On that memorable night, Willamena's parents and her grandmother held her up to their ears to hear something very strange coming from her chest. It was a soft noise but alarmed them all the same.
"It can not be," her mother Velma whispered.
"It is some sort of farce for sure!" her father William said.
"What? You need a scarf?" Grandma yelled (she was little hard of hearing.)
But it was no farce...or a scarf. For on that fateful night, their small daughter Willamena was born with something her family was quite unfamiliar with.
A small, but fluttering heart beat.
Join the fantastic world of Willamena. Funny and endearing, this seven year old girl lives in a crypt with her very, very different family who are simply "dying" to meet you.
|Product dimensions:||8.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.10(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Laura Schwartz
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Laura Schwartz
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWillamena Webbs was born almost seven years ago, on a cool, crisp night on the last day in October. Her parents were so proud of their one and only daughter. She was everything they expected her to be.
On that memorable night, Willamena's parents and her grandmother held her up to their ears to hear something very strange coming from her chest. It was only a soft noise, but alarmed them all the same.
"It can not be," her mother Velma whispered.
"It is some sort of farce for sure!" her father William said.
"What? You need a scarf?" Grandma yelled (she was little hard of hearing).
But it was no farce ... or a scarf. For on that fateful night, their small daughter Willamena was born with something that her family was quite unfamiliar with.
A small, but fluttering heart beat.
Willamena was six years old, three hundred sixty days, and fifty-nine minutes old. She was sitting with her beloved pet under the old weeping willow tree by where she lived. The crickets had been singing for quite some time and she knew it would be time to come in as her mother would finally be up to help with her homework.
"Willamena!" her father called from the window. "Come in now!"
"Let's go," she said, scooping up herbunny. Willamena walked up the stairs to her house and she sighed. Pausing a moment, she gazed up above her. The moon shone large and bright above, reminding her that it was very, very true indeed. She was very, very different.
How was she different you ask? Well let me start at the beginning.
Willamena was born to her parents who loved her very much. But whom she was born to and where was a little different.
Her mother Velma, was tall, pale skinned, and very beautiful. She was also very old- about two hundred years. William, her father was also different. His skin was more of a green color, his voice gruff, and his eyes were always a bit glassy and wide open.
Grandma, Velma's mother, who loved her granddaughter very much, was not your typical grandma. Sure she looked like one, her face lined with age, her clothes moth eaten and old looking. But Grandma, like her daughter Velma was old. Really old. Really, really, really old. Actually she was a ghost.
And Willamena's parents? Her mother was a vampire and her father was a zombie.
Oh, and her pet bunny was all bone too.
"Only five more days until someone's special day!" Velma opened the door to their house. Willamena stepped in holding her pet Bone Bunny in her arms. He jumped down, his bones scattering, and then they came back together again. He hopped away, leaving Willamena alone in the doorway. Her mother took her by the shoulders and led her into the family room. Her father was sitting on the couch, reading a newspaper from 1874. Grandma was floating up top near the chandelier. Willamena sighed again.
"Mom, why can't you just call it my birthday?"
"Because 'birth' means you're alive."
"But I am alive-"
"Shhh!" Her mother covered her mouth. "The neighbors might hear you!"
The "neighbors" her mother talked about were a little different too. Actually the neighborhood was the town's oldest cemetery and Willamena's house was the largest crypt on the plot.
The school that most of the other children in her neighborhood went to was the old abandoned church in the center of the cemetery. But Willamena didn't go there. It's not that she wasn't allowed, or that she wasn't smart because she was allowed and she happened to be very, very, very smart. However, Willamena had something different the other kids didn't ...
A fully working pulse.
So her parents decided to send her to "alive school" or as we the living call it, public school. But Willamena didn't feel that she fitted in at public school with all those other kids. She had her mother's pale skin, her father's large eyes, and her hair was long, thick and black. Her clothes always had cobwebs on them, and she smelled of freshly dug earth. The other kids would tease her; call her names like "Wacky Willamena". But Willamena would just sit there at her desk, in the darkest part of the classroom in the normal public school that sat on top of a hill, by the window that looked over the town's oldest cemetery, where her family resided.
It wasn't until she did go to public school when she was five that Willamena realized that she and her family were different. She thought being undead, ghosts, goblins, witches, and bone animals were normal. On that first day of public school, dropped off on the darkest corner of the street where the "live ones" could not see her father's hearse, Willamena Webbs realized that she was not like the other kids. Well, at least not the ones who had a pulse. In fact she spent the majority of the time trying to blend into the shadows and after a while it worked. Sure the other kids knew she was there, but often walked past her as if she were a ghost (which her parents had hoped for). Willamena found she didn't mind it at all. Less attention meant fewer explanations about whom she was and where she was from.
