Illustrated by Ashley Evans
Formats and Prices
- Trade Paperback $6.99 $9.99 CAD
- ebook $4.99 $6.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 17, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
At the Nutcracker School of Ballet in Harlem, young dancers learn to chassé, plié, and jeté with their Sugar Plum Sisters—but things don't always go to plan! As the girls encounter challenges both on and off stage, they'll need the support of their classmates to carry them through with aplomb.
Jessica is worse than worried when she learns that the Nutcracker School of Ballet might lose its lease! Life just wouldn't be the same without the ballet classes she shares with her Sugar Plum sisters. Her problems mount when she rescues an adorable stray kitty on her way home from class. The animal shelters can't take the cat for weeks, so Jessica hopes the cat can live at the Nutcracker School in the meantime. But the school is already in trouble, and a cat could be just what the landlord needs to bring down the curtain on the ballerinas-permanently.
This book is dedicated to ALL the fans of the Sugar Plum Ballerinas who have a dream.
Text copyright © 2011 by Whoopi Goldberg Illustrations © 2011 by Maryn Roos
All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Jump at the Sun Books, 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 Disney • Jump at the Sun Books, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.
“Jessica, hurry! We’re going to be late for class!”
Jerzey Mae peeks in through my doorway, her eyebrows knitted together with worry.
I look at my clock. “It’s okay, Jerzey Mae. We have plenty of time,” I say, in my best calm-Jerzey-Mae-down voice. I use it a lot, because she is always worrying. Ever since our little brother, Mason, helped her learn how to dance better, she’s been a little more relaxed about things. But “a little more relaxed” for Jerzey Mae is about the same as “pretty freaked out” for most people.
Jerzey Mae bounces up and down on her toes for a moment, as if she has to go to the bathroom, then tears down the hall. I hear her trying to rush our sister, JoAnn. Then I hear JoAnn replying, “Jerz! Relax! We don’t have to leave for ten minutes!”
I grimace. Telling Jerzey Mae to relax is about the worst thing you can do. It usually makes her mad, which gets her even more wound up. But instead of howls, I hear the squeaking of floorboards and the creaking of springs as she walks back into her room and plops onto her bed to wait. Wow. She really has gotten better.
Time to feed my animals. I got my first pet, Herman the iguana, for my eighth birthday last year. I slip beet greens and part of a sweet potato into his cage. Walt the box turtle gets grated carrots and spinach. Shakespeare the rat scampers over and starts chomping on the lettuce I give him. I want to be a veterinarian or a poet when I grow up, but with all the food-preparation experience I’m getting, I could be a chef.
“Bar car far jar!” Edgar the mynah bird calls out as I put some banana slices into his food dish. I named him Edgar after Edgar Allan Poe, because Poe wrote a poem about a raven. I know a mynah bird isn’t exactly a raven, but Mom and Dad said a raven wouldn’t make a suitable pet. (Dad sometimes says Edgar isn’t that suitable, either. Once, Mason left Edgar’s cage open, and Dad woke up in the middle of the night to find Edgar sitting on his chest reciting rhyming words. One of the words was bed, which I thought was very clever; but Dad wasn’t impressed. I heard him scream from all the way in my bedroom.)
After everyone’s been fed and I’ve double-checked that all the cages are closed, I look to see if I still have time left to read a little of my bird book. It’s really interesting, and Edgar likes to look at the pictures with me. But now it really is time to get ready for class.
I change into my leotard and tights and put on my sneakers. Mom calls, “Girls! Time to go!” just as I toss my ballet slippers into my bag.
As I step into the hallway, Jerzey Mae bolts out of her room, nearly crashing into me. “Just a second,” JoAnn drawls as we pass her bedroom door. She’s slumped back in her chair playing a video skateboard game, with her baseball cap on backward, as usual. My parents aren’t crazy about video games. But when JoAnn broke her leg last November, she was so miserable about not being able to do sports that they gave in and bought her some games so she could at least pretend to skateboard and play baseball.
It’s weird how JoAnn, Jerzey Mae, and I are triplets—we don’t look alike or act alike at all. Jerzey Mae is always buzzing around, running on nervous energy, and her wardrobe looks like a frilly Pepto-Bismol explosion: nothing but pink, pink, pink. JoAnn is a total tomboy, always wearing jeans and T-shirts. She moves slowly, unless she’s on the soccer field or running the bases at a baseball game. And me? I’m in the middle. I’m not as skinny as Jerzey Mae or as muscle-y as JoAnn. Plus, I move at normal speed.
JoAnn peels herself off her chair and stands up in slow motion. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” she says, seeing Jerzey Mae’s panicked expression.
