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Miss Van Essa led her class across the hallway to

the library, which still looked sort of dark inside. She


paused outside the door and quietly addressed the class.
“OK kids, I expect everyone to behave in here…
and I also expect you to have fun and find some totally cool
books.” She smiled broadly and opened the library door.
JB had never heard a teacher say the word cool
before, and had certainly never been told that having fun
was part of the teacher’s expectation for the school day.
The class buzzed with excitement as they entered the
library, so only a few of them heard Miss Van Essa’s
surprised little gasp.
The library shelves were completely bare. There
wasn’t a single book to be seen anywhere. No stories, no
encyclopedia, no picture books, no big books and no small
ones. Just a whole lot of empty shelves. The excited buzz
from moments before quickly became a worried sounding
murmur, full of questions. Even Miss Van Essa looked a
little concerned.
“I am Mister Winstesterfield-Schmytherston,
children,” whispered a strange gray man. “I am the new
librarian.”
Meet The
Boomer Sisters!

By Dan Ward
A ROGUE PRESS BOOK
New York
2005

Visit us at www.lulu.com/RoguePress

Copyright © 2005 by Dan Ward

Cover design & Illustrations by Mandy Hoelmer


For Bethany and Jenna,
the original Boomer Sisters,
with really very much a super lot of love.
The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive…
- Gilbert Keith Chesterton
CONTENTS

1. Moving Day Blues 1


2. The Emporium 7
3. Cookies, New Kids & Wings 14
4. The Non-Secret of PIFL 23
5. Theodore Roosevelt Elementary 30
6. How Not To Be So Excited 38
7. The PIFL Council 45
8. JB Gets An Idea 54
9. Back To The Emporium 61
10. The Big Day 70
11. Being De-Enthused 82
12. Lions On Main Street 91
13. Laughter In The Library
100
14. The Big Read
109
15. Night Flight 117
16. Overthrowing The Library
128
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Chapter 1: Moving Day Blues

BJ Boomer sat glumly on the curb in front of her


new house, trying to ignore the pink and purple bike lying
on the grass behind her. The front tire was bent and flat and
three other kinds of broken, and she couldn’t stand to look
at it anymore. A few minutes earlier she had been so
excited to hear the moving man announce, from deep inside
the enormous moving truck, “I found a bike!” Her
excitement had quickly turned to disappointment and
sadness when she saw how badly broken it was. Now she
was so frustrated she wanted to throw rocks, though she
knew she mustn’t.
“Whee!” BJ’s sister JB zipped past on her own,
wholly undamaged bike. JB was 8 years old, and kind of a
daredevil. BJ was a year older and tended to be a bit more

1
cautious. It just wasn’t fair her bike was broken when she
was always so careful, and her crazy sister’s bike was just
fine. BJ felt her bottom lip begin to tremble as JB turned a
wide circle and began another pass.
“Hiya, kiddo.” BJ’s dad sat down on the curb next
to her. “I’m really sorry your bike is busted. You know, the
same thing happened to my bike when I was a kid. But
guess what – I’ll bet your uncle can fix it at his shop. What
do you say we go there after lunch and see what he can
do?”
“We can really go see Uncle Q, Daddy? Do you
think he can fix it today?”

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“If anybody can fix it today, it would be your uncle.


And hey, maybe you could help your mom out in the
kitchen while we’re waiting,” said her dad. BJ gave him a
big hug and rushed off to give her mom a hand with lunch.
“Hey Mom! Dad said we could go to see Uncle Q
after lunch and maybe he could fix my bike!” said BJ as
she ran into the kitchen.
“That sounds like a great idea to me, sweetie. Here,
can you give me a hand with these sandwiches?”
“Sure,” BJ paused. “Mom, I’m kind of nervous
about school starting. I don’t know anyone at this new
school.”
“I’m sure you’ll meet lots of kids, BJ. In fact, I bet
you’ll meet a whole classroom full of kids, on your very
first day!” her mom said with a wink.
“I know.” BJ smiled a little bit, in spite of herself. “I
just wish I knew somebody before I get there.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” replied her mom
with a sigh. She put her arm around BJ and gave her a
squeeze. “Moving to a new place is kinda hard, isn’t it? I
miss my friends too, you know. But I promise, we’ll all
make lots of new friends very, very soon. In fact, I think I
saw some kids’ bikes in the driveway of the house right

3
next door. Maybe someone your age lives there. What do
you think about going over there with me to say hi later?”
“OK, but first I want to go to Uncle Q’s shop. I’m
going to find that popcorn machine this time for sure!”
The front door slammed loudly, and two seconds
later, JB burst into the room, crashing into BJ with a loud
“Oops – sorry!”
“It’s OK,” BJ replied. “I’m used to it.”
BJ looked at her little sister and had to laugh a little,
in spite of her own moody feelings. Here was the one
familiar face she could always count on seeing at school,
whether she wanted to or not. Fortunately, she usually
wanted to. She took a closer look.
JB’s light brown hair was in pigtails that stuck out
from the sides of her head, as usual, and today they were
sort of crooked from all the bike riding. Her eyes were
sparkly and inquisitive, and her mouth was almost always
moving. She bounced a lot, and tended to run around
corners with her eyes shut. But even though she could be
annoying sometimes, she was really BJ’s best friend in the
world.
“Can I come see Uncle Q too?” she asked.
“Of course, munchkin!” answered her mom. “But
please try not to break anything this time, ok?”

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“Oh mom, I always try not to break things. It just


sorta happens sometimes,” protested JB.
“I know, but please try extra much this time,
alright? Now go wash up for lunch, girls.”
While she was washing her hands, BJ looked at her
own reflection in the bathroom mirror. She was taller than
her sister, and her hair was pretty much the same color,
only not in pig tails. Those always made her hair hurt, so
she just let it hang freely around her shoulders. BJ opened
her mouth to see if her loose tooth was any looser than the
last time she checked. It wasn’t. With a sigh, she dried her
hands and followed JB to the dining room, where they ate
their lunches surrounded by moving boxes.
The ride to Uncle Q’s shop was short, and the girls
shouted when they saw the big orange and blue and purple
sign.
“OK, here we are, peanuts,” said their dad from the
front seat of the family van. “Are you girls ready to see
Uncle Q?”
“Yeah!” Both BJ and JB cheered from the backseat.
“Alright – you go ahead inside while I get BJ’s bike
out of the back. I’ll be right behind you.” He chuckled
affectionately as his two daughters scampered through the
front door.

5
6
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Chapter 2: The Emporium

Uncle Q owned a small curiosity shop called The


Emporium. It was only open every other Thursday, and by
special arrangement at other times. Walking into the shop
was like entering another world. The doorway was strung
with wooden beads carved to look like strange animals. The
walls were full of mirrors, but not the neat, straight and
orderly mirrors you might find in some shops. No, these
mirrors were set at all different angles and they reflected
strangely. Some of them seemed to reflect things that
weren’t even in the room, while others were not able to
reflect much at all.
The shelves were full of colored glass bottles, shiny
tin boxes and lamps of all types. Musty old books, full of
magical stories and delicate drawings, were everywhere.
Carved stone figurines rested against ancient and

7
mysterious leather bags that made you sneeze if you got too
close. There were drawers full of colored jewels, while
fanciful models of impossible flying machines swung from
the ceiling and flapped their many wings. Beautiful music
boxes, little rubber toys and the most elegant dolls… and
far too many other things to mention.
The shop always smelled like popcorn. For that
matter, so did Uncle Q, and BJ could never quite figure out
if the shop made him smell like that or if it was the other
way around. She never saw or even heard a popcorn
popper, probably because every time she started looking for
one, she got distracted by some marvelous machine or
enchanting trinket. She couldn’t wait to go visit.
Walking in to their uncle’s shop was a nearly
overwhelming experience. Cuckoo clocks ticked, chimed
and coo’ed, while colored lights danced and splashed
across more than fifty-eight mirrors (JB tried to count them
once and stopped at 58). The ever-present and entirely
delicious popcorn smell swirled around and around and
made you feel dizzy and hungry and full all at the same
time. It took a whole minute for BJ and JB’s eyes to get
adjusted to the lights, and another minute for their brains to
speed up enough to understand what their eyes were telling
them.

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

9
“Uncle Q? Uncle Q? It’s us! Are you here?”
A voice from the back of the store answered. “Girls!
How dee-lightful to have you in town! I am back here…
no, wait, now I’m over there… oh, okay, I’m here again.
Quick, come find me before I move around anymore.
Whoa, oops… oof… I’m alright, I’m alright, don’t… uf…
don’t worry. I’ll be down in a moment, I’m sure. Oh boy!”
The girls ran towards the place where his voice
seemed to be coming from, laughing and trying not to
knock anything breakable off the crowded shelves. They
ducked around an enormous statue of three penguins and a
monkey, each standing on each other’s heads, and were
rewarded by the sight of their uncle at work.
Uncle Q was the strangest looking grown-up the
Boomer sisters had ever seen. Today, he wore a rumpled
and wrinkled shirt with sideways stripes and no collar. His
green-lensed eyeglasses were triangle shaped (one pointed
up, one pointed down), while his hat seemed to have no
shape at all. He wore cowboy boots just like always, along
with his usual brown vest with about a hundred pockets all
over it.
At the moment, he was perched atop the tallest stilts
in the shop. He teetered and swayed precariously in every
direction as his hands shot out to gently grab the flying

10
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

machines which dangled by strings from the ceiling. It


seemed he would crash to the floor at any second.
“It’s time to wind up my wingers, don’t you know,”
he said to the girls from his wobbly position near the
ceiling. “What good is an unwound winger, I always say. I
wonder if I can reach that one waaaaaaay over there…”
He suddenly let go of both stilts entirely and
reached out with both hands towards a rainbow-colored,
three winged little bird-shaped machine that was clearly too
far away. With a sudden loud “Yip!” he jumped off the
stilts, grabbed the winger for just a second, gave it a quick
twist and let it go, then continued to jump right over the
girls’ heads. He landed with a thump behind them, and the
winger flew in a flappy, happy little circle overhead.
“My brother!” Uncle Q exclaimed. “It is dee-
lightful to see you, Zeke! Welcome to my little shop - we
have so much catching up to do.”
The girls turned around in time to see their uncle
give their dad a hug. Then he turned around towards them
and bent down.
“And my nieces – come give me a big hug! How
was the trip from Virginia? Are you enjoying your new
house? What do you think of our little town?” He suddenly
became very serious and put his face right in front of BJ’s.

11
“And your bike – how bad is it, I wonder? When your dad
called, it sounded like it got really very much a lot broken.
I’m just glad it wasn’t really very much a super lot broken,
because that would have been bad news indeed. Let’s go
have a look, shall we?”
The truth is, BJ had almost forgotten about the
damaged bike in all the excitement. Somehow, standing
here in the shop and looking into her uncle’s green
eyeglasses, the broken bike didn’t make her feel sad
anymore.
“Well, let’s see what we have here,” said Uncle Q,
bending over and staring at the broken bike. “Oh dear. It
looks like an elephant needed a place to sit while he tied his
shoes and he decided your bike was just the place. See
here, the flimmer is bent, the ranter is jammed and the air-
holder-tube has a hole in it. Your dad was right – this is
really very much a lot broken. But as I said, at least it isn’t
really very much a super lot broken. That would be bad.”
He stood up straight, turned to face BJ and grinned an
enormous grin.
“I can fix this!” he announced triumphantly,
bringing a small squeal of happiness from BJ. “I’ll bring it
right over to your house this afternoon, better than new.”
He paused for a moment, then whispered “Do you mind if I

12
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

make a few, um, little changes to the bike? Nothing big, of


course, just a few decorations or something. Would that be
alright?”
“Sure, Uncle Q!” replied BJ.
“Dee-lightful! OK, I know you all have some
unpacking to do, and I’ve got a bike to fix, so off you go.
I’ll bring it over in an hour.”
With that, Uncle Q spun around three times, picked
up the bike in one hand and marched to the back of his
shop. Almost immediately there was a tremendous sound of
hammers hammering and saws sawing and squeaky things
going squeak-squeak-squeak. BJ’s dad looked a little
nervous for a minute, then shrugged his shoulders and said
“Ok girls, let’s get home and unpack some boxes.”

13
Chapter 3: Cookies, New Kids & Wings

About an hour later, BJ was in her room putting


some books onto her bookshelf when the doorbell rang. She
jumped up right away and ran to the front door, shouting
“Uncle Q! Uncle Q! Is my bike fixed?” But Uncle Q was
not at the front door. Instead, there were two boys and a girl
standing on the other side of the screen.
“Oh, I thought you were someone else. Sorry,” she
said, then suddenly remembered her manners. “Um, hi, my
name is BJ.” She opened the door and invited the kids
inside.
“Hi, I’m Sebby,” said the tallest boy, who seemed to
be a little older than BJ. “This is my brother Sal and my
sister Bella.”

14
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

JB came out of her room and said “Isn’t Sal a girl’s


name?”
“Well, my real name is Salvatore,” he answered,
“But everyone calls me Sal, so it’s actually a boy’s name.
What’s your name?”
“I’m JB. Do you guys live near here?”
“Yeah, we live right next door. Our mom said we
should come over and say hi and see if you wanted to go
ride bikes or something.”
“Well, my bike got broken, but our uncle is fixing it
for me,” BJ added. “He should be here soon, I think.”
“Ok. We brought you these, too.” Bella held out a
plate of cookies, which JB quickly took with a big smile.
“I’m in first grade.”
“Cool. I’m in fourth, and JB is in third,” said BJ.
“Hey, I’m in third, too,” said Sal.
“Who’s your teacher?” JB asked.
“Miss Van Essa.”
“Me too! Do you know her? Is she nice? Is she
tough? What does she look like?”
“Um…” said Sal, as JB continued to ask a hundred
more questions.
“JB, I think that’s enough questions for now,” BJ
said.

