he was sticking out his tongue.
Maybe Albert Einstein was like Mr. Boone, silly on purpose to make people laugh.
Kelsey showed her friends the biography she'd found of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who had written the Little House books.
"What did you get?" Izzy asked Simon as they waited to check out their books.
Whose footsteps would Simon want to follow, given that he was a reading star, a math star, a science star, and a social studies star? He was even a running star, though not as starry on the track as Izzy and Skipper.
Simon held up his biography. Izzy wasn't sure how to pronounce the person's name.
Simon pronounced it for her: "Lee-oh-nar-do dah Vin-chee."
He was even a star at pronouncing long, unfamiliar words.
"Who's Leonardo da Vinci?" Izzy asked.
Simon looked amazed that anybody didn't know.
"He was a famous painter! He painted the Mona Lisa! And he was a famous scientist and a famous inventor! He thought up the idea of a helicopter hundreds of years before anybody else! He knew everything about the human body! He knew everything about everything!"
Cody, Izzy saw, didn't have a book to check out. He was in the hall by the water fountain getting a second drink even though Mrs. Molina didn't approve of second drinks. Maybe Cody wasn't going to follow in any famous footprints at all.
Izzy was glad she could read a book about a famous runner like Wilma Rudolph. No famous footprints were footprint-ier than a runner's footprints.
But even more than reading a book about a runner, she wanted to be outside running herself.
And running faster than Skipper Tipton.CHAPTER 3
On Friday nights Izzy's thirteen-year-old half brother, Dustin, arrived to spend the weekend with them. Dustin had the same father as Izzy, but he had a different mother. During the week he lived with his mom, but on the weekend he lived with their dad and Izzy's mom and Izzy. So from Friday night to Sunday night, she gained a brother. But lately she felt she lost a little bit of her father, too.
When she was younger, she used to love to watch all of Dustin's soccer games with her dad. But now, between softball and running, she had sports events of her own.
Even last year, her games had been kiddie games with no playoffs for an end-of-season championship. So she hadn't minded that her dad sometimes chose to go to Dustin's big, important games instead. Now Izzy's games were big, important games, too.
But however big and important her games and races were, Dustin's games always seemed bigger and more important. This season he had joined a traveling soccer team that played all over the state of Colorado.
"Dustin!" their dad said that evening, once the pizza man had dropped off their Friday-night pizza. They started every weekend with pizza: Dustin's favorite food. It was always pepperoni and sausage with green peppers and onions: Dustin's favorite kind of pizza. "So what's new with you this week?"
"Nothing," Dustin said, his mouth already full of his first huge bite.
Dustin definitely preferred eating to talking.
"Big game tomorrow!" their dad said. "Playoffs for the Lightning Bolts!"
That was Dustin's traveling soccer team, which had a home game this week.
"Two big games tomorrow," Izzy's mother reminded him. "Playoffs for the Jayhawks!"
That was Izzy's softball team. The end of May was playoff season for everyone.
"I wish I could be there," her mom told Izzy, "but I drew the weekend shift this time." Izzy's mother was a nurse at the hospital downtown.
Izzy wanted to ask her dad which game he was going to. She understood that he had to go to Dustin's away games, but her home games should count just as much as Dustin's home games. Right now, though, there was something else she wanted to ask him even more.
"Daddy?" she began as Dustin was still devouring his pizza.
"What is it, Izzy Busy Bee?"
"I need new running shoes."
A frown creased Izzy's mother's face. "Izzy, your shoes aren't even two months old!" she said. "There is no way they could be worn out yet, and you couldn't possibly have outgrown them this soon."
Izzy had known that was what her mother would say. She kept her pleading gaze on her father.
"Skipper Tipton has new shoes, and her old shoes weren't worn out or outgrown, either. Her dad bought them for her. He said they'll make her run faster, and a dad who's a running coach should know. And, Daddy, Skipper's shoes are so beautiful, blue with silver arrows on them, and I know I'd run faster with shoes like hers. I would!"
Izzy's father looked at his wife. She shook her head.
Then he looked at Izzy. She knew he wanted to give in.
"They can be for my birthday next year," Izzy offered. "And for Christmas, too."
Dustin washed down his third slice of pizza with half a glass of milk in a single gulp.
"Izzy's shoes are dorky," he said. "Skipper's shoes are cool."
Dustin had taken her side! He already had cool shoes; he had told their dad a few months ago that he needed them to play for the Lightning Bolts.
Please please please please! Izzy beamed the words at her dad. PLEASE!
"Your mother and I need to talk about this together," he finally said. "By ourselves. After dinner. So no more begging."
Her mother sighed.
Izzy knew that meant yes!
Inside her old dorky shoes, her toes tingled with anticipation. If she had shoes like Skipper's, she knew she could win the race on Field Day, and the 10K race, too. She would be a blue-and-silver bird that could fly forever.
* * *
An hour and a half later, Izzy sat with her dad and Dustin at the food court at the mall eating frozen yogurt: swirled-together vanilla and chocolate in a cup heaped with all kinds of toppings—strawberries, raspberries, M&Ms, broken pieces of peanut butter cups, gummy bears.
She couldn't keep her eyes off her feet in their blue-and-silver splendor.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she told her father for the twentieth time.
She would wear her new shoes every day for the rest of her life—well, every day until they were too small for her to wear anymore. She'd never wear her dorky old shoes again. Izzy knew just what to do with her old shoes, too: she would donate them to the Franklin School shoe tree.
Franklin School was doing a weeklong drive to collect "gently used" shoes to donate to needy children around the world. The shoes were to be hung on a bare-branched tree standing in the front hallway of the school outside Mr. Boone's office, starting Monday. Her mother was right: Izzy's old shoes really were in excellent condition. Some child somewhere in the world who didn't need to beat Skipper Tipton could wear them happily.
Izzy savored a long, slow spoonful of her frozen yogurt. Now, if only her father would come to her softball playoff game tomorrow, and then come to Field Day, and then come to her 10K race, she would have everything in the world that anybody could ever want.
Excerpted from Izzy Barr, Running Star by Claudia Mills. Copyright © 2015 Claudia Mills. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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