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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

6th MMGM: Extraordinary by Miriam Spitzer Franklin (spotlight, excerpt, giveaway)

Welcome to Day 1 (part 2) of the 6th Annual March MG Madness! Be sure to check out Day 1 (part 1) as well.

Extraordinary by Miriam Spitzer Franklin
Last spring, Pansy chickened out on going to spring break camp, even though she’d promised her best friend, Anna, she’d go. It was just like when they went to get their hair cut for Locks of Love; only one of them walked out with a new hairstyle, and it wasn’t Pansy. But Pansy never got the chance to make it up to Anna. While at camp, Anna contracted meningitis and a dangerously high fever, and she hasn’t been the same since. Now all Pansy wants is her best friend back—not the silent girl in the wheelchair who has to go to a special school and who can’t do all the things Pansy used to chicken out of doing. So when Pansy discovers that Anna is getting a surgery that might cure her, Pansy realizes this is her chance—she’ll become the friend she always should have been. She’ll become the best friend Anna’s ever had—even if it means taking risks, trying new things (like those scary roller skates), and running herself ragged in the process.

Pansy’s chasing extraordinary, hoping she reaches it in time for her friend’s triumphant return.

My feet crunched on dead leaves as we made our way through the woods, crossing a run-down bridge over a small stream.
“Hey, let’s play Poohsticks,” I said. Andy and I both grabbed sticks and threw them over on one side of the bridge. Then we ran to the other side and watched to see whose stick would come out first. We’d been playing the game together since we first came to Stone Mountain back in preschool. Anna had always picked just the right kind of sticks, the ones that had enough weight to get past the rocks but weren’t so heavy that they’d get stuck.
“Hey look,” Andy said, as both sticks sailed past us on the sparkling water, side by side.  “It’s a tie!”
We played a little while longer, until Dad told us to move on. After a few more minutes on the wooded path, we came to a clearing. A path cut through a meadow full of wildflowers, tall grasses, and brightly colored butterflies. We’d picked the perfect day for hiking. The sky was clear and blue, the sun was just the right amount of hot, and a cool breeze blew back my hair and ruffled through my shirt.
“Remember when we came last fall?” I asked Andy. “It was really hot, and by the time we got to the waterfalls, we all wanted to jump in.”
“Yeah,” Andy said. “We were in the middle of a heat wave, but we thought it would be cooler here--”
“But it wasn’t. We were burning up. Your mom brought frozen water bottles so we could stay cool, remember?”
Andy nodded.
“We had a lot of fun,” I said, “even though I thought we might get heatstroke.” I giggled. When Andy didn’t laugh too, I looked over at him. His jaw was set firmly as if he was concentrating hard on the trail ahead.
I thought about how both of our families had always gone on day trips together, but everything was so different now. You couldn’t push a wheelchair on a trail in the mountains. “It’s too bad your parents couldn’t have come with us,” I said.
Andy shrugged and looked down at the ground.
In the spring they’ll come with us, I wanted to say. And Anna will win Poohsticks, like always, and she’ll be the first one down the steps to the falls.
But I kept my words inside. Maybe I was afraid to say them out loud, afraid they would just disappear as soon as they were out of my mouth. As if by telling someone else how I felt, I might keep my words from coming true.
We continued to walk in silence, deep in our own thoughts. Soon we could hear the waterfalls ahead. Andy’s the one who ran past me this time, the first one to the stone steps that took us down to the Lower Falls.  
Roped off beside us, rushing water ran over huge rocks. A sign warned us that if anyone crossed over the ropes, it could lead to “imminent death.”
A chill ran up and down as I remembered the way Anna would lean over the ropes more than she should have, laughing about the sign. Her parents always had to tell her to step back, to warn her about the dangers.
I was always the most careful about keeping my distance.
I followed Andy down the steps, my parents right behind us. The water roared in my ears when we got to the bottom. We stopped, watching the clear water cascade over the rocks, splashing and frothing its way into a deep pool at the bottom.
“Wow. I’d almost forgotten how it takes your breath away.” Mom pulled out her camera to snap some pictures.
The rest of us did the same. Then I put my camera down and stood there, almost hypnotized as the water moved with a power of its own as it tumbled over the rocks. I didn’t want to leave, but when Mom told us it was time for lunch, my stomach started rumbling and I realized I was starving.
We headed back up the steps and finished the loop, setting up our picnic in a shady spot. As I bit into my pimento cheese sandwich, I heard a rustle in the woods behind me.  
I turned to see a deer standing on the other side of the path. “Look! Oh, she’s beautiful!”
“There’s more of them, right behind her.” Andy got up from the picnic table and stepped closer to the path.
I tiptoed next to him. There were four of them now, the ones in the back moving slowly and quietly through the woods. The one in the front-the one I noticed first-stood perfectly still.
I sucked in my breath. The doe was almost magical, like something out of a fantasy book. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she sprouted wings and flew up into the sky.  
“Wow ...” The deer stared back at me with big eyes. Eyes that reminded me of Anna's. Somehow, I knew in my heart that Anna knew what was going on, even if no one else could tell, and she knew she was going to get better. It was something you couldn’t explain with words—it was something you had to just believe.
I glanced over at Andy, remembering how he’d told me about his dream where Anna had spoken to him.
I knew that Andy believed. And so did I.
The deer moved her head and blinked. Then she turned, and with a few graceful leaps, she was gone.

Miriam Spitzer Franklin is an elementary and middle school teacher who currently works with homeschooled students, freelances for an educational company, and fills in for fulltime teachers who are on maternity leave. Other jobs she has held in her life include working as a frazzled and unorganized waitress at a number of restaurants, driving the Zamboni and working the skate counter at the ice skating rink, teaching ice skating lessons, and owning a toy and gift store with her husband, Scott.
Miriam's hobbies include coaching her daughter's Odyssey of the Mind team, figure skating, and being passionate about environmental and animal rights causes. She has been a vegetarian since she was fifteen and has participated in her share of animal rights protests, similar to the one Sunny experiences in CALL ME SUNFLOWER. Miriam spent her childhood in New Jersey but currently lives with her husband, two daughters, and two pampered cats in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Win a hardcover copy of Extraordinary!
Miriam has generously offered one (1) copy for one winner.
-US only
-ends 4/5 17
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Unknown said...

I would love to win this for my daughter who is in middle school!

anne s. said...

This sounds like an amazing, emotional read! Love that type of book!

Deb said...

This looks like a great book for our library!

Slowsly said...

I really like the unique story and the interesting characters. This is a must read for me.

Danielle H. said...

I'm in love with this book after reading the excerpt! I have to read this as I already love the characters--Pooh sticks! Yes!

Lauren said...

My daughter would like this book.

Brenda said...

Not entering the giveaway, but am really looking forward to reading Extraordinary this month.

Batch of Books said...

I love this excerpt. This sounds like a cute read.

Theresa Snyder said...

This book sounds so good!!! I can't wait to read it!
I love that there are so many great middle grade books coming out!