15
“OK,” JB answered, then yelled “Hey mom, some
kids are here and they brought cookies! Can I have one
now?”
“Please come here,” replied her mom from behind
some boxes in the living room. “Yes, you may have a
cookie, but next time, please don’t yell like that. Come find
me, then ask your question. Why don’t you take them into
the kitchen and get some milk to go with them?” As the
kids scampered off to the kitchen, their mom said, “And
bring me some too please!”
The kids ate the cookies and had a burping contest.
Uncle Q showed up just as JB won with a huge, hairy
sounding burp. He peaked around the corner and startled
everyone when he said “Oh boy, cookies and new kids!”
“Uncle Q! Is my bike ready?” asked BJ as she gave
him a big hug.
“Yes it is, but I think you should probably introduce
me to your new friends before we dash off to see it.”
“Right, sorry. Uncle Q, this is Sebby and Sal and
Bella.”
“Dee-lightful to meet you all. I am sure BJ
mentioned her broken bike already. Would you like to see
what I’ve done?” He turned to BJ. “I should warn you, I
maybe got a little carried away with the decorations. And I

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

sort of used a lot of buttons and knobs and wires, so I had


to add some batteries. And the wings took a little longer to
attach than I expected, but they should be strong enough to
keep you in the air for a while. Just don’t fly too close to
the sun, ok?”
“Wings?!!?!?” shouted BJ. “Are you just teasing
me, Uncle Q? Will the bike really fly?”
“Well, I haven’t quite tested it myself, because I’m
a bit heavier than you are, so I don’t know for certain,
but… yes, I do think it should fly a bit.”
“What’s this about flying?” BJ’s mom asked as she
walked into the kitchen with her empty milk glass. JB was
already running full speed out of the room and she kind of
crashed into her mom, who caught her at the last minute.
“Careful kiddo – mom coming through.”
“Ah, hello Kay,” Uncle Q said to Mrs. Boomer as
he gave her a kiss hello. “How’s my favorite sister? I was
just telling BJ about the improvements I made to her
bicycle.”
“You made it so it can fly?” she asked.
“Now that you mention it, maybe fly is not quite the
right word. I think it will be more like gliding than flying,
but yes, it should be able to get off the ground a bit. You
see, the forward momentum caused by the pedals will

17
produce a sufficient differential in air pressure across the
wing surfaces to generate a modicum of lift. Of course,
once she gets off the ground, the wheels will no longer
provide the forward thrust, so friction will cause her to
slow down and return to earth, where the whole cycle will
begin again… no pun intended.” The kids all gave him
confused looks, so he knelt down and explained “If BJ
pedals fast enough, the wings will lift her off the ground a
little bit. Unless it’s windy, in which case she might get
quite high”
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Mrs. Boomer
said with a smile. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go
take a look!”
The room was suddenly full of sound and
movement as all five kids and both grown-ups scrambled to
be the first to see the bike. They bumped and giggled and
raced to the front door. JB crashed into everyone, and
somehow BJ got there first. She stood frozen in the
doorway, unable to talk or move as she stared at the
contraption waiting for her on the front lawn. JB was right
behind her and couldn’t stop running in time, so she
crashed into BJ’s back, but neither girl minded. Their mom
got there next, and gasped in surprise at the sight.

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

The first thing everyone noticed was the wings, of


course. They were delicate and lacy, like a butterfly, but
there was also something solid about them. BJ was sure
they were very, very strong. The wing’s colors changed
constantly, in response to the flashing lights that circled
each tire. The handlebars were full of buttons and dials, and
a large bell was attached to the front fender. There was a
saddle bag on each side of the rear wheel, and the pink and
purple helmet resting on the wheel looked like something a
motorcycle girl would wear.
“Oh, my. It certainly is… different,” said BJ’s mom.

19
“Don’t worry, Kay. BJ is a smart girl and she’ll
handle this bicycle just fine, I’m sure.” Then he turned to
BJ and said “Won’t you?”
“Oh yes, I promise. Can I ride it now?” BJ asked.
“Of course you can! It’s your bike, right?”
“Uncle Q, can you put wings on my bike too?”
asked JB, unable to look away from her sister’s bike.
“I don’t see why not! Unfortunately, I have to take a
little trip soon, so it will have to wait until I return. But for
now, I’m sure your sister will be happy to share.”
Everyone was outside now, crowding around the
winged bicycle, touching the lights and pushing the
buttons. BJ was already strapping her helmet on, and when
she put the visor down and sat on the seat, she looked like a
beautiful butterfly or a fairy or maybe a butterfly fairy.
“Is this flying bike dangerous?” asked BJ.
“Oh my, of course it is! Quite, quite dangerous
indeed. But if people were meant to be safe, why is the
world so full of such wonderful dangers? All this modern
emphasis on being safe and healthy is quite dangerous and
unhealthy, don't you know.”
“Um, I don’t think I really want to fly right now,”
she said after a pause. “Maybe I’ll just ride it a little.”

20
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“That’s ok too,” said Uncle Q. “As I said, it’s your


bike, and if you don’t want to fly, that’s your decision. As
long as you don’t pedal too fast, you should stay on the
ground.”
BJ eased forward slowly on her bike. Then she
stopped. Then she made it go forward just a little bit more.
And then she stopped again.
“Is it too heavy, BJ?” asked her mom. “It doesn’t
seem to move very much.”
“No mom, it’s not too heavy. It actually feels lighter
than before. I just don’t want to go too fast and take off into
the air by accident.”
“Then can I try it?” asked JB.
“And can I?” asked Sebby, Sal and Bella all at once.
“I think we should let BJ be the first to fly it, and
since she’s not quite ready to do so, perhaps we should go
back into the kitchen for some more of those dee-lightful
cookies.”
As everyone ran back inside, BJ reached out to hold
Uncle Q’s hand.
“Thanks for fixing my bike, Uncle Q. It’s really
pretty, but…”
“Yes?” he paused.

21
“But… um… do you think you could maybe take
the wings off? I just want a bike I can ride, and I don’t
really want to fly around.”
“Of course!” he replied with a big grin. “Flying
isn’t for everyone, you know. But after I take them off, I’ll
leave the wings in your garage, just in case you change
your mind someday.”
“Thanks, Uncle Q. Race ya to the cookies!”

22
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Chapter 4: The Non-Secret of PIFL

It was the night before the first day of school, and


BJ was still a little bit nervous about starting fourth grade.
She never had a man teacher before, and she hoped he
would be nice.
As the girls were laying out their brand new first-
day-of-school clothes for the next morning, there was a
knock on the front door. Then their mom called to them.
“Girls, come downstairs, please! Your Uncle is here
and he wants to talk with you before you go to school
tomorrow!”
“Yay!” JB threw her new dress over her shoulder
and started running towards the door. Unfortunately, BJ

23
was already in between her and the door, so she sort of
tripped and crashed into her older sister.
“Oooff! Sorry…” she said.
“It’s ok, I’m used to it,” said BJ with a sigh.
The girls managed to get downstairs without any
more crashes or bangs, and found their parents and uncle
sitting at the kitchen table.
“Please sit down, girls. There’s something important
we need to tell you,” said their dad. “Q, why don’t you
start.”
“Gladly!” he replied. “Girls, what we are about to
tell you is not a secret at all. Feel free to tell whomever
you’d like to tell - we won’t mind one bit. I should warn
you, however, that most grown-ups won’t believe you.
They usually don’t believe me when I tell them, although
perhaps you will have more luck in that department.” He
grinned and winked at them
“Here it is. Your parents and I are members of a
group called the Precarious and Impulsive Fellowship of
Liveliness, or PIFL for short. Our mission is to encourage
aliveness, and we are constantly struggling against a nasty
group called The Timid Good.” He stopped for a moment,
to see if the girls understood.

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“We believe the TG is led by a shady, mean guy


called The Little Gray Man, but he may or may not actually
exist. You see, unlike PIFL, the TG is an extremely secret
organization. It’s so secret, in fact, that many TG members
don’t even know they are in the group!”
“So the TG people are the bad guys, right Uncle
Q?” asked JB.
“Well, that is a difficult question to answer. Or
rather, it is an easy one to answer but the answer itself
might be difficult to understand. That is, I can easily
answer your question either clearly or correctly, but to
answer it both correctly and clearly is not easy. Still, I will
do my best.
“On one hand, members of the Timid Good are not
exactly trying to hurt anyone, and in that sense they could
be considered, at the very least, not bad. But they do hurt
people, oh yes, even including themselves. Their actions
are often quite bad indeed.
“So, are they bad people, you ask? Well, yes and no.
It sort of depends on what you mean by bad. They never
rob banks or punch people in the nose. In fact, they hardly
ever even yell. No, the things they steal are worth much
more than money, which makes their crime all the worse.
They steal people’s peace. They kill joy. They try to tie up

25
love and put it in a box. And they do it all in the name of
goodness and correctness – especially correctness” He
shook his head sadly
“So why are they called good if they do so much
bad stuff?” asked JB.
“Ah, that is a big mystery, isn’t it? Their name
comes from the fact that they appear to be good and
respectable. On the outside they are all fake politeness and
pretend niceness, but on the inside, well… inside, they are
quite rotten and empty.

“The thing is,” said their mom, “the TG is all about


being in control and doing things the right way, which they
call The Correct Way, without ever asking if they are doing

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

the right thing. I hope you see how it is better to do the


right thing, however badly, than to do something bad, even
if you are very good at it.”
“Like if someone is really good at hitting people,
they still shouldn’t do it, right?” asked BJ, looking at her
sister.
“Exactly!” said their dad.
“Um, why are you telling us all this stuff?” asked
JB.
“Well, we have reason to believe the Timid Good is
trying to do something at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary
School, where you will be tomorrow morning. We don’t
know for sure what they will try to do, but what ever it is, it
will be bad, and some people will try to call it good and
Correct. So we want you to keep an eye out, and let us
know if anything unusual happens.”
“Like what?” asked JB again.
“We don’t know,” said her dad with a chuckle.
“That’s part of the problem. The TG is very secretive, as we
said, so we were lucky to find out they were going to do
something at your school in the first place.”
“Oh.” Neither girl knew what to say about that, and
BJ was feeling even more nervous than ever.

27
“But there’s no need to be nervous,” said her mom,
as if she could read BJ’s thoughts. “It turns out JB’s teacher
Miss Van Essa is a PIFL member too, and she will be
keeping an eye on both of you. You can go to her if you
need any help.”
“Can kids join the piffler group?” asked JB. “I want
to join, I want to join!”
“Ah, that’s a very interesting question,” said Uncle
Q with a wink. “Strictly speaking, no you cannot. But that
is only because kids are naturally rather PIFL-ish already.
Kids don’t need to join PIFL, because in one sense, they
are already members. It is only grown-ups who need to be
told it is good to be precarious and impulsive.”
“But there is another reason,” said her dad. “The
decision to join PIFL is a grown-up decision. It’s sort of
like driving a car. You have to wait until your legs are long
enough to reach the pedals… and you also have to wait
until your insides are mature enough to handle the car.”
“Right,” said her mom. “If you start driving before
your insides are ready, you could get really hurt, or you
could hurt the people around you. And there are enough
grown-ups having car accidents as it is.”
“So, being in PIFL is sorta dangerous?” asked BJ
with a little shudder.

28
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“Yes. Yes it is,” said Uncle Q in a serious tone. He


quickly burst into a smile as he said, “But of course, being
dangerous is the only way to be safe. Trying to be safe all
the time is actually quite dangerous. That’s one of the ways
the Timid Good cause so much damage. They insist on
tight controls on everything, in the name of safety but at the
expense of liveliness.”
“I think you’re confusing her now, Q” said Mrs.
Boomer, seeing the puzzled looks on the faces of both her
daughters.
“Ah, I probably am, Kay. My apologies, girls, but
perhaps your confusion helps you understand why you
cannot be members of PIFL just yet. And besides, we’re
really quite off the subject, aren’t we? I believe we were
talking about the situation at the school.” He turned to their
dad. “Zeke, did we cover everything?”
“I think so,” replied Dad. “You girls know that PIFL
will keep an eye on you, and I must say, it would be rather
unlike the Timid Good to try anything very sudden, obvious
or significant right away. They usually move pretty slowly.
I think we probably have some time.”
As it turns out, the girls and the PIFL group
wouldn’t have to wait long at all to find out what the Timid
Good was up to.

29
Chapter 5: Theodore Roosevelt Elementary

Theodore Roosevelt Elementary was a nice looking


school. The walls were red brick and the inside smelled
very much like the school they used to go to. This year,
BJ’s teacher was a man named Mr. Federico, and JB’s
teacher was named Miss Van Essa.
BJ and JB climbed out of the bus and headed
towards the school’s big front door. There was a grownup
holding the door open for them, and they went right inside.
BJ’s class was at the end of the long hallway, while JB’s
was around the corner, just across from the library
BJ found the door to her classroom, took a deep
breath, and walked in. There was her teacher, right up front.
He was sort of short, with a big bushy mustache, darkish

30
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

tan skin and a very nice smile. His voice was gentle and
warm as he invited BJ to take a seat.
“Welcome to fourth grade, everyone! My name is
Mr. Federico, and I am looking forward to getting to know
each of you this year. Fourth grade is a very important year,
and we’ve got a lot of learning to do. Let’s start by learning
a little bit about each other while I take attendance. When I
call your name, please raise your hand and tell everyone
what your favorite color is. Brian Bard?”
A boy with dark hair and lots of freckles raised his
hand and said, “Blue.”
“Bethany Boomer?”
“Pink. And I go by BJ, please.”
“OK, I’ll make a note of it. Emma Carlson?”
“Red,” said a pretty girl with bright red hair in the
chair next to BJ.
So far, everything seemed good, BJ thought as she
sat back with a quiet sigh. Maybe today will be just fine.
Once attendance and colors was finished, the boy
named Brian Bard raised his hand again.
“What are you going to teach us this year?” he
asked
“Teach you?” replied Mr. Federico in a surprised
sounding voice. “Why, I’m not sure I’ll teach anyone

31
anything at all, although I do hope you learn a lot in our
time together. The thing is, most things worth learning
cannot be taught, you know.” This certainly got the kids
attention.
“Well, what about reading?” asked Emma, her red
hair swirling as she bounced up and down. “Knowing how
to read is worth knowing, isn't it?"
“Of course, of course! You really are very smart
already, aren’t you? Yes, reading is important, and it's
something your parents and teachers can show you how to
do. But here's a secret – your parents and teachers don't
really want to teach you how to read.”
BJ gasped, and several other students looked around
confusedly.
“No,” Mr. Federico continued with a grin, "We want
to teach you to love to read. That’s what really matters, and
sadly, we can't actually teach you that. Nobody can. All we
can do is teach you how to read, and hope you will learn to
love it on your own. And knowing how to read isn't worth
much if you have not also learned to love reading.”
“So does that mean we don’t have to learn anything
this year? Ha!” asked Emma with a loud laugh.
“In a way, yes. You don’t actually have to learn
anything. Of course, if you don’t learn certain things, you’ll

32
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

be back here in fourth grade again next year, to try again.


