Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

Image result for upside down in the middle of nowhere summaryAs Hurricane Katrina approaches in August 2015, Armani Curtis, a young African-American resident of the Ninth Ward, has only one thing on her mind—her tenth birthday. Dark portents, however, threaten to encroach on her excitement, as her MeMaw and her brother, Georgie, pace anxiously in anticipation of the storm. The next-door neighbors have already evacuated, but only Armani and Georgie know this. Armani, too excited about her birthday to worry about the storm, makes Georgie promise he won’t tell their parents about the neighbors.

Under an increasingly black sky and amid troublingly strong winds, the tenth birthday barbeque for Armani begins in earnest. Despite the obvious meteorological distress rapidly enveloping them, Armani couldn’t be more pleased with her birthday celebration. The family shares a blue buttercream frosting cake and Armani receives a puppy named Cricket. For the reader, who is aware of the devastation to come, the suspense here is almost unbearable.

Suddenly, another neighbor interrupts the barbeque, affirming that the storm is worst than anyone expected and that it’s too late to evacuate. The party ends as the family must hunker down for the coming winds. Windows shatter, and there is a good deal of panic. However, certain members of the Curtis clan have seen storms before. What they couldn’t possibly expect, however, is the failure of the nearby levees, which creates a giant wave heading straight toward their row of houses. Watching the water envelop and destroy everything in its path, the family grabs the puppy and the baby, and they all head to the attic. While secure for the moment in the attic, they see the floodwaters gradually rising around them. They only had time to grab a few bottles of water, forgetting to grab the asthma medication for the baby, who is gasping for air. Things get worse when little Cricket, Armani’s beloved new pup, falls into the water.

Georgie and Armani leap into the water to go after Cricket, but soon they are all carried away by the fast-moving floodwaters. The rest of the family can do nothing but wait for the floodwaters to recede or for the family to be rescued.

Eventually, the family reaches dry land. Armani’s mother calculates that she should look for her husband and son on her own, leaving Armani in charge of MeMaw and her baby brother. This launches an important emotional journey for Armani. At the beginning of the book, she is highly self-centered, caring only about her birthday and putting her family at risk by not telling them about the neighbors’ midnight evacuation.

Through her ordeal, she learns a great deal about responsibility, but the lessons are hard-fought. At first, Armani responds to the chaos and hardship with mistrust, as she observes a number of panicked individuals acting in a way that is scary to her. She even observes acts of crime and “looting” which, while justified in some cases, is confusing and scary to a little kid.

The longer Armani battles to keep her family together, the more she realizes that, while caution is warranted sometimes in a crisis, you can’t survive without trusting others. She opens herself to accepting help when the family needs it most. The result is a realistic emotional journey for a child put into an unfathomable position.

Armani must also battle her own sense of guilt, particularly after MeMaw fails to survive in the wake of the floods. (She perishes while the others are asleep). At this point, she learns that the decision to stay actually had little to do with her—another step for Armani in becoming less self-absorbed. She learns that her mother was determined to stay because it was an act of “hope.” In the end, it could be considered an ill-advised act, hopeful or not. Nevertheless, Armani realizes at this moment that the world does not revolve around her. If the family wanted to leave, it would have left, regardless of Armani’s birthday celebration.

Upside-Down in the Middle of Nowhere is an intense character study of a ten-year-old girl, set against the horrifying backdrop of Hurricane Katrina.

NewsPrints by: Ru Xu

As Hector found, Lavender Blue is not your stereo-typical type of girl. In fact, she’s more than just a tomboy. The daring, ambitious, and caring with a heart bigger than all the stereotypes girl was one of a kind; and Hector found that out right away.

An orphan tucked away to fend for herself and her new “pet,” Goldie, a little bird whom was cared for by Lavender since she was in an egg was doing fine all on their own, and so young, might I add. Like Goldie, her parents were gone, but unlike Goldie, nobody took care of Lavender Blue. The fast girl stole Hector’s newspapers during one of his journeys. Upon meeting Hector and having a small conversation with him, Hector invited her to the Bugle, a boys home for newsies. But Lavender was a girl. Girls aren’t allowed to be newsies. It was unheard of! Such news would surely cause a scandal! And so their conversation went like this; “Lavender Blue, I work and live at that building over there. The Nautilene Bugle! It’s run by the mayor and his wife. Why don’t ya stay with us for a while?”

Lavender responds, “Can I stay forever?”

Hector shifts his duffel bag and responds, “I mean, we could always use more newsboys, but they gotta be… well, boys.”

