Starfish Summer

Starfish Summer


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060271930
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/01/1998
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.51(d)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

Ona Gritz-Gilbert has an M.FA. from New York University, and her poetry has appeared in a number of journals. She is also a children's librarian. Starfish Summer was inspired by Beach 27th Street in her hometown, Far Rockaway, where other children's grandparents fed and loved her as if she were their own.Ms. Gritz-Gilbert lives with her family in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Yong Chen is the illustrator of Starfish Summer by Ona Gritz-Gilbert and Miz Fannie Mae's Fine New Easter Hat by Melissa Milich. He also teaches watercolor and portrait painting at the Massachusetts College of Art. He lives in New Hampshire.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Tickle Bottom, Pop Green,
Poke the Jelly

A small boy in a backwards cap stood in front of Amy and stared. He had round, caramel-brown cheeks, and on his nose was a white stripe of zinc. It made her think of a cupcake with icing.

"Crystal!" he called.

A taller girl, pretty with that same caramel skin, came up beside him. Her hair was beaded and braided in a quilted pattern.

The boy pointed his chin in Amy's direction. "Who's that?" he asked.

Crystal rested a hand on one jutted-out hip. "She's the girl staying next door with Miz Martin."

Amy nodded. "My mom's aunt jenny."

Crystal gave Amy a slow up-down look. "You know how to play treadmill?"

Amy shook her head and studied her flip-flops.

"How 'bout tickle bottom or pop green?"

"Poke the jelly?" the little boy added.

"Unh-unh," Amy said to the Band-Aid on her left knee.

"How you gonna live at the ocean if you don't know anything about it?" asked Crystal.

"What do you know?" the boy put in.

Amy chewed a piece of hair and thought a moment. "I know hopscotch; ring-a-levio; freeze tag; Mother, may I?; red light green light; steal the bacon; and dodgeball."

"Sidewalk games," said Crystal. "We're talking about beach stuff."

"My sister and me do ring-a-levio and all that when summer's over," the little boy explained.

Crystal nodded. "In the schoolyard."

"I won't be here after the summer," Amy told them. "I'll be back with my mom in New York."

Crystal shook her head and looked at her brother. "C'mon, Raymond; she doesn't knowanything about anything."

Amy watched while Crystal and Raymond walked to the edge of the water, where the tide pulled the sand backwards beneath them.

"Treadmill," Raymond called to Amy.

Crystal stood on one foot and held out the other so the water barely grazed it like feathering fingers. Next, she grasped Raymond's hand to balance him while he did the same.

"Tickle bottom," Raymond explained, turning to Amy.

Amy followed slowly as they walked along the shoreline hunting for something in the sand.

"Here, Raymond," Crystal said, handing him a tangle of seaweed. He broke off a piece and gave it to Amy. It was covered with blistery pods, and when she pressed them they burst like the bumps in bubble wrap.

"Pop green," Amy named the game.

Crystal glanced at her coolly over her shoulder, then poked at a washed-up jellyfish with a driftwood stick.

"Poke the jelly," Amy mumbled with a shrug. She reached down to gather beach glass, but when Crystal and Raymond headed for the boardwalk, she found herself following them.

On the splintery boardwalk, old people sat facing the beach as if it were a play they were watching.

"So tall!" one cried when she saw Crystal.

"And Raymond!" added another. "When'd you get to be all elbows and knees?"

"We just seen them all, day before yesterday," Raymond whispered to Amy. "They're always acting like we've grown since last time."

She wanted to ask him why his sister didn't like her, but a bunch of questions from the old people got in the way.

"Enjoying yourself, sweetie?"

"Great-Aunt jenny taking care of you okay?"

"What's a big-city girl think of our little seaside town?"

"So brave, away from your mother all summer.

Amy mumbled answers to her Band-Aid, dangling now like a pull tab. "I'm old enough. I wanted to come."

"Such a shy one!" a lady in a floppy hat exclaimed.

A woman with gray woolly hair and windpink cheeks looked at Amy and sighed. "The image of her mother at that age."

"That's Mrs. Goldman," Raymond told Amy.

"And Mattie Stone in the floppy hat."

"You've seen the dolls your great-aunt jenny makes out of undergarments?" Mattie Stone asked.

"Socks, Mattie." Aunt jenny came over with her sewing bag slung on her shoulder. Her braids, dyed from a package she called "canned youth," shone the color of rust in the sun. She sat down next to a thin woman in men's overalls. "I make dolls out of socks!"

The overalls woman gave Amy a wink. "Beautiful dolls, I might add." Her skin looked like a sheet of paper that had been crumpled in a ball and smoothed out again.

Aunt jenny pulled a skein of new wool from her bag. "Just keeping myself busy," she said.

"Mrs. Fine's right." Crystal squeezed onto the bench between the two women and held up her hands in cat's cradle position. "Miz Martin, you make great sock dolls."

Aunt jenny placed the yarn over Crystal's fingers. "My biggest fan." She grinned.

"Miz Martin can spin a ball in twelve and three quarter minutes," Raymond said to Amy. "Crystal timed her."

In the middle of the chatter, one man sat facing the beach smiling, gazing over their heads and beyond. Amy thought he had beautiful eyes-soft, skycolored marbles. At his feet, a dark-haired dog lay asleep, curled like a braided throw rug.

"That's Mr. Fine," Raymond whispered loudly. "He's blind."

A chill crawled up Amy's spine like a spider.

"It's getting cool outside," the blind man mentioned, as though he'd seen her shiver.

"Cool enough to ride?" Raymond asked his sister.

Crystal nodded. "Miz Martin, do you need me for any more winding?"

"I'm fine," Aunt jenny told her. "You go on."

Amy listened to the whir of bicycle wheels against the slats of the boardwalk as Crystal and Raymond rode off. Crystal had already said Amy didn't know anything about anything. What would she say when she found out Amy couldn't even ride a bike?

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