Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker


By Shelley Johannes

Illustrated by Shelley Johannes

Cover design or artwork by Shelley Johannes

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Beatrice does her best thinking upside down.

Hanging from trees by her knees, doing handstands . . . for Beatrice Zinker, upside down works every time. She was definitely upside down when she and her best friend, Lenny, agreed to wear matching ninja suits on the first day of third grade. But when Beatrice shows up at school dressed in black, Lenny arrives with a cool new outfit and a cool new friend. Even worse, she seems to have forgotten all about the top-secret operation they planned!

Can Beatrice use her topsy-turvy way of thinking to save the mission, mend their friendship, and flip things sunny-side up?


For Stephen Barr—

in glittering gold

Copyright © 2017 by Shelley Johannes

Designed by Phil Caminiti and Shelley Johannes

Illustrations created with felt-tip pen, brush marker, and colored pencil on tracing paper

All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address New York, New York 10023.

ISBN 978-1-4847-7412-0


Beatrice Zinker always did her best thinking upside down. It worked like magic, and she never questioned it.

It worked like poof.

It worked like presto.

It worked like shazam—

on every problem,

every pickle, and

each and every jam.

But not everything in her life was a piece of cake.

The Zinkers were a right-side-up family.

Being the upside down daughter wasn’t easy.

Her siblings didn’t make things any easier. Beatrice was the middle child. Her older sister, Kate, was a cookie-cutter version of their mother, Nancy. Her baby brother, Henry, was a cookie-cutter version of their father, Pete. Even the cat seemed cut out to be a Zinker.

Beatrice, however, had been different from the very beginning.

The Zinkers liked boxes and boundaries.

But not Beatrice.

She climbed out of her first box as soon as she was able.

Kate’s first word was MOM.

When Beatrice finally spoke, her first word was WOW.

“Wow, indeed,” said her father.

“Uh-oh,” said Kate.

“Oh no,” said her mother, “what now?”

As Beatrice grew, Kate said a lot of UH-OH. Nancy Zinker said a lot of OH NO and a lot of WHAT NOW?

When Beatrice was five years old, she headed off to William Charles Elementary. It was an upstanding institution with a stand-up reputation.

“Keep your chin up, buttercup,” encouraged her father.

“Take it easy on Mrs. Beasley,” her mother teased.

Beatrice tried her best.

She filled up on facts and figures five days a week. She sat at circle time. She relied on the rules and relaxed into the routine.

But kindergarten couldn’t counteract the pull of gravity. Despite a daily dose of ABCs and 123s, her mind still gravitated toward MAYBES, WHAT-IFS, and COULD-BES.

“Maybe she’ll outgrow it,” said the parents at pickup time.

“Maybe…” said Nancy Zinker.

MAYBE was actually one of Beatrice’s favorite words.

Occasionally one of her MAYBEs was a hit.

And others saw things her way.

It didn’t happen often.

Nothing happened fast.

But in first grade—

on Halloween night, to be exact—

Beatrice found a friend named Lenny.

In matching costumes, they found plenty of candy and lots of common ground.

After that they spent recess in the trees, sailing high seas, and fending off zombies.

Sometimes they were ninjas. Some days they were knights. Each day their high kicks and hijinks reached brave new heights.

In the eyes of Lenny Santos, Beatrice was not a problem to be solved—she was the perfect partner in crime.

By second grade, even her teacher came around.

At the graduation ceremony that spring, the whole class filed into the gym. Mrs. Walker crossed the stage and faced the crowd. Holding a piece of paper and a microphone, she asked Beatrice to join her.

“This year, Beatrice reminded me that there are infinite upsides to being yourself. Infinite upsides, and infinite upside down sides, too.” Beatrice squinted under the lights as Mrs. Walker made it official. “This special award goes to Beatrice Zinker—our very own, very best Upside Down Thinker.”

“Wow,” said Beatrice.

“Wow, indeed,” said her father from the second row.

Her mother stood up to snap a picture and spotted a problem.

The award was upside down.

“Flip it around,” she told Beatrice.

Beatrice turned the paper right side up and struck a picture-perfect pose.

“TA-DA!” she said.

Once she had it in writing, there was no turning back.

Every idea starts as a tiny seed—even the biggest idea of the very best upside down thinker. Three months later, Beatrice launched the most important plan of her upside down life, but the seed of the idea was planted that very afternoon in June, on graduation day.

The award was still crisp in her hands.

The ink was still damp.

Her cheeks still hurt from smiling.

Beatrice had never felt better.

After the ceremony, everyone poured onto the playground for a picnic. Lenny found Beatrice hanging out in her favorite spot. “You’ve got that look on your face again,” Lenny said. “The one that always gets you into trouble.”

“I know,” said Beatrice, “but today it got me this.”

Lenny held up two dripping waffle cones. “I brought ice cream,” she said. “To celebrate.” She lifted up one of the cones like a microphone. “Beatrice Zinker, can you tell the audience what it feels like to be an award winner?”

Beatrice accepted the mic. “It feels really good,” she said. “Like I’m finally free to be me.”

“Look out, world!” Lenny shouted into her ice cream. “Beatrice is on the loose!”

“Shhh!” said Beatrice. “People might get suspicious.” She lowered her voice and looked around. “The best plan I’ve ever had just popped into my head, but in order for it to work, it has to stay a secret.”

“Hurry up and tell me!” said Lenny. “I love secrets.”

Lenny covered her microphone, and Beatrice laid out her latest plan.

“Whoa,” said Lenny. Her eyes twinkled behind her glasses. “Next year just got interesting.” She leaned against the tree and took a bite of her ice cream. “Do we get to have a secret base?”

“Yep—and we’ll need to do a lot of reconnaissance.”

“What’s reconnaissance?”

“Spying,” Beatrice said. “People aren’t always who they appear to be…especially when they know someone’s watching.”

Lenny nodded her head and leaned in. “I’ve always wanted a good reason to be a spy.”


  • "I fell in love with the unsinkable Beatrice Zinker-an unflappable, creative, and funny problem-solver with a big heart."—Ann M. Martin, New York Times bestselling author and Caldecott Honor winner
  • "Fresh and fun!"—Sara Pennypacker, New York Times bestselling author of the Clementine series
  • "A kind child in a book for middle-grade readers? There's no downside to that."—Kirkus Reviews

On Sale
Apr 3, 2018
Page Count
160 pages

Shelley Johannes

About the Illustrator

Shelley Johannes is the author-illustrator of the Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker series. She previously spent ten years in architecture, where she fell in love with felt-tip pens, tracing paper, and the greatness of black turtlenecks. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two sons. Find her online at and @shelleyjohannes on Twitter and Instagram.

Learn more about this illustrator