Repairing the World

Repairing the World

by Linda Epstein
Repairing the World

Repairing the World

by Linda Epstein


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A young girl grapples with her grief over a tragic loss with the help of a new perspective from Hebrew school and supportive new friends in this heartfelt and “accessible” (Kirkus Reviews) middle grade novel about learning to look forward.

Twelve-year-old Daisy and Ruby are totally inseparable. They’ve grown up together, and Daisy has always counted on having Ruby there to pave the way, encourage her to try new things, and to see the magic in the world. Then Ruby is killed in a tragic accident while on vacation, and Daisy’s life is shattered.

Now Daisy finds herself having to face the big things in her life—like starting middle school and becoming a big sister—without her best friend. It’s hard when you feel sad all the time. But thanks to new friends, new insights, and supportive family members, Daisy is able to see what life after Ruby can look like. And as she reaches beyond that to help repair the world around her, she is reminded that friendship is eternal, and that magic can be found in the presence of anyone who chooses to embrace it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781534498563
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: 07/04/2023
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 725,872
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.68(d)
Lexile: 760L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Linda Epstein lives in Woodstock, New York. She writes fiction for children and teens, and poetry for grown-ups. She has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from The New School and is also a literary agent at Emerald City Literary Agency. She definitely believes in fairies.

Read an Excerpt

1. Finding Magic Finding Magic
Ruby let go of the swing; her arms flung out, hair flying behind her. “I’m jumping!” she yelled as she flew through the air. Daisy watched as her best friend soared, then landed on both feet with a satisfying thump. Ruby had looked magical for a moment—like a small, fearless fairy who might sprout wings at any moment and flutter straight up into the trees.

“Now you!” Ruby said breathlessly, turning toward Daisy with an expectant smile. Daisy scraped both feet along the ground, slowing her swing until she could hop off.

“Nah,” Daisy said. “I can’t fly like you.”

“You could,” Ruby said. “If you wanted to. You never even try.”

“Your hair tie’s coming out,” Daisy said, ignoring her comment.

Ruby pulled the band through her wispy brown hair and messily retied her ponytail.

“What do you think we should do now?” Daisy said, pushing her own curly hair behind her ears.

Daisy looked around the yard. Ruby scrunched her face up, thinking.

“Raspberries!” they said at the same time.

“Perfect,” Ruby said, flinging her arm over Daisy’s shoulder.

They walked away from Daisy’s house, past her dad’s herb garden. As she always did, Daisy let her fingertips brush along the top of the rosemary to release its lemony, woody scent. Then they passed the honeysuckle that was blooming along the chain-link fence that separated their property from Dower Nature Preserve, and both girls breathed deeply in.

“Yum,” Ruby said.

“I know,” Daisy replied. “Honeysuckle.”

“I always think about Winnie the Pooh when I hear the word ‘honeysuckle.’”

“Me too,” Daisy said.

Finally they reached the bramble of raspberry bushes.

“It was so windy yesterday, half the berries have fallen,” Daisy said.

“We can eat ones from the ground, right?” Ruby said, picking up a slightly bruised berry. “These still look okay.”

“You always ask me that,” Daisy said, “and you know I always say yuck. It’s so gross.”

“But it looks fine,” Ruby said.

Daisy made a face. “Does it have bugs on it?”

Ruby tossed it up in the air and caught it in her mouth. “Nope,” she said.

“Gross,” Daisy repeated, picking one carefully from the bush so she didn’t get scratched by the prickles.

“Well, I don’t care. The ground ones look fine to me.” Ruby popped three more into her mouth as Daisy picked two more from the bush.

“Let’s go see the horses,” Daisy said. The neighbors had a barn near the fence that separated the two properties.

“Nah,” Ruby said. “I’m bored of those horses. They never come close enough to pet.”

Daisy shrugged. “They’re still fun to look at.”

“Then let’s go down to the stone wall,” Ruby said. “If we’re going to look at something, looking at the water is prettier than those dumb horses.” She started skipping away.

“I guess so,” Daisy said as she ate another raspberry, savoring the tartness as the tiny globes of fruit burst in her mouth.

“Come on!” Ruby said, smiling over her shoulder. So Daisy followed, skipping to catch up.

When they reached the stone wall at the end of the property, overlooking the Long Island Sound, they saw that a huge oak tree from the nature preserve had fallen. The whole top of the tree was on their side of the fence, resting on the low wall. A breeze blew in off the water, and the leaves rippled, whispering in the wind.

