Just Like Me

Just Like Me

by Nancy J. Cavanaugh


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Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

In the tradition of Every Soul a Star and Inside Out & Back Again, Just Like Me is a funny, uplifting summer camp story about unlikely friendships and finding your place in the world from the award-winning author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet.

Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery and Becca, my "Chinese Sisters," that's who. We're not really sisters—we were just adopted from the same orphanage. And we're nothing alike. They like egg rolls, and I like pizza. They're wave around Chinese fans, and I pretend like I don't know them.

Which is not easy since we're all going to summer camp to "bond." (Thanks, Mom.) To make everything worse, we have to journal about our time at camp so the adoption agency can do some kind of "where are they now" newsletter. I'll tell you where I am: At Camp Little Big Lake in a cabin with five other girls who aren't getting along, competing for a camp trophy and losing (badly), wondering how I got here...and where I belong.

Told through a mix of traditional narrative and journal entries, don't miss this funny, surprisingly sweet summer read!

"A tender and honest story about a girl trying to find her place in the world, and the thread that connects us all." —Liesl Shurtliff, Author of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

"A heartwarming story about the universal struggle of yearning to be an individual while longing to fit in."—Karen Harrington, author of Sure Kinds of Crazy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492635956
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 04/04/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 628,311
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Nancy J. Cavanaugh has a BS in education and an MA in curriculum and instruction with multiple published works. She was a teacher for more than fifteen years and currently works as a Library Media Specialist at an elementary school. Nancy lives in Tarpon Springs, FL with her husband and daughter. Visit www.nancyjcavanaugh.com

Read an Excerpt

Just Like Me

By Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2016 Nancy J. Cavanaugh
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4926-0428-0


The camp bus sputtered and chugged up the interstate, sounding as if this might be its last trip. Avery sat across the aisle from me with her earbuds on, practicing a Chinese vocabulary lesson. Becca sat next to her, chewing on a straw and watching a soccer match on her cell phone.

"Ni hao ma," Avery said, her chin-length hair with bangs making her look studious in her thick, black-framed glasses.

When she saw me looking at her, she pulled out one earbud and offered it to me.

Did she really think I wanted to learn Chinese with her?

"Technically the lesson I'm working on is review, but I could teach you the basics if you want."

I looked around at all the kids on the bus staring at her and shook my head.

"GO! GO! GO!" Becca yelled, pumping her fist in the air as she cheered for Spain's soccer team. Her hair spilled out of her ponytail as if she were playing in the soccer game instead of just watching it. "Booyah! Score!"

As kids stood up on the bus to see what all the yelling was about, I slid down in my seat, and the driver gave us that "death look" in her rearview mirror. The one that said, "If I have to stop this bus, somebody's gonna get it ..."

"Hey, Julia!" Becca yelled, holding up her phone. "Wanna watch with me? The game just went into overtime!"

"No thanks."

Crowding around a tiny phone screen and watching people kick a soccer ball around was not my idea of fun.

My idea of fun was craft camp at the park district with my best friend, Madison, but Mom said I had the rest of the summer to do that.

Instead I was heading north toward Wisconsin to Camp Little Big Woods, but at least that was better than heading south toward Indiana for Summer Palace Chinese Culture Camp.

As soon as we "graciously" agreed to be the subjects of Ms. Marcia's adoption article, she suggested that the three of us spend a week together making paper lanterns and learning the pinyin alphabet at culture camp.

"It will be a great way for you girls to reconnect not only with each other, but also with your heritage," Ms. Marcia had gushed.

She loved treating us as if we were two instead of almost twelve.

But I said there was no way I was going to eat Chinese food three times a day and do tai chi every morning, so we settled on the sleepaway camp Avery and Becca went to every year.

I reached into the pocket of my suitcase and pulled out the plastic lacing of the gimp friendship bracelet I had started a few days ago. I had planned to finish it before camp so that I could give it to Madison when I said good-bye to her, but I'd run out of time. I decided I'd try to finish it while I was at camp and mail it to her along with a nice, long letter saying how much I missed her.

"Hey, Julia!" Becca yelled. "What's that?"

"Nothing," I said. "Just a friendship bracelet for my friend Madison."

"COOL!" Becca yelled. "We should totally make those for each other in the arts-and-crafts room at camp."

She went back to her straw-chewing and her tiny-phone-screen soccer game.

Friendship bracelets for the three of us? I guess "technically" as Avery would say, the three of us were friends. But even though "technically" I had known Avery and Becca longer than I had known my parents, I couldn't imagine ever thinking of them as the friendship-bracelet kind of friends.

What are your thoughts on the Chinese proverb: "An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break."

