Kirsten's parents are barely speaking to each other, and her best friend has fallen under the spell of the school's queen bee, Brianna. It seems like only Kirsten's younger science-geek sister is on her side. Walker's goal is to survive at the new white private school his mom has sent him to because she thinks he's going to screw up like his cousin. But he's a good kid. So is his friend Matteo, though no one knows why he’ll do absolutely anything that hot blond Brianna asks of him.
But all of this feels almost trivial when Kirsten and Walker discover a secret that shakes them both to the core. Fast paced, marvelously funny, and brutally honest, If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period touches on universal truths about human nature.
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GENNIFER CHOLDENKO is the author of Al Capone Does My Shirts and Notes from a Liar and Her Dog as well as several picture books. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
This is lame but I’m actually looking forward to school this year, because every day this summer was like crap: dog crap, cat crap—I even had a few elephant crap days. Trust me, it was bad.
For starters I hardly saw my best friend in the whole world, Rory. She was always in camp or on Maui.
They probably don’t even have crap on Maui.
Besides Rory being gone all summer, my only other friend in the whole world, Nellie, moved away and my mom and dad fought all the time. They stopped seeing my little sister, Kippy, and me, and they definitely stopped hearing what we said. We even tried a little experiment on them. Kippy said there was a colony of worms living in the laundry hamper and my mom said: “Leave your muddy shoes outside.” And I said Brad Pitt had invited me to a slumber party and my mom said: “You already had your snack.”
It was funny for a while. Then it wasn’t.
But summer is over. School is back. And all I can think about as my mom drives us up to the drop-off is how I really, really, really want to have a bunch of classes with Rory this year. Well, that’s almost all I think of. I also consider my butt and how it will make its way out of our car. Nobody wants to see a gigantor butt coming out of a car first thing on a Monday morning, that much I know.
“Have a good day. Eat the lunch I packed. Don’t buy junk . . . ,” my mom says when my feet hit the pavement.
“Kirsten!” She unrolls the side window and beckons with her hand. “Do you know that boy, that bla—African American kid?” Her head cranes toward a guy who just gotout of a red sports car. Tall, nice-looking guy. Shaved head, handsome . . . dresses like he’s the governor’s son.
I shrug. “Must be new.”
The red car pulls out of the drop-off and my mom’s head snaps to the front. She pounces on the accelerator and her car flies forward with the door open and the seat belt clanking the side. She swerves around a big SUV, guns it, then pounces on the brakes, coming to a squealing, screeching halt.
The stop sign.
Her hand rotates a million miles an hour, gesturing to this poor huddled pedestrian, but the pedestrian won’t move. He’s afraid. I can’t blame the guy. . . . I’d be afraid, too.
When my mom sees the man is sticking, she shoots forward again like she’s on the chase. She’s hunting down the red car, going to drive right over it and staple it to the ground.
Oh, great: now she’s getting weird in public, too.
When I turn to leave, the black kid is standing next to me. “That your mom?”
I nod, then giggle. God, I hate my giggle. You have to be size three and named Barbie for my giggle. Between my giggle and the extra forty pounds, I’ve got to be the coolest girl in the whole seventh grade.
“She hits my mom’s car, gonna be trouble.” He shakes his head. “You don’t wanna mess with my mom and that car.”
“I’m sorry.” My face flames so hot I could fry eggs on my cheeks.
“That’s a 350Z. We just got it. My mom’s been shining it with her toothbrush. You should see her.”
“It’s nice.” I bite my lip. “Very red.”
“My mom drives it real careful. She has two speeds. One mile an hour”—he pauses—“and stopped.”
I laugh—my real laugh this time.
“I thought the police were gonna pull us over for going so slow. Like, hey lady, get outta neutral.” He shakes his head.
The warning bell rings. “We gotta move!” he says.
“You go. I’ll never make it!”
“Come on, whatever your name is, run,” he shouts over his shoulder.
“My name is Kirsten,” I call after him as he thunders ahead taking the stairs two at a time.
I try running, even though running makes my fat jiggle. Still, I want to keep up. This guy is nice to me even though my mother nearly creamed a guy in the crosswalk and chased down his mom’s car. My mother . . . I swear. What was that about, anyway?
Copyright © 2007 by Gennifer Choldenko
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