Lavender, who doesn’t care, just replies, “OH! Well, that’s PERFECT! ‘Cause I’m DEFINITELY a boy!”

Hector can’t hide his surprise at her fierce determination and submits and Lavender lives at the Bugle. Fast forward a few years…

Lavender is enjoying her patchwork family with the Bugle boys, and nobody knows her secret except the mayor’s wife, Muffy, but she does a good job hiding it. She goes on secret routes to sell more newspapers but the day she meets Crow, nothing is the same. Everything changes and Blue is put to the test. But I can’t tell you what and why and who. That’s not fun. So read the book to see how Blue and the Bugle change drastically because of Crow.

I rate this book a 10 out of 10 because it’s just that good. It’s also a comic book so it doesn’t take a long time to read. The illustrations are beautiful and the story line speaks strongly to me. If you like adventure and people finding their true colors, read this book. It was a 2018-2019 Carroll County Battle of the Books read, and I read it more than 20 times.

The Girl Who Could Unite Them All, Part Five

Vali awoke some time later, her heart pounding. She was bound to a chair in a dark room, her hands and legs uncomfortably tied. She attempted to yell “Let me go!” but with tape across her mouth, it came out muffled.

She jolted to try to get out of the chair, but at that moment, a light flicked on. It was a small book light, and it was shining right in her eyes.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked a female voice.

The tape was ripped from her mouth and she shrieked from the pain.

“Why should I tell you anything?” she yelled.

Suddenly there was warmth on her leg. They were about to burn her!

Vali screamed. At that moment, she remembered her powers. She burnt all the ropes off of her body and jumped out of her chair, flinging her fists and flames at the unidentified person.

Or rather, people. She could see two silhouettes in the dark. One taller person, an adult, and one shorter, a person probably around her age.

Stop!” someone shouted. A door that Vali hadn’t known was part of the room opened, and a thirteen-year old girl with dirty blonde hair and glittering black eyes was standing there. “Everybody calm down.”

“You naïve child,” said the female voice Vali had heard from earlier. “She was going insane! We were merely trying to stop her.”

Vali swiveled around. The speaker was a middle-aged woman with wavy turquoise hair, gray streaked, and electric blue eyes. An aquatic.

“Hello,” the woman said, regaining her composure. “I am Storm, and this is Max.”

Vali looked at Max. He looked very similar to the girl in the doorway, except his face was peppered with freckles and he was a little bit shorter. He was holding up a lighter, sheepishly smiling.

Storm looked pointedly at the girl, and the girl pursed her lips. “I’m J.”

“Who are you?” Max asked. He had a raspy, strong voice.

“I’m not saying anything until you tell me why you did that to me.”

J rolled her eyes. “Well, we were taking precautions. We had a plan that if anyone ever found us, we would knock them unconscious and then question them. Which is exactly what we did.”

“But burning me?” Vali asked incredulously.

“Max was trying a new tactic,” Storm said after a short pause.

J walked inside of the room and flicked the light on. Vali was surprised to see that the room was an office, which looked like a hurricane had come through.“So,” Max said.

“You can trust us, I promise. What’s your name?”

Vali decided to come up with a fake name in the spur of the moment. “Harriet,” she lied.

“And a flame, I see,” Storm muttered. “But with purple hair!”

“It’s”—Vali stumbled over her words—“it’s a disguise thing.”

J narrowed her eyes for a moment, looking up from the papers she was rearranging and throwing on the desk, but she quickly looked back down.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Image result for inside out and back again

From Saigon to Alabama, Inside Out and Back Again is the story of a year in the life of Hà, a ten-year-old girl who flees Vietnam with her mother and brothers, in hopes of escaping the Vietnam War and building new—and safer—lives for themselves in the United States.

Written as a series of short poems, it is a sparse and honest narrative that follows Hà as she leaves behind the only home she’s ever known to travel by boat to America. She may have left war behind, but plenty of difficulty awaits, and Hà and her family struggle to find their footing in the United States. At the end of the year, though—and as the book ends—they’re finally getting their bearings, all holding onto hope that life will keep getting better.

Memory-Bound Chapter 2

There’s a sound. Almost like a clock ticking, but too loud and too close to be a clock. Maybe it’s a metronome keeping time with the beats. But there’s no musician. And what beats?

I crack my eyes open and the light pores in. The same beige-yellow walls and the same window. And that weird, annoying sound! I look to the right of my bed to see the heart monitor keeping beat with my heart. Oh, right, I knew that.

“Ah, Miss Julie, Welcome back,” says the short doctor who’s name I have forgotten. I continue to stare at her until she gets too uncomfortable, and starts ruffling through her papers. “So it seems that your temperature is normal, your pulse is normal, you’re all good!” the doctors smiles. I don’t smile back.