Dear Ms. Marcia,

I've been hearing about this red thread for as long as I can remember, but I cannot imagine a thread, of any color — red, blue, purple, orange, or green — connecting Avery, Becca, and me. And if by some chance there really is a thread, I'm pretty sure this trip to camp might just be enough to snap that thing like an old rubber band, breaking it once and for all. Then that Chinese proverb would be history in a whole new way.



"Hey, aren't we stopping soon for something to eat? I'm starving!" Becca yelled.

Even though Becca leaned all the way across the aisle to talk to me, she yelled because that's the thing about Becca. She pretty much always yelled. She only had one volume, and it was soccer-game loud.

We had stopped with our moms at a diner on the way to church to meet the camp bus, and Becca ordered and ate her own "Fabulous Five" breakfast (also known as the "Paul Bunyan" because it's the biggest breakfast on the menu): pancakes, eggs, hash browns, bacon, and sausage. She not only devoured the Paul Bunyan as if she were a lumberjack in training, but also ate the rest of her mom's "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" omelet.

It was no wonder she was the star player on her club soccer team. She was as strong as a football linebacker — solid muscle.

Last fall when our families had gotten together for a picnic to celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival, the three of us kicked around the soccer ball that Becca had brought along. But five minutes after we started playing, Becca bodychecked me so hard she knocked the wind right out of me. It made me thankful that I lived a couple hours away from Avery and Becca. Their families got together all the time, but since we didn't live near them, we only joined them on special occasions.

"We're stopping in Appleton!" the driver yelled, looking in the rearview mirror. "Probably a little more than an hour from now."

"An hour!" Becca wailed.

She dug in her duffel bag, rummaging around for something to eat.

"Becca!" Avery yelled.

Now Avery was yelling too because she still had her earbuds in. "What are you looking for? Did you forget something?"

"I'm starving!" Becca yelled.

Avery pulled out her earbuds and unzipped her own bag. The next thing I knew, the two of them were eating something out of one of those cardboard Chinese takeout boxes. I couldn't believe it! Only Avery's mom would pack her snacks in those containers.

Avery brought chopsticks to camp? She even had a pair for Becca, which meant she probably also had a pair for me.

So there they sat on the camp bus eating Cheetos out of a Chinese food container with chopsticks.

As Avery held up her chopsticks, offering a couple Cheetos to me across the aisle, one of the girls in the seat behind Avery and Becca asked, "So you guys were really born in China?"

"Yeah!" Becca yelled with her Cheetos breath spewing everywhere.

"Weird," the friend sitting next to the girl said. "Do you speak Chinese?"

My mom always told me I was only imagining that people wondered these kinds of things about Avery, Becca, and me when they saw the three of us together. But at times like this, I knew I wasn't just imagining it.

Avery put her chopsticks into the Chinese takeout box and left them there while she explained, "Technically, I'm teaching myself to speak it, but the Chinese language is one of the most difficult to learn with its tonal nuances and various dialects. It presents itself as one of the most challenging phonetic endeavors of all the foreign languages."

I could tell by the looks on the girls' faces that they had no idea what Avery was talking about. I had no idea what Avery was talking about.

Becca woke them out of their dazed stupor with, "Actually we're both learning Mandarin and Cantonese!"

"What about her?" the first girl asked.

I knew she was pointing to me even though I had opened my journal and pretended to write in it so I could stay out of this conversation.

Just then we went over a huge bump. The kids in the back of the bus squealed, but even so, you could still hear Becca's answer because she yelled, "ONLY ENGLISH!"

"But yes, she's from China," Avery answered. "Just like us."

I wanted to stand up and say, "No. No! I'm not just like them. I'm me! Julia!"

But in that moment I wished I were a little more like Becca because then I would yell it. I would yell it so loud that everyone would know that I didn't want to spend the next seven days being compared to Avery and Becca.

But since I am not like Avery or Becca, I kept my mouth shut, kept my head down, and actually started writing in my journal for real.

"You guys look like sisters," the second girl said.

I pressed harder with my pen, almost putting a hole through the page I was writing on.

Avery went on to explain, "Technically, to a Caucasian accustomed to the particulars of their own race, seeing three females of Asian descent in the same time and place will always present itself as if those three beings from a different ethnic group are related, but it is only because the observer is not as in tune to the slight differences in skin coloring, facial shape and size, and facial features ..."

Did Avery have to give an elaborate academic explanation to every question anyone asked?

I kept writing in my journal with my right hand and crossed the fingers on my left hand, hoping there would be other girls in our cabin that I could hang out with. Avery and Becca could do all the "bonding" they wanted, but that didn't mean I was going to.

