Authors: Patricia McKissack
Originally published as
Miami Gets It Straight
by Golden Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 2000.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2000 by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack, Sr.
Illustrations copyright © 2000 by Random House, Inc.
Cover illustration copyright © 2008 by Frank Morrison.
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Random House and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
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The Library of Congress has cataloged the original edition of this work as follows:
Miami gets it straight / by Patricia & Fredrick McKissack ; illustrated by Michael Chesworth.
p. cm. (A Stepping Stone book)
Summary: The school year is almost over, but nine-year-old Miami still has to deal with his nemesis, Destinee Tate, and also faces a challenge when he shops for a gift for his teacher.
[1. Schools—Fiction. 2. Gifts—Fiction. 3. African Americans—Fiction.]
I. McKissack, Fredrick. II. Chesworth, Michael, ill. III. Title. IV. Series.
PZ7.M478693Mf 2004 [Fic]—dc22 99036116
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
For MaJon Carwell, Sarah Sade Davis, and John Fitzpatrick McKissack
—P.M. & F.M.
We’re hot, hot to summer! Five more days ’til school’s out! No more math homework. No more book reports. No more geography work sheets.
And no more big-mouthed girls. The ones who always got something to say. Like Destinee Tate. My main enemy.
This time next week, String and I will be on our way to sports camp at Camp Atwater. That’s in Wisconsin. But for now, we’ve got to get through this week. First things first, as Daddy always says.
String is my partner. We’ve been knowing
each other since we hung out in strollers. We started school together. And we’re both in Ms. Rollins’s 3T class. For five more days, that is.
String’s tall and skinny. Wears glasses and a major league baseball cap all the time. Backwards.
Next to him, I’m average. Not tall. Not short. Just a regular nine-year-old young brother on the move. We share most everything—books, games, homework. We even had a birthday party together.
I racked up $25 in gift money on my last birthday. Check this out. Mama says I get to spend it on anything I want! I’m getting cool stuff for camp.
String plucks a hot waffle out of the toaster and drowns it in syrup. “May I have the rest of your banana?” he asks.
He cuts it up over his waffle. All the time I’m wondering where he’ll put it.
String loves to eat. He talks about food. He sings about food. Food makes him dance.
In fact, he eats breakfast at his own house. Then he has a second breakfast at my house.
He should be huge. But instead, he’s real skinny. So skinny, he can hide behind a shoestring. That’s why everybody calls him String. Not by his real name, Christopher Tyler.
Nobody calls me by my real name either. Mama and Daddy named me Michael Andrew Jackson after my two grandfathers. When I was two years old, some people started calling me Mike Andy for short.
String thought they were saying Mi-a-mi. Miami Jackson. That’s me. I like my name. I like my friend.
String pours himself a glass of milk. My sister Leesie lowers the Missouri drivers training manual from in front of her face. “Don’t they feed him at the zoo?” she asks.
Leesie talks to us with her nose turned up.
String’s an only child, but I’ve taught him how to handle a big sister. He comes back quick with, “Think you’ll pass your driver’s test … on the third try?”
Slam! “Broke your face,” I say. I’m laughing so hard I almost fall out of the chair.
Leesie glares at us. “I made a mistake
last time, okay? I didn’t think they’d fail me for running just one little red light.”
String and I are howling. Leesie tries for a rebound by saying, “When I do get my license, don’t either one of you come asking me to drive you anywhere.”
I’m ready with the block. “Why would we want to ride with
” We’re laughing even harder.
“Give your sister a break,” Mama says as she comes into the kitchen. She’s talking and walking in a hurry. “One more week of school! One more! No more early classes. I’m just not a morning person.”
Mama teaches instrumental music at the junior college. Her specialty is the oboe. Most of the time she schedules her classes in the afternoon. Things go much smoother when she does.
“Hang tight, Mama,” I say. “We’re hot, hot, hot to summer.”
Mama butters her toast. “What’s that mean?”
I explain. “It’s like when we play the game
during rainy-recess. I’m blindfolded. Ah-right? I’m holding the little flag with a thumbtack through it. I’m trying to find the paper so I can pin the flag on top of the little flagpole.”
I close my eyes and act out what I’m describing. “When I move away from the top, everybody yells,
cold, colder, ice-cold!
Got it, now?”
String leaps to his feet. He licks syrup off his fingers. “I know. I know. And when you move closer to the top, everybody yells
hot, hot, hot.
“Well, duh!” says Leesie.
All I do is pretend to be driving and that shuts her up with a quickness. She rolls her eyes and goes back to studying.
“Anyway, Mama,” I go on, “we’ve got one week left before school’s out. So, we’re hot, hot to summer. Look out Camp Atwater.”
String and I slap hands.
“Has anyone seen my keys?” Mama asks. “My glasses? Who’s fed Shimmy and Shammy? Of all times for Mack to be out of town.”
Daddy and Uncle Jay own a general contracting company—J-2 Engineering. Daddy’s been away a lot this spring. They’re working on a dam along the Mississippi River. I miss doing the Daddy things.
See, there’s stuff I do with Mama. We watch sci-fi videos from the olden days.
Back when the monsters were dorky-looking.
Then there are things I do with Daddy. Like, he’s into coin collecting. He takes me hiking. He’s teaching me about both. I miss him.
But I’ve got baseball. That’s my thing. I like coin collecting and sci-fi. But baseball is it. And at sports camp I’m going to play until I drop. Five more days.
I’m hot, hot to summer.
String feeds our fish, Shimmy and Shammy. He’s got a soft spot for animals. He likes taking care of them. People, too.
Mama finds her keys in her pocket. Her glasses are on her head. She’s washing a vitamin pill down with grapefruit juice. She
turns to Leesie and says, “I’ll pick you up at three for the driver’s test. Don’t be nervous. Try to stay calm.…”
Suddenly Leesie slams the book shut. “Mama! I wasn’t even thinking nervous until you said the word!”
We laugh. Water fills Leesie’s eyes. “You just wait,” she screams at String and me. She grabs her backpack and rushes out the door in a huff. Mama steps to the side and lets all the drama slide past.
I’ve finally got Leesie figured. She’s a homonym. Those are words that are spelled and said the same way. But they’ve got different meanings. Like a
at a baseball game and a
at the bowling alley. That’s my sister. One minute she’s Leesie-Laughing. In a heartbeat, she’s Leesie-Crying. Spelled the same way, said
the same way, Leesie is never the same. She’s a walking, talking homonym.
Mama’s leaving. She calls over her shoulder, “Give Leesie a break.” She chuckles. “No pun intended.” Mama likes to play with words, too.
She stops in her tracks. Sighs, then turns back to get her briefcase. It’s still sitting on the counter. “What was that you said about being hot …?”
“Hot, hot to summer,” I answer.
“Yes. Thank goodness we’re hot, hot to summer.” She throws us a kiss. Then she’s gone.
Mrs. McCurtle wheels the big yellow school bus around the corner. String gulps the last swallow of milk. He tosses the banana peeling in the trash.
“Hurry up,” I say. “We’re hot, hot to late.”
There goes Ms. Rollins, standing beside the door to Room 16. She’s been greeting our third grade, Class T, the same way, every day, all year. And there go all the girls hanging around her. Sucking up. Especially the chief suck-up, Destinee Tate.
She’s like the leader of the girls. A real bride of Dracula. I guess I’m sort of like the leader of the boys. The girls think the boys are all maggot brains. We’re too cool for them, that’s all!