Wonderland

Wonderland

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374310608
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 08/28/2018
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 84,862
Product dimensions: 5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Barbara O'Connor was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. She has written many award-winning books for children, including Wish, How to Steal a Dog, and The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

MAVIS

Mavis Jeeter sat on the bus stop bench beside her mother and whispered goodbye to Hadley, Georgia. She took a deep breath and let out a big, heaving sigh to send a signal to her mother that she was tired of saying goodbye.

"Why can't we stay here?" she asked every time her mother announced that they were moving.

Then her mother would explain how she was sick of Podunk towns and godforsaken places. How she needed a change of scenery. How she had a friend or a cousin or a boyfriend waiting somewhere else.

This time they were leaving Hadley, Georgia, so her mother could work as a housekeeper for a rich family in Landry, Alabama.

Mavis let out another heaving sigh that blew her tangled hair up off her forehead. Then she leaned forward and squinted down the road.

"When's the bus coming?" she asked for the umpteenth time.

"Soon," her mother said for the umpteenth time.

Sometimes Mavis wished she lived with her father in Tennessee instead of just visiting him every now and then. Her father stayed in one place. But then, he lived with his mother, who disapproved of Mavis.

"That child runs wild," she complained right in front of Mavis. "Not one lick of discipline from that so-called mother of hers," she'd say, as if Mavis were invisible and not sitting on the couch there beside her. "Lets her run wild," she'd mutter, flinging her arms up and shaking her head.

Finally, the bus came roaring up the road, and the next thing Mavis knew, she was watching Hadley, Georgia, disappear outside the window.

"Goodbye, fourth grade," she whispered when the bus rumbled past Hadley Elementary School. "Have a nice summer," she added.

It was only a few weeks ago that kids had hooted and hollered on the last day of school, but now the window shades were drawn in the empty classrooms.

"So long, Bi-Lo," she whispered when they passed the grocery store where her mother had worked for a few months — until she came home one day and announced, "I'm not asking 'Paper or plastic?' ever again."

"Adios, best friend," Mavis whispered as they drove past Candler Road, where her best friend, Dora Radburn, lived. Then she let out another big, heaving sigh. Actually, now that she thought about it, Dora hadn't really been a best friend. She never saved Mavis a seat at lunch, and she had flat-out lied about her birthday party. Maybe if the Jeeters stayed in one place long enough, Mavis could have a real best friend.

So as the bus turned onto the interstate, Mavis said one final goodbye to Hadley, Georgia, and decided right then and there that in Landry, Alabama, she would have a real best friend.

CHAPTER 2

ROSE

Sometimes it seemed to Rose Tully that everything about her was wrong.

It also seemed as if her mother reminded her of that nearly every minute of every day.

"Don't slouch, Rose," she'd say.

"You can't wear that, Rose."

"Stop slurping your soup, Rose."

But even if Rose sat up straight or changed her dress or sipped her soup as daintily as could be, there would still be something wrong.

And so it was that on a fine summer morning in Landry, Alabama, with the sun streaming through the dining room windows overlooking the garden, Rose plucked raisins out of her oatmeal and waited for her mother to tell her what was wrong.

"Stop doing that, Rose," her mother said.

Rose plopped a raisin into her mouth and glanced at her father. Sometimes he would say, "Aw, Cora, cut Rose some slack." But today he didn't. Today he gulped down his orange juice in a way that made Mrs. Tully squint, and then he grabbed his briefcase and hurried out the door without so much as a goodbye.

"Hurry up, Rose," Mrs. Tully said. "There's liable to be traffic on the interstate, and I'm not even sure where the bus station is." She took one last sip of coffee and added, "I'm starting to have reservations about this Jeeter woman if she doesn't even have a car."

"But she's bringing her daughter, right?" Rose said.

"Unfortunately, yes," Mrs. Tully said. "I'm not sure this was one of my better ideas."

Rose folded her napkin and placed it neatly next to her plate. She didn't say it out loud, but she was hoping that this Jeeter woman's daughter was nicer than Amanda Simm.

"Wait for me outside," Mrs. Tully snapped. Then she snatched her napkin off the table, gathered plates and bowls and juice glasses with a clatter, and disappeared through the swinging door into the kitchen, leaving a cloud of discontent behind her.

When Rose opened the front door, a wave of thick summer heat drifted in and mingled with the icy air-conditioning in the foyer. The pleasantly mild days of May had given way to the sultry days of early June, the beginning of a sure-to-be stifling Alabama summer.

Rose's house was the biggest one in Magnolia Estates. It had a winding driveway lined with neatly trimmed boxwoods and a doorbell that chimed Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." On each side of the front door sat a concrete lion, its mouth open in a mighty roar. When the Tullys moved there two years ago, Rose had named them Pete and Larry.

Out on the porch, Rose patted Pete and Larry on the tops of their heads and savored the smell of freshly mown grass. Monroe Tucker, the gardener, had already been there this morning, getting an early start like he always did to beat the midday heat. Because the Tullys' yard was so large, Monroe came three days a week, trimming the boxwoods and weeding the gardens and making sure the azaleas were the exact same height, the way Mrs. Tully liked them.

Rose ran to the end of the driveway and looked up the road toward the gatehouse. She wished she could visit Mr. Duffy instead of going to the bus station with her mother. She wished she could take him some blackberries to try to cheer him up. She wished she could show him how good she had gotten at the magic trick he had taught her. But more than anything, she wished Mr. Duffy's little dog, Queenie, hadn't died.

CHAPTER 3

MAVIS

As they pulled into the bus station in Landry, Mavis's mother went over all the rules again.

Never go into the Tullys' house without knocking first.

Remember to say "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am," because rich people like that.

Don't say anything bad about the garage apartment where they would be living, even if it's a dump.

"And whatever you do," she said, jabbing a finger at Mavis, "be nice to that lady's daughter."

"What's her name again?"

"Rose."

"Rose," Mavis whispered to herself. That was a friendly sounding name.

Okay, this time she was not going to beat around the bush.

Rose would be her best friend in Landry, Alabama.

Her mother took a tiny mirror out of her purse and checked her reflection, smoothing her hair and blowing herself a kiss. "Pretty good-looking dame, if I do say so myself," she said, winking at Mavis and tossing the mirror back into her purse. "Okay, May May, let's do this."

Then off she went, strutting up the aisle of the bus like a runway model, leaving Mavis to hurry after her.

CHAPTER 4

ROSE

Rose climbed into the front seat of the Tullys' shiny black car and listened to her mother complain about the heat and about the bad haircut that Darlene Tillman had given her and about Mr. Tully, who never put gas in her car. As they made their way through Magnolia Estates, worry hung over Rose like a thundercloud.

First there was the worry about the vacant lot across the street. In the middle of the lot was a small gold sign with magnolia blossoms around the edges and fancy black lettering that read BUILD YOUR DREAM HOME HERE. Rose wished that people would stop building their dream homes in Magnolia Estates. Before long, there would be no more blackberries to eat or wildflowers to pick or trees to climb. In their place would be big brick houses with tidy lawns kept green all summer by invisible sprinklers that came on in the wee hours of the morning.

When they drove past Amanda Simm's house, Rose's cloud of worry began to grow bigger and darker. Her mother and Mrs. Simm were forever trying to get Rose and Amanda to play together again. But Rose and Amanda weren't very fond of each other anymore. They used to play together when they were in third grade, but now that they were going into fifth grade, it seemed as if they had nothing in common. Amanda didn't like tap dancing, and Rose didn't like shopping at the mall. Amanda didn't like playing circus with Pete and Larry, the concrete lions, and Rose didn't like sleepovers. But, for Rose, the icing on the cake was the fact that Amanda didn't seem to like Mr. Duffy, the gatekeeper, anymore. She never actually said it, but Rose could tell. Amanda had started making faces when Mr. Duffy told stories about raising pigs in Vermont when he was young. She giggled in a not very nice way when he fell asleep in the gatehouse and delivery truck drivers had to honk their horns. And she rolled her eyes when he pretended to take quarters out of their ears. Now Amanda never went up to the gatehouse anymore, which was fine with Rose.

When the Tullys drove past the gatehouse of Magnolia Estates, Rose's dark cloud of worry drifted down and settled over her like a blanket of sadness. Mr. Duffy had been the gatekeeper ever since the Tullys had moved there two years ago. He kept a log of who was allowed to come into Magnolia Estates and where they were going. A plumber for the Barkleys on Dogwood Lane. The UPS man delivering packages to somebody on Rosewood Circle. Some ladies playing bridge every other Wednesday at Mrs. Larson's on Camellia Drive.

Mr. Duffy had a way of making Rose feel better about things. He comforted her when she didn't want to go to sleepovers in the Magnolia Estates clubhouse. He knew just the right thing to say when she felt anxious about riding the school bus. And he never made her feel bad if she didn't take flower-arranging classes or piano lessons like her mother wanted her to.

Rose visited him nearly every day. She would tell him about school, and he would tell her about the giant catfish that had jumped clean out of his boat and back into the lake. She would show him the tap steps she learned in dancing school, and he would teach her a magic trick involving paper cups and buttons.

And nearly every day, Mr. Duffy's little dog, Queenie, had waited patiently for Rose to drop graham cracker crumbs or popcorn or maybe even to toss her a piece of cheese. She would bark at the Glovers' cat and take treats from the telephone repairman and waddle out to the edge of the road to watch the trucks bringing bricks for somebody's dream home.

But now Queenie was gone, and Mr. Duffy didn't do magic tricks or play checkers anymore. He didn't play the kazoo while Rose sang "Oh My Darling, Clementine." And he didn't say "Look out, catfish, here I come" when it was time to go home to his tiny trailer out by the lake.

So as the Tullys' shiny black car made its way up the interstate toward the bus station, Rose thought and thought and thought about how she could cheer up Mr. Duffy.

CHAPTER 5

MAVIS

Mavis hopped on one foot around the bus station, careful to only land on the black squares of the linoleum floor. If she touched a white square, something bad would happen, like maybe she would lose that heartshaped good-luck rock she had found in their yard in Georgia, or her dad would change his mind about letting her spend Christmas with him in Tennessee.

"You're giving me a headache," her mother said, closing her eyes and massaging her temples.

"When are they getting here?" Mavis asked, hopping over to the window and peering into the empty parking lot.

Her mother rummaged through her purse and pulled out another pack of gum. She had been chewing gum constantly for the last three days. Mavis knew that what she really wanted was a cigarette, but Mrs. Tully had been very clear about the no-smoking rule.

"Highfalutin people don't care if they're late," her mother said.

"How do you know they're highfalutin?" Mavis asked.

Her mother popped a piece of gum into her mouth and said, "Believe me, I know."

"So why do you want to work for highfalutin people?" Mavis said.

"In case you haven't noticed, Miss May May," her mother said, "it takes money to get anywhere in this world. If highfalutin people want to give me money for the pleasure of changing their sheets when they're not even dirty or serving them sliced cantaloupe on china plates, I'm willing to give it a shot."

Uh-oh. Give it a shot? That had a temporary ring to it. Mavis had hoped that maybe this move to Alabama would be permanent. Or at least till she finished fifth grade. So Mavis decided that she would have to make Rose her best friend right away.

Just then, a shiny black car turned into the parking lot. A lady and a girl got out and walked toward the station. The lady wore a flowered skirt and a ruffly white blouse. Tucked under her arm was a tiny purse the same color as her shoes.

Mavis was surprised to see that the girl wore a skirt, too. Why would a kid wear a skirt in the summertime? The girl's mousy brown hair was pulled neatly into a ponytail tied with a purple ribbon. Mavis's mother had said the girl was the same age as she was, but this girl looked younger, short and skinny and practically running to keep up with her mother, who marched across the parking lot toward the door of the bus station.

Mavis's mother quickly took the gum out of her mouth and stuck it under one of the plastic seats in the station. She smoothed her hair and brushed doughnut crumbs off her shorts and reminded Mavis for the gazillionth time to say "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am." Then she set a smile on her face and called out, "Mrs. Tully! Over here!" Mavis watched that highfalutin woman make her way toward them, and it didn't take a genius to see that she was disappointed. Maybe it was her mother's shorts that might have been a little too short. Maybe it was Mavis's wild tangle of hair that hadn't seen a comb since they'd left Hadley yesterday afternoon. Or maybe it was the smell of greasy food and bus fumes that swirled around the dreary bus station.

But whatever it was, it was clear that Mrs. Tully was struggling to make her mouth smile as her eyes darted from Mavis to her mother to the battered suitcases at their feet.

CHAPTER 6

ROSE

The woman tugged on her shorts and thrust her hand toward Mrs. Tully. "I'm Luanne," she said.

Mrs. Tully set her mouth in a hard line and said, "Mrs. Jeeter seems more appropriate. I mean, under the circumstances."

"Well, okay, but it's Miss Jeeter."

Rose stood behind her mother, feeling shy, as usual. She wasn't very good at meeting new people, especially in front of her mother, who would always give her a nudge and tell her what to say. "For heaven's sake, Rose," she'd scold, "introduce yourself."

"Well, okay then, Miss Jeeter," Mrs. Tully said. "I hope your bus ride wasn't too bad." She gave her hair a pat and added, "I imagine those buses can be pretty horrid."

Miss Jeeter shrugged and said, "It's not like I haven't put in my time on a bus. But avoid the seats in the back, where the bathrooms are, if you know what I mean." She winked at Mrs. Tully, who cleared her throat and shifted her purse from one arm to the other.

And then, much to Rose's surprise, Miss Jeeter's wild-haired daughter came hopping over on one foot and said, "I'm Mavis. You be my best friend, okay?" Rose looked around the bus station to see if there were any other kids there. Was this girl talking to her? Best friend? In all her ten years, she had never really had a best friend. Well, maybe one. Ida Scoggins. She had lived next door to the Tullys in Magnolia Estates when they first moved there. She had taught Rose how to make origami frogs and let Rose walk her dog named Frenchie, who wore a sweater and once bit Monroe Tucker, the gardener. She always made Rose laugh by doing the hula in the sprinkler or putting chopsticks in her nose. Then one day Ida had painted Rose's fingernails bright red. The name of the color was Va-Va-Voom, and Rose had loved it. But Mrs. Tully called Ida's mother, and after that, Ida didn't seem to want to play much anymore. And then the Scoggins moved to North Carolina, and that was the end of that.

And now it seemed like the other girls in Magnolia Estates only wanted to shop at the mall with Amanda Simm and weren't interested in playing cards with Mr. Duffy. So when Mavis Jeeter said, "You be my best friend, okay?" Rose felt a little wave of happiness work its way from her toes to the top of her head.

"Okay," she said, feeling her cheeks burn.

"Shall we go?" Mrs. Tully motioned toward the Jeeters' beat-up bags before heading for the door to the parking lot.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Wonderland"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Barbara O'Connor.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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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