“Let’s climb it,” Ruby said, scrambling onto the flat top of the stone wall and poking her head into the branches.

“I don’t know,” Daisy said.

Ruby said, “But this is so cool!” and disappeared into the canopy of leaves.

Daisy could hear her father’s voice in her head, telling her to be careful. She remembered him telling her some fact about how fallen trees were dangerous. Maybe? Or was it only falling trees?

“It doesn’t look safe,” Daisy said. “It might not be stable.”

The breeze blew again, and now it sounded like the tree was saying, shush shush shush.

“I can’t even budge it,” Ruby said, her voice slightly muffled by the foliage. “I’m pushing on a branch super hard, and it’s not moving at all.”

That wasn’t reassuring to Daisy. If the branch could have been moved by the power of Ruby’s personality alone, it might have budged. But even though Ruby was technically older than Daisy by six months, she was tiny, almost half a head shorter than Daisy.

She heard Ruby rustling from inside the branches. “I’m sure it’s fine,” Ruby said, popping her head out of the greenery. Daisy wasn’t sure, though. “I’m going to climb it!” Ruby disappeared back into the leaves.

Daisy clambered onto the wall, pushed a branch aside, and carefully stepped inside the shade of the treetop. Ruby had already started to climb onto a big branch, grabbing at the limb and pulling herself up and onto it. Daisy took a step forward, feet still planted on the stone wall, her hand clutching a nearby limb for balance. She watched as Ruby scooted on her stomach until she reached a fork in the branches.

“Come on!” Ruby called to her as she sat up and perched in a nook.

The way Ruby had done it had looked pretty easy, like she was climbing the monkey bars in the playground at school. Daisy pulled herself up, like Ruby had, and began to scoot her way over. A slight breeze rippled through the leaves, and Daisy closed her eyes and hugged the branch she was on, her heart thumping in her chest.

“You’re okay,” Ruby said.

Daisy opened her eyes and gazed at Ruby.

“You are,” Ruby said. “Promise.”

But doing it was scarier than watching Ruby do it. “Rube, I don’t like this,” she said in a small voice.

The wind fluttered through the leaves again. Daisy chewed her bottom lip and scooted another couple of inches. The bark of the tree felt rough under her hands, and it was hard to get a good grip. Every time the wind blew, the whole tree rustled, the leaves catching even the smallest breeze, and Daisy’s heart sped up.

“Just keep going, Daze,” Ruby said.

Hand over hand, little by little, she made her way toward Ruby. When she finally got to the fork where Ruby was perched, they sat together for a moment, leaning into each other among the leafy green foliage, like two birds in a nest. Daisy took a deep, relieved breath.

“See?” Ruby said. “I knew you could do it.” She smiled at Daisy, her eyes crinkling in the corners.

Ruby slipped off her hair tie and fixed her ponytail again, smoothing her hair back to get the escaped bits off her face. Sitting in the branches like this, she looked like a tree sprite or wood elf, Daisy thought, or some kind of magical creature from a fairy tale, with her olive-toned skin, wispy hair, and moss-colored T-shirt. A mosquito buzzed, and Ruby swatted it away. “Let’s keep going,” she said.

On her butt, bit by bit, Ruby scooched her way over to the main part of the trunk and out of the crown.

“Careful,” Daisy said, still perched between the fork in the branches, waiting to see what Ruby did. Ruby inched herself out of the greenery, her legs hanging down on either side of the trunk. She pulled her feet up, crouched, got her balance, and stood up. Daisy looked over at her from where she was still sitting in the shade of the branches. Ruby had turned and was standing with the sun at her back. Daisy couldn’t see her face because it was cast in shadow. All she could see was the outline of her best friend, hand outstretched, beckoning.

“Come on!” Ruby said. “This is ah-mazing!” she sang.

Daisy held her breath and inched her way over just the way Ruby had. The bark of the tree scratched at the backs of her thighs below her shorts. When she got near Ruby’s feet, Ruby leaned down, offering a hand to help her up. Daisy grabbed it and stood. She got her balance and looked at Ruby, who threw her head back and yelled, “Woo-hoo!” The words punched their way into the sky. Daisy was smiling so hard, her cheeks hurt. She’d done it, and it really was amazing!

She didn’t let go of Ruby’s hand, though. She took a deep breath. It smelled very green where they were standing, like it does after it rains.

