Pish Posh

Pish Posh

by Ellen Potter


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Super-snobby eleven-year-old Clara Frankofile has all she could possibly want. Her parents are rich, she lives in an apartment with its own roller coaster, and anyone who is anyone in New York City is terrified of her. Each night at her parents' fashionable restaurant, Pish Posh, Clara watches the celebrity diners, deciding who is important enough to stay and who must be banished. But Clara's world turns upside down when she discovers a mystery happening right under her nose. With the help of her new friend - a brilliant twelve-year-old jewel thief - Clara begins to look at life differently, and she may just be able to solve this most intriguing case.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142419069
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 06/09/2011
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 1,008,292
Product dimensions: 7.54(w) x 5.16(h) x 0.48(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Like my character, Olivia Kidney, I grew up in a high-rise apartment building in New York City’s Upper West Side. In fact, the idea for Olivia Kidney came from a game I used to play when I was about eight or nine years old. I would watch people in the building’s elevator (most of whom I knew nothing about) and make up crazy stories about their apartments. There was one woman, for instance, who was sort of chubby and always cheerful, so I imagined that she lived in an apartment made entirely of chocolate! I imagined that her walls were made of chocolate, so she could lick them, and her furniture was chocolate, and she had a chocolate refrigerator that only contained chocolate eggs and chocolate milk. And if she got hungry in the middle of the night, she could nibble on her bed.

I remember the exact moment when I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to be a writer. I was eleven years old and I was in my school library, strolling through the aisles, trying to decide what to read next. Should it be A Wrinkle in Time? Or maybe Harriet the Spy. In a flash, I decided that the best books in the world were written for eleven-year-olds! Sadly, my twelfth birthday was just around the corner. So I reasoned that the only thing to do was to grow up and write books for eleven-year-olds. Which is pretty much what happened (after many years and piles of rejections letters).

I studied creative writing at Binghamton University. After graduating I worked many different jobs while I continued to write. I was a dog groomer, a construction worker, an art teacher, and a waitress. Having lots of different jobs is a terrific advantage for a writer. Because of them, I know all kinds of oddball things, which I’ve used in my books, like how to remove bubble gum from a dog’s fur (peanut butter). In fact, it was while I was addressing envelopes during a boring stint as a receptionist that a name caught my eye: Olivia Kidney. What a great name, I thought! I jotted it down in my journal. Years later, while thumbing through my old journals, I spotted the name and decided it was perfect for the feisty twelve-year-old heroine of my first children’s book.

These days, my husband and I live in upstate New York with our new baby boy and a motley assortment of badly behaved animals.

For more information visit www.ellenpotter.com.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 11

If you walked into the Pish Posh restaurant on any given night, you would be sure to find a smallish eleven-year-old girl wearing large black sunglasses sitting by herself at a little round table in the back. She had excellent posture and kept quite still—no fidgeting, no hair twisting, no smiling—while she watched the glittery and fabulous customers come and go. Because her glasses were so large and so black, you could not tell whom she was looking at, which made the glittery, fabulous customers at the Pish Posh restaurant very, very nervous.

Today, the girl in the dark glasses, whose name was Clara Frankofile, was sitting at her customary table with a tuna-fish sandwich, cut into four perfect triangles, and a tall glass of tomato juice with a straw. She had not touched the sandwich, but she took regular and small sips from the tomato juice as she gazed around the restaurant with sharp, assessing eyes.

It was the middle of August and New York City was experiencing a heat wave, but Clara was not dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, like most eleven-year-old girls. Instead, she wore a simple black dress. It was the same dress that she wore every day (well, not the same, exact one—she owned 157 copies of it). In fact, she had been wearing the same simple black dress, in varying sizes, since the day she was born. Her parents, who owned the Pish Posh restaurant, had decided that a simple black dress was the epitome of style, and that their child should always look stylish. They had a tailor sew tiny, simple black dresses no bigger than a napkin for the infant Clara. And as she grew, they found no reason for their daughter to stop wearing simple black dresses. When she was eight years old, Clara decided to add a pair of large black sunglasses to her outfit, and tucked away in her jewelry box was a necklace strung with perfect Tahitian pearls, which she intended to start wearing when she turned sixteen.

