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By Dandi Daley Mackall
ZonderkidzCopyright © 2006 Dandi Daley Mackall
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Chapter OneJazz Fletcher stormed outside, slamming the door behind her. But the giant cedar door to the Fletcher mansion didn't slam. It swooshed shut.
Great, Jazz thought, as she stared up at the gray, cloudless sky. It's not enough that everyone in my house is against me. The house itself hates me.
She shook her head to try to get rid of her mother's last words - Jazz's mother always got the last word: "Jazz, you'll have time to play with your paints and things in the summer. The school year is for real classes."
Jazz and her parents had argued about her art so often, Jazz could have performed both sides of the argument word for word. But it didn't matter. She was going to be an artist, no matter what they thought.
Jazz took off for Gracie's cottage, walking so fast that the crisp October air tickled her nostrils. Grace Doe had started a website, That's What You Think!, where she'd blogged her observations about people. Now a team of girls ran the site, and Jazz's job was, of course, art design - graphics and an occasional cartoon. Jazz figured she'd be late to their weekly meeting, thanks to her mother.
Jazz was almost to the cottage when she noticed a waft of smoke, filtered and flavored, through someone's chimney. She sniffed the airand thought she could even smell the color of the red orange maple leaves, softer than the yellow ginkgos still clinging to branches. She'd have given anything to have her canvas and paints right now. She'd capture it all, including the hint of gasoline from a mower. She would take the unseen smells and turn them into a masterpiece.
A horn honked.
Jazz realized she was standing in the middle of the road. It wasn't a busy street. But the red Honda obviously didn't have time for teenaged artists. She took in one last breath and trotted to the sidewalk.
What if the picture she'd had in her head seconds ago, the painting of autumn smells, could have been her masterpiece? The one thing that would make everybody, especially her art-hating parents, sit up and take notice? Already the vision faded, the reds becoming less red, the umber washing to pale yellow.
She walked the rest of the way to Gracie's cottage. Jazz was pretty sure a couple of her friends would have given her grief for throwing in with Gracie's group, if they'd known about it. But That's What You Think! was anonymous. Big Lake High was "Typical High," and Gracie made up funny names for everybody she blogged about. And anyway, being part of the blog was one of the few good things going on in Jazz's life right now, not that she'd ever say it out loud.
Jazz knocked on the cottage door, then walked on in. "Anybody home?" She inhaled the lilac and musty smell of the cottage. The place belonged to Gracie's mom, who was almost always traveling in Europe. Gracie had started trying to get the group together Saturday mornings, and this was their base of operation.
"You're late," Gracie mumbled, taking Jazz's jacket when she shrugged out of it. "Guilty," Jazz replied.
Gracie was pretty straight-up. What you saw was what you got.
Jazz appreciated that. She could imagine doing an abstract portrait of Grace Doe. Instead of painting Gracie's short, straight, blonde hair and big, hazel eyes in a glorified snapshot, the way their art teacher encouraged them to paint, Jazz would center the abstract on a tiny scar above Gracie's right eyebrow. The scar was so thin and short that Jazz knew nobody ever noticed it, except her. But to Jazz, the scar said everything. It symbolized a pain inside of Gracie, something caused by her parents' divorce, when her mom had left Gracie with her dad. That scar seemed to have healed over too, more or less. Jazz had asked Gracie about the scar once, and it was nothing more than a cut from an old bicycle accident. Not to Jazz.
Mick, Gracie's little stepsis and the blog's technical guru, was already clicking away at the computer keys. "Hey, Jazz!" she called.
"Hey yourself, Munch." Jazz handed Mick the cartoon she'd drawn earlier in the week and leaned on the back of Mick's chair. As always, Mick took the drawing without looking or showing it to anybody, flipped it over, and placed it in the scanner. In seconds, she had the colorized sketch uploaded. Jazz and Gracie crowded at the edges of the screen.
"That rocks!" Mick exclaimed, adjusting the scanned image.
