Jasper the Dog is Betrayed, Again

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Author Beth Vrabel’s lovable dog Jasper wrote a guest blog post for us earlier this year. Now that he’s had a chance to read Beth’s newest novel, A Blind Guide to Normal, he’s back with another guest post! Check out his thoughts below!


 

Jasper the Dog is Betrayed, Again

I am betrayed once more.blind-guide-to-normal-9781510702288

Not only does my human’s latest book have guinea pigs on the cover—guinea pigs!—the story also features a…

No, I can’t bring myself to say it.

But I must.

Deep breath.

It features a cat.

Not just any cat, either, as despicable as that might be. No, it features a cat based on one she actually once knew. Her latest book, A Blind Guide to Normal, includes a cat named General MacCathur II. And it’s based on Goldie, a cat her grandparents had when she was a pup (or whatever humans call puppy versions o9781510703827-frontcoverf themselves).

Goldie even gets a shout out on the dedication page, which I know because I heard the Littlest Human ask why it wasn’t dedicated to him.

Great question, Littlest Human, but you got the dedication in my human’s book Pack of Dorks. Did I? No, of course not. I’ve simply dedicated my life to keeping her warm and cozy while she writes, defending her from Vacuum, adding my personal musk to our favorite chair and bringing her the toy she so loves to throw again and again.

Yet I’ve never gotten a dedication. The closest acknowledgment to my influence is the golden version of me on the cover of her book A Blind Guide to Stinkville. She told me that Tooter, the dog in that book, is based on me, but her description of him (a fat, farting dog who goes where he shouldn’t) sounds pretty far off from me.

Yet this Goldie gets a whole dedication.

Okay. If she likes cats, fine.

I, Jasper the Dog, will become a cat.

 

Day One

I consult with Winn-Dixie and Pippin the Guinea Pigs, who lived in a pet store among other animals, including cats, when they were guinea piglets.

“What do you know about cats?” I ask.

“They’re horrid,” they squeak.

“That’s what you say about humans.”

“Yes,” they squeak.

“And dogs.”

“Yes.” Pippin scurries into their hut and away from me. Winn-Dixie darts in and flips the hut. Pippin screeches and chases Winn-Dixie. They do this all day.

“But what do cats do?” I call above their screeches. “How do they cat?”

The pigs pause. Winn-Dixie says, “They sit high on top of things.”

Pippin adds, “Aloof! They’re aloof!”

Winn-Dixie pipes in. “They have beautiful singing voices!”

“They have no need for the humans. They can take ’em or leave ’em,” Pippin adds.

“Take,” I say.

“No, take ’em or leave ’em,” Winn-Dixie says. “Both.”

“I choose take. I’ll take humans. Humans are my favorite.”

The pigs sigh. “Cats are cats’ favorite,” Winn-Dixie says, and resumes their chase.

I’m sure the pigs are wrong. Humans are always favorite. Even so, I can do this, I tell myself. I can cat.

I assume my position atop my human’s favorite chair.

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“Get down, you silly pup,” she says. “You are not a cat.”

Not yet, Human.

Two hours later, I’ve become wedged between the cushion and the chair and cannot move. I am, however, extremely comfortable.

Twenty minutes later, my human yells, “What have you done to my chair? You’re ruining the cushion!” When she notices that I’m stuck, she pulls me free and gives me some pepperoni. Do cats get pepperoni?

This thought troubles me.

I will resume efforts tomorrow.

 

Day Two

I shall be aloof.

I’m going aloof all the way over here, away from the Littlest Human and his even littler friend, away from the Monopoly game and all of its interestingly smelling pieces and their deliciously smelly toes.

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Aloof.

Aloof.

Hold up. They’re leaving the game! They’re going to the OUTSIDE! I love that place! I love The Outside!

We’re going to Play!

This is awesome! This is fantastic!

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I chase leaves and shred them to bits! I bounce through snow and make it splash and splash! I chase the basketball!

This is… not what cats do.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

 

Day Three

I try this singing of which the guinea pigs have spoken.

The humans tell me to Be Quiet and Go Lay Down.

I sing louder.

The humans say Stop It and No.

