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Start counting your votes . . . and your friends.
When Brianna Justice's hero, the famous celebrity chef Miss Delicious, speaks at her school and traces her own success back to being president of her fifth grade class, Brianna determines she must do the same. She just knows that becoming president of her class is the first step toward her own cupcake-baking empire!
But when new student Jasmine Moon announces she is also running for president, Brianna learns that she may have more competition than she expected. Will Brianna be able to stick to her plan of working with her friends to win the election fairly? Or will she jump at the opportunity to steal votes from Jasmine by revealing an embarrassing secret?
This hilarious, heartfelt novel will appeal to any reader with big dreams and the determination to achieve them.
Table of Contents
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Declaration of Independence!
My name is Brianna Justice, and I want to be president of the whole fifth grade!
That is my "declaration."
As in, "I do declare that I will be president of the whole entire fifth grade at Orchard Park Elementary."
My aunt Tina says that if we want good things to happen we have to make them happen. Take action! State your plan out loud. DECLARE!
And I want good things to happen. I have BIG plans. I'm going to be a millionaire with my own cooking show on TV. Cupcakes are my specialty.
Aunt Tina also says that along with declaring your goal, you have to have a plan. Think about what you want, decide how you plan to get it, then write it down and keep notes along the way. That's how you make a plan. All really important, successful people do, she says. (Grandpa says if Aunt Tina had a husband instead of "just a career" maybe she wouldn't have time for so many plans. Hmph!) Anyway, ever since a certain hometown celebrity spoke to our class last January, I've known what I need to do. Here's my plan:
I live in Orchard Park, Michigan. We're not far from Detroit, Michigan. But Orchard Park is a suburb. That means unless you live here, you probably never heard of it. At least, not until my hero, Miss Delicious, became world-famous as a chef, author, TV-show host, and GAZILLIONAIRE. Miss Delicious grew up right here in Orchard Park.
And she even went to the same elementary school as me!
When she spoke to our fourth-grade class, she told us that she didn't think any of her success would have been possible had it not been for the skills she learned at our school.
But this is the most important thing she said:
"I honestly believe that if I hadn't been voted president of my fifth-grade class, if I hadn't learned how to manage my responsibilities back then and be a true leader, I don't know if any of this would have been possible."
So the best way for me to follow in her footsteps would be to become president of my fifth-grade class, too.
Ever since that day, every morning when I arrive at school, I pass through the front hallway where all the plaques hang or sit on shelves showing the names of all the fifth graders who have been president. And I say a tiny little prayer and run my fingers over Miss Delicious's name for good luck.
That same day I told my friends, basically our whole class, that I was going to be just like Miss Delicious. I was going to be a millionaire cupcake baker and sell tons of books and be wildly famous on television.
And the first step would be to become president of the fifth grade.
So you see, it is so totally obvious: I have to win the election.
All summer I planned. I've written speeches. I've researched school-approved places for our class trip and other interests vital to our fifth-grade class.
Little did I know how much would change once school started up after summer break. My plan seemed to be going so well, until…
"The Redcoats Are Coming…"
A tiny word, but it can be an ugly thing.
Like the way parents use it:
"No chocolate cake until you finish your broccoli." Or…"No allowance until all your chores are finished!" Or "You did what? Just wait until I tell your father, missy!"
See what I mean? Until. It's not hard to spell, but when it crashes into a kid's life, it can really wreck her day.
What had happened was: I was all set to take my rightful place in history as fifth-grade president at Orchard Park Elementary. Mrs. Nutmeg had asked the class to nominate the student or students worthy of being president. My friends nominated me and almost the whole class seconded it. Except the disgusting Back Row Boys. We had all known that Todd Hampton's fellow toadies would nominate him. Hmph! Like he could really win. He was still acting funky because while I was planning and plotting and waiting for my chance at the school elections, I took an afternoon off this summer to kick his butt in basketball. That's right. My all-girl team beat his all-boy team. It felt so good, I made up my own song:
Ah, ha, okay! The girls are better any day!
Yeah, I love that song. Todd, not so much.
So of course he was going to run against me, and of course he had no shot because, let's face it, everybody, Everybody, EVERYBODY knows I'm much better prepared than Todd and would make a much better president.
Except there was a new twist—the election wasn't just for each fifth-grade class to have its own president. Nuh-uh. This year, for the first time in Orchard Park Elementary history, there would be only ONE fifth-grade president.
President of the WHOLE fifth grade.
But the twists didn't stop there! Now, this year, not only would the winner of the election be president of the whole fifth grade, he or she would be president of the whole school. If that wasn't enough to throw me for a loop, Dr. Beelie had won some kind of grant, which is a fancy teacher way of saying money—cash, moola, cheddar, ching-ching. So the new school president and president of the whole fifth grade would also have a HUGE responsibility: deciding how to use the $5,000 budget. Five thousand smackeroonies! The idea of being in charge of that kind of money made me light-headed with happiness.
My heart leapt at the news. Back when Miss Delicious spoke at our school, I thought I could be president of just my class, same as it had always been. But now that had changed. Was I ready for that big of a challenge? That kind of responsibility?
I couldn't help thinking about other challenges, other goals I'd had. Like the time I decided I needed to be the best free-throw shooter on our team. I'd written down my notes on how to stand, how to breathe, stuff coach had talked to me about, and stuff Dad helped me find online. That had been an important goal for me. And I did it!
So was I ready to be school president and president of the whole fifth grade?
YES! Yes, I was.
So bring it on. It would be even better than I had imagined. And I could just see me making my acceptance speech, that is, until…
Mrs. Gayle entered our classroom with a girl whose long, crinkly hair almost covered her face and said the words that will haunt me forever and ever. Mrs. Gayle said:
"Everyone, we have a new student. Please say hello to Jasmine Moon…"
So, with only six weeks until the election a new girl just appears in fifth grade. It was like the time I fell off the jungle gym and landed flat on my back. It totally knocked the wind out of me! Because the new girl didn't just show up in our class. When she heard about the elections for president, she nominated herself!
Later that same afternoon, on the playground, it went down just like this:
We were at the corner court. No boys or geeks allowed. Toady Todd Hampton had kicked his basketball into our court. Did I forget to mention, we don't allow amphibians, either? We just kicked it back to him and ignored him as he made faces and hopped around like a true toad.
I was having one of those moments when everything feels so bright, so amazing, it's like you're outside your own body looking at the world. I saw myself, short, with curly brown hair that reached my shoulders; Lauren, tall, with her long blond hair; Sara, with her slightly slanted eyes and pale beige skin that came from having a Korean mother and black father; and Rebecca, who everyone called Becks for short, who was a little bit soft, a little bit round, but one of the sweetest people ever.
My friends. We all had so many plans for our futures. We needed each other. We were like the ingredients to an awesome cake recipe—and I was the egg. Hey, if you're baking, you need the egg. The egg is what holds all that flour, sugar, salt, and butter together.
"Earth to Bree," Sara said, tossing her long and straight dark hair. "Are you plotting world domination again?" She wrinkled her nose when she said "world domination." Sara was the big nonfighter in the group. To her, world domination probably seemed crazy and wrong. (But not to me!)
We all laughed.
Okay, I'll admit it. At times I liked thinking about having fame and fortune. Throwing my head back like a mad scientist, I said in my best hungry-for-power voice, "One day I will rule the world… waa-haa-ha!" (The wild laugh at the end is key!!!)
We all laughed again. We were still laughing when Lauren said, "Look who thinks she can just sashay over here uninvited."
I gave Lauren a jab in the ribs. Maybe we were being a little hasty.
The new girl was tall with long hair. But, as Todd liked to point out, just about everyone was taller than me.
She stopped right in front of me. She tossed her extra-crinkly hair. She stuck out her hip and put one hand on it. Then she blazed me with her extra-white smile. Hoping I'd brushed and flossed extra well that morning, I tried to match her with my own.
"So you're Brianna." She said it like she was singing.
I reached out to shake her hand. Yeah, I know, hand-shaking is sort of weird among kids, but my b-ball coach from the summer acted like hand-shaking was maybe one of the most important things in life. And I have to admit, you can figure out a lot about people by how they shake your hand.
So, with my hand hanging out there, I said, "Hey, so you're Jasmine Moon."
Um, just so you know, she didn't shake my hand right away. Now that tells you something right there.
"I've heard so much about you. I really hope we get to be great friends!"
Yep, that's what she said, but my hand, oh, yeah, still hanging.