What are your thoughts about your Asian heritage?

Dear Ms. Marcia,

No offense to Asians or to China or to anybody, but I'm American from head to toe.

Avery and Becca can be as "Chinese" as they want, but for me, it comes down to this: they like pot stickers, and I like pizza.

That's why last January, when I did my personal heritage report for school, I got a C+.

I wrote that I was half Italian, half Irish, and half Asian. I know that equals more than a whole. I'm not stupid, but my dad's Italian, and my mom's Irish, and I'm their daughter. So doesn't that make me a little bit of both, even though I was born in China?

I just didn't think writing that I was only Chinese would have been the truth. But the day Mrs. Fillmore handed back our reports, she asked me to stay after class to talk to her about it.

She waited for the other kids to leave, and then she told me it seemed like I'd been struggling with the heritage project ever since she'd assigned it. And I don't know if it was the Italian part of me, the Irish part of me, or the Asian part of me, but I started to cry. Thankfully, Mrs. Fillmore felt sorry for all of me and told me I didn't have to talk about it if I didn't want to, and she let me leave.

But later she wrote a note to my parents: "Julia seems to be upset over something related to our recent heritage project. You may want to talk with her about it."

She wrote a whole bunch of other junk too, but the point was that she thought I was "troubled" just because I didn't stand up and cheer for being Chinese.

The note was in a sealed envelope, so I had to sneak downstairs the night Mom opened it and dig it out of her purse just so I could see what it said.

The next day, I overheard Mom talking to Dad about it. He said Mrs. Fillmore was full of herself and that she should mind her own business. He also said, "Julia's fine."

When Mom tried to talk to me about it later, I just told her I was upset that I'd only gotten a C+ when I'd worked so hard on the project, but I knew Mom didn't believe me. The thing is, I really wasn't even sure why I had cried.

But Mrs. Fillmore's note made Mom worry. So that's why, when you called with your idea for a story about Avery, Becca, and me, Mom said I should be "thankful" for such a "unique opportunity" to "bond" with my "Chinese sisters." I knew what she really meant was that she was hopeful that my time with Avery and Becca would help me work out all the things I was "troubled" about without her having to sneak me off to see a therapist.


PS Mom is also thankful that I'll be spending a bunch of time with Avery and Becca because they're the kind of kids who write personal heritage reports that earn A+'s from teachers like Mrs. Fillmore.

PPS What Mom and Mrs. Fillmore don't know is that before all of Mrs. Fillmore's "research this" and "research that" I never thought much about my Asian heritage. But ever since Mrs. F.'s "let's dig into our roots to find out who we all really are," I've been wondering about things I wish I never would've wondered about. And the real honest truth is that I'm afraid your adoption story and a week of "bonding" with Avery and Becca might make me wonder about those things even more.


About four hours later, the bus lurched to a stop with a jerk. Campers talked and laughed, pushing and shoving each other as we gathered up our sleeping bags and pillows and bumped our suitcases down the bus steps.

We found ourselves in front of a large, brown, flat-roofed building with a big porch, huge screened windows, and a double-wide screen door. I heard dishes clattering inside and could smell something cooking, but I couldn't identify what it was. It made me a little worried about what was for dinner. Actually it smelled kind of like Christmas.

"In case you're wondering," Avery turned and said to me, "that smell is Sarge Marge's clove-seasoned ham."

Sarge Marge? Who the heck was that? And worse yet, what in the world was clove-seasoned ham?

"She always makes it the first night," Avery explained. "It's her worst meal, but after we eat that, all her other food doesn't taste so bad. I think it's some sort of camp-cook psychological strategy."

Becca took a deep breath. "Nothin' like the smell of Sarge Marge's air-freshener-flavored ham every year when you get off that bus," she said. "You gotta love it!"

A bunch of counselors wearing jean shorts, Camp Little Big Woods T-shirts, and welcoming smiles told everyone to dump their stuff on the big grassy spot under a tree next to the tetherball court.

"Goooooood afternoon, campers!" a tall, skinny guy with a bullhorn yelled. "I'm Donnie Domino, your DJ for the week."

He did sound like a DJ, but he wore one of those dorky T-shirts that was supposed to look like a tuxedo.

"Hi, Donnie!" yelled the returning campers, who obviously were happy to see him and glad to be back at camp.

Avery grabbed my arm and said, "Julia, you're going to love DDDJ. He's so hilarious. Isn't he, Becca?"

Becca didn't answer, but high-fived Avery instead.

"We've got a fantastic forecast of fun for the next seven days!" Donnie said in his deep, buttery-smooth broadcaster's voice. "Are you ready?"