True, the other kids at school teased her for wearing the same thing every day, but Clara paid no attention to them. Her classmates, she had discovered, were all astonishingly stupid. She had changed schools many times, hoping to find children who were as intelligent and elegant as she was. But, amazingly, each school seemed to be filled with children who were even stupider and more vulgar than the children at the previous school.

At a table in the center of the restaurant, a dashing and very popular movie star with sunny blond highlights in his hair eyed Clara nervously.

“Is she looking our way?” he asked the woman sitting across from him. She was equally blonde, with bunchy pink lips, like a wad of already-chewed bubble gum.

“I don’t think so, darling,” the woman said.

“She is! I can feel her eyes on me! I told you I shouldn’t have put those highlights in my hair. I can’t eat a bite, not a bite!”

“No, my poor darling. She is looking at that horrible woman at the corner table—yes, the very thin one with a face like a catfish. She’s a ballerina, darling, and she fell flat on her behind last night during a performance! People are saying that her career is finished, darling, but absolutely! Now eat your salmon tartare . . . and then perhaps we can visit the hairdresser and do something about those awful highlights! What on earth were you thinking?”

But Clara was not looking at the movie star or the ballerina at all. Nor was she looking at the princess of Thailand, who had the most atrocious table manners and was rolling up bits of baguette between her fingers and lobbing them at her bodyguards.

In fact, Clara Frankofile was staring most intently at a plain little man in a crisp gray suit and neatly combed white hair. He sat by himself, eating sautéed chicken livers, his hand shaking ever so slightly as he lifted the fork to his lips. To the average human, there would be nothing at all interesting about this man. But behind her glasses, Clara’s sharp green eyes followed his smallest movements.

“Another tomato juice, baby doll?”

Clara’s concentration was broken by the new waiter, a young man with a mass of black curly hair. He smiled at her, and his teeth were so bright and white, they seemed to mock her. “You’re sipping spit, baby doll.” He pointed to her glass, which was indeed practically empty.

“What is your name?” Clara demanded.


“Well, Tom, I realize that you are new at Pish Posh.” Clara deliberately kept the anger out of her voice. Her father had told her that it was best not to let the workers see that you had any emotion. “But if you ever call me baby doll again, or say the word spit in front of me, I will have you fired immediately.”

The young man smiled again, this time a little less brightly.

“Would the young lady care for more tomato juice?” Tom asked. He was using the right words, but Clara had the gnawing feeling that he was not taking her seriously.

“No. Take that away.” She nodded toward her glass. “And don’t speak to me anymore.” Then she turned away from him and fixed her sights back on the little man with white hair. When a tapioca pudding was delivered to his table for dessert, Clara smiled for the first time that night-a small, exceedingly tight smile.

Then she rose from the table. The whole restaurant grew silent, and all eyes turned to watch her as she walked, straight-backed as a soldier, to the front of the restaurant. There were low murmurs as she passed. Everyone was wide-eyed and jittery, and no one seemed to breathe.

“Mother,” Clara said to a tall, willowy woman, who was the restaurant’s hostess.The woman was dressed in a sweeping red gown, and her hair was wrapped in a white, jewel-encrusted turban, which looked a little bit like a giant diaper. She appeared not to have heard Clara, as she was hovering over a thick leather book, opened to a page listing all the people who had reservations at Pish Posh for that evening.

“Mother,” Clara repeated more forcefully, and she poked her mother’s waist—just a small poke. But she knew everyone was watching her, and she hated to be ignored. Her mother looked at her waist for a moment, as if she had a sudden cramp, and then noticed her daughter.

“What is it, Clara?”

“Mother, it’s Dr. Piff. We must ask him to leave and never return.” This made Lila Frankofile turn and look at her daughter and then at the little man in the gray suit.“Dr. Piff? But why?”

“He has become a Nobody.”

“Are you sure, Clara?”

“I am quite sure,” Clara replied smartly, offended that her mother would even question her judgment.

“Oh.” Lila patted her turban sadly. “What a pity. He’s been eating at Pish Posh every night since we opened. As I remember, you used to be quite fond of him, when you were a little girl.” Lila sighed. “But I suppose it can’t be helped.”

Lila closed the reservation book, adjusted her turban, and strode over to Dr. Piff’s table. The entire restaurant let out their breath all at once as they watched Lila Frankofile approach Dr. Piff’s table. Across the room, murmurs of relief could be heard: “Thank heavens!” and “I thought for sure it was going to be me!”