Soon after, my human leaves for a long time. I am not worried. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.

I’ll just sit here on top of her chair and look out the window.

Still looking.

I’ll take a small nap. I’m sure she’ll be here when I wake up.

She’s still not here! I am not long for this world without her!

I run from room to room to make sure she isn’t just hiding. I even jump up onto her bed, which is a No, Jasper!, and pull back the blankets but no human! I roll around a little on her pillow, just to remember her scent.

I hear the door open but I’m too exhausted from my hunt to find her.

“What are you doing on the bed, Jasper the Dog?” she asks.

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I just roll over.

I’m getting better at catting.

 

Day Four

I smell pupcakes! Is today birthday?

Every other month or so, it’s my birthday. Poor Little Humans only have one birthday a year. I don’t think the big humans have any birthdays. But Jasper the Dog? Seven birthdays every year.

I bet today is birthday.

Pupcakes!

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Troubling thought: Do cats have birthdays?

I run to the kitchen. The Little Human asks, “Can I have one of the cupcakes?”

My human says no. “These are for the party we’re going to later.”

I wait for my pupcake and my pupcake hat and my birthday song. The little human puts dog food in my bowl. Dog food? The injustice!

The biggest human comes home and puts a box on the table. “I’ve got the hot wings!” he says.

Then all the humans shuffle on coats and grab bags—including the cupcakes—and leave without Jasper the Dog.

But then I smell something even better than pupcakes. Hot wings.

“Don’t you eat those!” Winn-Dixie the Guinea Pig squeaks. “Cats don’t eat hot wings.”

I sniff. Somehow I find myself up on a chair.

I sniff again. Somehow my nose has opened the box. I’ll just grab one little hot wing. Nom, nom, nom.

Nom, nom.

Nom.

The garage door is opening! My human runs inside!

I jump from the chair!

I hide behind the couch as my human opens the lid of the box.

“Jasper!” my human yells. “Why are six hot wings missing?”

He calls me Bad Dog. He never calls me Bad Dog.

I am worse than Bad Dog. I am also Bad Cat.

And my belly is on fire.

 

Day Five

The vet says dogs aren’t supposed to eat hot wings.

He gives me medicine.

The only perk is my humans are now properly interested in the gifts I leave for them in the yard.

My human claps for me to sit with her on her chair.

I jump up and think about jumping further to sit above her head like a proper cat.

Instead, I sit across her lap. She puts away her laptop and rubs my ears and pats my belly. “Silly, pup. You know you might be the best dog ever?” she says. “Love you so much.”

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I sigh and press my head against her shoulder. Best Dog Ever.

That’s me.


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A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

 

A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel

9781510703827-frontcoverBefore Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.

For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.


pack-of-dorks-9781629146232Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel

Lucy knows that kissing Tom Lemmings behind the ball shed will make her a legend. But she doesn’t count on that quick clap of lips propelling her from coolest to lamest fourth grader overnight. Suddenly Lucy finds herself trapped in Dorkdom, where a diamond ring turns your finger green, where the boy you kiss hates you three days later, where your best friend laughs as you cry, where parents seem to stop liking you, and where baby sisters are born different.

Now Lucy has a choice: she can be like her former best friend, Becky, who would do anything to claim her seat at the cafeteria’s cool table, or she can pull up a chair beside the dorks. But can she really be seen with the likes of dinosaur-obsessed Sheldon and nose-picking April? And how will she survive doing a research project on wolves with the super-quiet Sam Righter? Lucy’s about to find out what being a dork is really about—and it might just surprise her.

 

Camp Dork by Beth Vrabelcamp-dork-9781634501811

Lucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at Camp Paleo. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air-conditioning, and they’ll dig for fossils during the day. And Grandma’s coming too—as lunch lady for the camp next door.

But Sam backs out at the last minute to attend a gymnastics camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend. And why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush? She needs a distraction.

Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. But when the wrong campers pair up, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

 

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Beth Vrabel on Summer Camp and Giveaway!

Camp Dork author, Beth Vrabel, writes about her experience with summer camp. Check it out below!


 

I’m not sure what I did to anger my parents the summer I turned eleven, but I had two weeks of sleepaway camp to think about my life choices.

Yet no matter how hard I racked my mind during those hours of hiking, on the shore of an algae-filled swimming hole, or while trying to choke down breakfast “eggs” (a greenish-yellow powder counselors mixed with water, shook in jugs, and scrambled up on giant skillets), I couldn’t come up with what I had done to warrant fourteen days at Pioneer Camp.

I don’t have too many memories those sticky summer days in the mountains of Pennsylvania. In the twenty-five years that followed, I must’ve blocked most of them.

I do remember questioning the logic of hiking up a mountain. Why? We’re only going to have to climb back down. At the top, I felt like if I squinted hard enough I’d spy my house in the next county. Maybe Mom would see me, a speck in the distance and be overcome with regret. And then I remembered that she’d be inside, where it was air-conditioned, and surrounded by luxuries such as electricity and Oreos.

I recall marveling at the ingenuity of mosquitoes. Never again would I forget to bug spray my knee pits.

I learned that after just ten days of camp, my blond wavy hair became stick straight, brunette, and capable of staying in a ponytail position even without the elastic band. It wasn’t until I was home and unpacking my festering duffel bag that I discovered the seal across my shampoo bottle. “You didn’t wash your hair the whole time?” Mom had asked me.

“Pioneers don’t rinse and lather,” I told her.

“Pioneers didn’t _______ (fill in the blank)” was the standard response to any questions posed to counselors during summer camp.

Why do we have to swim in the lake when there is a pool at the other campground?

Pioneers don’t swim in chlorinated water.

Why can’t I call my mom to pick me up?

Pioneers don’t make long distance phone calls.

Where is the ketchup?

Pioneers don’t have condiments for their hamburgers.

I learned so much during those two weeks.

I understood the cruelty of nature when a thunderstorm erupted the moment I plunged my mountain pie into the fire pit. The downpour doused the flames and my dreams. There is no sadness quite like that of a pizza-deprived eleven-year-old eating white bread soggy with spaghetti sauce and cold shredded cheese while everyone around her devours hot mountain pie.

I grasped the concept of true friendship when the girl in the bunk across from me positioned her portable fan so a drift of hot hair flew across my sunburnt face. (Jamie, you’ll always be a hero in a heart. Tracy—hoarder of that giant vat of aloe vera—you’re still dead to me.)

I understood the power of storytelling when rumor spread that Pioneer Camp began with Ole Jebediah, said to be the first person to settle in the county a couple hundred years back.

Legend has it, Ole Jebediah never made it back from a trek to the watering hole. His spirit still lingers, some say (“some” being teen counselors who didn’t count on this campfire story resulting in twenty eleven-year-olds not sleeping for three days straight).

I spent those nights staring up through the cracks in our A-frame at a sky filled with more stars than I thought possible.

When someone swore they heard Ole Jebediah’s cackling laugh coming from the depths of the outhouse toilets, I also learned the inherent injustice of being a girl when it comes to public facilities.

“It couldn’t have been all bad,” Mom prompted a few days after my pioneer days ended. I sat on my clean, comfortable bed with the air conditioning pumping, my Walkman blaring New Kids on the Block and a bowl full of Oreos by my hand.

I rolled my eyes without answering, but I did whap my slap bracelet against my wrist a little louder.

Mom left the room, quietly saying, “Some day you’ll thank us for this experience, Beth.”

Pioneers don’t say thank you, I remember thinking.

But writers do, even twenty-five years late. So, okay, Mom and Dad. Fine. I suppose two weeks of roughing it, making new friends, swimming in a lake, reaching new heights, and falling hard for stories led to Camp Dork. And that might warrant a smidge of gratitude.

Thank you.


Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel

Camp Dork 9781634501811Lucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp—Camp Paleo: Live Like a Caveman. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air conditioning or a heated pool. They’ll learn archery and dig for fossils. And Grandma’s coming too; she’s taking a job as lunch lady for the camp next door.