Mom meets us at the bottom of the stairs. Dad usually takes us to class on Saturdays, but he’s out of the country for a month. He teaches African studies at a university, and he and another professor have taken a bunch of students to Botswana, where my grandfather came from. The house seems empty without Dad sitting in his study reading. And today it’s especially quiet, since Mason is spending the weekend with one of his friends.
“All set, girls?” Mom asks. She usually dresses in suits—mom’s a lawyer—but since it’s the weekend, she’s wearing jeans and a bright red coat. She looks us over: Jerzey Mae in her pink jacket, me in my brown coat, and JoAnn in a flimsy sweatshirt. “JoAnn, you’re going to freeze. It’s cold out there!”
JoAnn starts to roll her eyes, but Mom is not fond of eye-rolling, so JoAnn stops herself midroll. “I’ll be fine.”
“JoAnn…” Mom says.
“I’m going, I’m going.” JoAnn sighs and heads upstairs.
“Careful of that leg!” Mom calls after her. JoAnn just got her cast off a few weeks ago, and the doctor told her to take it easy. “You’re going to put yourself back in that hospital!”
This time I bet JoAnn does roll her eyes.
I’m not crazy about New York in March. It’s okay before Christmas, when there are decorations in the store windows and sparkling lights reflected in the snow. But afterward, it’s pretty bleak until spring comes around. The trees are bare for the most part, and there’s no snow right now—just a coating of ice on the sidewalk, which makes it hard to walk.
Jerzey Mae scurries ahead of us. Mom grips JoAnn’s elbow tightly, in an attempt to keep her from slipping and breaking her other leg. I bring up the rear, composing a poem in my head as we go: Frozen trees, sheets of ice, blowing winds…What rhymes with ice? “Mice”? “Rice”?
Dead leaves flutters in a tree just ahead of us. “I wonder what kind of bird that is,” Mom says, stopping for a second despite Jerzey Mae’s pained “hurry up!” expression.
I quietly walk closer to the tree, trying not to scare the bird that Mom has observed. It’s a pretty shade of gray, and it has black spots on its wings. “I think it’s a mourning dove,” I say.
Mom turns to me. “How on earth did you know that?”
I shrug. “It was in the bird book I’m reading.”
Jerzey Mae grabs Mom’s hand—the one that’s not permanently attached to JoAnn’s arm—and drags her forward. We start walking again.
“I thought you were reading a snake book,” Mom says.
“That was last week,” JoAnn tells her. “You’re behind the times, Mom.”
We arrive and climb the steps to the Nutcracker School of Ballet. Mom gives us each a kiss. “Now, remember, Epatha’s sister will pick you up today. I’m going in to the office for a bit.”
“You work too hard, Mom,” JoAnn says. “You need to chill out.”
Mom raises an eyebrow. “My working hard pays for things like your skateboard video game, young lady.”
That shuts JoAnn up.
Mom leaves, and Jerzey Mae, JoAnn, and I walk into the waiting room. All our friends are there already. Brenda has her nose buried in a medical book, as usual. Epatha is twirling around in front of Al and Terrel, showing off her new leotard. The colors are so crazy I know she must have dyed it herself.
“You look like a quetzal,” I tell her.
“¿Qué?” Epatha responds, not sure if she should be insulted. “What? I look like a che?” Epatha’s dad is Italian and her mom is Puerto Rican, so she often talks in English, Italian, and Spanish all at the same time.
“It’s a bird with beautifully colored feathers,” I explain.
“Oh.” She smiles and tosses her hair. “That’s okay, then.” She twirls one more time. “An Epatha original. Pretty fabulous, sí?”
“Very dramatic,” says Al. “My mom would be proud.” Al’s mom is a clothing designer, so Al definitely knows dramatic.
Brenda puts down her book and looks at JoAnn’s leg. “Today that on dance to going you are?” Brenda talks backward sometimes—she thinks it will make her smarter—but we can all understand her just fine.
“The doctor said she shouldn’t jump, but she can do some of the other stuff,” Jerzey Mae says.
Our teacher, Ms. Debbé, appears in the doorway of the waiting room. Today she’s wearing a peacock blue jacket over some simple black pants and a black turtleneck. There’s a matching blue gem on the front of her black turban. She taps her walking stick on the floor. “The class, it begins,” she says. (Although, since she’s from France, it comes out more like, “Ze class, eet begins.”)
When we enter the studio itself, Ms. Debbé motions for us to sit on the floor. “So,” she says. “Today we will talk about our next dance show, which will be at the end of April.”
Ms. Debbé’s voice sounds higher than usual. I look closely at her. Her face and her shoulders seem tense. I glance at my friends, but they don’t seem to have noticed.
Praise for Plum Fantastic (book #1 in the series):
“…an endearing multiethnic cast of characters and a positive message of the power of friendship make this one a keeper.”
“….warm, funny and tender.”
- On Sale
- Jan 17, 2023
- Page Count
- 144 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers