Genre: Middle Grade
I had the pleasure of reading The Startup Squad last year, and boy! What a pleasant surprise! It was a super fun and great story, especially for young girls. GIRL POWER!!
And now, the squad has returned with a second installment called Face The music, which I’m very excited for! Here’s a sneak peek at what’s to come:
Where were the jumbo marshmallows?
Harriet knelt on her kitchen floor, peering into the depths of the snack cupboard. Her long, dark pigtails grazed the floor as she squinted into the back of the shelves. No marshmallows.
“If I were a jumbo marshmallow, where would I be?” she said to herself as she closed the cabinet and got to her feet. She dusted off the knees of her emerald-green leggings. These always reminded her of The Wizard of Oz, which is why she’d paired the leggings with her red gingham farm-girl shirt and a denim miniskirt.
When picking out clothes, most people try to match colors or patterns. Harriet preferred to match themes. On some days, like today, the theme was subtle; on other days, it was so obvious, her outfits resembled costumes. Harriet liked it this way. Clothes should add drama and excitement. Otherwise, what was the point?
“Marshmallows!” she called. “Come out, come out wherever you are!”
Harriet hated silence; whenever she encountered quiet, she broke it. Luckily, her home was rarely quiet—and rarely empty. With a mom whose hair salon was in the basement, an artist dad whose studio was in the garage, and three older brothers—members of a rock band—someone was always around. Today, though, her parents were grocery shopping, her brothers were at a horror movie, and Harriet had stayed home since neither activity held any interest for her. Marshmallows, on the other hand, were of great interest.
Harriet opened the cabinet that held the pots and pans—no luck—and then the one with all the plates and bowls. She did find something wonderful there, but it wasn’t the bag of marshmallows. Curled into a salad bowl was her brothers’ pet skink, Zappa, sleeping soundly. The pink stretchy headband Harriet had placed over the reptile’s head had slipped and was covering her eyes like a sleeping mask.
“Zappa bo bappa,” Harriet cooed. She lifted the reptile out of the bowl and cradled her in her arms. Zappa opened her eyes and clambered onto Harriet’s shoulder. She clamped her tiny claws onto Harriet’s shirt and promptly resumed sleeping.
Harriet was just adjusting the headband on Zappa’s head when she heard a knock at the door. She was thrilled. If there was one thing Harriet liked more than visitors, it was surprise visitors.
“Coming!” she bellowed, and skipped to the door, clutching Zappa so the skink didn’t fall. She looked through the peephole and found her friends Amelia, Didi, and Resa standing on the front steps.
“Hiiiiii!” she cried, flinging open the door.
Resa and Amelia were facing each other, in the middle of a heated debate.
“You’re joking, right?” Resa was saying. “The carbon fiber racket is so much better than the aluminum! End of discussion.”
Amelia shook her head in wonder. “I don’t know why I thought taking tennis lessons with you might be stressful.”
“Come in!” Harriet squealed. “I’m so glad to seeeeeeeee you!”
She clapped her hands, which made Zappa pick up her head and look around before deciding it was nothing worth waking up for. Didi, who’d been standing on the top step, startled at the sight of Zappa’s moving, and she would have bolted if Harriet hadn’t grabbed her hand just then.
“Don’t worry, Didi,” said Harriet as she pulled her inside. “I’ll keep Zappa out of your hair.” She raised her eyebrows way up and nodded quickly. “Get it? Out of your … hair? Because of how Zappa got tangled in your hair last time?”
“Uh, yeah, I remember,” said Didi nervously. Her long, wavy hair, the color of chestnuts, hung loose around her shoulders and down her back. She gathered it together and shoved it inside her sweatshirt, then pulled the hood up and cinched it closed.
Harriet knew Didi didn’t like skinks. Not just skinks, actually, but all reptiles. Not just reptiles, actually, but most animals. Harriet could not fathom this. It was like not liking ice cream or birthdays. Harriet adored animals. Especially the scaly little sucker attached to her shoulder.
“I’m so glad you all are here!” Harriet exclaimed as she led the girls into the small, bright kitchen. “I have been bored out of my gourd! And I can’t find the jumbo marshmallows anywhere!” She opened the fridge and peered inside.
“You keep your marshmallows in the fridge?” asked Amelia. She tucked her pale blond hair behind her ears in a gesture that had become such a force of habit she didn’t even realize she was doing it.
“No,” said Harriet, “but things end up in weird places in this house. Once, I found my hairbrush in here, in the fruit drawer.” She closed the fridge and began to search the broom closet.
Resa followed behind her. “We come with exciting news! Harriet, you are not going to believe what we just read in the newspaper.”
“Was it a headline that said, ‘Marshmallow thief arrested’?” asked Harriet, closing the closet door.
“Uh, no,” replied Resa. “It’s about your favorite—Harriet, watch out!”
Harriet had clambered onto the kitchen counter and was pulling herself up to standing so she could peek over the top of the cabinets.
Instinctively, Resa put her hands up behind Harriet, spotting her. “You’re gonna fall!”
Harriet raised herself up on tiptoe and peeked over the top of the cabinet. “Aha!” Something was there, though it was hard to tell what from a quick glimpse. Steadying herself with one hand, she reached out with the other and closed her fingers around … something.
“Bingo!” she exclaimed as she pulled it down. It wasn’t the bag of marshmallows, but it was something she’d been looking for.
“Oh, curling iron, how I’ve missed you!” Harriet said.
She turned to show the girls the treasure she’d uncovered, but the sudden movement threw her off balance. She took a step back and would have fallen off the counter if Resa’s hands hadn’t been there to shove her back into place. In the hubbub, the curling iron flew out of her hands, hitting Amelia in the arm. Amelia’s shriek startled Zappa, and the skink made a run for it, darting down Harriet’s body, then down Resa’s body, and then onto the kitchen floor.
“Nooooo!” Didi screamed. “Not again!”
She scrambled onto the kitchen table, knocking off books and papers and cereal boxes. She crossed her arms in an X in front of her face, as if she were warding off vampires.
But Zappa wasn’t interested in Didi. Instead, she darted over to the thirsty-looking ficus in the corner and dragged something out from behind it with her mouth.
Resa walked over to investigate.
“Looks like Zappa solved the mystery of the missing marshmallows.” Resa pulled the bag of jumbo confections from Zappa’s mouth. The skink paused for a moment, considering her next move, then padded out of the kitchen.
“Hallelujah!” Harriet exclaimed. She jumped down from the counter with a thud.
For more info on The Startup SquadThe Startup SquadWebsiteMacmillan Children’s PublishingWebsite