"Yes!" everyone screamed.

Everyone, that is, except me.

I slapped my arm and squashed a mosquito just before it bit me.

"Find your names on the pegboard and head up the hill to your cabins, so we can get this party started."

He put down his bullhorn and gave a thumbs-up sign toward the mess hall porch. That's when I noticed the only other male for miles around besides DDDJ. He looked about college age, but he didn't look like he spent much time studying because he was super tan and full of muscles.

"That's Donnie's son," Avery explained as she saw me staring. "We call him DD Jr., and he gets cuter every year."

Before I could even get myself to stop staring, DD Jr. flipped a switch, and "Celebrate" by Kool & the Gang blasted from the two huge speakers attached to the corners of the mess hall.

Lots of campers squealed and then sang and danced around.

"C'mon, Julia!" Becca yelled, waving her arms in the air. "Cel-a-brate good times, c'mon!" she sang.

Avery shook her hips back and forth and pushed her glasses up on her nose. Then she grabbed my hands, trying to get me to dance.

I moved around a little even though I didn't really know what we were celebrating.

Eventually campers danced their way up to the pegboard to find their cabin assignments. As we squeezed ourselves toward the long lists of names, Avery linked arms with Becca and me. She squinted through her bifocals to find our names.

"We're in White Oak!" she said.

"SWEET!" Becca yelled.

I hoped that meant White Oak was a good cabin, but I'm pretty sure Becca would've said "sweet" no matter what cabin we were in.

"Let's head up the hill, my Chinese sisters," Avery said, turning around and singing, "And cel-a-brate good times, c'mon!"

I saw two girls behind Avery smirk and roll their eyes when Avery called us her Chinese sisters — and I don't care what my mom says, I know the smirk wasn't imaginary. It was real.