A nurse comes in–the same boy nurse as yesterday or whatever day it was when I passed out or fainted or whatever they want to call it.

“Miss Julie, it–it’s–um time for examinations,” the nurse stampers.

I look at him like he just said the sky was black. Why does he seem so scared? What exactly happened?

“It’s alright, Tyler. Just go slowly and talk to her the whole time,” instructs the short doctor.

The nurse walks over to the side of my bed and tells me to roll over so he can check my heart beat. When he is done, he goes to reach for my arm but pulls back with a look of guiltiness. “Miss, may I please see your arm? I’m must draw blood for a blood test.” I hesitate before giving him my arm.

After he is done with the examination, both the doctor and the nurse leave, however, they look more like they were two mice scurrying away from a cat.


“Good afternoon, Margie!”

“Well hello there Tyler. Do you finally have the blood samples?”

“I do,” says Tyler, “she has finally woken up–again.” Tyler hands the patient’s blood samples to the doctor. “She looks scared but brave at the same time. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah, well she probably just has Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. Her blood is normal. Good luck,” snorts Margie.

“Thanks as always Margie!”

“Whose that?” a patient, near by, asks his nurse.

“Tyler,” the nurse answers. “His patient was in a coma when she came in and she has only been awake for an hour or two combined.”

“Really? Wow. What happened to her?” the patient asks.

“No really knows exactly. We just know that the police brought her in and she was in a coma with a few bumps and bruises.”

“Wow. Um… What’s her name again?”

“Huh?” The nurse distracted by the papers on his clipboard. “Oh his patient’s name is Julie.”


“Miss Julie?”

The terrified nurse is back. Is he here for more “examinations”? Or more tests? Or is he here to just be in the way?

“I have your blood test results back.”

Oh

I slowly sit up and face the nurse. He looks almost nervous and like a five year old little boy that did something wrong and is scared to be punished.

“So um… Miss Julie… your results came back normal,” the nurse stampers out.

I squint at him. Why is he so nervous and scared if my results came back normal? Did a different test come back with a concerning or bad result? Am I contagious with something?

I start to feel a little dizzy and weak from sitting up. I start to close my eyes but then suddenly pain spikes up my back and I scream. Everything around me goes black.

I am Annalia: Part Eleven

Image result for images of fixing broken heart

(credit to @SirQuantum from DeviantArt for image)

I was stunned. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one. Instead of the members shouting in shock, they went dead silent, making it harder for me to object. “But…” I began, practically whispering. “Tessa-”

“I’m sorry,” she quickly whispered.

“Tessa,” Viallanne boomed, raising her eyebrow. “Explain your reasoning for this.”

“Well,” Tessa thought about it for a moment. “You see, Liku is a leader of an element and it would be pointless for him to give his element to someone this early when he’s already so experienced. Since Liku cares about Annalia so much and the rest of you want R.J., getting rid of Annalia would prevent our secret being exposed, punish Liku in some sort of way, and we can choose R.J. instead. Besides, you know the pixies hate doing memory wipes. It nearly kills them, and there’s only a couple left.”

“Pixies?” I asked.

“Hush,” Viallanne hissed.

Tessa looked around awkwardly. “So…yeah.”

The Queen nodded slowly, seeming impressed. “I see your point.”

“Your Majesty, can’t we just bring R.J. as well and they can fight together? And then we can memory wipe them at the end?” Liku objected.

“That’s too risky,” Tessa countered. “One earthling is bad enough, but two? We’ll be exposed within minutes.”

“But…Tessa,” I began again. “We’ve been friends for a couple years now! A-And I already killed one Normwhaug, that means I can kill more, right?”

“The way you did it took a lot of energy. I mean, look what happened to you! You nearly died!” Tessa said.

“But she didn’t,” Viallanne grumbled.

“You’re right,” I quickly said, directed towards the Queen. If I was going to stay – more like stay alive – I needed to act like I deserved to stay. Viallanne widened her eyes at me. “A normal human wouldn’t be able to stand a Normwhaug, right? And survive?” I waited for an answer.

“I don’t suppose so,” she eventually replied, rubbing her chin. “But you’re the only human we’ve had that faced one, so that is just a guess,” she said, pointing at me.

“O-Okay. But what about back on earth? If you kill me, people are going to notice I’ll be gone, and they’ll be even more suspicious about everyone being frozen and my whereabouts. Not to mention my dad will be really mad at you if he finds out.”

