Tuesday, August 5, 2014


12-year-old Pepper Connelly leaves her best friend, Chrissie, behind when her family moves from New York City to Santa Cruz, CA. Pepper discovers a boy, Corey, hiding in her backyard shed. Unknown to Pepper, Corey is a ghost trying to contact his grandfather, Boppie, before he crosses over. He tells Pepper he must locate Boppie before Social Services finds him. Pepper agrees to help. 

While Pepper’s communication with Chrissie dwindles, her friendship with Corey grows. She tells Corey about her passion for writing songs, and throughout the story, she composes a song about Corey. Corey teaches Pepper to play the harmonica. Soon, she’s torn between finding Boppie and knowing when she does, Corey will certainly go back on the road with his traveling-musician grandfather. 

Other characters help her on her quest: new classmate Ally Cressman, who dresses in an odd-ball, non-mall style; Sawtooth Sam, the mysterious saw-playing street musician; and Madame Mchumba, who performs her psychic readings at the Boardwalk amusement park. Earthquakes, haunted house rides, poltergeists, and crystal ball readings propel Pepper toward the end of her search as she learns about the give and take, the heartache and joy, of true friendship.

The cat yowled and sprang from Sage’s arms. She chased after it, calling, “Eskimo Pie!” But it was gone, and she started to cry.
My mother kept screaming. Poor Mom. Spiders were her total and absolute phobia, and it looked like our house was the hangout of choice for every spider in the neighborhood. I grabbed her hand and pulled her down the porch stairs into the front yard next to Sage.
Mom put her arm around Sage, who was still crying and didn’t seem bothered by the spiders. I ran to a pile of junk in the middle of the yard, found a broom, and charged back onto the porch. Ten or twenty or more thick-legged black spiders, their bodies practically as big as prunes, spilled across the planks of the porch, some disappearing over the edge. I started batting them with the broom when Dad rushed out of the house.
“What’s going on?” In a flash, he took it all in: Sage crying. Mom yelling, “Kill them! Kill them!” Me swatting the monster spiders.
He grabbed the broom from me and started swinging it left and right and behind him, hitting what spiders he could before they escaped. “Pepper, under the kitchen sink. The bug spray. Quick.”
I ran into the house, found the spray, and hurried back outside. I took aim at a spider and hit the nozzle. The insecticide smell hit me. My stomach turned queasy from that and from the sight of the spider stopped dead in its tracks.
“Give it to me,” Dad said, “and go down with your mother and Sage.”
I gladly handed over the can and, avoiding spiders, tiptoed quickly across the porch and down the steps.
Dad kept spraying, sweeping a continuous mist over the entire porch, shooting some underneath for good measure, until the can sputtered and was empty.
He swept off the porch, and then joined us on the lawn. Putting his arm around Mom and gently placing his hand on Sage’s head, he asked, “Are you all okay?”
Sage pouted and sniffled. I knew she couldn’t care less about the spiders. It was losing the cat that upset her.
Mom nodded, but her lips sort of shook. Her face was pale. “H-how do you suppose they got in the chair?”
“I don’t know,” Dad said. “We shouldn’t have left it out here, though. I’m going to call an exterminator and have him spray around the house. We can’t live here with a spider infestation like that.”
Mom rubbed her arms. “Let’s make that call today.”
“I’ll do it right now, honey.”
As the three of them walked back inside, Sage told Dad about the cat. “She was black and
white and I named her Eskimo Pie. She got scared and ran away, but...”Before following them, I stood back and looked up at the house. Maybe it was no joke
about this being a house of horror. The front was just as run down as the back: the same peeling paint, the same crooked stairs. Tiny second-story windows, one of the panes cracked, looked out onto the street. Just like the window of my room, only mine faced the backyard. Wooden curly cues framed all the windows and decorated the porch railing, and I supposed that was one of the things Mom liked about the house. But some were broken and gray from the weather and not being painted for who knew how many years. A mass of bushes, their branches knotted into dark twisted shapes, the leaves half dead, brown and faded green, hid half of the porch. A perfect home for those spiders.

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