Pixie Pushes On
Pixie Pushes On
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Annotation: Caring for a runt lamb helps Pixie gain empathy when, in the 1940s, her family moves to her grandparents' farm and her sister Charlotte contracts polio and is sent away.
Catalog Number: #194342
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: 227 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-525-51516-X
ISBN 13: 978-0-525-51516-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2019019591
Dimensions: 22 cm
Language: English
Reviews:
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6 In 1945, following the death of her mother, fifth grader Prudence (Pixie) Davidson has moved from Kentucky with her father and older sister Charlotte to her grandparents' Indiana farm. Struggling with her grief, adjusting to farm life, and getting off on the wrong foot in a new school, she is now consumed with worry as Charlotte, whom she idolizes, is hospitalized with polio for which Pixie mistakenly feels responsible. Her wise, understanding grandfather; her no-nonsense but nurturing grandmother; a kind teacher; and classmate Ricky are steadying forces. Charlotte's letters and their father's cautious prediction of her recovery bolster Pixie's spirits and give her hope. But her experience caring for a lamb helps her accept the reality of loss and healing. Pixie's wry first-person voice aptly conveys her inner turmoil and the flavor and hardship of rural life during World War II, along with a healthy dose of humor. Some overly familiar themes, predictable but well-drawn characters, and occasionally cloying narration are offset by a powerful message of friendship, familial love, faith, and perseverance. Details of life on a farm during the war and the scourge of the polio epidemic are skillfully incorporated into the story. VERDICT This absorbing read features an appealing heroine and is a good choice for collections where titles about nostalgia and strong family values are in demand.Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
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School Library Journal (1/1/20)
Word Count: 42,039
Reading Level: 4.8
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.8 / points: 6.0 / quiz: 511732 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: 770L

Chapter 1

Daddy burned all Charlotte's bedding and blankets the day they took her away. Her dolly, her books, and her clothes too. Dang near burned everything.

And I watched as my sissy's things--and my hope of ever seeing her again--all went up in smoke.

When I first saw Charlotte fall flat as a flapjack, I wasn't worried. But when I helped her up, I could tell she was sweating out a fever something fierce. That's when Doc Simpson came and told Daddy she needed to go away to the hospital.

That's also when all the grown-ups in my life started whispering every time I entered a room.

Then when I overheard Grandma and Granddaddy on the back porch asking Mama, high up in heaven, to hold Charlotte's hand, I feared my sissy was plain dead.

And I was plain heartsick.

I was heartsick my sissy had died, leaving me all alone after she promised she'd never leave like Mama did. Even after she pinky-swore she'd help me get through fifth grade with Miss Meany-Beany. And she'd never broke a promise before.

After I spent all afternoon being heartsick with sadness, I come to find out she wasn't dead at all. That made me feel a wash of relief the size of a waterfall.

But seeing how I'm the reason my sister got sick in the first place, I was still plenty upset. Feeling that truth deep down made my insides hurt. And when my insides hurt so much, I wondered if it was because of sadness, guilt, or the same thing Charlotte had. Charlotte would know. She always knew what to say or do no matter what needed saying or doing.

I figured it was 'cause I was feeling extra bad that Daddy and Grandma kept me home from school for a bit after Charlotte took sick. But it turns out that old school didn't want me there! Daddy had to go all the way down to Center Street and talk to the head of schools to make them take me back.

Imagine that! Begging them to send me to school. I told him not to bother--I'd just as soon walk barefoot in a field of bumblebees than go back to that school again.

My teacher, Miss Meany-Beany, hates me. I know it. Charlotte had her last year and told me she wasn't mean--but everybody likes Charlotte, 'cause she's perfect.

So Daddy made me go back to school.

No sooner did I walk in the door than Big-Mouth Berta, whose daddy owns the grocery store, rushed up to me and said, "I heard Charlotte got the polio! Oh, poor, poor Charlotte!"

And that was the first time I heard someone say Charlotte had polio.

Just like the president of the United States of America!

Polio.

'Course that's the reason she was sick! And I practically wrapped up the polio, put a bow on it, and gave it to her myself.

I started to walk past Big-Mouth Berta when she added in a pretend whisper, "Stay away from Prudence, everyone. She probably has the polio too."

And that was my welcome back to school.

Miss Meany-Beany told everyone I didn't have polio. But I don't think she's certain herself, since every day she puts her clammy hand on my forehead when I get to school. And even though I'm cool as a cucumber, she makes me sit, every day, by myself in a row of desks only used for kids like Rotten Ricky to sit in when they do something wrong, like let a frog loose in school.

And every day Miss Meany-Beany says, "Class, I'm sure Prudence is fine," but instead they all must hear, Class, don't touch her or you'll catch your death of disease, since not one of my thirteen classmates has mustered up the courage to say boo to me. Not that they'd talked my ear off before--what with me being new to the school last winter. It's not that I didn't have any friends; it's just that when you have a perfect sissy, you already have a perfect friend.

That was all I needed then.

