Ilene Cooper Angel in My Pocket

ISBN 13: 9780312641252

Angel in My Pocket

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9780312641252: Angel in My Pocket

When Bette finds an angel coin among the money collected in a carwash, she puts it in her pocket and forgets about it. But things start to change, especially once Gabby, a mysterious and kind new neighbor, moves into Bette's Chicago building. Suddenly, Bette is able to face some big losses―her mother's recent death; her sister's departure for college―and move forward. And once the angel coin falls into the hands of three other kids in Bette's class, their lives change, too. Soon, these two girls and two boys will be connected in ways that open them up to unlikely friendships and new ways to believe in themselves. Here is an entirely new twist on the angel trend.

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About the Author:

Ilene Cooper is the children's book editor of Booklist magazine. She is also the author of several novels, picture books, and works of nonfiction, including The Golden Rule, Sam I Am, and Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy. She lives and works in Chicago.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


There was a pile of money on Bette Miller’s kitchen table. It was mostly change, but Bette spotted crumpled dollar bills, even a couple of fives and tens, hidden among the quarters and nickels.
Before getting down to the serious work of counting, she picked up handfuls of silver and let them fall through her fingers, enjoying the satisfying clinks as the coins touched the rest of the change. It made her feel rich.
Barbra, Bette’s older sister, had collected the money in a canister for a campus charity, standing in the street and knocking on car windows to get donations. Now Barbra slid into the seat across the table and commanded, “Don’t do that, Bette. Money is dirty. Full of germs.”
Bette sighed. Since their mother died, Barbra had become a fountain of clichés that she spouted frequently. “Be careful on the Internet, perverts are lurking there.” “Don’t go out with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold.” “Never forget to wash your hands after you touch raw chicken.”
“Why would I be touching raw chicken?” Bette had asked in horror the first time Barbra had offered that particular dictum.
“Well,” Barbra had replied with resignation, “we’ll probably have to cook for Dad. And he loves chicken.”
And, in fact, in the last couple of years, Bette had touched more slimy, slippery raw chicken than she cared to remember.
But don’t touch the money, it’s dirty? What was next? Look both ways when crossing the street?
“How can I count the money without touching it?” Bette asked crossly.
“We’re not supposed to count it. The machine at the bank will do that. I’m just supposed to separate the bills from the coins and pick out all the funny stuff.”
“Funny stuff?”
“Canadian coins. Pieces of paper, lint. Stuff that will clog the machine.” Barbra pulled a white orb from the money. “A Necco Wafer.”
Bette made a face. “Who would throw candy into a charity can?”
Then something caught Bette’s eye. She thought it was a quarter at first, but an oddly shaped one. She looked at it, puzzled. And then she looked at it again. It wasn’t a real coin after all. Embossed on one side of the pewter-colored token was an angel in profile, wings unfurled, hands clasped in prayer, its long gown sweeping the bottom of the talisman.
She held it for a moment, and the angel seemed to grow larger, slightly rising from its hammered background.
“What’s that?” Barbra asked.
Bette was loath to give it over, but there was no way to avoid her sister’s outstretched hand.
“Oh, cute,” Barbra said, handing it back.
“I can keep it?” Bette asked, her heart beating a little faster.
“Sure, why not?” Barbra asked curiously. “It’s just a good luck charm. You’ve seen them in stores. Sometimes they’re in a little basket up by the cash register.”
Had she seen a token like this before? Bette wasn’t sure. Maybe she had seen ones with four-leaf clovers, but she didn’t think she had seen one with an angel on it.
Barbra began sweeping the money into a cloth bag. “Well, I guess I’d better take this over to the bank. Then I have to get back to campus.”
Bette got up and took their glasses to the sink. She still wasn’t used to Barbra going to Northwestern University and living in Evanston. Of course, Evanston was only an El ride away from Chicago. Well, two, really, since you had to change from the Red Line to the Purple Line. Not that she had visited Northwestern since she and her dad had dropped off Barbra and a considerable amount of stuff at her dorm at the end of August. When would she have the chance anyway? Barbra had been home every Saturday or Sunday for the last six weeks.
“I’ll walk with you,” Bette said, grabbing a jacket.
“Don’t you have anything better to do?” Barbra asked, putting the sack of money into her backpack.
Bette scowled. Don’t you have anything better to do, Miss College Freshman, than make sure that the refrigerator is stocked with enough frozen hamburgers for the next week? But that wouldn’t be very nice, because Bette knew that Barbra did have better things to do, or should anyway, like studying or rushing a sorority or trying to find a boyfriend, and the reason that she came back on weekends was to make sure that her sister and father were all right.
