Bernice Blossom Bolton–Bernie–is a nine-and-a-half-year-old force to be reckoned with as she charges head-first into the 21st century. Feisty and fun, liberated and opinionated, she’s ready to take on the world.
Only a few short days from turning ten, disaster strikes for Bernie! While babysitting her stepbrother Kirby, she watched helplessly as he fell from a tree and now he’s in a deep sleep the doctors call a coma. Bernie tries everything to wake him–from prayers she’s not very good at to intimidation, her second nature. Nothing works until Bernie visits Mr. Ralston, the oldest person in the neighborhood. His house is old, smelly, cluttered and kind of creepy. But Mr. Ralston makes wonderful cookies and has a mysterious secret box he opens only after telling a story from his childhood filled with wonder and a little magic…the kind that might wake Kirby from his long sleep.
GENRE: Midgrade Reader Word Count: 23,722
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Continue the series:
Just because Bernie Bolton turned ten that summer, don’t get the idea it was a great summer for her…because it wasn’t. In fact, it was probably the most awful summer of her whole life, so far. But, don’t get the idea it was a hideous summer either, because it wasn’t. What it was, was the summer she would remember forever…the summer she started to grow up for real.
The first day of fifth grade was tomorrow, and Bernie was so excited she could hardly stand it. After a miserable fourth grade year of suffering with Miss Boggs, the meanest teacher at Hope Valley Elementary School, and having to put up with awful Freddie White, the biggest, most conceited jerk, and the cutest (Oh my gosh, where did that thought come from?), Bernie was definitely ready for a change. Well, anyway, the gods of unhappy school children had smiled on her, and allowed her to get Mr. Soren for fifth grade. He was, without doubt, the coolest teacher in the entire universe. He never yelled at kids, he gave easy tests and practically no homework, and did amazing things like field trips and stuff. Bernie had been so jealous of her best friend, Emmy Holloway, last year because Emmy got Mr. Soren. But this year, Mr. Soren decided to teach fifth grade. Emmy got Mrs. Thompson, who was okay, but sort of boring, and Bernie got the most fabulous man ever born…if you don’t count Elvis, who was Bernie’s favorite human who ever lived.
Bernie’s real name, Bernice Blossom Bolton, was still mainly an embarrassment to her, but as she got older she was beginning to realize that someday she would age into those names the same way her grandmothers did. She was named after both of them, and after all, they must have been kids once, too. Right?
The rest of fourth grade went pretty much as expected, except Bernie didn’t get the lead in the school’s Annual Spring Play, but she got over it fast enough. Of course, until she did she made everyone’s life a nightmare. Except her best friend, Emmy, who thought Bernie was being a spoiled brat and a poor sport. Whatever!
Also, her father and Priscilla got married on their Christmas trip to Las Vegas. That was when she took that fabulous trip to New York with her big sister, Lizzy, and Lizzy’s husband, Sam. She had the best time of her life, but was very surprised when she got home to find her father was married. The only thing she didn’t like about Priscilla was her silly earrings. You know…like skeletons on Halloween, and big silver bells with red ribbons at Christmas, and naked babies on everyone’s birthday. The naked babies were the most embarrassing. She also had pretty strange taste in clothes, like lots of ruffles, and polka dots, and bows and things, and a five-year-old son named Kirby. But, aside from that, she thought Priscilla was pretty terrific.
The week after New Years, there was a huge wedding party at her house. Absolutely everyone was invited. There were lots of people she knew and lots she didn’t; and the food was very grown-up. She didn’t know how normal people could eat black fish eggs or smashed goose’s liver, but they did and actually acted like they enjoyed it. Hmmm! She mainly stuck to the cheese and crackers, just to be safe.
The other thing that happened before the end of fourth grade was that both her new step-mother and her sister found out they were going to have babies, and they would be born at almost the same time. Priscilla, thank goodness, was only going to have one baby…but Lizzy was going to have TWO. Twins! And all three of these new people were going to be BOYS!! The thought of it made Bernie feel faint. Combine that with Kirby, and Bernie spent a fair amount of time asking God what she did wrong.
So, here it was, the night before the first day of school, and as a special treat, Priscilla gave her permission to take a bubble bath in the new Jacuzzi bathtub. Since her bathroom just had an old, regular bathtub, it was a real treat to be able to wallow in a huge tub that jetted water all around you and tickled your feet, and other places. It reminded Bernie of standing in front of the filter pump thingies at the swimming pool in the summer. The best part was that she made an amazing discovery. Priscilla told her only to use a capful of bubble bath, but she accidentally poured in almost half of the bottle. OOPS! And before she knew what was happening, the bubbles grew and grew until they started to spill over the sides of the tub. It looked like a washing machine overflowing, like in one of those silly cartoons Kirby watched on TV. It was the coolest thing in the world! By the time Bernie could find the button to turn off the motor, the only thing sticking out of the bubbles was her head. That was exactly the moment her father stuck his nose in the door to check on her, and started to laugh.
“Now not too long, young lady! It’s getting late and tomorrow’s…”
“I know, Daddy,” Bernie interrupted, “I’m almost done.”
As Mr. Bolton closed the door again, Bernie settled back into the hot, steamy, bubbly, wonderfulness, and thought about the summer, and about how sometimes bad problems can happen in a kid’s life. And, how important solutions can occasionally be found in very extraordinary places.