Together the two friends looked out at the Long Island Sound. It was the same view as from the stone wall, but they were a little higher up here. The sun glittered and sparkled on the water, dots of small whitecaps dancing across the surface. Standing atop the tree trunk, with the slight breeze stirring the air, it felt like the sky was bigger, the view more sweeping. It also felt like they were breaking some kind of rule, climbing up on a fallen tree. Her dad definitely would have said it was dangerous, Daisy thought, but that made it kind of more fun because she felt daring. The view from where they stood was spectacular. A big bird flew overhead, its wingspan huge, even from far away.

“I think that’s an osprey,” Daisy said.

“It’s tremendous!” Ruby said.

The bird let out a long, keening screechlike tweet. The girls eeeeeee-ed back.

Ruby said, “I think he knows we’re talking about him,” and they giggled.

“Look!” Daisy said, pointing down the length of the trunk. The tree had crashed through the chain-link fence, crushing it, and had formed a perfect bridge into Dower Nature Preserve. The actual entrance with the parking lot was at the other end of the forty-two-acre preserve property, near the old mansion that people rented out for fancy parties. The preserve was also the home of the Long Island Wildlife Sanctuary, where rescued birds and animals lived. There had once been a wooden donation box near the entrance, but you didn’t have to pay to get into the preserve or the wildlife sanctuary. When Daisy was little and went with her parents, they’d give her a few dollars to put into it. But the donation box had rotted and fallen down a few years before.

“Oh, we have to go in!” Ruby said.

“Do you think we should?” Daisy said.

“Daisy, it’s like it’s an invitation from the Universe,” Ruby said.

Walking into the preserve on a tree bridge, over a squashed fence, nowhere near the entrance, felt like they were doing something wrong.

Daisy said, “But I don’t want to get in trouble.”

“Why would we get in trouble?”

“I don’t know,” Daisy said, “I mean, we’ve never been in the preserve without our parents.”

“We won’t get in trouble,” Ruby said, “because we won’t get caught!” She laughed, and her whole face lit up with mischief, so Daisy laughed too, even though she was still a little bit uncertain.

“Okay,” Daisy said. “I guess we can.”

“Yay,” Ruby said as she carefully turned to keep walking down the trunk. For a split second she lost her footing and slipped. Daisy grabbed her arm, and both girls got their balance.

“You all right?” Daisy asked, her stomach fluttering.

“Yep,” Ruby said. “Yeesh! Thanks for catching me.”

“Of course,” Daisy replied. They took turns being the faller and the catcher in different situations. Sometimes Ruby’s fearlessness was what was needed, and other times, like now, Daisy’s caution saved the day. Daisy always felt good when she was the one catching instead of the one falling.

“Let’s keep going,” Daisy said.

She held on to Ruby’s shoulders from behind, her fingers pressing into the soft cotton of her friend’s T-shirt. They took tiny steps, moving slowly and carefully in sync, wobbling their way over the tree bridge toward the preserve—Ruby leading the way.

Ruby’s tan arms were stretched out to the sides, like an acrobat on a tightrope. Walking behind her, Daisy saw that her hair had slipped out of the ponytail again. Daisy smiled. Her own thick curly hair stayed put no matter what she did with it.

When they got to where the fence was crushed, they stopped for a minute. It wasn’t like her parents had made a specific rule about not climbing over fallen trees into the preserve, Daisy thought to herself, but she knew that if she’d asked if she could do it, they probably would have said no. So it felt like a big deal when they stepped through the fence, like she was more grown up, conscious that she had made a choice to do something daring.

It felt darker on the other side, like a cloud had covered the sun, although when she looked up, it hadn’t. There were acres and acres of trees in the preserve, with paths winding this way and that all through it, and it was particularly dense where they were.

Ruby jumped off the huge oak onto the soft mulch below. Daisy watched from atop the trunk. For a second her vision blurred, and she couldn’t see Ruby, who had blended into the earth tones of the fallen leaves. Her stomach clenched. Then her vision cleared, and there Ruby was, as always. It wasn’t really that high up, it just felt that way. And it wasn’t that Daisy didn’t like adventure, but she got scared. It was a lot easier to push through her fear when Ruby was there with her. Daisy didn’t know why she felt scared so much, but she did know she was grateful for Ruby’s confidence and bravery.

“Jump down!” Ruby said.

Daisy crouched. “I don’t think I can,” she said. “Is there a way to climb?” Her heart skipped a beat as she looked for another way to get down.

Ruby looked up at her. “Just jump. It’s not far,” she said. “It’s like jumping off the swings!” But Daisy had been too scared to do that, too. She felt like such a baby.

“Come on!” Ruby said, grinning up expectantly at her. “Magic 8 Ball says, ‘Outlook Good’!”

Daisy took a deep breath and jumped. She couldn’t help the small scream that escaped, but Ruby was right; it really wasn’t far down at all. She surprised herself when she landed as nimbly as her friend.

Ruby gave her a quick one-armed hug. “See?” she said. “Magic 8 Ball doesn’t lie.” Daisy nodded. Then they walked on, arms over each other’s shoulders, like nothing had happened. Ruby was the best kind of best friend, who knew when to not make a whole big deal out of something. Daisy really appreciated that.

There were some small branches down from the previous day’s storm, but the oak was the only serious damage they could see. As they walked in the direction of the path, Daisy thought how perfect the day was turning out to be. It had gone from regular and boring, same old same old in her yard, to an unexpected adventure.

“Let’s look at the bottom!” Daisy said, shrugging Ruby’s arm off her shoulder. Ruby stopped for a second to push her hair back off her face.

She caught up to Daisy, staring up at the bottom of the fallen oak. “Oh wow,” Ruby whispered.

From where they stood, they could see the torn-up roots of the tree. It was at least fourteen feet high. On the tree side—the top side that they had seen from the trunk when they were walking over it—there had been grass and soft green moss and stones and dirt. On this side, though, the part that had been beneath the ground was dark and moist, with reddish brown soil and gnarly, twisted roots poking out. The roots had been ripped from the earth and were pale and torn.

“They look like broken bones,” Daisy said.

“Look,” Ruby said, pointing. “That looks like a magic window.”

Toward the top of the wall of gnarly roots, some had grown in an oval. The soil in the middle had fallen away, leaving a hole. It looked like the sun shone brighter on the other side.

Then the light shifted, and something sparkled through the gap. It was a small something, and it looked like it was fluttering. Ruby grabbed Daisy’s arm. Neither girl moved, as if they had silently agreed to hold their breath. Daisy squinted, trying to see better.

“What is that?” Daisy whispered.

All around them the woods grew quiet. No cracking twigs or rustling leaves. No birds chirping or mosquitoes buzzing or squirrels chittering.

“I don’t know,” Ruby softly said back. “I think it must be something magical, though.”

Ruby squeezed Daisy’s arm, and then all of a sudden the thing flitted away.

“That was a hummingbird or something, right?” Daisy said.

“It was too tiny to be a hummingbird.”

The girls hadn’t moved. Ruby finally let go of Daisy’s arm.

“Maybe it was some kind of bug?” Daisy said.

“Or maybe the hole is a way into a magic place,” Ruby said with a grin. “Like the rabbit hole to Wonderland or the wardrobe to Narnia!” Daisy and Ruby had had tons of conversations, late into the night of many sleepovers, about how cool it would be if they could really go to Narnia or Wonderland or Oz. Ruby took a step closer to the underside of the fallen tree, trying to get a better look.

Daisy didn’t answer.

“Come closer,” Ruby said, gazing up at the wall of dirt. But they didn’t see anything through the hole anymore. Whatever they had seen was gone.

“I think we just saw a fairy,” Ruby said breathlessly.

Daisy didn’t say anything; she kept looking up, wide-eyed, at the tree roots.

“Daisy,” Ruby said, turning toward her and grabbing her arms, “that was a fairy, right?” It was a question this time.

That was impossible, wasn’t it? Daisy wanted it to be true, but she couldn’t be sure of what they’d seen. She didn’t know what else it could have been, so she said, “I think so?”

“It was definitely some kind of magical something,” Ruby said.

Daisy looked up at the wall of earth again, like the answer might be there. She wanted to see magic in the world the way Ruby did, but her brain always turned practical on her. It felt like Ruby could find magic in everything. It was another reason she was grateful she had a friend like Ruby. She said, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it was.”

Ruby’s face broke into a huge smile. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s see what else there is in these magical woods!”

Daisy had never thought of Dower Nature Preserve as magical woods before. But whatever they’d just seen had changed everything. Like maybe there really was magic here, things that were beyond what she thought, beyond what she already knew about the world. Maybe it was as simple as being able to believe, like Ruby did, and if Daisy kept her eyes and heart open, she would be able to see magic everywhere too.

“Okay!” she called to Ruby, who was already striding through the woods ahead of her. “Let’s go!”

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