And I do hope you all learn lots of fun things, but
mostly…” he paused and looked around the room, “I hope
you learn to love learning.”
“And speaking of learning and reading, we’ll be
going to the library this afternoon. I am told the new
librarian has a big surprise for everyone, but I don’t know
what the surprise is yet myself, so it’s no use asking me.
But first, it’s time for math.”
BJ was good at math. Actually, she was very good at
it, or as Uncle Q always said, super-very-a-whole-lot good.
At her old school, in third grade, she even sort of liked
math sometimes. But she still felt a little nervous as she
pulled a thick math book out of her desk and turned to page
1 as Mr. Federico started the lesson.
Meanwhile, JB was trying to peak into the library
before she went into her class room, but the door was
locked and the glass had been painted over, so she couldn’t
see anything. She turned around with a little huff and went
into her room.
Miss Van Essa was tall and kind of skinny. Her hair
was short, spiky and looked a little bit purple in the sunlight
that was streaming through the big windows. Her shirt had
splashes of color all over it, and her smile was enormous.

33
JB liked her right away and was happily surprised to see a
guitar propped up in the corner behind the teacher’s desk. It
was an electric guitar, not a regular one, and it looked like
she played it a lot.
“Hey third graders! Who likes to have fun?” she
asked, as every kid’s hand shot up into the air.
“Yay! Me too. I think we’re going to have a groovy
time together,” she continued. “Quick, everyone grab a seat
and lemme do this silly attendance thing really quick, and
then we’ll get ready to head over to the library. OK, who’s
Jenna Boomer?”
JB didn’t respond at first, since she wasn’t used to
being called Jenna. Usually everyone just called her JB, but
the room got quiet as everyone waited and suddenly it
clicked in JB’s brain that they were waiting for her.
“Ooh, right, that’s me. I’m Jenna. But everyone
calls me JB,” she said quickly, as Miss Van Essa chuckled.
“Alright, JB it is. Now somebody show me Michael
Durkee?”
“That’s me. Everyone calls me Mikey.”
“Well, hi there Mikey. That’s my brother’s name
too. How about Franky Eggs?”

34
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

35
“I’m Franky.”
“Nice to meet ya, Franky Eggs. Where’s Salvatore
Nealson?”
Sal raised his hand and JB gave him a little wave.
The rest of attendance went by quickly, and then
Miss Van Essa grabbed her guitar and jumped up on her
desk. Her guitar was plugged into a small speaker next to
her desk, and the volume was turned w-a-y up. The song
she sang went something like this:

Oh, library time is comin’ soon


Yeah, library time is comin’
We’ll learn about the sun or moon
Or how to do some drummin’

I hope you find some books you like


‘cause books are really groovy
You’ll read about a flying bike
Or how to make a movie-eeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

When her song was done, Miss Van Essa jumped


off the desk, kicked her heels up in the air and made a little
squeaky squealy sound before she landed.

36
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“Whoa! Now that’s what I call quite good,” she said


as she caught her breath. “But I’ve gotta keep my songs
kinda short, otherwise we’ll disturb the other classes too
much, and that wouldn’t be nice, right? OK music lovers,
let’s think for a minute then step outside and see what the
Librarian has in store for us this year. Hey, does anyone
know what a housemartin is?”
Franky Eggs raised his hand for a moment, then
blurted out “It’s a kind of bird, right?”
“Uh-huh, it is. Good job! OK, everyone line up,
please. Off we go!”

37
Chapter 6: How Not To Be So Excited

Miss Van Essa led her class across the hallway to


the library, which still looked sort of dark inside. She
paused outside the door and quietly addressed the class.
“OK kids, I expect everyone to behave in here…
and I also expect you to have fun and find some totally cool
books.” She smiled broadly and opened the library door.
JB had never heard a teacher say the word cool
before, and had certainly never been told that having fun
was part of the teacher’s expectation for the school day.
The class buzzed with excitement as they entered the
library, so only a few of them heard Miss Van Essa’s
surprised little gasp.

38
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

The library shelves were completely bare. There


wasn’t a single book to be seen anywhere. No stories, no
encyclopedia, no picture books, no big books and no small
ones. Just a whole lot of empty shelves. The excited buzz
from moments before quickly became a worried sounding
murmur, full of questions. Even Miss Van Essa looked a
little concerned.
“I am Mister Winstesterfield-Schmytherston,
children, and I am the new librarian.”
This voice, which was barely a whisper, managed to
echo weirdly across the empty room. It came from a man in
a gray suit who seemed to have entered the library without
anyone noticing. His hair and skin and eyes were all nearly
the same color as his clothes, a yellowish gray that
reminded JB of very, very, very old milk. For some
unimaginable reason, the walls of the library were painted
the same color as well, which made it kind of hard to see
him unless he moved. JB felt a little bit dizzy, and not in
the good way.
“I want each of you children to be seated quietly in
one of these chairs right here,” he droned, “and then once
you are each seated in one of these chairs right here, I will
tell the class what shall happen next. Miss Van Essa, you
may leave now. I will take it from here.”

39
Miss Van Essa gave one last worried look around
the empty library as she slowly walked out. JB watched her
go, then took a seat next to Sal, who looked expectant but
slightly concerned now that Miss Van Essa was gone.
“Some of you children may have noticed that the
shelves of this library are bare of their usual occupants.
This should not cause any worry or concern for any of you
children. The new library books I ordered have arrived,”
whispered Mr. Winstesterfield-Schmytherston. “They are in
boxes outside, and today you children will help carry them
in to the library and will place them on the library shelves
during your library time.”
There was a moment of silence as the kids realized
what he’d said. This did not sound like much fun at all.
“Now, the boxes of new books for the library are
quite heavy, so each child shall take just two books out of
the box at a time, one for each hand, and carry them inside
and put them neatly and straightly and quietly on the shelf.
Then each child shall go outside again and pick up two
more books. I assume there are no questions.”
JB raised her hand.
“Yes?” the gray librarian asked in a way that clearly
indicated he did not want any questions. He stared at her

40
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

with watery gray eyes that made JB want to yawn, as if


there suddenly wasn’t enough air in the room.
“How will we know where each book goes?” she
managed to say without yawning.
“Please do not ask such silly questions, little child.
Questions such as these waste time which should be spent
carrying books from outside into the library. I have already
told you that the books go on the shelves. All the books are
the same, so any shelf will do. Just start with this shelf,” he
pointed, “and work from left to right. Now please stand up
and follow me, children.” He began a slow, shuffling walk
towards the door.

41
“What do you think he meant when he said all the
books are the same?” JB asked Sal as they walked towards
the door. He shrugged.
Once outside, the class saw an enormous stack of
boxes spread out all over the playground.
“How are we going to have recess with all these
boxes everywhere?” JB wondered to herself.
“As soon as these books are moved indoors to the
library, your ordinary recess activities will resume. Until
that time, recesses will be spent carrying books from
outside into the inside of the library and onto the shelves.
So, work quickly, but remember, only two at a time, and no
running.”
“Oh, this is going to take forever,” moaned Sal.
“We’re not going to have a real recess for a week!”
All the boxes were still taped shut, and Mr.
Winstesterfield-Schmytherston began to slowly and
carefully cut the tape on one of them. After what seemed
like an hour, he finished cutting one piece of tape. He
opened the box and handed two books to Sal, then handed
two to JB.
“Move along,” he slowly whispered, barely audible
over the light September breeze. “We must be quick. No
running now.”

42
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Once the kids were inside, JB noticed the books in


Sal’s hands were identical to the books she was carrying.
“Sal – look! These books really are all the same.”
“How Not To Be So Excited, by Dr. Noke Andoo,
PhD, EdD and Dr. Bea Kwiat, MD, PBJ, NoPq” Sal read.
“What a weird title. Why would there be four copies, I
wonder.”
“Um, I think there’s more than four,” said a boy
named Gregory who had just arrived, carrying two more
copies of the same book. “I looked in the box, and they are
all the same, just like Mr. Whiskey-Smelly said.”
The kids stared at each other for a moment, then
turned to see four more kids enter the library, each carrying
two copies of How Not To Be So Excited.
“I don’t think that’s his name. It was something like
Winkster-Shicklepon,” said Sal. JB giggled.
With tired sighs, each kid put a book on the shelf
and started walking back to what used to be the
playground. Before JB reached the library door, she quickly
ran back to the shelf and turned one of the books upside
down.
“Why did you do that?” asked Sal.
“I don’t know. Just for fun, I suppose.”

43
“When they got outside, they saw the first box was
only half empty. After two more trips, it was entirely
empty, and the Librarian was slowly trying to open a
second box, while all the kids were standing around
watching him. By the end of library time, they had emptied
only three boxes. This was going to take a very, very long
time.

44
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Chapter 7: The PIFL Council

BJ and JB were tucked in their beds, with their teeth


brushed and the lights out. For some reason, neither could
fall asleep right away, and they began talking about the
strange events in the library. BJ’s class had only emptied
two boxes of books that afternoon, and the pile on the
playground seemed to actually be getting larger.
“Do you think Mister Whiskerton-Soupsoup is in
the Timid Good?” asked JB.
“Maybe he’s even the Little Gray Man,” replied BJ,
with a nervous giggle.
“I wonder what his plan is,” said JB.
“Duh! His plan is to take all the books out of the
library and make us work like crazy to put that other ‘Don’t
get excited’ book on all the shelves,” replied BJ.

45
“Yeah, but I wonder if there’s more to it than that. I
mean, most of the kids didn’t read the books that used to be
in the library, and Mom and Dad can always take us to the
public library to get good books, so what’s the big deal?”
“What’s the big deal? I’m surprised to hear you ask
that, JB. If Mr. Something- Something-Something takes all
the books out of the school library, then… wait. What’s that
sound?”
The Boomer girls suddenly became aware of voices
coming from downstairs. BJ slipped out of bed and tip-toed
over to the door.
“That sounds like Uncle Q,” she whispered to her
sister, who had joined her in the doorway.
“Yeah, and it sounds like my teacher too. I wonder
what Miss Van Essa is doing here…”
Slowly, BJ eased the door open, hoping it wouldn’t
squeak and give them away. Both girls crept silently to the
top of the stairs, so they could listen in on the grown-ups’
conversation without being seen. Uncle Q was talking now,
and his voice was quite clear. The delicious smell of fresh
popcorn drifted up the stairs.
“So,” they heard him say, “I was watching the
boring news the other day, which is something only grown-
ups like to do, and there was a boring story about

46
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

something boring, and BJ and JB should come down from


the top of the stairs now, instead of sitting up there listening
like spies.” The other grown-ups laughed.
“How did he know we were here?” asked JB in a
whisper.
“Your uncle knows all sorts of things,” answered
their dad, “and you don’t need to whisper. Come on down,
please. I think we’d like to speak with you.”
The girls sheepishly came down the stairs and into
the dining room. Sure enough, there was Uncle Q, wearing
his green triangle glasses and shapeless hat. Miss Van Essa,
whose hair seemed even more purple than usual, was there
too, along with a few other grown-ups the girls didn’t
recognize.
“Is this a PIFL meeting?” asked JB.
“Indeed!” said Uncle Q with an enormous grin.
“And we were just discussing the situation at the school
library. JB knows Miss Van Essa, of course, and perhaps
you have met Mr. Feaser, from the public library down the
street? This is Mr. Woodbury Kane, from the grocery store,
Mr. Hamilton Fish from the fire department, and Mrs. Dixie
Arbuckle, who is a hairdresser at the mall. Ladies and
gentlemen, allow me to introduce my beautiful and talented
nieces, BJ and JB Boomer.”

47
Miss Van Essa smiled, Mr. Fish clapped and Mr.
Kane waved with both arms. The girls smiled back, and JB
started to clap too.
“PIFL has many more members than just us, of
course. Tonight is just a meeting of some of the leaders,”
explained Mr. Boomer.
“I think you might as well join us for a while, since
our discussion this evening is going to be about the
situation at the school,” said their mom.
“Yay, we get to stay up!” said JB with a big grin and
a few more claps.
“Well, I suppose we should start by admitting the
Timid Good surprised us,” said Uncle Q. “I certainly didn’t
expect them to try something so bold. Personally, I thought
they might try to get a TG teacher in one of the classrooms
or on the school board, but they ended up doing something
much worse.”
“Yes,” continued Mr. Kane, the grocery store guy.
“A teacher would have been bad enough, but at least then it
would have been limited to a single class. The Librarian
deals with every single kid in the whole school! This is
quite serious,” he finished, with a big smile.
“I agree. I mean, I’ve got some books in my
classroom,” added Miss Van Essa, “but not enough. I really

48
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

rely on the school library.” She turned to JB. “While you


guys were in library time this morning, I went around and
talked with some of the other teachers. None of them knew
this was coming, and nobody knows where the real books
are.”
“Well, I guess the question is, what can we do about
it?” asked Mr. Fish the fire fighter, who was trying to
balance a crayon on the tip of his rather large nose.
“Ah, what indeed? I have some suggestions, if
you’d like to hear them,” replied Uncle Q. Everyone
nodded, except for Mr. Fish, who had ducked beneath the
table to retrieve the crayon which somehow managed to
slip off his huge nose.
“Ok, here is what I think BJ and JB should do. First,
talk to the other kids and find out who wants to help. It’s
very important to find partners in a situation like this, and
even if two kids could do it, that doesn’t mean the two of
you should try to do it on your own. Get as many helpers as
you can. Make it like a club, and come up with a good
name.”
“How about the Great Kids Club?” suggested BJ.
“The GKC,” said her dad with a chuckle. “That’s
perfect.”

