Series: A Dragon's Guide Vol. 3
It is vital to teach your pet that the past is never past. It's just hiding, waiting to surprise or catch you unawares.
"Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!" Winnie bellowed.
I roused enough to realize that my bed was creaking and shaking like it wanted to throw me off. I'd woken just the same way more than a hundred years ago to death and devastation. With a chill, I thought, Earthquake!
With my eyes only half-opened, I forced myself to sit up, knowing that we had only seconds to reach the safety of the doorframe. That was when I saw that a more personal force of nature was trying to demolish my bed. Clad in pajamas and bathrobe and flinging her arms every which way, my pet, Winnie, was bouncing up and down on the mattress like a jack-in-the-box gone mad. She was making up in energy what she lacked in destructive size and weight.
I lunged forward and caught her in midair between my paws. "Stop that! Who asked you to replace my alarm clock?" I glanced groggily at the clock and gave a start. It was before sunrise!
I had grown resigned to Winnie invading my apartment at all hours, but this was the first time she'd come in so early. Hatchlings need to learn that there are boundaries they must not cross, but lately I'd been lax about disciplining her.
"Humans should never be seen nor heard before the first cup of tea," I said in a voice stern enough to make tigers cower and sharks flee.
Winnie, though, simply kicked her feet slowly back and forth as she dangled between my paws. "But it's Topsy-Turvy Day!"
Topsy-Turvy Day was a tradition at Winnie's school, the Spriggs Academy. On that day, the magical and natural students switched places--naturals was another word for humans in the magical community. Magicals had to stay in their human disguises and use no magic. Naturals had to wear masks of magical creatures and perform simple coin or card tricks. If a magical was caught using magic or a natural flubbed the trick, the miscreant had to sing the Academy fight song three times in a minute or suffer further penalties.
I set her on my bed so I could cover my muzzle politely with a paw as I yawned. "Topsy-Turvy Day was last week, and anyway that's for Spriggs, not home."
She wrapped her arms around my foreleg. "It was so much fun at school, I thought we'd start holding it here."
Gently, I pushed her aside and began re-coiling myself elegantly on my large, round, oh-so-comfortable bed. "You already had plenty of fun yesterday setting off fireworks on Vesuvius."
It had seemed like a pleasant thing to do after picnicking on the volcano's slopes as we gazed at Naples's sunny bay. How was I supposed to know the pyrotechnics would cause a small panic in the city below?
Winnie threw herself on my moving tail, pinning it against the mattress. "But that was yesterday, and today's today. I want every day to be Topsy-Turvy from now on."
There was only one way I was going to keep her from attaching herself to me like a barnacle. "No wish is perfect, so we'll only celebrate it today. We'll begin at nine."
Winnie jutted out her chin like she did when she was driving one of her hard bargains. "Eight." She seemed determined to enjoy as much of the day as possible.
"Eight-thirty," I countered.
"Deal." Releasing my tail, she clambered over my coiled body and lay down in the empty center of my bed. Before I could tell her to stop treating me like her personal jungle gym, she had curled up against me as if my scales were soft as wool.
I should, of course, have picked her up and set her outside. I should have done many things to educate this half-feral creature, but as so often happened, I found myself indulging her.
Sheltered within the armored circle of my body, she was already falling asleep. As I listened to her breathing slow and deepen, I was touched by her faith in me to keep her safe.
In her brief ten years, she'd led a hard, stressful life, staying one step ahead of the detectives and lawyers seeking to take her away from her mother and send her to her cold, unfeeling grandfather Jarvis. But those days were gone.
My Fluffy, Winnie's great-aunt, had left the mansion and her wealth to Liza, Winnie's mother. But even without the house and fortune, Winnie knew I would protect her from harm, be it from an army of detectives, lawyers, or three-headed monsters.
With one forepaw, I lifted her head up, and with my other forepaw, I got a pillow and eased it between her cheek and my body.
Since Winnie came into my life, every day has been topsy-turvy, I reflected as I fell asleep again.
I'm afraid it was eight-forty-five before I woke up again. Lifting my head carefully, I saw that Winnie was gone, so I uncoiled from my pest-free bed and stretched leisurely.
After taking care of my morning toilet, I thought I had done well to climb the basement stairs by nine.
"Ha! You're late!" Winnie scolded.
Fluffy had taught me the Topsy-Turvy chant when you demanded a magic trick from a natural:
"Magic, magic all around.
Have you lost it? Or is it found?"
Winnie held up a right hand and pulled back her sleeve. "Observe. Nothing up my sleeve." She repeated the same gesture with her left. "And nothing here."
Before Topsy-Turvy Day at Spriggs, she'd used online videos to learn how to produce pennies from behind a spectator's ear. So I expected her to take a coin from behind one of mine, and I was about to tell her, "No pennies, please. A dragon deserves only quarters or higher denominations."
But instead, an orange water pistol appeared in her hand.
I wagged a finger at her. "Don't you dare--glug!"
With alarming accuracy, she sent a stream of water into my mouth and up my face. For such a small pistol, it held an amazing amount of water. This would not have been a problem in my dragon form, but for Topsy-Turvy Day, I'd changed into a human disguise. Instantly, I felt my coiffure sag and the wet locks fall around my ears like a sand castle collapsing in the incoming tide. I'd have to redo the whole spell again. Give me my scales and a can of expensive car wax anytime.
That was annoying enough, but then I saw some of the water had splashed off me and onto Caleb's portrait.
"Have more respect for your great-grandfather," I scolded, pointing to the drops of liquid.
"The painting's covered by glass." Winnie held up the orange pistol. "And anyway, it's only water. I'm cleaning it."
I was about to unleash a blistering scolding when I caught myself in time. Control yourself. She doesn't understand. Patience is the key to raising a pet, especially a natural hatchling. And before you lecture or punish her, you must explain what she has done wrong.
"Would you shoot water at a picture of your mother or your great-aunt Amelia?" I demanded as I rubbed the glass vigorously with a dress sleeve.
"Well, no." She gave a shrug. "That'd be like shooting water right at them."
I lowered my arm as the full truth dawned on me. "But Caleb is just a name to you, isn't he?"
Winnie shrugged. "What do you expect? He was Great-Aunt Amelia's dad. I never met him, and he never wrote me like she did. How could he? He died before I was born."
Her grandfather Jarvis had chased her for years, trying to get custody of her, and that had made her suspicious of strangers. Acquaintances had to prove to her that they were worthy of her friendship either in person like her schoolmates or at least in letters and gifts like Fluffy, my dear pet Amelia. To that small circle, Winnie was intensely loyal, but to everyone else--including her own ancestors, it seemed--she was intensely indifferent.
She watched water drip from Caleb's picture. "Besides, one Granddad Jarvis is enough. I don't need to meet his father."
Last Christmas, Jarvis had given up trying to get Winnie because, as he told her, she was already as tough and ruthless as he was. Though I'd done my best to comfort her, that thought still festered inside her and apparently was another reason she wanted to ignore her family's past. "He was also the father of your great-aunt Amelia, who was the kindest of souls," I tried to clarify.
She turned away from Caleb. "I'm okay with the way things are."
Winnie was like a castaway on her own lonely little island who saw Caleb only at a distance across a vast sea of time. But with my long life, my memories stretched from one pet to the next like a bridge connecting one island after another.
"Well, he thought enough of you to leave you something." I smoothed my wet bangs from my eyes. "I'd intended to give it to you at the end of the year, but I think we need to do it sooner."
Winnie's eyes widened. "He knew about me?"
"It was more a hope," I admitted truthfully. "Everyone was making a time capsule then, so he did too, and he asked me to hand it to his descendants after a hundred years."
Winnie had the courtesy to look a little guilty. "What's in the time capsule?"
"I don't know any more than you do," I said. "He filled the time capsule and locked it before he gave it and its key to me."
Winnie's eyebrows shot up excitedly. "Do you think there's any treasure in it?"
"It would be what an eleven-year-old boy thought of as treasures," I cautioned. "But maybe what he put in there will make your ancestor seem more real to you."
Unfortunately, though, his youthful tastes were only a small part of the delight that had been Caleb. He would never be alive to Winnie as he was to me. He'd been only three when the Great Earthquake hit San Francisco, and I'd carried him from the ruins of the original house.
But Winnie hadn't held him tight as the wall of fire swept across San Francisco after the earthquake, the smoke turning day into night.
Then I remembered an invitation I'd gotten. With regret, I'd torn it up. But now . . . yes, why not? "In fact, would you like to meet him Saturday?"
"In a magic mirror?" Winnie asked.
I shook my head. Magic mirrors are notoriously uncooperative, rarely showing you what you want to see in the past. "I've tried looking for Caleb in several mirrors, but none of them would let me. No, we'll go back to see him in person."