Her work having been done, Clara Frankofile strode back to her table. She sat down and for the first time that evening took a small bite out of her sandwich. It was made just the way she liked it—with paper-thin slices of tomato on sourdough bread. She had just finished the first triangle and had begun on the second when Dr. Piff came up to her table.

“May I sit down?” he asked.

This had never happened before. No one had ever asked to sit down at her table, much less someone who had just been identified as a Nobody. For a moment Clara felt paralyzed, and she stared at him rather stupidly. But then she collected herself and replied in what she hoped was an indifferent tone, “If you must.”

He sat down in his quiet way and smoothed his white hair with the palm of his hand.“How did you know, may I ask?” he said.

“How did I know that you have become a Nobody, do you mean?” Now Clara sat up a little straighter. This was a topic she enjoyed, because she prided herself on being able to root out a Nobody in a roomful of Somebodies, even if the person had only just recently become a Nobody.

“It wasn’t difficult, after all—not if you really paid attention. Most people don’t, however,” Clara explained. “First, I noticed your shoes when you came in. They were dull and scuffed. The very first thing that a brand-new Nobody does is neglect his footwear. Then I noticed that you ordered the tapioca pudding, which is a dessert that people order when they are feeling nostalgic about their childhood. And important people get nostalgic about their childhood only when they are no longer important. But most of all”—Clara took a breath and lifted her chin—“I noticed that your right hand was trembling. Just a tiny bit. But you are an eye surgeon, Dr. Piff, and an eye surgeon cannot have a shaky hand.”

“Very clever, Clara,” Dr. Piff nodded appreciatively. “And you are absolutely correct.”

“I’m sorry, Dr. Piff,” Clara said, and she looked away. She wished he would leave her alone with her tuna-fish sandwich.

Then Dr. Piff did the most extraordinary thing. He reached across the table and removed her sunglasses. Clara gasped and her back stiffened.

“What did you do that for?” she demanded angrily.

“I used to take you skating in Central Park on Sundays,” he said, absently holding the glasses between his fingers. Clara began to wonder if he had gone mad. She glanced around the restaurant to see if she could summon one of the busboys to help her, but no one was nearby.

“You were such an enchanting child,” he continued. “You used to whistle while you skated. You said it helped you keep your balance.”

“I don’t remember that at all, Dr. Piff. Please give me back my glasses.”

Dr. Piff looked very seriously into Clara’s eyes. No one had ever looked so seriously and closely at her eyes before. It made her feel very small and breakable. Then Dr. Piff sighed and handed her the glasses, which she promptly put back on.

“You have a very cunning pair of eyes, Clara.” He had lowered his voice to almost a whisper. “But surely you can’t know everything that happens at Pish Posh.”

“Of course I do!” she said indignantly. “I know everything that happens in this restaurant! You don’t believe me? Look over there.” She pointed to Fiona Babbish, the pale, sickly, rather tragic-looking young heiress, who always dined alone at a table near the back. “Do you see that fly on the edge of her bowl of clam chowder? That fly came in through the front door at seven twenty-eight p.m., hovered around my mother’s head for seven seconds, then flew close to the princess of Thailand’s baguette, where her bodyguard tried to catch it in his hand, but missed. Now Fiona Babbish will stare at it sadly for a few seconds—look at her lower lip droop—decide that it has ruined her entire dinner—look at her eyes well up with tears—and will stand up and leave . . . now.” At which point Fiona Babbish stood on her chin, feeble legs, adjusted her pink Chanel suit, and minced out of the restaurant.

“And yet,” continued Dr. Piff, as if he hadn’t heard her, still in a quiet voice, “you have failed to notice a most peculiar and mysterious thing that is happening right under your nose.”

“Nonsense!” Clara declared. “If there was anything at all peculiar or mysterious happening here, I would be the first to know about it.”

Dr. Piff smiled a little and shrugged. “Perhaps it is better that you haven’t noticed. It would probably unnerve such an elegant young lady as yourself. Well, Clara”—Dr. Piff stood up and put on his gray hat, then tipped it at her—“I wish you a good evening and a life free of troubles.”

With that, he walked out of Pish Posh for the last time.


Excerpted from "Pish Posh"
by .
Copyright © 2011 Ellen Potter.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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"This zany mixture of reality and fantasy…offers many interesting characters for readers to ponder…." —Booklist

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