MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
I’m Veronica Conti, and I’m a happy-endings kind of person.
If I see a cloud, I look for the silver lining.
If life gives me lemons, I make delicious lemonade, sell it in front of my house, and make a bunch of money.
And if I ask my mom if we can go to the trampoline gym for my eighth birthday and she says “We’ll see,” I know that what she really means is “You betcha!”
“Oh, thank you, thank you!” I exclaimed when my mom said “We’ll see.”
“You really are an optimist,” said my mom, smiling.
“Mom, I’m not even eight yet!” I said. “I’m too young to be a doctor!”
“That’s an optometrist,” said my big brother, Jude. He is in fourth grade, so he thinks he knows everything. “An optimist is just a positive person. You know—someone who thinks most endings will be happy ones.”
“That’s me for sure!” I chirped.
It was true. I did think all endings would be happy. And when it looked like a story wouldn’t have a happy ending because there was a problem, then I’d just fix the problem! And if I didn’t know how to fix it, then I’d ask Jude or his best friend, Ezra, or my best friend, Cora. We were the Fix-It Friends!
Until something broke that seemed too hard to fix.
It all started in the beginning of March. With Margot.
March has always been my favorite month.
I know March is not as popular as the “-ember” months with all their great holidays, but don’t be duped! March is the super supreme best! Here’s why:
1. It’s the start of spring! Which means it gets sunny, and you don’t need to wear heavy, itchy jackets anymore, and the flowers start to bloom, and the baby birds hatch.
2. When you get to March, you know that the school year is more than half over, which is another way of saying, “Summer vacation, here we come!”
3. Last but not least … my birthday is in March!
I wanted my eighth birthday party to be the best ever. Cora and I brainstormed a ton of ideas. She has been helping me plan my parties since we became best friends in kindergarten. Cora is a big help because she is organized and responsible and loves holding a clipboard.
Our first idea was to rent a horse to give rides to all our friends. I wanted a black stallion or a white stallion, but really I’d have settled for a donkey or even a Great Dane. But Dad said we couldn’t ride a stallion down city streets. Also, it costs too much.
Cora had the great idea to do a pet spa in the living room. But the only pet I have is a goldfish, and Mom said we could not dye Fred’s scales or put bubble bath in his tank. So that idea was out.
Then, in the beginning of March, when I was eating breakfast before school, I saw an ad in the newspaper:
“Eureka!” I shouted.
I showed Mom the ad. She had not had her coffee yet and I was sure she was going to say “Forget it,” but instead she said “We’ll see.” And, as all optimists know, that just means “Sure thing, sweet pea!”
That’s when my little sister, Pearl, ran into the kitchen. She was sucking on her paci and holding the waist of her pajama pants so they wouldn’t fall down. Pearl’s big diaper used to hold up her pants, but since she got potty trained and stopped wearing diapers, her pants are always falling down to her ankles.
Pearl must have heard us talking about birthdays because she popped her pacifier out of her mouth and yelled, “Bifday? Yay! Is my BIFDAY!”
She jumped up and her pants dropped down.
“No, honey, not yet. We’re talking about Veronica’s birthday, which is at the end of this month,” said Mom, pulling Pearl’s pants up.
“I wanna bifday!” Pearl whined. Then she pouted.
My dad calls this Pearl’s Power Pout because it packs a punch. Her bottom lip sticks out so far that it looks like a window ledge. Her big blue eyes get enormous and all wet and shiny. She looks sadder than a really hungry golden retriever waiting for you to throw her a scrap of food from your dinner.
No one can refuse Pearl when she does her Power Pout. But I couldn’t change her birthday even if I wanted to.
“You’ll be turning three next month, in April,” I told her. “Your birthday is practically here.”
“Yay! My bifday!!” She clapped with glee and then told Mom very seriously, “I wanna wat!”
That’s how Pearl says “rat.” She talks about rats all the time because they are her all-time favorite animal. Both my grandma who lives in Texas and my grandma who lives upstairs think it’s the creepiest thing ever. They both have tried to get her to like something more cute and cuddly, like kittens or ponies or butterflies. But it never works.
Pearl’s best friend is a stuffed-animal rat named Ricardo. She got him for her second birthday and has dragged him around everywhere since then. At first, she dragged him by his tail. Then his tail fell off, and Dad had to duct-tape it back on. So she dragged him by his ear, and his ear fell off, so Dad duct-taped that on, too. Jude calls him “Franken-rat.”
“Pearl, my girl, I know you and your sister want a furry pet,” said Dad, lifting her into his arms, “but you know I’m allergic.”
Pearl did not seem to hear him. She hugged Ricardo tight and said, “I wanna wat and cake! Wif butterfwy-miwk icing! And faiwy-dust spwinkles!”
Jude put down the book he was reading, Revenge of the Swamp Zombies. “Cake with butterfly-milk icing and fairy-dust sprinkles? That sounds really tasty. Can I come to your party?”
“Jude!” I protested. “Stop encouraging her.”
But it was too late. Pearl was stomping around and singing, “My bifday! My bifday! Mineminemineminemine!”
Text copyright © 2018 by Nicole C. Kear
Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Imprint