A tween comedy-of-errors that chronicles the most cringe-worthy day of 13 year-old Abby Gray’s life.
My Big Heart-Shaped Fail
by Cindy Callaghan
Genre: Tween, Upper Middle-Grade Contemporary Fiction
Award-winning middle-grade novel from the author of Just Add Magic and Saltwater Secrets . . . .
This is the worst day of her life . . . or is it? Before the last bell rings, Abby manages to integrate the oddball who is blackmailing her into her friend group and to fix the mix-ups the notes have caused—not only getting couples back together but also making a few new love matches—and finally comes clean as the author of the notes that have created such chaos.
The temperature dove below zero and snow flurries whirled, but my mom braved the cold and helped me haul boxes of decorations into school.
“Thanks,” I said as she dropped a bag from the Donut Hole into the last box for me to manage on my own. The Hole was right next to the school and, like most kids, we often stopped and grabbed breakfast on our way to school.
My math teacher, Mr. Valdez, pulled his pickup truck into the parking lot. Mom waved and flashed him her signature smile, which she always has even when she’s tired from working late into the night.
She kissed her hand and touched my cheek with it. As she left, she called to Mr. Valdez, “Have a nice day.”
He waved to her with his free hand while the other fiddled with his car’s antenna.
“What’s that?” I called to him.
“Oh, nothing.” He put something in his pocket, walked over to me, and put a red ribbon into my box. “Here, I think maybe you or someone dropped this.”
“Uh, thanks,” I said, but I hadn’t been near his car, so I don’t see how I could’ve dropped it there. Maybe a stray piece of ribbon blew over.
“Go on inside before you freeze,” he said, his eyes following my mom’s car as it pulled out.
It was impossible not to notice the school office since it was overflowing with balloons. A delivery guy walked in behind me with another bunch.
“I’ll take those,” I offered, and towed a bunch of balloons to the gym along with my box. It was going to take a lot of trips to transport the rest of the delivery from the office.
Jess and Paige had started early and already striped one entire wall with red and white streamers. It looked great, like peppermint sticks, except they’d made ten stripes, while peppermint sticks had eleven, my favorite of all the prime numbers. I figured I’d add one more stripe later when no one was around. There was no need to be inaccurate.
Paige beamed at the balloons. “Yay! They’re here.” She looked behind me and the smile drained from her face. “Where’s the guy?”
“What guy?” I asked.
“Didn’t the party store send a balloon-arch-maker guy?”
“No guy,” I said.
Logan Murphy swaggered in behind me. “I’m a guy.” This was the understatement of the trimester. Logan wasn’t just any guy. He was Mount Lebanon Middle School’s “It Guy.” Logan worked in the school office on his free periods, like now, which gave him access to hall passes, which was a big deal. At The Mount, hall passes were gold.
“Hi Abby,” he said to me without a hint of flirtation, yet I felt my cheeks blush.
All the girls at The Mount liked Logan. So far, he hadn’t asked anyone to the dance, and lots of girls were holding out in hopes he’d ask them.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
Before he could answer, Jess said, “Well, that’s not gonna work. Logan can’t build a balloon arch. He couldn’t even build an Egyptian pyramid out of Legos in Social Studies.”
Logan said, “Legos are rectangles and pyramids are triangles, so it’s not as easy as it sounds.”
As if Jess hadn’t heard his defense, she said to me and Paige, “Look, he might have an awesome smile and be captain of the basketball team, but he is NOT a balloon arch builder. We need a professional.” Then, she added, “Just sayin’.”
Logan didn’t seem offended. “You don’t have to apologize for thinking I have an awesome smile. People tell me that a lot.” He showed off the famous grin. Geez, he was cute.
“Okay,” Paige said. “Slight problem with the crème de la crème of our decorations. And as chairwoman, I have a solution. We’re going to make this arch ourselves with directions I’m going to download and print right now.”
Nothing would stand in Paige Bakenya’s way of transforming this gym into a Peppermint Twist Dance Wonderland.
“Okay committee, stripe the next wall. I’ll be back before you can say ‘peppermint.’” With that, she took the one coveted hall pass Mr. Valdez had given us for the day.
“I’ll let you girls handle this stripe business,” Logan said, “and I’ll get more balloons from the office.”
“Paige just took the hall pass,” Jess said.
He chuckled. “Dude, it’s me. I navigate these halls like a stealth weapon.” On his way out, he was decked by Chloe, who entered the gym dancing and singing.
“What the heck?” Logan asked, picking himself up and wiping gym floor dust off his basketball shorts—yeah, he wore shorts all winter.
Chloe ignored him. “He likes me!” she said and twirled.
“Uh, yeah, so I’m outta here.” Logan left the gym.
“Who?” Jess and I asked.
Chloe said, “Tao.”
WTW? Paige’s Tao?
This was shocking. So shocking that I couldn’t get words out to ask for clarification.
Chloe continued pirouetting, as if she were in a magical love trance. “I love love. Don’t you?”
Luckily, Paige wasn’t around to hear this because she would’ve choked on her Peppermint Twist planner at the idea that her boyfriend, who she’d recently kissed for the first time, liked Chloe. This was so Chloe to stir up drama.
Jess asked, “What are you talking about?”
“You heard me right. Sorry for your friend Paige—actually, sorry, I’m not sorry—but here’s the harsh reality, Jessica Sawyer: Tao likes me.”
Lots of girls were jealous of Paige. She was pretty, friendly to new kids, handed in assignments early, and had the best-decorated locker. She always shared her homemade cookies with everyone, and somehow they always seemed just out of the oven, even when it was late in the day. It was a mystery no one’s ever been able to solve.
“Everyone knows Tao and Paige are boyfriend and girlfriend,” Jess said. “Where did you even get this idea? I’m just sayin’, the idea is ridiculous.” Sometimes Jess not having a filter was good because it got her point out in the open rather than beating around the bush.
“Ridiculous, you say? Then why did he give me this?” Chloe held up a paper that Jess snatched and read to herself. When she was done, she handed it to me. But I didn’t have to read it.
I already knew what it said, because Tao hadn’t written it.
The Girl Who Ruined Christmas
by Cindy Callaghan
Award-winning middle-grade Christmas novel from the author of Just Add Magic and Saltwater Secrets . . . .
That’s what happens to Brady Bancroft.
When Brady ruins Harper Hollow Fall’s prize tree, she’s sentenced to stay in the holiday-festooned town for the month of December. At first, she couldn’t be more depressed about the whole situation; but during her month there, she is surprised to discover that there’s much more than pine needles to the little town holding her captive. In the end, Harper Hollow Falls reminds Brady of the true meaning of Christmas—and she, in turn, saves the town.
Cindy Callaghan is the award-winning author of eleven MG novels including JUST ADD MAGIC and JUST ADD MAGIC 2: POTION PROBLEMS, which were made into an Emmy-nominated Amazon Original series now in its fifth season and distributed world-wide via Nickelodeon. She’s well-known for the best-selling Lost In… books: LOST IN LONDON, LOST IN PARIS, LOST IN ROME, LOST IN HOLLYWOOD, and LOST IN IRELAND. Her Agatha award-winning stand-alone SYDNEY MACKENZIE KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD sells out every year around Halloween.