"Well, Orchard Park is a really cool school. I think you'll like it a lot." She finally took my hand. Her fingers were cold and her handshake was real limp.
I saw Becks exhale. She'd probably been holding her breath. She did that when she got nervous. Lauren, however, was in her warrior pose—feet firmly planted shoulder distance apart, shoulders back, chest out. Remember when I said Sara didn't much like fighting? Well, Lauren was a karate expert!
I almost laughed. Lauren looked like she'd karate-chop Jasmine Moon's guts out if the girl tried to shake her hand with those cold, limp fingers. Becks's eyes grew large and round, and Sara's eyes seemed to bounce from Lauren to Jasmine Moon.
"Um, you know, Brianna, I hope your feelings didn't get hurt in class today. The whole election thing. No offense. I've just always wanted to be class president, but I'm sure I don't stand a chance against you."
"You've got that right," said Lauren.
Oh, snap, crackle, and pop!
Sara and Becks covered their mouths with their hands. Their eyes were all big and round as if they couldn't imagine Lauren had really said such a thing.
And for just a second, the golden rays of sunshine oozing out of Jasmine Moon's toothy grin turned icy cold. She turned toward Lauren as if she was ready to get something started.
So I said, "What Lauren meant was it might be tough, you know, running for president of the whole fifth grade, since you don't really know anybody here. But good luck anyway."
See, those leadership skills were kicking in already, and I hadn't even won yet—not technically.
She turned back to me and fixed her face. Now the smile was as bright and glowy as ever.
"Well, like I was saying, no offense. May the best girl… um, I mean candidate, win." Then she swung around, tossed her long, crinkly hair over her shoulder, and strolled away.
But not before giving me… a look.
"Did you see that?" I asked. Sara, Lauren, and Becks shook their heads.
Becks said, "See what?"
"That… look. She gave me a weird look."
Sara let out a long sigh like maybe she'd been holding her breath, too. "Well, she's got guts, I'll say that. Maybe… I don't know. Maybe she'll be okay. I mean, I don't want her for president, but maybe we'll get to like her."
See, that's why I like Sara, bless her heart. She always wants everyone to be friends and for everything to be sweet as pie. Of course, as a dedicated leader, I wanted the same thing.
But I couldn't help thinking about how Lauren had reacted. Lauren acted like Jasmine Moon was meant to be her boxing partner. Had Lauren sensed something? Was it the same thing I'd just seen in Jasmine Moon? That look she'd given me, like she thought I wouldn't be ANY competition—AT ALL!!!
With Jasmine Moon running for president, suddenly I wasn't so sure… about anything!
Victoria Woodhull for U.S. President!
Tuesday, the next day, I awoke before my alarm went off. My room was on the second floor overlooking the backyard. A big oak tree with fat green leaves reached toward my window as though it were yawning. I stretched my limbs like the tree. Today was going to be great. Awesome, even!
After I brushed my teeth and washed my face, I sat on my bed and held Pig Pig in my lap. Pig Pig was the huge, pink ceramic piggy bank Grandpa gave me for Christmas when I was five. Sure, I had money in the bank—the bank where Sara's mom worked. But I kept money in Pig Pig, too. Lots of quarters and dimes and pennies. I liked to hear my change rattle in Pig Pig's big ol' pink belly.
And every morning, I gave Pig Pig a little shake. You know, for good luck.
Something told me I was going to need a double shake today.
And I was right!
At lunchtime in the cafeteria, our lunch choices were between barfilicious meatloaf or totally repugnant mac 'n' cheese. Our fourth-grade teacher was a beast about vocabulary words. I loved learning words like repugnant. It sounds like what it means: truly disgusting.
I saw a kid from another fifth-grade class fake sticking his finger down his throat and pretending to gag. Another girl from my art class whispered, "My father works for the health department. I wish he could come here and shut this place down! We deserve better choices!"
I'd seen enough. Grabbing an apple and a carton of milk, I rushed toward our usual table.
Then three kids blocked my path. It was Annie Darling, the school's most well-known journalist, and her cameraman, a nerdy boy who didn't talk. Following them was a semi-creepy girl I'd known since kindergarten named Tabitha Handy.
Annie Darling said, "The whole school is talking about it. Care to comment?" She held her notebook at the ready.
I pretended not to know what she meant.
