Authors: Sally Warner
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Published by Penguin Group
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First published in 2012 by Viking, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
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Text copyright © Sally Warner, 2012
Illustrations copyright © Jamie Harper, 2012
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
EllRay Jakes walks the plank / by Sally Warner; illustrated by Jamie Harper.
Summary: Third-grader EllRay is becoming famous for messing up when his little sister accidentally kills the classroom goldfish EllRay is taking care of and then he leaves his teacher’s read-aloud book at home.
[1. Behavior—Fiction. 2. Responsibility—Fiction. 3. Schools—Fiction. 4. African Americans—Fiction.]
I. Harper, Jamie, ill. II. Title.
PZ7.W24644Ep 2012 [Fic]—dc23 2011016029
Manufactured in China
Set in ITC Century
Book design by Nancy Brennan
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For Lucy and Noah Parsons
For Alison and Maddie —J.H.
ZIP, NOT SWIMMY
“Why do you hate Swimmy?” my four-year-old sister Alfie asks me one rainy afternoon in April during spring break.
“I don’t hate him,” I say, pressing PAUSE on my hand-held video game. And it’s true. I just don’t want to start liking him too much, that’s all. He has to go back to school on Monday.
Alfie and I are both sitting on my bed, but I am the only one who is supposed to be here. I was alone in my room, leaning against my pillows minding my own business, trying to top my personal best in
Die, Creature, Die
. Mom thinks the game is too violent, but it’s not. It’s just space creatures you are socking with your
FIST OF DOOM
. But Alfie ruined the whole thing.
“He’s just a regular goldfish,” I say. “He’s barely
even two inches long. What is there to hate?”
“But you don’t
him,” Alfie says, not backing down.
Everyone says how cute my sister is, but they don’t know how stubborn she can be. She is golden-brown like an acorn, and she has big brown eyes. She usually wears her hair in three puffy little braids, one on each side of her head and one sort of in the back. It’s hard to explain girls’ hair right.
glad I do not have to be the one to fix Alfie’s hair each morning, by the way! You should hear the yelling. And Alfie’s braids have to be just perfect. I feel sorry for my mom.
“That fish is not even ours, Alfie,” I remind her—and I remind myself, because I secretly really do like him. He is very unusual for a goldfish. He has a white spot on his stomach, and you can just tell how smart he is. Also, I think he knows me now. “And his name’s Zip, not Swimmy,” I remind Alfie. “You’ll
just confuse him if you start calling him by the wrong name.”
Zip is actually Ms. Sanchez’s goldfish, and Ms. Sanchez is my third grade teacher at Oak Glen Primary School, in Oak Glen, California. Oak Glen is about an hour away from San Diego if the traffic is bad, which my dad says it always is.
Ms. Sanchez’s boyfriend won Zip for her at a church festival two weeks ago when he tossed a ping-pong ball into a bowl of water the size of a softball. Ms. Sanchez says this is a lot harder to do than it looks.
And then Ms. Sanchez brought her new fish to our classroom so it wouldn’t be alone all day. She says Zip will be our class mascot, and that having an official pet will also “help remind us of other living things.”
I think there are plenty of “other living things” in our class already, like fifteen girls and ten boys, only
, and I am reminded of them every single day.
When it was time for our school’s spring break, I volunteered to take care of Zip at my house for
the whole week. Ms. Sanchez was going to fly to Texas to see her family, but
family wasn’t going anywhere, because our dad had geology classes to teach at a college in San Diego.
Our family’s vacations almost never come out even, except in the summer.
A goldfish is probably the only thing in the whole universe Alfie isn’t allergic to, so this was going to be my big chance to see what it was like having a pet in the house. And I was happy to volunteer to take care of Zip, because I kind of felt sorry for him, not getting to go to Texas with Ms. Sanchez just because he’s a fish.
He can’t help that.
Maybe I’ll get extra credit from Ms. Sanchez for taking such good care of her new pet, our class mascot. I could use some extra credit, that’s for sure.
My name is EllRay Jakes, and I am eight years old, and I am having the worst semester
But that means things can only get better, right?