49
50
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“I like it,” added Miss Van Essa, who looked


suddenly serious. Then, just as suddenly, she drummed a
quick, happy beat on the table - bom-bom-bom-buda-buda-
bom – and burst out in a giggle.
“The next step will be to find out where the books
are,” continued Uncle Q, once Miss Van Essa’s little drum
solo was finished. “I don’t think your new librarian could
have thrown them away or given them away already – I’ll
bet they are still in the building somewhere. That will be a
job for Miss Van Essa. And while she is looking, perhaps
you girls could pass around a few of the books Mr. Feaser
brought over from the public library.”
Mr. Feaser leaned forward and pointed to a box in
the corner. It looked awfully small and lonely compared to
the hundreds of boxes that still littered the playground.
“I could only spare a few, but fortunately it doesn’t
take many. I promise you, the books in that one box are
more powerful than the mountains of books the Timid
Good has collected.
“The great thing about books,” he continued, “is
that they are sort of like ideas. You can share them without
losing them, unlike most other things. See, if I have a dollar
and you have a dollar, and if I give you mine and you give
me yours, then we each still only have one dollar. But if I

51
have an idea and you have an idea, and I give you mine and
you give me yours, then we both have two ideas. That’s
what I mean by sharing without losing. Pretty cool, isn’t
it?”
“And that’s something the Timid Good doesn’t
really understand,” added their dad. “They want to make
everyone all have the same idea, and have everyone read
the same book. That’s probably because they think dollars
are more important than ideas or books.”
“OK, so… what do we do when we find the missing
books?” asked JB, who was certain the books would be
found soon.
“Well, read them, of course,” answered Mr. Fish,
who was now trying to balance two crayons on his
enormous nose with the help of Mr. Kane and Mrs.
Arbuckle. “And share them. But I am pretty sure the new
Timid librarian won’t like that, so you’ll have to be
discrete.” The crayons fell to the floor again.
“What does discrete mean?” asked JB.
“It’s sorta like sneaky, I think,” said BJ.
“Um, yes, something like that,” added her mom.
“It’s like being careful and not showing off too much.”
“And in the meantime,” spoke up her dad, “The
PIFL team will do what we can to find out where Mr.

52
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Winstesterfield-Shmytherston came from and what else he


might be up to. Miss Van Essa is going to try to organize
some of the teachers, and I’m working on an idea or two of
my own. But now, it’s definitely time for you girls to get to
sleep. You’ve got a big day ahead of you, so off you go!”

53
Chapter 8: JB Gets An Idea

The next morning, the girls got dressed in record


time. JB ate two bowls of cereal so fast that her mom said
she expected to see scorch marks on her spoon. BJ, on the
other hand, didn’t have much of an appetite, and she just
sort of dunked her Cheerios up and down in the milk. Then,
it was time for the bus.
“OK kiddos, I put some of Mr. Feaser’s books into
your backpacks. Remember, be discrete, but don’t try to be
too careful. Give something to everyone who asks for one –
these are for everyone, right?”
“We will,” replied BJ, while JB nodded, swallowed
another mouthful of cereal and ran out the door to the bus.

54
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Quietly, the Boomer girls explained the plan to


some kids on the bus. A few actually said they were glad
the library had been emptied, but most of them were
interested to hear about the Great Kids Club. BJ gave
Ramona the Pest to a boy named Mikey, and JB handed a
Cam Jansen book to a first grader named Liz. BJ kept a
book titled The War Between The Pitiful Teachers and the
Splendid Kids for herself, and she managed to finish the
first three chapters before the bus pulled in to the parking
lot at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary.
Once inside, the Boomer sisters quickly ran out of
books. BJ had independent reading and writing for the first
part of the school day, and she tried several times to write a
note explaining about PIFL, the Timid Good and the Great
Kids Club, but the whole thing was just too complicated
and was taking too long, so she decided to make little GKC
membership cards instead, to hand out to the other kids at
recess.
It always seemed like forever before recess time,
and this day BJ felt that way even more. Once recess finally
started, she tried to invite some kids to join the Great Kids
Club. Red-haired Emma jumped up and down when she got
her club card, and a few other kids liked it too. Her next
door neighbor Sebby was at recess, and he took three cards

55
– one for himself and two for his brother and sister.
Meanwhile, JB was making plans of her own. She wanted
to find those missing books!
JB liked Miss Speckle’s art class, and she regretted
having to miss it. But, she knew that finding the missing
books was more important than working on her painting of
a panda eating bamboo shoots. So, she took a deep breath,
paused for a second, then pointed the purple paint tube at
her face and squeezed as hard as she could.
The paint practically exploded out of the tube,
sending purple globs flying through the air. Her hands,
smock, pants, face and hair were completely covered in
sticky purple goo. A drippy glob fell from her nose onto her
left shoe, and she tried hard to look surprised.
“Oh! Oh my! Oh my dear! Oh my dear girl!”
squeaked Miss Speckle as she rushed over, a surprised and
worried look on her face. “What happened?”
“Um, I’m not sure, Miss Speckle. I was trying to
squeeze out some purple and I guess too much came out?”
answered JB as purple blobs continued to drip off her
cheeks and chin. She knew she shouldn’t trick her teacher
like this, but she really wanted to find those missing library
books. She also knew Miss Speckle would never let her

56
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

leave class without a good reason. Fortunately, now she had


a very, very good reason.
“Oh. Oh my. Well, it’s a very pretty color, isn’t it,
but I think you should go to the restroom and clean up. I’ll
give you a hall pass.”
This was exactly what JB was hoping her teacher
would say, and she gave Sal a wink. Then she skipped out
the door, leaving a trail of purple splashes on the floor and
a large smeary handprint on the door.
“Oops!” she said as she disappeared into the
hallway. “Sorry about the paint on the door!”
Once in the girl’s bathroom, JB quickly washed off
the bigger paint blobs from her face and hands. She still
looked quite purple, and her hair almost matched Miss Van
Essa’s, but at least most of the dripping had stopped.
“Purple is strong,” said a voice behind her. JB spun
around to see a large, wrinkled old woman with a mop and
bucket standing near the door.
“Um, I had an accident in art class,” she started to
say, but the mop lady began laughing.
“Sure and that don’t look like an accident to me,
lassie. It looks like an idea.” The mop lady’s eyes twinkled
as she laughed her gentle, friendly laugh. JB found herself
laughing along.

57
“M’ name is Meeda, wee one, an’ I know all about
accidents an’ ideas. I been cleanin’ up after both a whole
long time, an’ I kin tell th’ dif’rence. What you got on your
face there, it’s definitely an idea. Do ya want to tell old
Meeda about it?”
JB smiled bashfully as she wiped purple off her
shoe.
“Um, I needed to get out of class for a little while.
I’m, uh, looking for something.”
“Is it books you’re looking for?” asked Meeda, and
JB looked up sharply.
“How did you know?”
“A lass with ideas like you, she can’t be happy
‘bout th’ new book in that library. A lass with ideas wants to
read real books.” Meeda’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I
know where they’ve got off to. I can show you where he
took ‘em.”
For a moment, JB’s purple mouth was hanging open
in surprise and her eyes were open wide. Her heart was
pounding loudly in her ears.
“Really? You know where they are? Are they in the
school somewhere?”
“Yes, lassie. They’re in th’ basement… back in a
dusty old storage area. If the books stay there much longer,

58
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

they’ll begin to rot, so we’ve got to get them out soon. I’d
bring ‘em back up stairs m’self, but these old bones can
barely get Meeda up the stairs, let alone Meeda with an arm
full of books. It’ll take someone young and strong like
yourself, don’t you know.”
“Great! Let’s go get ‘em right now!”
“Well now, just how many books do you suppose
you could carry at a time, me lass? An’ where are you going
to put them, once you’ve brought them up? And how long
do you suppose it’ll be before Miss Speckle wonders where
you’ve got off to?”
JB didn’t know what to say. Her mouth opened and
closed a few times, as she tried to think.
“Oh, don’t worry, old Meeda will take you there
now, but we’ve got to be quick. You can grab a few books
to take with you, and then make plans to come back later
for the rest.”
JB was surprised by how quickly Meeda could
move, and she ran to keep up. Meeda led the way down a
long hallway, to a part of the school JB had never been to
before. She opened a door that led to a dusty staircase, with
a bare bulb hanging overhead. Down the stairs they went,
around a few corners, and then suddenly stopped in front of
a door.

59
“It’s locked!” said JB as she tried unsuccessfully to
twist the knob. “Do you have a key?”
“I’m afraid not, my dear. ‘T wasn’t locked the last
time I came down here. I wonder why it’s locked now…”
she paused in thought a moment, then said “This is not a
good sign – we’d better go.”
JB, her face and hair still stained quite purple,
returned to her art class and tried to sort things out in her
head. On the one hand, she knew where the books were
being kept, so that made her happy. But the door was
locked, which made her frustrated. She wasn’t sure how
she should feel. This was going to be harder than she
thought.

60
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Chapter 9: Back To The Emporium

“What happened to your face?” asked BJ as her


purple little sister boarded the school bus. “And your hair?
And your clothes and shoes and everything…?”
“It was just an idea I had,” answered JB. Her voice
dropped to a whisper, “And it worked… well, sort of.”
Quickly, she told BJ about art class and meeting Meeda and
finding the locked door in the basement.
“How do you know the books are really there? That
lady could have been tricking you, you know,” said BJ
when JB finished telling the story.
“No way! I know she was telling the truth. The
books are in that room – they have to be!”

61
“Alright, ok, I believe you,” BJ replied, mostly to
get JB to calm down. “Here, I made you a GKC
membership card.”
“Oh, thanks!”
“I made a whole bunch of them and gave them out
at recess today. Or should I call it ‘book-carrying-time’?
We only got one and a half boxes emptied today, and that’s
fewer than we did yesterday! But at least we can still talk a
little while we’re doing it. I miss real recess.”
Once they got home, Mrs. Boomer listened
attentively as JB explained what happened. She giggled a
little bit every time she looked at JB’s purple face, even
though she tried not to.
“Ok, kids. Time to go see your Uncle and let him
know what you’ve found out. Let’s go get in the car.”
After a short drive the three Boomer ladies walked
into The Emporium and paused to let their eyes and brains
get adjusted. The familiar popcorn smell was there, and
Uncle Q was standing behind the counter, holding an
enormous envelope in his hands. It was made of fancy,
cream colored paper that looked very expensive and silky.
JB’s fingers twitched at her sides as she imagined holding
it. The back was full of mysterious red symbols of lions and
crowns and maybe some dragons. There were stripes

62
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

pointing in all directions and words in some language


neither girl could understand. He set it aside as the group
approached.
“Ah, hello! The looks on your faces tell me you’ve
found something new, and judging by JB’s purple-ish-ness,
I’ll bet it’s quite a story. Out with it now. What have you
uncovered?”
“JB knows where the books are,” blurted BJ,
earning a sharp look from JB, who wanted to be the one to
tell him. BJ closed her mouth and let JB explain the whole
thing, starting with the purple paint and ending with the
locked door.
“Interesting,” said Uncle Q. “Most undeniably, dee-
lightfully interesting. I wonder…” His voice trailed off as
he thought. “Well, there’s only one way to find out… well,
actually two ways… but I wonder…” He stopped talking
entirely and gazed at the wingers as they flew their flappy,
happy little circles overhead.
“Um, Uncle Q, what do you wonder?” asked JB.
“A great many things, my dear. In fact, I wonder a
very super lot great many things. But just at this moment, I
wonder why the books are in the basement, although I have
a theory. I wonder why the door was open previously, but
now is locked. I wonder who locked it. I wonder where the

63
64
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

key is. I wonder how I can get there. But just before you
came in, I wondered what was in this envelope. Would it be
alright if I take a moment to open it?”
“Sure!” JB and BJ called out together.
With his nieces’ permission, Uncle Q turned his
attention once again to the creamy, fancy envelope. He
picked it up and turned it over in his hands several times.
He smelled it, then put it to his ear as if it were whispering
him a secret. When BJ and JB couldn’t take it any longer,
he finally opened it, very carefully and slowly, and
withdrew a single sheet of paper. He adjusted his glasses
and squinted at the paper.
“Hmm. Ah. Yes. Yes. Hmmm. I see. Interesting.
Hmmm.” The girls were nearly bursting as their uncle
continued to hem and hum. Finally, he removed his glasses
and looked at them with a very serious expression on his
face.
“The Queen of Canada has requested that I write
another poem for her. Apparently she has worn out the
previous poem, just as I thought she would. I did warn her,
you know, that poems can be quite delicate creatures. One
must not read them too roughly or too often. But you know
how queens can be.”

65
The girls did not really know how queens could be,
since they had never met one, but they nodded anyway.
“I should probably write a more robust poem this
time. No more sonnets or odes. This calls for a strong
poem, something with real heft and substance. I think
perhaps a limerick, although maybe I should write two,
since limericks are usually quite short. But short or long,
they certainly don’t get worn out easily. They tend to last
and last and last.”
“Wait a minute, Uncle Q,” JB interjected. “Is there
really a Queen of Canada? Don’t they have a president or
something up there?”
“Oh, there is indeed a Queen of Canada, although I
admit these days her role is primarily ceremonial. You see,
Canada is a constitutional monarchy, and that means the
prime minister is the one who’s really in charge of the
country, but they certainly do have a Queen.”
He paused for a moment, then continued “Ah, I see
the reason for your confusion. You probably know the
Queen of Canada by her other name – she’s also the Queen
of England, you see. Oh, and she’s the Queen of Australia
and the Queen of New Zealand and Scotland and Wales and
maybe some other places too. I’ve rather lost track of all

66
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

the places she’s Queen of. I wonder how she manages to


keep them all straight.”
He paused for a moment, then said “I wonder what
the limericks should be about. I wonder if two would be
enough. Ah, now there’s a silly question. Two limericks are
more than enough for any Queen, no matter how many
places she is Queen of.” He turned and looked at his nieces.
“You girls are familiar with limericks I assume?”
Uncle Q asked. Both girls shook their heads no. “What do
they teach in school these days?” he muttered. “Well then, I
suppose I should start at the beginning.”
He cleared his throat as if he was going to sing, then
began striding around the shop while he spoke.
“A limerick is a humorous, five line poem, made up
of one couplet and one triplet. A couplet, of course, has two
lines, while a triplet has three. The rhyme pattern is often
described as “a a b b a,” which just means that lines 1, 2
and 5 rhyme with each other, and lines 3 and 4 also rhyme
with each other, but not with lines 1, 2 and 5. Here, let me
recite an old one for you:

A flea and a fly in a flue


Were caught, so what could they do?
Said the fly, "Let us flee."

67
"Let us fly," said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

The girls giggled as the silly lesson continued.


“Sadly, to write a marvelously good limerick will
take a bit more time than we have,” Uncle Q said as he set
the letter down. “Besides, we really ought to talk about the
missing library books. What do you think we should do?”
Mrs. Boomer spoke up first.
“Well, we need to go down there and get them,
that’s for sure,” she said to Q, then turned to her daughters.
“But girls, I don’t want you two going to the
basement by yourselves. You did a good job finding the
books, JB, and I’m glad Meeda showed you where they are,
but I really think that unlocking the door and actually
rescuing the books is a job for the PIFL team.”
“Your mother is right, as always,” added Uncle Q.
“Remember, Miss Van Essa is there at the school, and the
rest of the PIFL team is working very hard in ways you
might not see. So, I suggest patience and trust. We’ll get the
books back as quickly as possible – we need you two to
keep building up the Great Kids Club.”
“OK, we’ll work on that,” answered BJ, and JB
nodded in agreement.

68
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“But if you need some help from us when you


rescue the books, you’ll let us know, right?” asked JB.
“Of course, my dear!” answered Uncle Q. “Of
course.”

69
Chapter 10: The Big Day

“Good morning, children,” said a tiny man with a


tiny moustache and a tiny bowtie. “Miss Van Essa is not
here today, so I will be your substitute teacher until she
returns. My name is Mr. Harry Shmuger the Third.”
JB suppressed a giggle at the man’s silly-sounding
name, then started to get worried. Miss Van Essa might
have stayed home because she was sick, but what if the
Timid Good had kidnapped her and tied her up somewhere?
What if Mr. Shmuger was working with the Librarian?
Who would look after the GKC kids? What if all the
PIFL’ers were gone? Who would rescue the books? She
glanced over at Sal.

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“Please take out a piece of paper and a pencil and


put them on your desk in front of you. We will begin our
day today with handwriting practice. Everyone will write a
capital cursive letter A, just the correct way, which I will
demonstrate on the board. You should put ten A’s on each
line, and carefully fill up the entire page. Then you children
shall take a second piece of paper and fill it with lower-case
a’s, ten per line, of course. Please take your time and do not
hurry.”
Now JB was sure Mr. Shmuger was part of the
Timid Good. He even talked like the Librarian. “I’ve got to
get out of here,” she thought silently. “And if the PIFL
teachers are all captured, I’ll need to rescue the books from
the basement myself. Maybe Miss Van Essa is even down
there, all tied up, and I’ll have to rescue her too!”
JB knew it would take more than a few minutes to
go back to the basement, get through the locked door
somehow, rescue all the books and maybe even rescue her
teacher, but this time she didn’t have any purple paint
handy. She thought and thought until her shoulders started
to ache, and then a great idea hit her – even better than the
purple paint idea. She would do the one thing no teacher or
substitute or principal or librarian would ever guess a kid
would do. She would skip recess. Even though they were

71
just carrying books, it was still better than handwriting
practice.
“Young lady,” said a soft, whiney voice. “Young
lady, what is your name, child?” JB suddenly realized the
substitute teacher was talking to her!
“Um, I’m JB,” she answered. The sub smiled a
greasy, tiny, slightly scary smile that didn’t show any teeth
and made JB shiver.
“Of course you are. Well, Miss JB, I think you
ought to begin writing your A’s right now, the correct way,
please.”
“Uh, ok.” JB picked up her pencil and started
writing cursive A’s as fast as she could.
“Not so hasty, little girl,” Mr. Shmuger whined.
“Please start over, and this time do it neatly – the correct
way.”
With a sigh, JB got another piece of paper out and
started again. Mr. Shmuger made her start over five more
times, and by the time she was finally allowed to finish her
first A page, everyone else was working on lower-case b
and JB felt itchy all over.
It seemed like recess would never come, but it
finally did. Very carefully, JB made sure she was at the end

72
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

of the line, and when Mr. Shmuger led the class outside,
she hid behind the door. Nobody noticed her absence.
When the hall was clear, she quickly ran all the way
to the stairway door, her heart pounding. In a flash, she was
down the stairs and weaving through the boxes, pipes and
cobwebs of the dark basement. She stopped in front of the
mysterious door, took a deep breath, and grabbed the knob.
It turned! With a loud ha, she flung the door open.
Meeda had been right – the missing library books
were right there! They were neatly piled and filled the room
completely. JB stepped inside the shadow-filled room and
ran from stack to stack, looking for the most interesting
books she could find. She wished she had thought to bring
along a backpack, but decided to just take an armful for
now and come back with her backpack for the next trip.
“Miss Van Essa?” she whispered. “Are you in here?
Miss Van Essa, can you hear me?”
JB heard a small cough, the sort of noise certain
grown-ups make when they want to get someone’s
attention.
“Children are not supposed to be down here in the
banned book disposal facility,” said a familiar, icy voice
from the doorway. It was not Miss Van Essa, and the words
made JB feel like she had been hit in the stomach by a

73
rhinoceros. She looked around quickly for a place to hide,
but it was no use. The Librarian had found her.
“You must come with me now, little girl,” he said,
and JB knew she couldn’t escape. Swallowing hard, she
followed the Librarian out of the room and back up the
stairs. She felt doomed.
Meanwhile, Mr. Federico’s class was busy carrying
books at recess, and BJ was explaining her latest idea to the
members of the Great Kids Club as they walked back and
forth to the library.
“Since the Librarian took all the good books out of
the library, I was thinking we could write our own! Here’s
how it works – one person writes the first page of a story,
then passes that page along to someone else, who writes the
second page. Then a third person gets it and writes page
three, and so on. I call it The GKC Story Project.”
“Cool!” said Emma. “Can I write the second page
of your story?”
“Sure! And you can even start your own story too if
you want. We could have lots of stories being written all at
once!”
All the kids started talking at the same time, telling
their story ideas and setting up who was going to write the
next part of everyone else’s story.

74
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

BJ felt great. The GKC kids liked her idea, and


were going to write some really good stories. Sebby was
going to write about a giraffe from Mars, and Emma had a
story about a pink princess unicorn fairy and her beautiful
flower garden. BJ’s own story would be about a park ranger
who protects endangered animals.
“OK, make sure you write a page every day,” BJ
explained. “And try not to lose any pages, alright?”
By the time recess was over, the GKC kids had
started seven stories, and all they had to do now was write
them down. Once back in the classroom, Mr. Federico had
an announcement.
“I spoke with the new librarian this morning, and
asked him to get some new books,” he began. “I think
variety is an important part of education, and he agreed. In
fact, he said he had already ordered some new titles, which
should arrive shortly. I thought many of you would be
interested to know that.”
BJ gave Mr. Federico her biggest smile. He may not
be in PIFL like JB’s teacher, but he was still pretty great.
Almost before she knew what she was doing, BJ stood up
and started talking.
“Um, thank you very, very much for asking the
Librarian to get some new books, Mr. Federico. I can’t wait

75
to see them and I hope they are really good. Also, some of
us kids are writing our own stories, since that one library
book is sort of…” she paused a moment, suddenly shy and
unsure of herself. “Um, it’s sort of…”
“Boring?” added Mr. Federico with a grim smile.
“Yes,” she answered, blushing as she sat down.
“I agree,” Mr. Federico continued, “and I would
love to see your stories when they are finished, if you are
willing to share, that is.”
At that moment, BJ loved Mr. Federico like she had
never loved a teacher before. He had not only talked to the
Librarian, but he actually liked her story idea! And he
didn’t say he would collect them or grade them or anything.
He just wanted to read them. This was turning out to be the
best day ever.
JB, on the other hand, was not having such a good
day, and it was about to get a whole lot worse. The
Librarian led her up the staircase and started walking
towards the principal’s office. JB knew she was in big time
trouble, but she didn’t care. She was going to tell the
principal all about PIFL and the Timid Good and the hidden
books and everything. And then she was going to tell
everyone what she had discovered. Even though her Mom
and Uncle Q had told her to stay in class, she knew they

76
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

would understand why she had gone to the basement today,


especially since Miss Van Essa was obviously captured and
tied up somewhere.
Neither of them noticed Meeda standing at the far
end of the hallway, watching with tears in her eyes as JB
was lead away.
JB practiced what she was going to say, and by the
time they reached the principal’s office, the nervous feeling
in her stomach had turned into a fierce and angry strength.
But then the Librarian walked right past the office.
“Wait, where are we going?” asked JB, as her
strength turned back into fear.
“We are going to the library, little girl,” replied the
Librarian without turning around. “Did you think I was
taking you to the principal? Oh no, I am not. I know how to
deal with impulsive little children who wonder into places
where they do not belong. I deal with them myself, in my
own way… in the correct way. I assure you, when I am
done, you will never want to explore anything ever again.”
JB’s mind was screaming at her legs to run, but for
some reason her legs weren’t listening. She could not turn,
could not even look away from the Librarian’s yellow-gray
back. All she could do was follow him as he walked up to

77
the library and opened the door. Once inside, the Librarian
turned and faced JB.
“Please take a seat in this chair by this table right
here.” He reached out to the nearest book shelf and took
down a copy of How Not To Be So Excited. Holding it in
his grayish hands, he began to deliver a memorized lecture
which he had obviously delivered so many times he was
bored of it himself.
“Children,” he sighed and wheezed, “must be
shaped in accordance with The Correct Way. If they are
allowed to be the way they want to be, they grow up
crooked, energetic and independent. They turn into artists
or writers or musical dolphin trainers, completely
unpredictable and unreliable. They are exhausting to the
normal people around them.
“Furthermore, an unpredictable child is
uncontrollable. An uncontrollable child becomes an
uncontrolled adult, and that leads to all sorts of trouble.
What this society needs is grown-ups who do precisely
what they are told to do and nothing more, without
questioning or coming up with ideas of their own. We need
people who are content with gray and do not seek the
unhealthy excitement of colors like red, pink or purple.” He
put extra emphasis on the word purple, then paused as if to

78
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

catch his breath. The silence lasted so long JB wondered if


he had fallen asleep, or maybe even died standing up.
“Do you know what you should be when you grow
up, young lady?” The mumbled question was almost
completely asked before JB realized he had started talking
again. She opened her mouth to say musical dolphin
trainer, but the Librarian did not pause for an answer.
“You do not need to answer that question right now.
Do not answer it, please. I am just asking it, but you should
think about it for a long time before you answer. I am just
asking the question. I do not expect an answer and I do not
want one. I could tell you what you should be, which, of
course, is a deputy assistant administrative bureau account
monitor, but before we discuss your future, young lady, you
have some reading to do.”
With that, the lecture was apparently over and he
held out a copy of the terrible library book. JB felt
hypnotized as she watched her own hands accept it, as if
they weren’t even her hands anymore.
“This is the only book you need to read. It clearly
and completely describes The Correct Way. The other
books,” he continued with a hint of a sneer, which was the
first indication JB had seen of any emotion whatsoever,
“The other books will serve us well as fuel for the school’s

79
furnace this winter. Yes, the incorrect books will be burned
in the furnace, to keep the classrooms at the correct
temperature.”
JB gasped.
“Do not be surprised, child. Those books are not
Correct, but they are flammable, and with fuel prices being
what they are, we wouldn’t want to waste them, would we?
I assure you, putting these books to good use this way is the
best thing for the school, our society, and even the books
themselves. But this is enough talking. Read now.”
JB opened the book on the table in front of her and
immediately began to yawn. A sickly smell crept into her
nose, making her brain feel foggy. It was the smell of
slowness and smallness, the smell of gray and absolute
silence. Her fingers tingled for a moment before they went
completely numb, then she realized she no longer had the
ability to blink. And even though she didn’t want to, she
read the entire book.

80
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

81
Chapter 11: Being De-Enthused

BJ bounced excitedly in the bus seat, waiting for her


sister to show up. She couldn’t wait to tell JB all about the
Story Project and how Mr. Federico asked for some new
books and just how wonderful the whole day had been. She
chuckled to herself at the thought of the crazy stories JB
would probably write, and wondered what color JB might
have painted herself today.
JB came onto the bus and sat down quietly beside
her sister. BJ started talking right away.
“It was totally the best day ever, JB! We started
writing seven stories already, and Mr. Federico asked the
Librarian for some new books and he said yes, and the
Story Project is going to be so awesome. Wait, I didn’t tell
you about that yet. You see, everyone gets to write a page

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

of a story and then we’ll put them all together and oh, it
was such a good day.” She flopped back against the
window with a contented sigh, then noticed how her sister
was sitting.
JB’s posture was perfect. Her back was completely
straight, her hands were folded on her lap and her eyes
were pointed straight ahead. They did not seem to be
focused on anything in particular, and they looked sort of
strange. JB’s hair was pulled straight back in a serious
looking ponytail, rather than her usually wild pigtails.
“Um, JB? Are you ok?” BJ asked.
“Yes, I am fine,” JB replied slowly. “But I do not
think we children are supposed to make up our own work.
This ‘story project’ you mentioned does not sound like it is
part of the approved fourth grade curriculum, and I do not
think it is part of the third grade curriculum either, so I can
not write any stories for it unless Mr. Shmuger says it is
alright. If your teacher has not given you enough school
work, I am sure he could give you some more. Or, you
could just work on your handwriting, of course.”
BJ was stunned for a second, then started to laugh.
“JB!” she chuckled. “You sound like the Librarian!
Mr. Shmuger – how did you think of that name? Anyway,

83
you’re very funny, but stop playing around. It’s kind of
freaky. Seriously, what kind of story do you want to write?”
“I am not playing around,” replied JB. “I never joke
about handwriting anymore, and I am not interested in any
school work that is not part of the curriculum. Mr. Shmuger
is the substitute teacher for my class, now that Miss Van
Essa is out.”

“Miss Van Essa is out? JB, what’s going on? What


happened to you?” asked BJ in a nervous whisper, as tears
began to well in her eyes. “You’re starting to scare me, JB.
Please stop talking like that…”

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“I am simply talking the correct way, BJ. Why


should I stop? There is nothing wrong with me. I feel
perfectly well. I am sure Miss Van Essa is simply sick and
will return when she is feeling better.”
“Oh, JB, what have they done to you?” BJ sat back
in her seat and silently cried the whole way home, while JB
sat beside her, staring straight ahead.
At home, Mr. and Mrs. Boomer were quite worried
about the strange changes in their youngest daughter, who
insisted she was feeling fine. She was polite and obedient
and spent an hour working on her handwriting. She did not
ask if she could watch television, not even once. When it
was dinner time, JB ate her broccoli first, without any salt,
and asked for white milk instead of chocolate. She didn’t
burp at all. Next she did another hour of handwriting
practice, even though her parents asked her to stop, and
then she went to bed – an hour early.
In the morning, JB’s condition had not changed. She
asked for plain oatmeal instead of her favorite blueberries
and cream kind. She ate it slowly and neatly, without
dripping even a single oat.
“Honey, maybe you should stay home from school
today,” Mrs. Boomer said to JB. “You’re not exactly acting
like yourself.”