"You know, the new girl. Jasmine Moon? She really wants in on the election; and even though she's only been here a day, she's already getting lots of attention."
Then Tabitha Handy, who'd been basically trying to be just like me since kindergarten, freaked me out when she said:
"I'm going to work on Jasmine Moon's campaign."
Huh? She said it as if working on Jasmine Moon's campaign was like the coolest thing ever. Good grief! In kindergarten, Tabitha sat right next to me. If I sipped from my milk carton, so did she. If I drew with a red crayon, so did she. First grade was no different. By second grade she was going around telling people her name was really Brianna Justice, too.
I mean, come on, people. Now, after years of trying to be just like me, even Tabitha Handy was in a total daze over the New Girl???
Foolishness. I pushed past Tabitha, Annie Darling, and Nerdy Boy.
I tried not to shudder as I slid into my seat at the lunchroom table. A true leader doesn't let her fear show, right? And the truth was, the whole competition for president thing was making my insides shake.
Becks slid into the seat next to mine. Lauren and Sara sat across from us. Lauren was stretching her arms with her fingers locked together. She looked as if she were getting ready for a karate match. Becks took two long blasts from her asthma inhaler. Her round cheeks were pinkish and she looked excited.
She said, "Hey you guys, guess what?" And just like Becks, before any of us could say a word, she kept on talking. "I saw Jeremy Ross earlier. He said his father works for a publishing company and he'd heard about my summer trip to Brazil—Jeremy, I mean, not his dad. Anyway, Jeremy said that his dad's company pays good money for well-written stories by kids, so I should write about my trip. But he said to write like it's fiction. As if it happened to someone else, like him. Jeremy, not his dad. Jeremy says if I write it, he'll make sure his dad reads it."
She let out a big exhale and sat back, her face shiny with excitement.
"You're kidding, right?" Lauren said and rolled her eyes.
Sara just shook her head.
"What?" said Becks.
I draped my arm across her shoulder. "Becks, Jeremy's dad doesn't work for any publisher person. He's a fireman. Remember in third grade when he came in on career day?"
Lauren cut her off before Becks could finish her question. "Because Jeremy is in Mrs. Bigelow's class and that's the assignment she made when school first started."
"Jeremy probably blew it off and now he's desperate. He just wants you to do his homework," I said.
"You really think so?" she asked.
See, Becks was like that. She was the nicest, sweetest person in the world. But sometimes… well, I'd hate to think what might happen to her if she didn't have us watching her back.
Sara said, "Okay, now that that's settled, we really need to talk about this whole Jasmine Moon thing."
"She seemed nice on the playground," said Becks.
"Rebecca! Don't be a doof! She's totally trying to steal the election from Brianna," Lauren said.
Sara squinted and rubbed her forehead for a second, then said, "I'm worried. You should have been the easy favorite to be president of Mrs. Nutmeg's class. But now that it's between all the fifth grades and we have that new girl, and the word is that her dad is some kind of coach or something for the Pistons, well…"
None of us wanted to say anything after that.
Sara was right. Having a dad on the coaching staff for the Detroit Pistons was like being royalty. Girls would look up to her and guys would be in awe.
After a few seconds, Sara smiled.
"What?" I asked.
Sara raised her milk carton and said, "What are we worried about? We're the girls of the Woodhull Society!" Sara was right. We all smiled.
Sara's mom worked for a bank and helped us keep up with our own bank accounts so we could save our money. When we first started, she told us we needed a name for our group. For a while we didn't know what to call ourselves, then Mom and Aunt Tina took us to the museum and we saw an exhibit about great women. Well, one woman we learned about was Victoria Woodhull. She was once called "the queen of finance." And she was the first woman to run for president. Mom told us she would be the perfect role model for our money-saving club.
With our milk and juice cartons held high in the cafeteria, we cheered, "To the girls of the Woodhull Society!"
- "There is definite tween appeal in the on-again/off-again friendship dynamics...[readers] will cheer for Brianna's political and personal victories."—The Bulletin
- "[This] sweet confection for middle-graders....will be a hit with readers who like Wendy Mass and Lauren Myracle."—Booklist
- "The story will resonate with preteens navigating the ups, downs, and drama that come with the territory of many young girls' friendships."—School Library Journal
- On Sale
- Oct 2, 2012
- Page Count
- 288 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers