Just Like Me
by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
April 5, 2016
Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery and Becca, my “Chinese Sisters,” that’s who. We’re not really sisters—we were just adopted from the same orphanage. And we’re nothing alike. They like egg rolls, and I like pizza. They’re wave around Chinese fans, and I pretend like I don’t know them.
Which is not easy since we’re all going to summer camp to “bond.” (Thanks, Mom.) To make everything worse, we have to journal about our time at camp so the adoption agency can do some kind of “where are they now” newsletter. I’ll tell you where I am: At Camp Little Big Lake in a cabin with five other girls who aren’t getting along, competing for a camp trophy and losing (badly), wondering how I got here…and where I belong.
Told through a mix of traditional narrative and journal entries, don’t miss this funny, surprisingly sweet summer read!
Praise for Just Like Me
“A tender and honest story about a girl trying to find her place in the world, and the thread that connects us all." - Liesl Shurtliff, Author of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
“A heartwarming and tender story about the universal struggle of yearning to be an individual while longing to fit in.” -Karen Harrington, author of Sure Signs of Crazy
“[A] charming and refreshingly wholesome coming-of-age story....Filled with slapstick humor and fast-paced action, the novel will engage reluctant readers, while offering fuel for deep contemplation by those ready to tackle questions of identity and belonging.” –School Library Journal
“From pillow fights to pinkie promises, sock wars to s’mores, a red thread connects this energetic summer-camp story with Julia’s deeper journey to accept herself, her adoption, and her Chinese roots.” -Megan McDonald, award-winning and bestselling author of the Judy Moody series and Sisters Club trilogy
Excerpt from Just Like Me
The camp bus sputtered and chugged up the interstate, sounding as if this might be its last trip. Avery sat across the aisle from me with her earbuds on, practicing a Chinese vocabulary lesson. Becca sat next to her, chewing on a straw and watching a soccer match on her cell phone.
“Ni hao ma,” Avery said, her chin-length hair with bangs making her look studious in her thick, black-framed glasses.
When she saw me looking at her, she pulled out one earbud and offered it to me.
Did she really think I wanted to learn Chinese with her?
“Technically the lesson I’m working on is review, but I could teach you the basics if you want.”
I looked around at all the kids on the bus staring at her and shook my head.
“GO! GO! GO!” Becca yelled, pumping her fist in the air as she cheered for Spain’s soccer team.
Her hair spilled out of her ponytail as if she were playing in the soccer game instead of just watching it. “Booyah! Score!”
As kids stood up on the bus to see what all the yelling was about, I slid down in my seat, and the driver gave us that “death look” in her rearview mirror. The one that said, “If I have to stop this bus, somebody’s gonna get it…”
“Hey, Julia!” Becca yelled, holding up her phone. “Wanna watch with me? The game just went into overtime!”
Crowding around a tiny phone screen and watching people kick a soccer ball around was not my idea of fun.
My idea of fun was craft camp at the park district with my best friend, Madison, but Mom said I had the rest of the summer to do that.
Instead I was heading north toward Wisconsin to Camp Little Big Woods, but at least that was better than heading south toward Indiana for Summer Palace Chinese Culture Camp.
As soon as we “graciously” agreed to be the subjects of Ms. Marcia’s adoption article, she suggested that the three of us spend a week together making paper lanterns and learning the pinyin alphabet at culture camp.
“It will be a great way for you girls to reconnect not only with each other, but also with your heritage,” Ms. Marcia had gushed.
She loved treating us as if we were two instead of almost twelve.
But I said there was no way I was going to eat Chinese food three times a day and do tai chi every morning, so we settled on the sleepaway camp Avery and Becca went to every year.
I reached into the pocket of my suitcase and pulled out the plastic lacing of the gimp friendship bracelet I had started a few days ago. I had planned to finish it before camp so that I could give it to Madison when I said good-bye to her, but I’d run out of time. I decided I’d try to finish it while I was at camp and mail it to her along with a nice, long letter saying how much I missed her.
“Hey, Julia!” Becca yelled. “What’s that?”
“Nothing,” I said. “Just a friendship bracelet for my friend Madison.”
“COOL!” Becca yelled. “We should totally make those for each other in the arts-and-crafts room at camp.”
She went back to her straw-chewing and her tiny-phone-screen soccer game.
Friendship bracelets for the three of us? I guess “technically” as Avery would say, the three of us were friends. But even though “technically” I had known Avery and Becca longer than I had known my parents, I couldn’t imagine ever thinking of them as the friendship-bracelet kind of friends.
What are your thoughts on the Chinese proverb: “An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.”
Dear Ms. Marcia,
I’ve been hearing about this red thread for as long as I can remember, but I cannot imagine a thread, of any color—red, blue, purple, orange, or green—connecting Avery, Becca, and me. And if by some chance there really is a thread, I’m pretty sure this trip to camp might just be enough to snap that thing like an old rubber band, breaking it once and for all. Then that Chinese proverb would be history in a whole new way.
About the Author
NANCY J. CAVANAUGH is an award-winning author and former teacher and librarian at an elementary school. Nancy lives in Chicago, IL, with her husband and daughter but flies South to Florida for the winter. Visit nancyjcavanaugh.com for more.
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