It was well past midnight when Willamena found herself attempting to stay up again. She had gotten used to getting up for school when her parents were just going to bed and trying to stay up so she'd actually see them. Today she was growing tired waiting up for her mother so she could help with her homework.
"Mom, I need help with my homework." She yawned, sitting down at the kitchen table, which at one point had been a marble sarcophagus.
"Of course dear, what do you need?"
"We were told to write a story for school. A Halloween story but I don't know what to write. We also win a prize if we're picked as the best story." Willamena's mother was only half listening. She was looking through recipe books for the perfect cake to make her daughter for her birthday.
"Here's a cake!" her mother exclaimed, still ignoring her daughter. "Peanut butter and maggot cake!" she looked at her daughter, but Willamena shook her head. Since she started going to "that school" her parents had to buy her "normal" food so none of her classmates would throw up at lunch from what her mother really wanted to give her.
"Mom I'm allergic to peanut butter! Are you trying to kill me?"
"Willamena, you say that like it's a bad thing!" Her mother pinched her cheeks and put the cookbook away. She took the paper from her daughter's hand and read it aloud.
"Write a scary story about Halloween. The winner will get his or her story read to the whole school and a big prize of candy. Oh that sounds lovely Willamena!"
"Candy? Ugh!" her grandmother said as she floated over. "That stuff will rot your teeth out. That's why I don't eat it."
"Grammy, you don't have teeth anymore." Willamena laughed. Velma, who hardly ever heard her daughter laugh decided to cave in about the cake.
"Chocolate cherry cake it is." her mother said.
"Ok, yes I promise to use real cherry filling ... William honey? Call the blood bank and tell them I'll need only one order for this week!"
Willamena sat inside for recess everyday. She had a note from her doctor stating she could not be exposed to direct sun light or she could burst into flames-it was hereditary. Willamena remembered blushing with embarrassment when her teacher read it that first day of school. Miss Oaks, her teacher agreed to it merely out of fear that someone might actually have to explain it.
So Willamena sat inside as usual with Miss Oaks behind her desk. Lined paper was all over Willamena's desk, blank. She began tapping her pencil on the desk trying to think about a scary story to write.
"Miss Oaks? I have a question about my story."
"I don't know what to write." She got up and walked over to her teacher's desk leaving a trail of spiders behind her. Miss Oaks smiled at her. Though she thought she was a little different, Miss Oaks liked Willamena very much. She would have liked to talk to her parents during parent/teacher night but Willamena insisted their jobs were at all different hours and phone meetings were best because they were so busy.
"So what's the trouble? No inspiration perhaps?" Miss Oaks turned around and picked up some books and gave them to Willamena.
"Here are some books about Halloween. Maybe they'll help you out."
"Thanks." Willamena took them and walked to her backpack and put the books away. The bell rang and the other students started to come in. Miss Oaks noticed she was still looking a little worried and gave her a reassuring smile.
"Willamena don't fret too much about it. Just write about what you know."
It was now three days before the story was due and three days until Willamena would be eating what she hoped were cherries in her birthday cake. She still had no idea what to write about. She reread the books her teacher gave her and decided they weren't really scary. All the so-called scary monsters and other creatures were not like the people in Willamena's neighborhood. She knew ghosts were not mean and werewolves didn't drool and try to hurt people (but did turn extra furry during the full moons). Vampires definitely didn't turn into bats because she was sure her mother would have done it just for fun. And graveyards weren't frightening or filled with moaning noises, unless you counted Mr. Earl who had passed away from a terrible stomachache. Then Willamena began to remember what her classmates used to wear at past Halloween parties and the tales they would tell. They ran around screaming weird things like, "Boo!" or walk around growling dressed up like some movie monster. Suddenly she understood what Miss Oaks was saying.
"Write what you know," Willamena said to herself. She grabbed her notebook, pencil, scooped up Bone Bunny and skipped her way out of the crypt. She began to write things down and soon she found herself walking all over the cemetery, sometimes stopping to talk to the neighbors to share pieces of her story and get their ideas. When she finally came home the moon was a bit smaller than the night before and her mother was waiting for her.
"Your father is going to be late. Another neighbor is moving in." Willamena looked to where her mother was pointing and noticed her father digging a hole in the ground. He looked up and waved causing one of his fingers to fall off.
"Did you finish your homework or do you need more help?"
"No I got it mom. I know exactly what I'm going to write."
Willamena sat at her desk at school, the one in the corner, in the shadows so she could blend in. It was the day before her birthday and Halloween. Everyone's story was handed in and they had to wait until they were all read and the winner could be decided. Willamena wasn't expecting to win since her story was not scary nor had it anything to do with Halloween. She just took her teacher's advice and wrote what she knew. She was just relieved it was handed in.
Miss Oaks walked in and the students stopped talking. She smiled at them, only bigger than usual. Willamena wondered what she was especially happy about.
"Good morning students. I am happy to say that all the stories have been read and tomorrow the winner will be announced at the school assembly and their story will be read to the whole school." She paused and looked around the room, her smile almost breaking her face it was so big.
"I am also happy to hint that the winner is none other than one of my very own students!"
Everyone began to talk all at once and each of them bragged why it was them and that they would get the prize. All except Willamena who was not really noticeable in her black dress sitting in the corner. She instead placed her head in her hands and dreamt about what kind of presents her parents had gotten her.
Willamena walked off the bus and waited for it to pull away. After it was out of sight she turned back the other way and walked home. When she got there, her mother was in bed; her father was propped up against the wall, asleep with eyes open. Her grandmother was hovering above the dining room table muttering something she couldn't understand. Everything seemed normal. Willamena walked into her room and took Bone Bunny out of his cage. Placing him on her bed, she laid down, closing her eyes, hoping that she would get something that didn't require refrigeration for a present.
It was a cloudy day when Willamena finally woke up. She was surprised that no one woke her last night to ask how her day was. She rubbed her eyes and stretched. Bone Bunny sat upright and thumped his back leg. It fell off and rolled onto the floor. Willamena reached over and picked it up, giving it back to her bunny. She got up and got dressed for school.
The bus came and she got on, walking back to her seat. Everyone was too busy talking about who would win the contest to notice her. Most of them were already dressed in their costumes and Willamena giggled quietly. She thought they all looked ridiculous.
At school the clock struck nine in the morning. Miss Oaks came in and all the children stopped talking. Willamena happened to be reading a book, while her teacher made her way to the back of the classroom, in the darkest corner of the room, where a girl sat all in black, cobwebs on her clothes and today, a little bat in her hair as a bow. Miss Oaks gently took the book away from her and smiled. Willamena looked up at her unsure if she should smile back. She gazed around the room and noticed everyone was staring at her, some with mouths wide open.
"Willamena," Miss Oaks began. "I have something to tell you."
"Yes Miss Oaks?"
"Congratulations!" her teacher shrieked. Willamena jumped in her chair, causing her bat bow to let out a small squeak. "You won the story contest!" Willamena opened her mouth to say something but nothing came out. Just then the principal came onto the loud speaker and told everyone to come into the auditorium.
Before she knew it, Willamena was there standing on the stage in a bright white light. Murmurs filled the auditorium. Miss Oaks stood close by her, giving her a reassuring nudge.
"May I have your attention?" Miss Oaks spoke into the microphone. She went on about ten minutes telling everyone what a wonderful student Willamena was and how she was sure everyone would love her story. When Willamena was asked to read it she shook her head so hard her bat fell out and onto the floor. A few gasps were heard as she scooped him up and placed him back on her head. Instead, Miss Oaks took the story and told Willamena to sit in a chair on the stage.
Everyone was quiet when Miss Oaks began the story about a little girl who lived in the town's oldest cemetery with her vampire mom, zombie dad, ghostly grandma, and one playful bone bunny. Miss Oaks spoke with enthusiasm when she told the children about how all the undead children go to school in an old abandoned church and learned important things like their ABC's, math, and staying out of the sun.
She told them about the spiders who spun beautiful webs in everyone's crypt, how most witches don't have warts, the doctor who taught first aid (and how to put yourself back together if something falls off) and how everyone in the neighborhood celebrated newlyweds by throwing dirt on them.
As Miss Oaks finished up the story, Willamena looked around her. She noticed something very different today about some of her fellow classmates. Many were smiling, others were saying "wow", and a few nodded in agreement that they'd love to spend Halloween there. Then something else happened that caused Willamena's barely beating heart to start pounding in her chest ...
All the kids in the school stood up and cheered.
"Willamena," Miss Oaks took her hand. "This was a great story. What a vivid imagination you have."
Thanks," Willamena said softly. The principal handed her a large basket with more than just lots of candy. There were Halloween books including a laminated copy of her own story that Miss Oaks made for her, a few creepy masks, decorations, and some small pumpkins. Willamena did not want to hide in the shadows today. In fact, she didn't even mind the bright stage light shining down on her, glittering the cobwebs on her dress or annoying the bat in her hair.
Excerpted from Willamena by Laura Schwartz Copyright © 2009 by Laura Schwartz. Excerpted by permission.
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