At the last minute, Sam backs out to go to a gymnastics training camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend or anything. Why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush, even when she’s only thinking it? She needs a distraction. Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. And setting up couples keeps her from facing the question tickling the back of her mind: Is she in love with Sam? But when the wrong campers fall for each other, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a super secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities Gossip Girl–style. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy again finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made and face her own feelings. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

Vrabel, Beth - Blind Guide to StinkvilleBeth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans–becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater–didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in journalism, she moved through the ranks of a local newspaper to become editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth now lives in Connecticut with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two guinea pigs, Winn-Dixie and Pippin.

 

 

 


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Jasper the Dog’s Attempt to Train His Human

Tooter, the loveable dog in Beth Vrabel’s A Blind Guide to Stinkville, was inspired by Beth’s own loveable pup Jasper. Jasper is quite the dog and lucky for us, he offered to write a guest post for the Sky Pony Express. Check out Jasper’s post below!
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Jasper the Dog’s Attempt to Train His Human

For the past few weeks, my human has been up to something.

Instead of leaving with the littler humans in the morning, she’s staying at home. I hear her say that she’s going to “work from home now.” I’m not sure what’s she working on but it’s interrupting my nine-hour nap between breakfast and dinner.

I ask Winn-Dixie and Pippin the Guinea Pigs what they think is happening. Winn-Dixie squeaks that she hopes my human’s working on making more salads for them. This reminds me of bacon bits, which then makes me wonder about guinea pig bits and in middle of our talk I accidentally-on-purpose give Pippin little lick and maybe drool a bit. Pippin squeaks, “To the purple hut!” and she and Winn-Dixie disappear into their enclosure.

Silly Pigs. The hut is gray. Everything is gray. I’m colorblind.

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Update: I’ve deduced what my human is working on at home! She is working on becoming a dog!

She’s not dogging very well yet.

While she’s got the sitting in front of the fire down, she’s not sprawled out on her back like a proper dog. Nope, she’s tap, tap, tapping away at the gray box she holds on her lap.

I demonstrate for her how to dog properly by laying down and rolling over, paws up. I bat at her with my tail to get her attention. But she just laughs and rubs my belly. “Don’t knock my laptop,” she says and pats the box. I know it’s tough to train a human, but I am determined.

She, too, will be a Good Dog soon.

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Laptop is a dangerous rival for my human’s affections and training. But I am too weakened from taking on the vicious Machine That Must Not Be Named to tackle the laptop threat.

The Machine That Must Not Be Named rampages the house every morning, stealing each and every crumb the little humans drop from their plates and sucking it up into its noisy belly. My poor human valiantly tries to hold onto it with one hand, but I can tell she doesn’t like The Machine That Must Not Be Named, either.

If only I could communicate with Littlest Human! I know I could recruit him to fight alongside me if he only knew how many times the Machine That Must Not Be Named feasted on LEGO bricks he left on the living room rug.

The Machine That Must Not Be Named is a bottomless pit of noise and despair! Someday—the day its long gray (of course) tail no longer sneaks between my legs during my attacks—I will avenge the lost morsels that should be mine alone to savor!

My human tells me to Be Quiet and to Lay Down as I lunge at my foe and growl at it into submission. I know she simply cares for my safety against such a monster, but I will not be intimidated. I do not fear you, Machine That Must Not Be Named!

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Yes, perhaps in hindsight I should not have feared some of my previous enemies. Maybe it was wrong to rip to shreds Tissue Box and scatter its remains through the rooms of our home, even though it steals all the humans’ most delicious scents.

And, yes, my human’s new purse wasn’t as terrifying as I had feared, despite the way it ate her favorite toy. New Purse does allow my human to zip open its mouth and burp up Cellphone whenever it rings for her.

Maybe I was even wrong about Laundry Basket. Maybe the dirty socks and washcloths did not need to be rescued from it after all.

But I know I am right about Machine That Must Not Be Named.

Right after locking the vicious beast into the closet, my human once again settled in front of the fireplace like a good dog in training. But then she opened her laptop and tap, tap, tapped away it until the little humans came home. She is not a Good Dog yet.

I hate to say it, but lately, she isn’t a Good Human, either. Three times I dropped Toy beside her, but she never threw it. I know how much she likes to throw Toy. Every time she does, I bring it back to her fast as I can so she can throw it again. It always makes her laugh.

