Authors: Mavis Jukes
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2011 by Mavis Jukes
Jacket art copyright © 2011 by Karl Edwards
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The new kid / by Mavis Jukes.
Summary: When almost-nine-year-old Carson Blum and his father move to Northern California, he is worried about adjusting to his new, large public school and finding friends.
[1. Moving, Household—Fiction. 2. Schools—Fiction. 3. Friendship—Fiction. 4. Single-parent families—Fiction.] 1. Title.
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
To the memory of Marguerite Jukes—
a legendary teacher, a great mom, a great
grandma, and a great great-grandma.
Carson would be moving before the school year ended, from a very small private Montessori school where he knew everybody to a very huge public elementary school where he knew nobody.
Carson would be the New Kid.
And that was something he’d never been before.
His dad had been offered a new position in a different area. His decision to change office locations had been a difficult one. He would make a better salary, and be given more interesting assignments. Plus, he could name his hours, and sometimes work from his computer at home. Best yet, he could spend
more time with Carson, and drive him to school each morning, and pick him up each afternoon. Being able to spend more time with Carson had been the tipping point. He accepted the offer.
Changing jobs and schools is never easy, but everything is easier once you have a plan, and this was the plan they made together:
Carson, Genevieve, their Labrador, and Moose would stay at Carson’s grandparents while his dad got established up north in El Cerrito, California.
At Carson’s grandparents’ house, Genevieve would carry rocks around in the backyard. Evenings they would walk her with the nose leash over to the neighborhood park, where she would bark at birds. At night, after Bird Patrol was over and done with, she’d doze on her blankie in her basket by the back door and guard her toys and food dish.
Moose would sit tight and cool his hooves on Carson’s bedspread. At night, he’d recline—with the backs of his two bald ears on the pillow, his eyes wide open, and his nose sticking up.
Carson didn’t put it on the ten o’clock news that, at age going-on-nine, he slept next to a stuffed animal.
But he was planning to boot Moose out of the bed sometime before his next birthday. When Carson turned nine, it would be time to put Moose up on a shelf.
That wouldn’t happen until after they moved.
Once Carson’s dad had rented a house and supervised the move on both ends, they would be ready to roll. They’d ferry the old classic orange Porsche up, and later on Carson’s grandparents would bring up the other car, the station wagon, stay awhile, then fly back to Pasadena. That would happen on his grandpa’s vacation.
So yes. They had a plan, and the plan went off without a hitch.
Early one evening, when crickets were creaking and the smell of flowers was in the warm, damp air, Case and Gavin, Carson’s two best friends, their families, and other friends and neighbors gathered, along with the teachers, at the Montessori school for a Good-Luck Potluck Farewell.
Everybody knew what Carson’s favorite dinner was, and many families forgot to check the sign-up list, so there were eleven pans of lasagna and twenty-two loaves of garlic bread.
They all chipped in on a present for Carson and his dad: a croquet set in a carrying case. Carson’s
grandparents would bring it up in the station wagon, just in time for croquet games on sunny summer afternoons.
The morning after the Good-Luck Potluck Farewell, beneath a pastel peach Pasadena sunrise, Carson and his dad backed the orange Porsche out of the driveway onto the street. Grandma and Grandpa were standing on the front lawn, Grandpa’s arm slung around Grandma’s shoulder. If they were sad, they wouldn’t have shown it. They lifted their coffee cups to say good-bye.
Carson’s dad chose the scenic route. Genevieve sat with Moose in the front seat, and Carson sat in the back, in the jump seat. Actually, Genevieve sat
Moose in the front seat, but Moose didn’t mind. Moose was a mellow guy. He couldn’t see much scenery, but it was nice and warm under Genevieve.
Genevieve’s suitcase was strapped onto the rear deck with bungee cords. In it were her dog dishes, kibble, blankie, and squeak toys. Most of the squeak toys didn’t squeak anymore, but that didn’t keep Genevieve from poking them with her nose or holding them in her mouth. She was holding a silent rubber
ham in her mouth and looking out the window at a breathtakingly scenic stretch of long and lonesome highway when the engine sputtered and died.
Luckily, the cell phone worked way out there in the middle of nowhere, and they called for roadside assistance.
Half an hour passed before they saw the big blue and yellow tow truck come down the highway. Carson held Genevieve on her leash, and she sat like the good girl that she always tried to be, and sometimes really was.
It was dicey getting the Porsche onto the back of the flatbed truck. At one point, when the chains were rattling and clanging and the motor was grinding and whining, Carson’s dad had to cover his face with his Porsche cap.
Carson and his dad and Genevieve and the tow-truck guy all rode crammed into the front seat of the cab as they headed to the nearest town. Carson sat buckled up in the middle, in front of an ashtray brimming with cigarette butts, ashes, and gray wads of chewing gum. Outside the window, the view was mighty nice.
They rumbled along, first next to a rocky stream with light dancing on the water. Then they chugged up through a canyon and into a grassy basin dotted with black cattle. Carson saw piney ridges and rocky hillsides, a silver river, and craggy, glacier-topped peaks against the backdrop of a clear, sunshiny blue sky.
Genevieve sat happily plopped on Carson’s dad’s lap, squashing him and blocking his view, her tongue hanging out—and her nose making smudges on the window. And her tail wagging every once in a while, with the tip bopping Carson on the ear.
Eventually, they came to a one-horse highway town. The tow-truck guy dropped the Porsche off at a tin garage with
and a picture of a gorilla painted on the front.
It was closed for the day.
Carson, Genevieve, and his dad walked over to the little old-timey Three Cowboys Motel. They were happy to see the sign that said
WI-FI, CABLE TV, PETS WELCOME ON MANAGER’S APPROVAL
. Carson unzipped his jacket and took Moose out. Outside the office, a creepy gnome with a chipped nose and fat cheeks was sitting with a family of plaster skunks in the grass.
Virgil, the motel owner, manager, handyman, and
maid, approved Genevieve and gave Carson’s dad the Wi-Fi password, then his dad opened his laptop and located a website that shipped classic Porsche parts anywhere in the United States.
So that’s where they stayed for three days, in the Three Cowboys Motel, waiting for a rebuilt fuel pump to be delivered by UPS.
They were traveling light. Good thing because the motel room was small.
Carson brought in his suitcase, which contained a change of clothes and his treasure box—a cookie tin containing Various Important Small Items, including his bottle-cap collection.
The motel room had twin beds, bent miniblinds, a dresser, and a small TV in a pine cupboard. The bathroom had three small bars of perfumed soap wrapped up in pale pink glossy paper on a glass shelf and a white metal shower stall with a pink plastic curtain.
A lock with a spiderweb in it could be adjusted to allow the window to be left open a crack, and Carson slid the window a couple of inches to counteract the boggy smell.
A cheery little lamp on the night table had horseshoes printed on the shade and a carved tipsy
cowpoke on the base of it, dozing against a pole. Out the window, a blinking arrow pointed to
MABEL’S FAMILY-STYLE CAFÉ
, the town’s one-and-only restaurant, located right next door. A bright red neon sign flashed
EAT, EAT, EAT, EAT, EAT, EAT
, and that’s where they ate, ate, ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Evenings Carson and his dad wandered out to stargaze in the meadow behind the motel. Genevieve came, too, and sat quietly with a yellow Frisbee in her mouth.
Carson looked up at the sky and wondered who he would meet at Valley Oak Elementary School that could be as good a friend as Gavin or Case.
Would anybody even like Carson?
Even a little bit?
He couldn’t see why not.
But he’d have to wait to find out.
Carson’s dad turned the delay into a photo op. They investigated a tumbledown old cabin.