What really made Bette angry was that the honest answer to Barbra’s offhand question was, No, I don’t have one thing better to do than to walk you to the bank.
When they got outside, Barbra looked around and said happily, “I love October. It’s the most gorgeous month.”
“It’s getting cold,” Bette said, zipping her jacket.
“But, Bette, look at the sky,” Barbra said, standing still for a moment. “It’s the color of those Popsicles Mom used to buy. And the leaves. They’re amazing. Scarlet, orange, even purple.”
“Don’t you know why leaves change color? It’s because they’re not making any more chlorophyll. That’s what keeps them green and healthy. The colors mean they’re getting old and dead.”
Barbra looked at her sister strangely. “Bette, do you realize a lot of what you come up with relates to death?”
Bette snorted. “I wonder why?” If anyone ought to be able to understand why Bette’s thoughts drifted to death as easily as leaves slid across the sidewalk, it should be her sister. Barbra had experienced the shock of their mother’s death just as she had.
First had come the phone call from the hospital. A car accident on a rain-slicked road. Then the rush to the hospital. The call to their father’s cell phone went directly to voice mail, so the girls had taken a cab to an unfamiliar neighborhood close to where the accident occurred.
Pessimist that she was, Bette assumed that she would have plenty of bad moments in her life, but if she lived to be 110, she couldn’t believe that there could be any worse than those desperate minutes that had ticked by during that taxi ride to the hospital. It had been endless yet surprisingly quick, a time out of time.
She and Barbra had sat silently clutching hands. But even as she was conscious of the dirty ashtray smell of the cab, the collected tones of the NPR reporter coming from the radio, what was most real were the images that pelted her, as incessant and random as the raindrops hitting the taxi’s windshield.
Her mother in a hospital bed. Was she scarred? Were her bones broken? In pain? Bette knew her mother was alive because at least the person at the hospital had told her that. But Bette could tell from the urgency in the woman’s voice that might not soon be the case.
Once they had arrived at the hospital, everything had been confusion. Barbra had taken over with Bette standing mutely beside her. At first no one could tell them their mother’s whereabouts. When they finally located her in the emergency room, the hospital personnel didn’t want them to see her. After Barbra demanded they be taken to her cubicle, a nurse had tried to prepare them.
The nurse’s quiet words about internal bleeding and contusions on Mrs. Miller’s face, and the effects of the pain medication, hadn’t been enough. Who is that woman? Bette had thought, when she saw her mother, looking small and frail and years older; hooked up to so many blinking, beeping machines they seemed to be more a part of her than her arms and legs. Only her golden red curls spread out against the white cotton pillow—the same curls Barbra had been lucky enough to inherit—were familiar.
Looking back, Bette was eternally grateful her mother had lived long enough for her to say good-bye. Bette could not, could not have stood it if they had arrived at the hospital only to find their mother gone. It would have been like falling into a vortex with nothing to hold on to.
Even with the chance to whisper “I love you” in her mother’s ear and feel the squeeze of her hand, it was bad enough. Bette walked through the funeral and, for a good many of the days afterward, behaved as if she were an actress in a play titled The Grieving Daughter. She knew she was supposed to feel terrible, and some part of her, maybe the part that was crying hysterically, did feel terrible. But most of the time, she felt like she was floating on the ceiling, staring down indifferently at Bette sobbing and Barbra trying to take care of everyone and her shell-shocked father looking as if he had been the one in a car accident.
And there had been times when she’d experienced the weirdest emotions. Like the stab of excitement before the funeral when she wondered if Peter Waugh, the best-looking boy in her class, would attend and maybe give her a sympathetic hug. So many people had come to the funeral, she didn’t know if he came or not, and by the time the eulogy was over, she had completely forgotten about the hug.
Although it had been nearly two years since her mother had died, Bette sometimes felt as if she were still just playing a part, that of her now-almost-thirteen-year-old self. Other times her life seemed all too real. How could it not, when it was filled with such mundane things like making dinners, straightening up, washing clothes, and watching television. Lots and lots of television.
“Bette,” Barbra said, breaking into her sister’s thoughts, “do you know what’s happening with the apartment?”
Bette turned to look back at their two-flat greystone. Their near-north Chicago neighborhood was full of dwellings that looked similar to theirs, but Bette had always known that her two-flat w...

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