85
“No, mother,” replied JB. “I feel just fine and am
not sick. There is no need for me to stay at home. Besides, I
have some important handwriting work to do. Today is L
day, and I want to make sure my L’s are correct.”
“See, that’s what I’m talking about, kiddo. I think
you might need to see a doctor or something. I’m keeping
you home today,” replied Mrs. Boomer firmly. “BJ can pick
up any work you miss.”
“Very well. Would it be alright if I did my
handwriting practice on my own?”
“Uh, sure,” answered Mrs. Boomer as she reached
for the phone to call the doctor’s office.
BJ couldn’t believe what was happening, and the
rainy bus ride to school was a lonely, hazy one. Her crazy
little sister was suddenly acting like a stranger, and she
couldn’t figure out why. JB wasn’t asking questions, she
wasn’t bumping into things… she wasn’t even drinking
chocolate milk! The mysterious change weighed on BJ’s
mind all day long, and she had a hard time concentrating.
The funny thing about slow days is that they seem
to take forever and yet they go by quickly at the same time.
Before she knew it, lunchtime had arrived.
BJ walked into the cafeteria with her class and was
surprised to see her dad and uncle sitting at one of the little

86
Meet The Boomer Sisters!

tables and looking like a pair of funny giants. With a happy


shriek, she ran over to them and hugged them both at once.
“Oh, Daddy! Uncle Q! What are you two doing
here?”
“We came to have lunch with you, kiddo, and to
talk about your sister,” answered her dad. “Your mom
stayed home to take care of her.”
“Did the doctor figure out what’s wrong with her,
Daddy? Is she going to be ok?”
“Well, I think we know what’s wrong, but it wasn’t
the doctor who figured it out. Your uncle did.” BJ turned to
Uncle Q, who removed his green triangle glasses with a sad
sigh.
“Your sister has been de-enthused, BJ. That is, her
sparkle has been dampened. Her enthusiasm has been
quenched. Her bounciness has been squished. I think you
get the picture. We’re not entirely sure how it happened,
but there are only a few things powerful enough to do this
sort of thing to a girl like JB. I took a look at that book in
the library, and I’m pretty sure it is the cause. We think JB
actually read it. From the looks of things, she must have
read quite a lot of it, maybe even the whole thing.”
“A book did this to her?”
“Yes, we believe so.”

87
“But how?”
“Well, books are very powerful things, BJ,” her dad
explained. “They can get inside your head and change you.
Sometimes the change is good, sometimes it is bad. You
know, of course, the library will charge a fine on anyone
who damages a book. But sadly, there are no fines when a
book damages a person.”
“And you think she read the whole thing?” BJ asked
with a shudder. “But it’s not permanent, right? How long
will this last? I mean, you can help her, can’t you?”
“Ah, that’s the thing, kiddo,” answered her dad. “Of
course it is not permanent, but we’re not quite sure how
long it will last. To be quite honest, I don’t really know how
much your uncle and I can help her, at least not directly.
But we won’t give up, that’s for sure.”
“However,” added Uncle Q, “we think there is
someone who can help her quite a bit – you. I should warn
you, it won’t be easy, but we have faith in you.”
“What can I do?” asked BJ.
“Well, we don’t know that either,” her dad said with
a sigh. “But keep up the Story Project. That is more
important than you can imagine, and we think it might be
the key to fixing things.”

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“And I don’t want to worry you, dear niece, but it


appears JB is not the only one who has read the book.”
Uncle Q gestured towards a table of kids who were all
sitting straight up, looking straight ahead, and eating their
lunches without saying a word or smiling or blinking. All
the kids at the table took a bite at the same time, chewed
ten times, then swallowed and reached for their matching
boxes of white milk. They looked like a bunch of robots,
except robots don’t eat food.
“Oh no!” BJ looked, then quickly looked away.
“The Librarian is the Little Gray Man, isn’t he?”
“Well, he certainly has an overdeveloped sense of
impulse control, and he is clearly a member of the Timid
Good, whether he knows it or not. But we can not be
certain if he is the Little Gray Man… or if such a person
even exists. Some things are simply mysteries,” answered
Uncle Q.
“At any rate, we just wanted to let you know the
whole PIFL team is working on this, but at the moment we
have to be under cover,” added her dad. “We’ll be out in the
open very soon, though.”
“Is that where Miss Van Essa is? Under cover, like a
spy?” asked BJ. Her dad and uncle exchanged a worried
glance.

89
“The truth is, we’re not sure where she is! She went
off on an important mission, but we haven’t heard from her
lately. Don’t worry, we’re looking for her, and I’m sure
she’ll turn up any day now.”
BJ was still a little bit worried, but she believed her
Uncle could find a missing person, probably better than
anyone else in the world. She started to eat her lunch.

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Chapter 12: Lions On Main Street

Back in the class room, BJ still had trouble


concentrating, but now for different reasons. Now she knew
JB wasn’t the only kid who’d been de-enthused, and she
was pretty sure Miss Van Essa was doing some kind of
dangerous undercover work. The story project was
somehow going to be helpful, but at the moment, BJ
couldn’t figure out how. She couldn’t focus well enough to
think of anything to write for the two stories in her desk,
which had been started by some other kids. All in all, things
were getting pretty frustrating.
During afternoon free reading time, Emma and the
other GKC members kept writing their stories and passing
them around, but BJ’s heart just wasn’t in it. By the end of
the day, she had only written half of a page, and it wasn’t

91
even very good. When she got home, JB was still the same.
She had been working on her letter L handwriting all day,
and had filled up 84 pages with perfect L’s, in perfect rows.
BJ brightened when she saw her Uncle sitting at the kitchen
table with her parents. They were talking about her.
“Zeke, I was wondering if I could borrow your
oldest daughter for the afternoon,” said Uncle Q to Mr.
Boomer. “I’ve got a mission, and I think she might be quite
helpful.”
“Sounds fine to me,” he replied. “What do you
think, kiddo?”
“What sort of mission is it?” BJ asked.
“Does it matter?” replied Uncle Q. “It will be a fun
adventure, I promise.”
“Alright, I’ll do it.”
“Dee-lightful! Let’s go right this moment!” He
jumped up from the table, grabbed his hat, adjusted his
glasses and was out the door in a flash. BJ ran to keep up,
shouting “Bye, Mom and Dad!” over her shoulder as she
ran.
Once outside, Uncle Q slowed down to a regular
walk, which was still quite fast even though BJ’s legs were
long for her age. Together, they walked past some buildings

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

and stores, until suddenly Uncle Q sat down on a bench.


Startled, BJ paused a moment, then sat down next to him.
“See that man over there?” Uncle Q asked, pointing
at a tall grown-up in a dark suit. “Our mission is to help
him, because he is in great peril.”
“He is? He looks rather safe to me,” replied BJ.
“Precisely! I knew you would understand! So few
people do, you know. I must say it is dee-lightful to have a
partner as observant and talented as you. You are
completely correct - that man's peril is entirely caused by
his terrible, awful, no-good safety. We really must do
something about it.” He paused dramatically, then leaned
down and whispered, “Do you know, when that man was
younger, he wanted to grow up to be a lion tamer?
How wonderful!”
“What is he now?”
“I haven't the faintest idea. What's worse, he doesn't
have the faintest idea either. But one thing everyone knows
is... he is not a lion tamer today, at least not yet. I just hope
we’re not too late.”
“Too late for what?” BJ asked, but Uncle Q was
already on the move, walking briskly towards the corner of
the street.

93
“I happen to know a truckload of fresh lions is
being delivered to the zoo this afternoon. It is scheduled to
pass this spot in exactly forty-five seconds. Stay close to
me, please.”
“Um, Uncle Q, what is going to happen?” asked BJ
nervously, not really expecting an answer.
“You’ll see – ah, here comes the truck now!” Uncle
Q pointed at a large red and yellow truck, which had the
words Leo J’s Fresh Lions – Guaranteed Delivery! painted
on the side in purple letters. The truck rolled to a stop at the
corner, and while the driver waited for the light to turn
green, Uncle Q jumped up and knocked on the window.
“Excuse me, sir! I wonder if I could request a favor
for a moment. You see, that gentlemen in the dark suit is
supposed to be a lion tamer, but has not yet become one. I
was wondering if I might briefly borrow one or five of your
lions, just for a minute or two.”
The truck driver looked surprised, then figured
Uncle Q must be joking. He decided to play along.
“Oh, of course! No problem, buddy!” He answered
with a grin and a chuckle. “I mean, if you just need a few of
them for a couple minutes, I’m sure that would be fine.
Help yourself!” Under his breath, he muttered “But you’ll
have to unlock the truck yourself, ya crazy guy.”

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“Thank you so very much, my good man,”


answered Uncle Q. “I assure you this won’t take long and
you’ll be able to go on your way.”
The driver went back to watching the light. Uncle Q
removed a shiny box from one of the many pockets in his
vest. He pulled the antenna out to its full length and pressed
a button. Immediately, the locks on the back of the lion
truck popped open. He pushed another button and the back
doors swung wide open. Immediately, seven enormous
lions jumped out and began looking around. Each lion was
bigger than a horse, and their thick manes rippled in the
wind as they shook their mighty heads. The largest one let
out a roar that made BJ’s knees feel wobbly.
“Wha? How did that happen?” asked the truck
driver, as BJ grabbed onto Uncle Q’s vest.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get this taken care of right
away,” Uncle Q said to the driver. “I must say I truly
appreciate your generosity. Really, five lions would have
been sufficient, but seven, well, seven is just perfect.”
He then started shouting at the non-lion tamer in the
dark suit “Hey ho there! You sir! Excuse me! Could you
perhaps assist me with these lions? They seem to have
escaped from this truck and they need to be rounded up.”

95
The man in the dark suit looked up in shock at the
sight of seven huge lions milling around on Main Street. He
stood without moving a muscle for a brief moment, and
then something inside him seemed to come alive. His
shoulders became broader, his eyes sparkled and he
positively ran towards Uncle Q and BJ, with the largest
grin BJ had ever seen on a grown-up other than her uncle.

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

On the corner where they were standing was one of


those little restaurants that have a few tables and chairs
outside. Called Knucky’s Garden Café, it wasn’t very busy
at the moment, and nobody was sitting outside. Uncle Q
and the dark suited man each picked up a chair, holding it
sideways like real lion tamers. Both of them quickly
removed their belts and began waving them around like
whips.
“Yah! Ho! Yip! Hee-yah!” The men shouted as they
ran towards the lions, and together they circled around, first
on one side and then the other, forcing the big cats towards
the opening at the back of the truck. The lions growled and
roared, showed their teeth and occasionally swiped with
their great paws, but the people were clearly in charge here.
First one, then three lions jumped back into the truck. The
remaining four were moving in the truck’s direction too,
when suddenly, Uncle Q’s ankle bent in a funny way, he
tripped and he fell down.
Three of the lions jumped into the truck anyway, but
seeing an opportunity to get away, the last of the escaped
lions bounded over Uncle Q and headed straight at BJ. She
screamed, and grabbed a glass of water that had been left
on one of the tables by an earlier customer. Still screaming,
BJ threw the glass of water straight at the lion, hitting it

97
square in the nose with a loud thwack. The water splashed
across the beast’s face, forcing it to close its eyes for a
moment. It stopped in its tracks and shook its mane in
confusion. In a flash, the dark suited man was standing in
front of the dripping lion, poking it with a chair and yelling.
The lion immediately turned and ran back to join the other
lions in the safety of the truck.
Uncle Q was back on his feet now, and immediately
slammed the doors shut. He snapped the locks and checked
his watch.
“Two and a half minutes! Not bad for someone
without formal training, I’d say.” To the truck driver, he
hollered “The light is green now, and the locks are locked –
thank you again for the temporary use of your lions! Sorry
we got one of them wet, but I’m sure he’ll dry quickly!” As
the truck rolled away, Uncle Q turned to the dark suited
man and held out his hand.
“My name is Theodore Francis Wilbur Gilbert Clive
George Innocent Martin Boomer, Junior” he said as they
shook hands, “But my friends call me Q. Thank you so
much for the assistance just now.”
“Um, you’re welcome, Q. I’m Walter. My friends
just call me Walter.”

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“Well, Walter, I think you made a very good lion


tamer today. I can’t thank you enough for the help,
particularly at the end there.” He turned to BJ, who was
now sitting down near a table and trying to stop shaking.
“And you! BJ, you were magnificent! What courage, what
pluck, what imagination! Why, when that lion charged you,
you did all the right things. Did you see how surprised that
lion was when you didn’t run?”
The truth is, it hadn’t occurred to BJ to run when
the lion had charged her. For that matter, she didn’t know
what a surprised lion would look like. When the lion was
coming towards her, all she could think was that she had to
stop it, and when she saw the glass of water, she picked it
up and threw it without even thinking.
“Thanks, Uncle Q,” she managed to squeak, but at
that moment, she didn’t feel like talking very much.
“Oh, it was my pleasure, dear niece. I hope you
enjoyed this as much as I did. Hey, would you like to get
some pie? Knucky’s makes some really good pie, you
know, and you’ve already got a great table! How about you,
Mr. Walter? Would you like to join us?”
It was the best pie BJ had ever eaten in her whole
life.

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Chapter 13: Laughter In The Library

It was library day again, and BJ was dreading it.


Ever since the new books had arrived, the library had a
strange smell which seemed to get stronger every day. Even
a few minutes in the library made BJ’s hair smell funny for
the rest of the day. More and more kids were walking
around with the dazed, stony look on their faces that meant
they had read the awful book. Basically, there was nothing
good about library time anymore. She took her seat with a
grumpy humph.
“Children,” said Mr. Winstesterfield-Schmytherston
once everyone was seated, “I have received some new
books for the school library. They are on these shelves right
over here. I am sure you will all want to read them, but

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

please be careful and do not get too excited and do not read
them too quickly and accidentally tear the pages in your
excitement. If you damage a book, you will have to pay a
fine to cover the cost of replacing it.”
“Well, what if a book damages a person?” BJ said
under her breath, remembering the conversation she’d had
with her dad.
“What did you say?” asked Emma.
“Nothing – never mind,” replied BJ. “Let’s take a
look at one of those new books.”
She pulled a heavy book with a gray cover off the
shelf and read the title out loud, “Things That Can Go
Wrong, by Victor Zue. That’s a weird title.” She opened it
to a page in the middle and started to read out loud.
“Your mom could forget to put a napkin in your
lunch box. You teacher could give you someone else’s
paper by mistake. You could put your shirt on backwards.
Your little sister could make a mean face. A fly could come
near you or land on your desk. It might get dark. Someone
might eat the last of your favorite cereal.” She put the book
down.
“That’s the dumbest thing I ever read! These aren’t
even very bad. I think someone is just trying to make us
afraid for no reason.”