Viallanne raised an eyebrow at me. “Your father is going to be mad? That’s a valid reason?”

“I-I guess. Anyway, I don’t care what you think, I’m not going to be killed, or memory wiped by, pixies, or whatever. I’m staying, and that’s that.”

“I told you she was stubborn,” Tessa muttered under her breath.

“Oh, don’t even Tessa,” I snapped at her.

“Me?” Tessa shot back.

“Yes! You! You’re the one that wants to kill me!

“It’s not you, it’s our world! I’m trying to do what’s best for the majority! So what if one life is lost, it’s better than thousands!”

“Why can’t you just believe in me? I was your second pick.”

“It’s more than just who was picked, it’s about character and bravery. Sure, you’re nice and daring sometimes, but for the sake of an entire dimension? We can’t be taking any risks, Annalia.”

“I can stay and fight, and if it doesn’t work I’ll fix-”

“You don’t get it, do you?” Tessa yelled. “You’re a mistake, Annalia. We chose R.J. for a reason and not you! It’s the only way! Someone is going to have to take the fall in the end, and I can’t let that be Liku! Sure, this will hurt Liku emotionally, but if you really want to help us, then…” Tessa stared down at the ground, trying to find what to say. “Then just die!” She yelled. Tessa released her fists, breathing hard. I wanted to flinch, but Tessa had practically sucked the life out of me.

I couldn’t seem to swallow down the second heart that was beating in my throat. No. I thought. I darted my eyes across the room. They were all either disgusted, shocked, or looking to Viallanne for her wisdom. Not Tessa. She…she wouldn’t. Something isn’t right, she- 

Someone grabbed my shoulder. I swiveled my head to see that it was Tessa, her gaze fixed firmly on Viallanne, as if trying to avoid any eye contact. “Well, your majesty?” She sputtered. Tessa looked back at Liku. She grabbed my shoulder harder. “If this is what it must come down to, then what’s your verdict?”

Rage fired up inside of me, outweighing the utter confusion of Tessa moving on so quickly. There’s no way that I can go down like this. I brushed Tessa’s hand off my shoulder and gave her the fiercest glare I could manage. “Tessa.” She examined me, like a dog not obeying its master. If you can change, then so can I.

Disgusted, I took a step away from her. I took in a shaky breath. I adjusted my yellow glasses and pushed them up my nose, trying to think of how I could express the complete and utter chaos my mind was in the state of in audible words.

So, I came up with what needed to be said. What I needed to hear. “I am not a mistake,” I calmly said. “I am Annalia.”

I took a careful step forward, hoping my glasses would make my glassy eyes look brave and not recovering from despair. “Viallanne,” I said. She raised an eyebrow at me before furrowing them.

“It’s ‘your majesty’ to you-”

“No, it’s not.” The room filled with an awkward mixture of silent tension and breaths of shock.

“Annalia! Please! Stop!” I heard someone whisper-scream from far back. Assuming it was Liku, I didn’t bother to turn my head.

“Viallanne,” I repeated. “I’m a human and I’m not even from here. That doesn’t grant you any power over me.”

“Actually-”

“You know what?” I interrupted Viallanne. “It doesn’t matter where I’m from or I am! I’m not going to allow someone as prissy and bossy as you simply kill me because I didn’t meet up to your standards!” I took another step, confidence bouncing underneath my feet. “I don’t care if you like it or not, but I have a purpose here. Whether it’s good or bad, just let it be! If you’re such a good ruler, then fix this problem without showing yourself as a killer!”

Viallanne shot up from her throne. “I refuse to take orders from a mistake!

“I am Annalia!” I screamed back. “I don’t care what you think or what anyone else thinks! You will not kill me. You will not send me back home with no memory or having done nothing. You will not harm Liku for believing in the greater good. You will not punish me or try to stop me! Because I am Annalia!” I walked up the stairs of her throne and stood on my toes to get up in her face.

“Your words are nothing compared to my power,” she hissed in my face.

“Please, my dog speaks more eloquently than thee,” I replied instinctively with a smirk. Viallanne’s face reddened so much you could mistake her for a tomato. I was beginning to grow satisfied. “So what if I’m clumsy? So what if I’m stubborn?” I looked back at Liku. His face was shaking side to side in his hands. Tessa looked like she was going to murder me if I took one step closer to the Queen.

The guards even started to approach me, but stopped. I looked back forward and saw Viallanne holding out a finger to them. I took in a deep breath before sealing my most likely terrible deal. “It doesn’t matter if you like me here or not,” I whispered. “I’m a human. I can either restore your world, or completely shatter it with a few simple steps, some words, and anyone ready to listen. Do I make myself clear?”