Winnie gasped. "You mean, time travel?"
"Of a sort," I said. "The High Council has set up rules so no one can change the past and our present."
"Could we really do something to change the present?" Winnie asked with a bit too much curiosity.
"Not if we follow the Council's rules . . . which we certainly will do," I told her firmly. But I thought to myself, More or less.
I began making mental lists of all the things I needed to do now, starting with RSVPing to Willamar, a respectable troll who was arranging the excursion. I had some lovely gold-edged note cards that a young Queen Victoria had given me after I'd fetched the perfect Norwegian fir tree for her husband, Prince Albert, one Christmas. She knew he was homesick during the holidays, so she'd hoped that he would cheer up if they decorated a tree like families did in his homeland. Who knew a German custom would catch on in England?
And since we had to go in period outfits, I'd have to obtain something suitable yet striking for Winnie and myself. And of course, there were our hairdos to plan and appropriate accessories to unearth in my closet. How delightful!
"Time traveling is even better than Topsy-Turvy Day," Winnie crowed, and gave me another squirt of water.
As water dripped from my nose, I held up a hand and announced, "And with that prank, I now declare Topsy-Turvy Day officially over for the year."
"But--" Winnie began.
I waved my finger in front of her face. "No ifs, ands, or buts. I have a lot to do if we're going to be ready by Friday."
Winnie tapped her water pistol against her chin. "Well, I guess there's always next year."
With a pet, there is always a surprise to look forward to . . . and a surprise to dread.
Time travel is never easy. If you want a carefree trip, take a walk in the park.
The cab let us off in front of a four-story mansion that had been built a year after the Exposition had closed. It was surrounded by large block-like modern homes and apartment houses, jammed together with immaculate sidewalks where not a weed was allowed to grow. It was all very impersonal, very sterile, and very expensive.
Winnie was wearing what a well-dressed young lady would in 1915 . . . which did not please her at all. Luckily she could wear a long jacket that would cover some of her lovely dress and keep her warm when the fog blew in. I offered to form her untamable hair into charming dangling ringlets for the evening, but she refused. So her wide-brimmed hat sat a bit crooked on top of her curls. And I skipped the silk parasol entirely. A girl of 1915 would think it an accessory, but Winnie would consider it a handy weapon. Not a perfect transformation, but I did my best.
As she headed toward the party, her walk wasn't any different than it usually was. But her 1915 skirt and petticoats were made for flouncing.
She scowled down at it. "This dress is just too girly. And why do I need gloves? It's not cold."
"Remember, it's 1915. A proper young lady wears gloves in public," I told her. "And besides it will cover up your ring. I wouldn't want some envious guest to snatch it off your finger."
I had given Winnie her ring last Christmas. Anyone could see the gem change color from purplish red in candlelight to greenish blue in daylight. But it had other qualities that only she would discover in time . . . if she didn't lose it first.
"Time travel is not without its penalties," I replied, and shooed her along.
After the Great Earthquake and Fire had destroyed much of San Francisco in 1906, the city had wanted to show the world that it had risen again from the ashes. San Francisco had used the opening of the Panama Canal as an excuse, but by 1915, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition had become so much more. It was a place of wonder and delight: the San Francisco we saw with our hearts rather than our eyes had become real.
A Dragon’s Guide to Making Perfect Wishes (March)
For fans of How to Train Your Dragon comes the newest adventure in the Dragon’s Guide series by two-time Newbery Honor winner Laurence Yep and Joanna Ryder, featuring enchanting artwork by Caldecott Honor winner and Harry Potter illustrator Mary GrandPré.
Plucky pair Winnie and Miss Drake are traveling back in time to the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair. Waiting in the past are Winnie’s great-grandfather Caleb, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a centuries-old mystery: who stole the Heart of Kubera necklace? Despite the excitement, Winnie’s only wish is to lose Rowan, an unusual boy who has the annoying habit of showing up at inconvenient times. But the wise Miss Drake knows her pet Winnie should be careful what she wishes for—especially when her wish-granting souvenirs follow them home.
“Yep and Ryder keep the magic coming with their whimsical fantasy, enhanced by GrandPré’s sweet drawings. The story positively vibrates with fun.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Warm humor, magical mishaps, and the main characters’ budding mutual respect and affection combine to give this opener for a planned series a special shine that will draw readers and leave them impatient for sequels.” —Booklist, Starred