"Excellent," Gracie agreed. Jazz brushed off the praise, but she clung to it on the inside. It felt good to have somebody appreciate her work for a change. She changed the subject before Gracie had a chance to "read" her. The girl was an expert in observing gestures and picking up on signs of emotion, little things nobody else would notice. "So why aren't Storm and Annie here?"
"I don't know about Storm. Annie had cheerleading or something," Mick explained. "But she dropped off her 'Professor Love' column."
"Let's see it." Jazz reached over and jiggled the mouse to wake the screen from sleep mode.
Gracie threw herself in front of the computer, blocking the screen. "Okay. Jazz, promise you won't get mad. Storm saw my blog, and she's okay with it."
"Gracie! You wrote about us again?" Jazz accused.
"True," Gracie admitted. "But Storm is still 'New Girl.' And I changed your name to 'Monet.'"
Jazz nudged Gracie away from the screen and started with her blog. "Should have changed my name to 'Van Gogh.' He never sold anything while he was alive either."
* * *
THAT'S WHAT YOU THINK By Jane OCTOBER 4 SUBJECT: A CONVERSATION WITH BODIES
So last week in art, New Girl got paired with Pastel Princess when we had to paint each other. Princess is a freshman, like New Girl, but there end the similarities. Without uttering a word to each other, their unspoken conversation went like this:
Pastel Princess: Clasped hands. ["Cool!"]
New Girl: Angled her upper body thirty degrees away from Princess. ["You've got to be kidding."]
Princess: Squared herself to face New Girl. ["You start, okay? Will you, huh?"]
New Girl: Rubbed forehead ["Oh, man! Why me?"], crossed legs ["Let's get this over with."], and then placed palms down on desk. ["Okay. This is how it's going to be. Got it?"]
Princess: Pulled arms and elbows into body. ["Whatever you say."]
New Girl: Lifted face and chin. ["You got that right."]
The body language between Monet and Perfect Guy was much shorter, but every bit as enlightening:
Monet: Arms crossed, with elbows high and pointed out. ["This is too cruel, even for the art teacher. No way I'm painting this guy."]
Perfect Guy: Inhaled, balloon-like, keeping his profile to Monet. ["I, of course, shall begin. Watch how I do it and be enlightened."]
"So who's Perfect Guy?" Mick asked.
Jazz had no trouble with that one. "Paul Brown," she answered. Gracie had nailed Paul. "His mother has an office on Dad's floor at Spiels Corporation. My parents think Paul Brown is perfect. So does Paul, for that matter. So do Paul's parents."
The second she said it, something twisted in her chest. Paul's parents did think their son was perfect. They came to every open house and fussed over each sketch or painting or sculpture Paul had on display.
Jazz walked off to the kitchen for a glass of water. She didn't want Gracie to see her, to read her, to read her thoughts by her gestures or expression. Not right now. Because what Jazz was thinking was what it must feel like to be Paul, to have your parents love everything you do in art. To have your parents think you were perfect.
It was something Jazz knew she would never have.
Excerpted from Just Jazz by Dandi Daley Mackall Copyright © 2006 by Dandi Daley Mackall . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Seems like a good book! I havent read it but i read the sample. I love art and i love this author. I got the "Devos for animal lovers" book and i love it. God bless! :)
Just Jazz is a book almost any artist can relate to. Jasmine a.k.a. Jazz loves to do creative art with her time, but being a freshman in highschool, her parents think that she should use her time to prepare her future. Jazz thinks that she can make a living off selling her art, so her parents make a deal with her. If jazz can sell her art and make a decent amount of money off of it by the end of the month, then Jazz can continue to do art at home. But if not then she can only do art at school. Soon Jazz finds out that there is a big drawing contest comming up, so ofcourse she enters. But sadley she loeses. But after seeing Jazz's work Jazz's parents reconize their daughter's talent in art. So they buy Jazz's art with their own money and Jazz is allowed to do art at home! Also in the end Jazz actually believes in God, unlike in the beginning.