Viallanne stared at me for a good while. I started to replay everything I had just said and began to regret it more and more with every word. I was dead meat.

Eventually, Viallanne nudged me down the stairs and sat down in her throne. She tapped her fingers, seemingly in a villainous way, on the armrests of her throne, occasionally glancing at the torches next to her throne.

“Wow,” she eventually laughed. “You weren’t kidding when you said you were stubborn.” I remained silent. “Well, if this is what you wish for-” she pointed her finger firmly at me. “-then you may stay.”

I blinked. Is…is she kidding me? I literally defied all of her power and even used fandom references against her. I looked back at Tessa. She was dumb-founded. I made a mental note of adding her to my imaginary list of enemies. Liku looked like he was going to drop dead right there.

“She’s going to be okay?” Liku gasped.

“Hmm…” she tapped her finger on her chin. “No.”

“Huh?” I responded.

“What?” Liku said.

“You’re right, Annalia,” Viallanne began. “You are a human. But what humans don’t realize is how different Azudacluke is from your…earth,” she spat. She stood up and stared at the guards.

“Guards!” She barked. They stood up even straighter than before, if that was possible. “Open the doors and lead her way to the exit.” The guards opened the doors, and waited for me to come down and follow.

But I couldn’t. Not with her malicious smirk hovering over me, and her cold eyes sending shivers up my spine. “I’m being nice,” she hissed. I gulped. “After all, I am giving you a head start.”

Memory-Bound

The beeping of the heart rate monitor, sitting a few inches away from my bed, keeping track and keeping steady along with the beats of my heart. Foot-steps, coming and going; papers ruffling and data being written. All muffled; subdued.

*                                                         *                                                      *

I hear everything. Before, everything sounded muffled but now the beep beeping of the heart rate monitor, the voices of the doctors, all of it was now crystal clear. I understand and hear everything. Well, almost everything.

“Welcome back, Miss Julie Rose,” said a short, brown haired doctor. The doctor stared at me, expecting me to say something like, Good morning doctor or Yea, its great to be back. Instead, I just stared right back, leaving an awkward silence.

Looking at her clipboard and ruffling through the pages, the doctor says, “Okay, um… Miss Rose, since you are now awake we will need to examine your injuries we will need to do some research.” With that, the doctor leaves the room at a pace faster than the normal walking speed.

With the awkward doctor now out of the room, I look around my room. Ugly, green-beige walls; dark, yellow curtains with dusty blinds on the windows. Yellow covers on the bed with rusty orange pillowcases. A heart monitor, keeping constant beats with my heart near the side of my bed. The window that is about four feet from my bed, overlooks the tops of a few trees, meaning I am on either the third or forth floor. I am in a hospital, but how and why?

A nurse walks in, diverting my eyes from the window. “Miss Rose, I’m sorry to bother you, but we need to take some tests if that’s alright with you.” The nurse stares at me waiting for me to tell him that I don’t mind the tests or sure or even a nod, instead I stare at him blankly just as I did the short doctor. The nurse waits a few more seconds before he moves towards the bed to start examinations. “So, um… Miss, I have to um… check your heart beat so if you could, maybe turn over?” I continue to stare blankly at the nurse. My eyes follow him as he moves toward me. I turn on my side to let him examine me, but I continue to follow his every move.

When the nurse finishes he goes to reach for my arm to draw blood. I flinch and pull my arm away from him as fast as I can. I am suddenly terrified. The beeping from the heart machine quickens as my heart beat accelerates. The nurse’s eyes widen and he grows pale.

“Doctor Bell! Code!” the nurse cries.

That must be the name of the short, brown haired doctor. I don’t need a doctor, I don’t need anymore pokes and prods. Anger mixes in with terror, as my heartbeat accelerates the Doctor Bell rushes in; concern and worry written all over her face.

“What are you just standing there for!?” The she snaps and the nurses that have gathered around, “Get the cart! Julie, you have got to breath. If you do not breath and calm down, you will injure yourself even more or even die!”

That stilled my panic, what were the extent of my injuries? Could I really die? How did I even injure myself? With every thought, I continued to panic. Black spots clouded my view; clear, rushing doctors became blurry blobs with loud voices and sounds that have no meaning. What was the point of yelling? It only made things worse. With that thought, I blacked out. * * *

Cold, strong hands. Fear rushing through my veins. Wind blowing, or maybe its the air conditioner or maybe fans? The rough ground biting in my feet. Air rushing past; no longer feeling the rough ground below me. I am confused and scared and angry. I’m falling. Then nothing, everything is black.