101
“Yeah,” said Emma. “Why would anyone write a
book like this, anyway? It’s like they want to make us
worry about stuff.”
“I think that’s exactly what they want,” BJ
whispered. “Just like the first book makes kids lose their
enthusiasm, I bet this one makes kids worry. What other
books are there?”
“Here’s one called Hey, Slow Down, and another
one titled Purple – Does Anyone Really Need It?” said
Emma.
“I found one called Shhh, and look, there’s a 26-
volume set of Thompson’s Illustrated Guide To Correct
Handwriting, one book for each letter. Yuck!”
“This is terrible,” moaned Emma. “None of these
books are any good at all!”
“Wait a minute, this one looks interesting! It’s titled
Lion Tamers and Fire Jugglers.” BJ pulled it down from
the shelf excitedly. “Oh, never mind. It’s subtitled Jobs
Nobody Should Ever, Ever Do – Not Ever.”
With a tired sigh, BJ flopped down on her chair. It
was really too much, she thought to herself. The books, the
smell, the Librarian, her sister and everything. It was all
simply ridiculous. It was so ridiculous, in fact, that BJ
started to laugh. Her laugh grew louder and louder, and

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Emma joined in. The Librarian glared at them, which just


made them laugh louder and harder. Soon they had both
fallen out of their chairs and were rolling on the floor,
laughing out loud.
“Children! Stop that right this minute! This is a
library and laughter is not allowed. You are disturbing the
other children. Children, stop that laughing immediately!”
The Librarian sounded as if he was actually in pain, but he
was too late. There was nothing he could do to stop the
laughter from spreading. Even the de-enthused kids caught
on, and in less than thirty seconds, the whole class was
laughing out loud. Their laughter rang out and echoed
across the room, as Mr. Winstesterfield-Schmytherston
tried unsuccessfully to make the kids be quiet. Finally, he
couldn’t take it anymore, and the Librarian left the room.
BJ watched him go and sat up, gasping for breath
and feeling fantastic. She looked around the library at all
the happy, shiny faces of her classmates. Even though all
the books were still terrible and the walls were still painted
a yucky yellow-gray color, the library seemed brighter. She
realized the bad smell was gone too.

103
There was no point in staying any longer, so the
kids all got up and walked back to Mr. Federico’s
classroom. He was surprised to see them all back so
quickly, but he understood.
“Alright, since library time was short today, what do
you think about working on your story projects for the rest
of the hour?” suggested Mr. Federico.
The kids all cheered and dove right in.

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“BJ, this package came for you.” He handed her a


small box, wrapped in brown paper and sealed with tape.
BJ took it back to her seat and opened it. Inside was a key
and a scrap of paper with one word on it: Meeda.
BJ held the key tightly and wondered how Meeda
had found it. She figured it must be the key to the room in
the basement where the books are, and she wished for the
thousandth time that Miss Van Essa was still around.
Without a PIFL teacher to talk to, BJ would just have to
wait until she got home and then tell her parents about the
key instead. Waiting can be really hard, she thought with a
sigh.
She spent the rest of the day writing stories for the
GKC Story Project, but still found it hard to concentrate.
Then the bell rang and it was time to go home.
BJ was surprised to see JB get onto the bus with her
arms full of books. For a second, she thought maybe Meeda
had given JB a key too, and she had gone to the basement
on her own and rescued some books. Then she remembered
that JB had been de-enthused, and moaned when she saw
the titles – JB was carrying Hey, Slow Down and the first
three volumes of Thompson’s Illustrated Guide To Correct
Handwriting. It occurred to BJ that she had not seen her
sister smile in a long time.

105
Once they got home, JB slowly went up the stairs to
her room and spent the next hour reading and practicing the
letter A. BJ showed her mom the key.
“I think it goes to that locked room in the basement,
mom,” she said as she took a seat at the kitchen table.
“Hmm, you’re probably right,” her mom answered
thoughtfully, turning the key over in her hands. “Do you
mind if I keep it for now? I think this is exactly what the
PIFL team needs – and I think we’re going to pay a visit to
the school very soon.”
There was a knock on the door, and Mrs. Boomer
went to see who it was. BJ heard a surprised, happy shout
and some excited talking, and went running to see who it
was
“Uncle Q! Miss Van Essa!”
“Look who I found!” said Uncle Q.
“Hey there, kiddo!” added Miss Van Essa. “How’s
your sister doing? Sorry I was gone so long. I got sort of
tied up.”
“Where were you?” asked BJ.
“Well, I had to go on a secret mission to Tennessee,
but it was just supposed to be a short trip. I had planned to
be back before school started. Let me tell you about it.”
They all walked back to the kitchen table and sat down.

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“Your uncle set me up with a really big lawn chair


and tied a hundred big helium balloons to it. I floated up,
no problem at all, then switched on a big fan and blew
myself to a little aquarium in Nashville, where my cousins
David and Mark and their wives do a musical dolphin
training show. They are the ones who told us the Timid
Good was planning something at Theodore Roosevelt
Elementary in the first place, and I went to see if they could
help us out.
“It was a great flight. Loads of fun, the view was
gorgeous, and I could play my guitar as loud as I wanted to.
Try doing that on a regular airplane!
“Anyway, David and Mark promised they would do
what they could, and I took off to fly back, just in time for
school. That’s when the Timid Good saw me.”
“Then what happened?” asked BJ, eyes wide.
“Well, as I was coming in for a landing, they
brought out a really enormous fan and blew my flying lawn
chair right into the tippy top branches of a great big tree. I
was stuck there for a few days, until one of the wingers
from your uncle’s shop flew by. It had a little video camera
on it, and it was on a mission to find me. Once he knew
where I was, your Uncle came out and rescued me. He told
me all about JB and the books on the way back.”

107
“Yeah, JB isn’t doing very well. Can you help her?”
“I can probably help a little bit, but I’m pretty sure
you are the one who can help her the most.”
“But what can I do?”
“I’m sure you’ll know what to do, when the time is
just right. You’ll know.”
“And speaking of the time being right,” added
Uncle Q, “I think tomorrow is going to be a very big day.
Tomorrow, PIFL will strike back!”

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Chapter 14: The Big Read

The next morning, JB was worse. Much worse. Her


mouth looked like it would never smile again, and her
whole body seemed to move in slow motion. Her eyes were
only half open, and her hair was starting to turn the same
yellow-gray color as the paint on the library walls. BJ
began to wonder if it was too late.
“Mom, is JB going to be ok?” BJ asked.
“Yes, honey. I’m sure she will be,” her mom
replied. “I don’t know when, but I imagine it will be soon.”
“Speaking of soon, what is PIFL going to do today?
Or is that a secret?”
“Oh, PIFL doesn’t really keep secrets, kiddo. I think
we’re going to overthrow the library, rescue the books and

109
do a couple other things, but probably not until after school
is over. I imagine we’ll be kind of noisy, and we don’t want
to disrupt the classes too much.”
“Oh.” BJ wasn’t sure what to say. “But today is the
day, right?”
“Oh yes! We were mostly waiting for Miss Van
Essa to come back, and now that she’s here, I think we’re
good to go.”
For some reason, the thought of PIFL coming in to
the school and getting rid of the bad library books didn’t
make BJ as excited as she thought it would. Her mom did
not seem too concerned about JB, but BJ felt like
something was missing, though she couldn’t quite put her
finger on it. Then she realized what it was – she still didn’t
know what she was supposed to do!
As she sat on the school bus next to her increasingly
gray sister, BJ tried everything she could think of to make
her snap out of it. She tickled, told knock-knock jokes,
begged and even demanded that JB act like her usual self.
Nothing made any difference, and by the time the bus got
to school, she was out of ideas.
Miss Van Essa was happy to be back in her class
room, but was surprised to see that almost every single one
of her students had been de-enthused while she was gone.

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Salvatore was one of the few who looked normal, and he


did not seem to be paying attention to her as she began the
morning’s lesson. He had a big stack of paper on his desk,
and was writing furiously on one page.
“Um, excuse me, Sal. What’s that you’re writing?”
“A story,” he replied without looking up.
“A story? What’s it about?”
“It’s about a park ranger who helps rescue
endangered animals. Someone else started it, a bunch of
kids did the middle parts, and I’m writing the last page.”
“Wow, that sounds interesting… and familiar. Is it
part of The Story Project?”
Sal looked up, surprised that a teacher would know
about the project. Miss Van Essa understood the look on his
face and reassured him.
“It ok, Sal. I know about the project, and I think it’s
a great idea. In fact, when you’re done with the story, why
don’t you go to Mr. Federico’s class and show it to BJ.”
“Really? OK! I’m almost done.”
A few moments later, Sal stood up and announced
he was finished. Miss Van Essa gave him a hall pass, and
he ran to BJ’s classroom.

111
BJ looked up and smiled as Sal walked into the
room, clutching a big stack of papers. He handed them over
with a big grin.
“This is the story you started. I think you’ll like the
way it ends.”
“Wow, it’s fifteen pages long! I can’t wait to read
it!”

“I’m afraid you will have to wait a little while,” Mr.


Federico said. BJ looked up at him, wondering if maybe the
Timid Good had de-enthused him too.
“Don’t worry,” he said with a big smile. “The
librarian didn’t get to me. I said you’ll have to wait a
minute because I think you have some more guests.” He

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pointed to the classroom door, where a crowd of kids from


other classes had gathered, each holding a big stack of
paper – each holding a finished story. Twenty four kids
were there in all, including some BJ had never seen before.
“You all finished your stories all at once?” BJ asked
in amazement. “But how? And how did you all decide to
come here at the same time?”
“It just sorta happened… and walking to your class
seemed like a good idea,” said one kid.
“I couldn’t wait to show you my story,” said
another.
“Um, my story is done too,” added Emma as she
pulled a stack of paper from her desk. “I finished it last
night.”
Ever since the laughter in the library, the kids in Mr.
Federico’s class had spent almost all their free time writing
stories. Now the classroom erupted in a flurry of papers, as
every single one of BJ’s classmates pulled a completed
story out of their desks, backpacks and folders. BJ jumped
up onto her chair and started to dance.
“It looks like your Story Project was quite
successful, BJ,” said Mr. Federico as BJ bounced and
waved her arms. She stopped dancing abruptly and looked
at her teacher.

113
“Um, Mr. Federico? I have another idea.”
“Yes?”
“Maybe we could go around to all the classrooms in
the school sometime and read our stories out loud? If the
new library book makes kids get de-enthused, maybe if the
kids hear these stories, some of them will get better… you
know, back to normal.”
“BJ, I think that is a wonderful idea, but let’s not do
it sometime. Let’s do it right now!” he said, then turned to
the rest of the class. “OK kids, everyone grab your stories.
We’re going to do something a little bit different today. I
want you to run – not walk, run to the other classrooms.
Just go right in and start reading your stories out loud.
Don’t ask for permission, don’t worry about getting in
trouble, and don’t let anyone stop you. Just go in and start
reading – loudly!”
Mr. Federico’s fourth graders cheered, and the
twenty four kids from other classes joined in. They all
surged towards the door, bumping and crashing into each
other, then spilled out into the hallway in a loud, laughing
tangle. And then, just as quickly, they popped into
classrooms and Mr. Federico was left standing in the
hallway alone. He smiled as he walked back into his own
room, got out a notebook, and started writing a story.

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BJ went straight to JB’s classroom, and Miss Van


Essa didn’t seem at all surprised by the interruption.
“Oh, hello BJ!” she said. “I hoped you’d come by. I
assume you want to read your story to us?”
“Yes, please!”
“Go right ahead! Class, I’d like you to meet JB’s
older sister. Please pay attention to her story.”
JB and her classmates were all sitting straight up in
their chairs. They slowly set their pencils down and
obediently turned their half-open eyes towards BJ. Her
stomach felt like there were a million butterflies in there,
trying to get out, but she took a deep breath and started
reading out loud.
“Once upon a time, there was a Forest Ranger
named Erin. She worked in a tall tower in a big forest, and
she really loved nature…”
BJ read her story with lots of enthusiasm and
emotion. She did funny voices for the talking animals, and
Miss Van Essa quietly strummed her guitar in the
background. After each page, she glanced around at the
silent kids sitting motionless in their chairs. At first,
nothing changed, and BJ thought maybe it wasn’t going to
work. But after page seven, where Forest Ranger Erin
teaches the talking beavers how to fight forest fires, she

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noticed a few of the kids were starting to grin. By page ten,
most of the class was looking more alive and more awake.
When she finished, the whole class stood up and clapped,
and BJ sighed with relief.
Well, almost the whole class. JB was still sitting in
her chair, not smiling or clapping. Her eyes were a little
more open, and her cheeks looked a little less gray, but
clearly, the story had not worked on her.
“Thank you for the awesome story, BJ,” said Miss
Van Essa. “I loved the part where the deer all stood on each
other’s backs to boost the baby bird back up to its nest!”
She noticed JB and added “I think she’ll need a little more
of something, but you definitely helped her, even if you
can’t tell a difference yet. Now run off to another class –
there are lots of kids who need your help. I’ll keep working
with JB.”
Reluctantly, BJ left her sister’s class and moved on
to another. By lunch time, every single class had heard a
story, and BJ herself had visited three different rooms. The
cafeteria was noisy again for the first time all week, and
Theodore Roosevelt Elementary school was almost back to
normal. JB was one of the few kids who was still de-
enthused.

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

Chapter 15: Night Flight

By this time of year the sun was setting earlier


every night, and it was nearly dark by the time dinner was
over. BJ kept waiting for the other PIFL members to show
up, maybe wearing big capes and masks, so her parents and
the rest of them could go rescue the books. But so far it was
just an ordinary night.
As she helped wash the dishes, BJ heard a fire
engine in the distance. It got louder and seemed to be
coming closer. Before long, it sounded like it was right
outside their house, and BJ saw the flashing red lights
through the window.
“I wonder if there’s a fire nearby,” she said to her
dad.

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“Nope, that’s just my ride. Mr. Hamilton Fish – you
remember him, right? He’s the fire-fighter who’s always
trying to balance things on his big nose? Anyway, he and
his fire-fighter friends are going to give me a ride to the
school in their truck tonight.”
“Really? Can I come?” But BJ knew the answer
before she even asked the question.
“Why would you want to come with us, kiddo?
You’ve got a much more important – and more exciting…
and probably more scary mission to do tonight.”
“But what is my mission?”
“Ah, I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know.
What ever it is, it will help your sister, but it’s up to you to
figure out the details. I suggest you think back to
everything that has happened since we moved. Maybe
something will spark an idea. OK, gotta go!”
He kissed her on the forehead and bounded out the
door. As he climbed aboard, the fire engine zoomed off into
the night, sirens wailing and lights flashing.
“Mom, aren’t you going to go with him?” BJ asked.
“Nope. Something tells me I need to be here with
you and your sister tonight.” They glanced at JB, who was
sitting at the kitchen table filling up page after page with
perfect rows of the letter O.