Excerpted from Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh. Copyright © 2016 Nancy J. Cavanaugh. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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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Just Like Me 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
This_Kid_Reviews_Books More than 1 year ago
Synopsis- Julia is not a happy camper. Or, she will be. Her mom is making her go to a week-long summer camp with her two “Chinese sisters” – two girls also adopted from the same orphanage in China – who absolutely adore everything Chinese while Julia doesn’t. It doesn’t help that the adoption agency’s agent is writing an article about how the three of them are bonding. And Julia doesn’t want a single part of it. What I Thought- I was not expecting to like this book. In fact, I kind of went into reading it with a sour attitude – I was craving a good action/adventure. What I found was a skillfully crafted, meaningful story that captured my interest from the start. To me, that really shows what a good book this was. I really got into the story, and felt connected to the characters. There was a lot of drama, which could get annoying (especially for a boy), but it helped build the story. The story is about getting along with others, getting to know yourself, and ultimately accepting yourself. The characters have their ups and downs with each other, creating a nice challenge for the kids to overcome. The book is very character-driven, and tells two stories – one of Julia learning to get along with the other girls, and another told through letters to her adoption agent, about her internal conflict. I like the fact that the book points out that even though they are adopted, they are still their parents’ children. This is a very good story and speaks to Ms. Cavanaugh’s ability to capture a middle grade audience. *NOTE* I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
Julia was adopted from an orphanage in China, but she doesn't think of herself as Chinese. She's American. Avery and Becca were also adopted from the same orphanage. All three sets of parents went to China together to get the girls, so they've kept in touch over the years. Avery and Becca go to the same school, and they're more into being Chinese and learning about the culture than Julia is. This summer the adoption agency manager has decided to write an article about them, so the girls go to summer camp together for a week. They've selected the camp that Becca and Avery go to every summer because Julia didn't want to go to Chinese culture camp. And they've been given journals with writing prompts to record their feelings and experiences over the week. The book is told in Julia's voice with journal entries between chapters. And all of the adoption stuff is set against the backdrop of a cabin full of fighting girls and a crazy camp contest that Becca and another girl in the cabin are determined to win. I loved all the camp shenanigans in this book. The serious subject was handled well, and it was not too heavy for middle grade readers. Overall, this story was a really cute, sweet, and fun read. It wraps up a little too nicely, but I was fine with it considering the age group. It would give younger readers exposure to adoption and the complex feelings that go along with being adopted. http://www.momsradius.com/2016/08/book-review-just-like-me-mg.html
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DaneWeimMama More than 1 year ago
A beautiful story of friendships & the power of embracing yourself just the way you are. The story centers around 3 Chinese "sisters" (they were adopted at the same time at an orphanage in China) but told from the viewpoint Julia. Julia doesn't totally embrace her culture & has trouble fitting in with the other 2 girls that do. Its a wonderful story that teaches while entertaining. I look forward to reading more by Nancy J. Cavanaugh Advanced Reader Copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Connie57103 More than 1 year ago
This is about three young Asian girls who were adopted to the same parents. They were from the same orphanage. Two of the "sisters" get along like sisters and embrace their Chinese heritage. The third sister pretends to hate Chinese food, culture, and sometimes even feel envious of her sisters. This is a wonderful book by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, who says that this book is about finding your place in the world. I believe that most young adult readers can relate to that. But, Ms. Cavanaugh chose this particular subject to bring the message to the forefront. Is it better to deny who you are to fit in with other people or to accept who you are from, even though you cannot relate to that group? This is an excellent story for any kid trying to find their niche in this world, adopted or not. Thank you Ms. Cavanaugh, SOURSEBOOKS Jabber Rocky, and NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book to read and give my honest review.
Xkoqueen More than 1 year ago
Friendship & Fun Three Chinese girls, who were adopted from the same orphanage in China, are thrown together in summer camp by their parents and teachers. Two are good friends, accepting of their birth culture and their adopted family. Julia, the narrator of the story, tells her tale through diary-style letters to her teacher and through narrative. Julia doesn’t feel connected to her heritage or her loud, fellow- Chinese adoptees, Becca and Avery. She refers to herself as half Italian, half Irish and half Chinese; she really wants to find a way to affiliate herself with the cultures of her adoptive parents. Becca and Avery embrace everything about their Chinese heritage; they show off chopstick skills while eating Cheetos, cool themselves with paper fans, and eat their snacks out of Chinese takeout containers. How will Julia survive the summer stuck in a cabin with Avery and Becca? With each journal entry, Julia’s descriptions become less curmudgeon-like, and even though she claims she’s not bonding with her Chinese “sisters”, the evidence proves otherwise. If nothing else, there is safety in numbers when the three find they must share a cabin with Vanessa, a hyper-competitive camper, and her foster sister, Gina. The girls struggle to accept one another and get along; the struggles are reminiscent of the movie The Parent Trap. The shared punishment leads to cooperation, but little things lead to another group blow up. While they lose the camp athletic competition, they win in the realization of how similar they are to each other. Instead of a trophy, they are awarded with new friends. When left alone with her thoughts, Julia ponders her birth mother. Did she love me? Why did she give me up? Does she think about me? She’s so busy worrying about her own sad story to wonder if her cabin mates have struggles of their own. Ultimately, she learns that everyone has problems and that the other girls also make up little stories (pretend) to make their lives more palatable. Cavanaugh, an adoptive mother, was inspired to write this story based on her experiences with her adopted child. Just Like Me explores the self-doubt felt by adopted and foster children as well as their wavering feelings about their heritage and their adopted culture. This feel-good story of acceptance and friendship is good for all ages, and it will be most appreciated by elementary to middle school aged readers.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
Competition galore! Excitement was in the air for Beca and Avery, as they again are headed off for summer church camp. Julia is forced to go this year; her mother’s big idea. The three girls who were adopted from the same orphanage will be attending camp together and Julia agreed to journaling to their adoption agency while she was there. Julia takes this assignment seriously and her reflections to the questions were honest and sincere and when she writes down her own reflections in the journal, they give the readers a deeper understanding of the character of Julia. Arriving at the camp, the girls discover that they will be bunking with their archenemy from the previous year and the competition does not cease. Merridth and Vanessa have brought along a cousin, Gina which just adds to the tension inside the cabin. The camp has competitions and contests with each cabin competing again each other but White Oak cabin is having a hard time bonding. The girl inside White Oak, their bickering, it’s typical and it was real. I could see it and I could feel the tension in the air and unfortunately I loved it. Their counselor tried to stay out of it because she knew they had to work it out on their own and then there was one amongst them, which was even more trouble. She was evil and I didn’t understand why but it added to the drama. These girls needed to pull it together if they wanted to win the competition this year but the clock was ticking. I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in exchange for an honest review.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
his was a nice little YA book about being adopted. It also included children who were fostered and ones whose parents had separated. It helps those kids understand that they are not alone and that there are others out there that don't necessarily live with their real parents or both parents. I think it's good for all middle graders though, as well, because it teaches them about "different" families and helps them to see how the kids feel. I think the author did a great job. The characters were definitely believable with a lot of teenage angst, but it wasn't so much that it turned me off. Actually, I finished reading the book with a good feeling because there were several lessons learned. And, I think these lessons were learned in an entertaining way, not a preaching way. Thanks to Sourcebooks for approving my request and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.