And it's all I need now.

 

Chapter 2

It was lunch, and I was eating the fried-egg sandwich Grandma makes for me every day even though I always tell her it's cold and soggy by lunchtime. She reminds me she's making do with the wartime shortages and rations, and since the hens are laying lots of eggs, we're eating lots of eggs.

I sat there on my lonely side of the classroom dreaming of the jam sandwiches Mama used to make me, back when she was alive and the war wasn't changing everything for everybody. I was taking another bite of that cold, soggy sandwich, minding my own business, when I spied the ugliest bug crawling across the floor. But my bug watching was interrupted when something hit me smack in the middle of my forehead. I reached up to touch it--and wouldn't you know--it was the slimiest spit wad ever thrown at a living person.

Right then, I saw, plain as day, that boy whose name is Ricky looking at me--the boy I call Rotten Ricky (not having any friends here gives me lots of time to make up my own names for everyone). Rotten Ricky had this innocent look on his face, and he even had the nerve to smile at me!

I didn't hold that slimy, sticky, wet spit wad for a second before I threw it right back at him.

It wasn't my fault that Miss Meany-Beany picked that very moment to walk by--or that my perfectly aimed slimy spit wad landed smack in the middle of her forehead.

And the moment it did, time stood still. Every single student in the entire fifth grade stopped what they were doing, including breathing. I'd bet anything that dang bug even stopped crawling across that floor.

Miss Meany-Beany turned her head so slow, like she'd just figured out how to turn her head for the first time. That spit wad stayed right in the middle of her forehead like it belonged there. And as soon as her eyes focused on me, the hate shot out of them like chickens running from a fox.

I wanted to run too.

Instead, I tried to speak, except my mouth must've forgot how. "But . . . not . . . me . . . Rotten . . ." was all I could manage.

Miss Meany-Beany's mouth must've had the same problem as mine. "You . . . what . . . why? Closet . . . now!"

She pointed her bony finger straight to the coat closet.

But I didn't move. Even though the calendar says it's fall, someone must've forgot to tell the sun that, 'cause it burned down on us like it was still those dog days of summer. I imagined that coat closet had to be over a hundred degrees.

"Now!" Miss Meany-Beany yelled, and as she did, the spit wad lost its place on her forehead and rolled down her face, in a slower-than-molasses way, and landed on her lace collar.

A look of horror flashed across her face, and I knew I'd have a better chance of convincing our cow never to moo again. So I went into the hottest, stinkiest place in the entire school.

I heard the rattle of the door closing right behind me before feeling something land in my hair that fell from the rafters.

I needed to scream right then but feared the laughs of the other kids even more than I feared whatever was crawling on me. I started flapping my head back and forth, but whatever was crawling on me hung on, probably enjoying the ride. Ripping out the braids Grandma had spent half an hour on after bath night last week, I ran my fingers all over my scalp and through my hair.

After I'd worked up a real sweat jumping around in that roasting-hot closet, that crawly thing must've slipped right off. I imagined I looked so frazzled that Grandma would've clucked her tongue at me the way she does sometimes when I'm not presentable.

I finally settled myself and noticed two old desks stacked one on top of the other. If I unstacked them and set them side by side, I could make a place to lay myself down.

So that's just what I did.

And as soon as my head hit the softness of my arm resting on the desk, my eyes shut fast.

But that's not even the worst part of my day. Oh no; getting hit with the spit wad, getting sent to the closet, getting dang near ate up by some mystery bug--all that was bad enough for my day--but that didn't hold a candle to the part of my day that began when I woke up from that nap.



Excerpted from Pixie Pushes On by Tamara Bundy
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

A young girl learns bittersweet life lessons on the family farm after her sister gets polio, in this poignant and funny novel set in the heartland in the 1940s.

Pixie's defenses are up, and it's no wonder. She's been uprooted, the chickens seem to have it in for her, and now her beloved sister, Charlotte, has been stricken with polio and whisked away into quarantine. So it's not surprising Pixie lashes out. But her habit of making snap judgements--and giving her classmates nicknames like "Rotten Ricky" and "Big-Mouth Berta"--hasn't won her any friends. At least life on the farm is getting better with the delivery of its newest resident--a runt baby lamb. Raising Buster takes patience and understanding--and this slowing down helps Pixie put things in better perspective. So too does paying attention to her neighbors, and finding that with the war on she's not the only one missing someone. As Pixie pushes past her own pain to become a bigger person, she's finally able to make friends; and to laugh about the fact that it is in places where she least expected it.

"Pixie is full of heart! A laugh-out-loud book that also wades into poignant life lessons. A must read!"--Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of Fish in a Tree

"Pixie has bad luck--and is bad luck if you ask her. But she also has grit and gumption, so when her bad luck doesn't let go, she opens her eyes and her heart wider. Her world changes when she changes how she looks at her world. I loved Pixie and her story--a story filled with humor, hope, and everyday heroes."--Lynn Plourde, author of Maxi's Secrets


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