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

BJ thought about what her dad had said, about


thinking back on all the things that had happened. She
thought about her bike and her teacher, the librarian and the
lions. She thought about JB and the purple paint. She
wondered what she could possibly do to help her little
sister. And then she got it - she thought of the thing she
could do.
“Mom! I figured it out! I know what I have to do to
help JB!”
“Really? What is it?”
“I think I need to let her fly on my flying bike!
Remember? She wanted to fly on it, but I asked Uncle Q to
take the wings off before anyone had a chance. But he
could put them back on, right? And if JB flew around on
my bike, she’d probably get better… wouldn’t she?”
Now that she said it out loud, the idea didn’t sound
as good as when it was in her head.
“But Uncle Q is probably at the school right now, so
how am I going to get the wings back on?” BJ continued.
“And JB hasn’t even ridden her own bike since she’s been
de-enthused, so why would I think she would be willing to
fly on mine? I didn’t even want to fly on mine. And it is
getting pretty dark… and, well, never mind…” She felt

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quite deflated as her idea seemed to crumble before her
very eyes.
“I think you were on the right track the first time,
honey,” answered her mom with a sparkle in her eyes.
“Before you started to doubt your idea. Wait here for a
second.”
Mrs. Boomer returned with a wing in each hand and
an enormous wrench stuck through her belt. Holding the
wings behind her, she looked like a beautiful, strong angel,
and the wrench was her sword.
“I can put the wings back on, if you help,” she said,
as she started walking to the garage. “Follow me.”
BJ wheeled her bike to an empty space at the center
of the garage while her mom laid out the wings. Together,
they reattached them to the bike. Mrs. Boomer switched on
the bike’s lights and brought it out to the driveway.
In the darkness, the bike was even more mysterious
and amazing looking than ever. The lights blinked and
twirled, and the silent wings seemed to cry out “Fly! Fly!”
BJ shivered in the cool night air, then ran into the house to
get JB.
“JB! JB! Quick, come outside! There’s something I
need to show you!”

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“Just a moment, my sister. I have three more O’s to


write on this line right here. I should not leave before this
row is finished.” BJ bounced impatiently as she watched JB
painstakingly draw one perfect letter O after another. She
seemed to be moving in slow-motion, and after what felt
like thirty years, she was finally done.
“Come on! You’ve got to see this!”
“OK. If I have to see it, I will.”
BJ took her sister’s hand and led her out to the
driveway. The glowing, flashing bike-with-wings looked
like a spaceship getting ready to blast off.
“BJ, this is your bicycle,” JB said. “Thank you for
showing it to me, but I have seen it before. May I please
return to my handwriting practice now?”
“NO!” BJ yelled, louder than she meant to. “I mean,
no, please. I want you to ride my bike. Remember when
Uncle Q put the wings on in the first place, how you
wanted to ride it? Well, go ahead. Take it for a ride.”
“Thank you for the offer, but I am not interested in
riding your bike. It is your bike, not mine. I should only
ride my own bike. That is the correct way. And it is dark. I
should ride my own bike when it is not dark.”
BJ was stunned. Her idea hadn’t worked. For a
minute there, she had actually believed it would work, but

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now she knew it wouldn’t and couldn’t and didn’t. She sat
down on the grass with a thump as she watched JB turn
around and walk back inside. Her mom came over and sat
next to her.
“That was a good try, sweetie, and very generous of
you. Thanks for being willing to share your bike.”
“It didn’t work,” BJ replied.
“Well, don’t give up yet. Maybe JB isn’t the one
who needs to ride it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you. Maybe if she sees you ride it,
something good will happen.”
BJ swallowed hard.
“I doubt that would help.”
“A wise man named George MacDonald once
wrote, ‘Doubt may be a poor encouragement to do
anything, but it is a bad reason for doing nothing. Do you
know what that means?”
“It means I should try anyway, even though I don’t
know if it will help, right?”
“Uh-huh. That’s what I think, anyway.”
“I’m scared, Mom.”

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“I know,” she replied gently. “I know, and it’s OK to


be scared. In fact, if you never get scared, you can never be
brave.”
“Huh? I thought being brave meant not being
scared,” BJ replied.
“Well, let’s see. Are you being brave when you
write your name on the top of your homework?” she asked.
“No,” BJ answered with a giggle.
“But you don’t feel scared when you write your
name, so if you’re not scared, you must be brave, right?”
“I guess so?”
“No, I don’t think you guess so. I’m pretty sure you
know that being brave is more than just not being afraid.
Being brave means feeling afraid but doing the thing that
scares you anyway. Bravery is all about facing your fear,
not letting fear stop you from doing what you know you
have to do. Like when you didn’t run away from the lion.”
“But I was very, very scared of the lions!” said BJ
in a quiet voice, looking at the winged bike. “I’m
embarrassed how scared I was when I saw them.”
“Hey now, you did a lot more than see those lions.
You faced one of them down. You fought back and stopped
a charging lion in its tracks! Not many nine year olds can
say that, let me tell you.”

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“And of course you were scared!” Mrs. Boomer
continued. “A full grown lion charging straight at you is
extremely scary, no matter how old you are. Incidentally, I
need to talk to your Uncle Q and your dad about that one,
but we won’t worry about it now. The point is, you did
what was necessary, and you threw that glass of water
straight at the lion’s nose. And tonight, your sister needs
you, BJ. She needs you to climb onto that bike and fly.”
“I know she needs me.” BJ’s voice was scarcely a
whisper. “And I know I have to do it. I will.”
Mrs. Boomer reached over and gave BJ a big, tight
hug. Her eyes were shining with pride as she looked at her
daughter.
“You’re a great kid, BJ, and you’re growing up fast.
I love you so much and I’m very, very proud of you – all
the time. Now go get on that bike of yours, while I bring
your sister outside to watch.”
BJ put her helmet on and settled onto the bike.
Through the blinking lights, she saw her mom and sister
step onto the lawn, and she knew it was time to take off.
With a deep breath, she put the kickstand up and began to
pedal.
The Boomer’s driveway was steeply slanted, and BJ
was going pretty fast by the time she got to the street. Their

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

house was at the top of a hill, so she turned her bike to the
right and roared down the long slope. As the wind whipped
over her wings it made a whistling sound, and BJ pedaled
faster than she had ever pedaled before. Her heart was
beating loudly in her ears, and the bike bumped along over
the pavement, picking up speed as the whistling sound got
louder and louder. Suddenly, everything was smooth. BJ
was flying, and she forgot to be afraid.

125
She turned the handlebars, and the bike looped
around in a wide circle until she was facing uphill and
heading back towards her house. A strong updraft of wind
lifted BJ higher and made her stomach do a summersault.
The wind continued to lift her, and now she was higher
than the trees, higher than the houses. She could scarcely
see the figures of her mom and sister, standing on the front
lawn.
The world looks very different when you are flying
over it, and BJ felt like she could see forever. She
continued to climb and turn in big circles, and she looked
out over the valley where she lived. Off in the distance, she
saw her school. There were five fire trucks parked in front
of it, and she could see dozens of little ants doing
something on the playground. They weren’t really ants, of
course – they were her dad and uncle and the rest of the
PIFL team. She hoped things were going well there, but for
now she needed to focus on her sister.
“I wonder how to land this thing,” BJ thought to
herself. She pressed her handlebar down, and the bike
obediently began to circle towards the ground. She
continued to pick up speed, and was going quite fast as she
approached the ground. Impulsively, she decided to pull up
just before touching down, and she zoomed back into the

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

night sky. A few more big loops, and she began to descend
again, this time a bit more slowly.
When she was low enough, she lined her bike up
with the street, and gently landed right in front of the
house. She was facing uphill, and the bike came to a stop
quickly.
Her mom and sister came running over, and as BJ
removed her helmet, she heard her little sister say “That
was awesome! Can I try? Please, please, please, can I fly it?
Could you see our school from up there? What was it like?
Did you see any birds? How about any bats? What was it
like? Oh, BJ, thank you!”
JB was back to normal.

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Chapter 16: Overthrowing The Library

JB and BJ were still taking turns flying the bike


through the dark night sky when the fire engines started to
leave the school. It was BJ’s turn at the moment, and before
she landed she watched the trucks head toward the
Boomer’s house, with Mr. Boomer and Uncle Q riding on
top of one, like Santa Claus and Frosty in a parade. The
brothers were laughing and joking as they rode, and they
each did a flip when they jumped off the truck. The rest of
the rather large PIFL team climbed down and milled around
on the Boomer’s front yard.
“Daddy, we did it!” shouted BJ as she ran to see her
dad. “I flew my bike and JB got all better and then she flew
it and we all drank some chocolate milk and everything!”

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

“That’s great news, kiddo!” her dad replied with a


grin. “Nicely done! It looks like PIFL wasn’t the only ones
who had an exciting night this evening.”
“I’m glad to see you got the wings back on,” said
Uncle Q. “How dee-lightful!”
“My mom helped. And JB figured out how to do a
loop-the-loop, and it’s really fun.”
“It looks like a lot of fun! We could see you flying
around up there from the school. We thought it was a UFO
at first, but then we figured it out,” said Mr. Boomer as he
hugged his kids.
“Nice work on the wings, Kay,” he added as he
gave his wife a kiss.
“Thanks, Zeke. How did things go at the school
tonight?”
“Very well indeed!” he answered. “Let’s have a seat
and I’ll tell you all about it!”
The Boomer family sat in a circle on the grass, and
the whole PIFL team gathered around them. Mr. Hamilton
Fish was there with about thirty other fire-fighters. Mr.
Woodbury Kane was there too, along with Mr. Feaser and
some ladies from the town library. Miss Van Essa had her
guitar and she strummed it quietly as Mr. Boomer told the
story.

129
“Every single member of the local PIFL group was
there – all the fire-fighters, a bunch of the teachers, some
policemen and even a new lion tamer named Walter. I think
BJ met him already. Miss Van Essa’s cousins Mark and
David were there too, but of course they left their trained
musical dolphins back in Tennessee.”
“Anyway, we pulled up at the front door of
Theodore Roosevelt Elementary, with the lights flashing
and sirens blaring! Meeda was waiting for us there and
opened the door. We turned on all the lights in the school,
and went straight to the library. Miss Van Essa got on the
loudspeaker and played her guitar for us while we worked.”
“The air in the library was thick with an ancient,
ugly gray smell, which got worse when ever anyone opened
one of the books. We threw open all the windows and
started tossing copies of How Not To Be So Excited and
Hey, Slow Down outside. Miss Speckle brought out some
paint and brushes, and got to work decorating the library
walls.
“Once the bookshelves were bare, we split up into
two groups. The larger group, led by me, formed a line of
people that stretched from the basement where all the
books were being kept, all the way up to the library. We
passed the good old library books along this person chain,

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

and in no time at all, they were back on the shelves where


they belonged.
“The other group was led by your Uncle and Miss
Van Essa’s cousins. They went outside to the playground,
and began making big stacks of How Not To Be So Excited
and the other stinky books. The night air and moonlight
whisked away the smell pretty quickly, and I don’t think
you’ll notice it at all.”
“Daddy! You put the books on the playground and
left them there?” JB asked in amazement. “You should have
burned them!”
“Hey now, don’t worry. I haven’t finished the story
yet, but no, we did not burn the books. That’s the sort of
thing the Timid Good does, and PIFL was not about to
imitate those guys. Yes, we left the books on your
playground, but…” he paused and looked around at his
listeners, “We used them like bricks and built forts, castles
and pirate ships out of them! Wait ‘till you see your new
playground – it’s spectacular!”
“But won’t the wind and the rain make them
ruined? What if they fall down?” BJ asked.
“Ah, we thought of that,” answered Uncle Q.
“David and Mark brought some special glitter glue paint
with them, all the way from Tennessee. This stuff is

131
amazing – it made the books stick to each other, so they
won’t fall down. It gets very hard when it dries, and is
completely waterproof, so we don’t have to worry about the
rain. And it comes in all different colors, so the whole thing
is quite beautiful to look at.”
BJ and JB looked at each other in amazement, and
tingled at the thought of going to school the next day. Miss
Van Essa jumped up and started to play her guitar louder
than ever. Mr. Woodbury Kane produced a drum set from
somewhere and started to play along, while Mr. Feaser, the
town librarian, joined in on a harmonica. Pretty soon
everyone was jumping around and dancing on the
Boomer’s front lawn. They danced and sang and laughed
for a while, and the kids got to stay up an hour past their
bed time.
The school eventually hired a new librarian, a nice
man named Mr. Jody who loved to talk about birds and
knew almost everything about every bird there is. Miss
Speckle painted some owls and eagles and housemartins on
the library walls for him. Walter, who used to be a lawyer,
became the most famous lion tamer in the world. Mr.
Hamilton Fish eventually learned how to balance three
crayons on his nose at once, and now is trying to balance
four.

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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

BJ got quite good at flying her bike, and when she


wasn’t flying, she wrote twenty-two stories that year. She
loved learning about birds with the new librarian, and
Uncle Q attached a camera to the front of her bike, so she
could take pictures of birds while she was flying.
Uncle Q put wings on JB’s bike too, and the two
girls spent almost as much time in the air as on the ground.
When JB was on the ground, she spent most of her time
writing songs and painting. Her handwriting gradually got
worse, but it never did get back to normal.
And Mr. Winstesterfield-Schmytherston the
Librarian? Nobody ever saw him again. Some people think
all the color, energy, laughter and flying made him fade
away, while others say he just went to a different school.
Some people think he is still hiding in the Theodore
Roosevelt Elementary School library or maybe in the
basement. A few people think he’s actually hiding in a book
somewhere, just waiting for the chance to come back.
What do you think?

133
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Meet The Boomer Sisters!

135
About The Author

The guy who wrote this book is a member of PIFL who


occasionally writes poetry, juggles knives and eats fire, but
not all at once, because that would be confusing.

He is also an electrical engineer and an officer in the US


Air Force. He has two daughters and a wife, and lives in
Central New York at the moment, but will probably move
in a few years.

He wrote most of this book during National Novel Writing


Month (November) 2005, with the help of his oldest
daughter and his wife… and he had a great time doing it.
He hopes lots of kids who read this book will start their
own Great Kids Clubs and do crazy things like The Story
Project or The Big Read or whatever cool Ideas they think
of.

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