But she never stopped tap, tap, tapping. She said, “Sorry, Jasper the Dog. I have to work.” What a thing to say to her trainer!

Update: Machine That Must Not Be Named has a name. It’s Vacuum.

I heard my human say she’s soon going to soon need a new one thanks to a hole in its hose.

Not sure what happened to the hose … I’ll just be hanging out in the bathroom until my human calms down, though.

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Am stuck in bathroom! I bark at Door but it ignores me!

At first, I was having Best Day Ever. Plenty of delicious water from Toilet. Loads of tissue paper to shred. Lots of interesting smells in Garbage Can.

But then Door closed! Am stuck!

I bark and bark but my human is tap, tap, tapping with music playing. Am so sad! All looks bleak and gray for JTD! (Because I’m colorblind.)

I must fight my way through. I scratch, scratch, scratch at Door but, though now artfully decorated by my claws, it does not open.

Finally my human remembers her greatest responsibility—me. She opens the door and I shoot out, zooming across my territory to make sure all is still well despite my absence.

My human puts away her laptop and hugs me and loves me and gives me treats. She says she is sorry. She asks, “Who’s a Good Dog?”

“Not you,” I tell her, but she still doesn’t understand dog. I fear I will be doomed to have a badly trained human. It will be so embarrassing when my friends visit and she fails to sniff their bottoms in greeting as I have been promising.

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I have made a great discovery today. First: My human is writing a story. I know what stories are because every night she reads one to me in my bed, which I share with Littlest Human (though he steals all the pillows). Well, my human is writing one of her own! This explains why she’s not quite capable of dogging correctly, I suppose.

She read some of her story aloud today while “working” and, I’ve got to say, I think she’s onto something, especially with that Tooter character. My human, she’s so imaginative! Where did she come up with the idea of a fat, farting dog?

A box full of books arrived on our doorstep today and my human clapped and cheered. Silly Human. Such enthusiasm should be reserved for sightings of The Great Leash of Go Outside and The Cooking of Bacon.  But I couldn’t let her dance alone.

Another great discovery: My human has finally acknowledged my greatness. There on the cover of the book is a perfect replica of me! Slightly Smaller Human says it’s a golden Jasper the Dog. Silly girl! It’s gray.

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My human kept asking, “Who’s a Good Dog? Who’s a Good Dog?” while we danced.

I wish I could tell her, “Not you.”

But she is a Good Human.

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Update: I spotted my human’s next book cover. It has two guinea pigs. I am betrayed.

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 Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel

9781629146232-frontcoverLucy knows that kissing Tom Lemmings behind the ball shed will make her a legend. But she doesn’t count on that quick clap of lips propelling her from coolest to lamest fourth grader overnight. Suddenly Lucy finds herself trapped in Dorkdom, where a diamond ring turns your finger green, where the boy you kiss hates you three days later, where your best friend laughs as you cry, where parents seem to stop liking you, and where baby sisters are born different.

Now Lucy has a choice: she can be like her former best friend Becky, who would do anything to claim her seat at the cool table in the cafeteria, or Lucy can pull up a chair among the solo eaters—also known as the dorks. Still unsure, Lucy partners with super quiet Sam Righter on a research project about wolves. Lucy connects her own school hierarchy with what she learns about animal pack life—where some wolves pin down weaker ones just because they can, and others risk everything to fight their given place in the pack. Soon Lucy finds her third option: creating a pack of her own, even if it is simply a pack of dorks.

A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel

9781634501576-frontcoverBefore Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.

For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.

Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel

9781634501811-frontcoverLucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp—Camp Paleo: Live Like a Caveman. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air conditioning or a heated pool. They’ll learn archery and dig for fossils. And Grandma’s coming too; she’s taking a job as lunch lady for the camp next door.

At the last minute, Sam backs out to go to a gymnastics training camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend or anything. Why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush, even when she’s only thinking it? She needs a distraction. Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. And setting up couples keeps her from facing the question tickling the back of her mind: Is she in love with Sam? But when the wrong campers fall for each other, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a super secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities Gossip Girl–style. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy again finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made and face her own feelings. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

 9781510702288-frontcoverRichie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

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