Karens angel, p.1
The author gratefully acknowledges
for her help
with this book.
1 Karen’s Collection
2 Hooray for Being a Two-Two
3 Big-House Greetings
4 Holiday Surprises
5 Casting Call
6 An Important Job
8 Holiday Helpers
9 Holiday Spirit
10 Making Costumes
11 Christmas in the Air
12 Christmas Countdown
13 Stoneybrook Manor
14 Dress Rehearsal
15 The Christmas Pageant
16 The Truth
17 A Little-House Visit
18 Christmas Eve
19 Christmas Mystery
20 Angels Everywhere
About the Author
“It is almost time to say good-bye, Emily Junior,” I said. “You will be away for two whole months.”
It was the end of November. I was at the little house talking to my pet rat. I named my rat after my sister, Emily Michelle. I will tell you more about my sister later. But first, I will tell you about me.
I am Karen Brewer. I am seven years old. I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and some freckles. I wear glasses. I wear my blue pair for reading. I wear my pink pair the rest of the time. (I do not wear any glasses when I am taking a bath or sleeping.) I have a little brother named Andrew. He is four going on five.
Do you want to know where Emily Junior is going? I will tell you. She is going with me to my other house. You see, Andrew and I have two houses — a little house and a big house. We switch houses every month. Only this time we will do something different. We will stay at the big house for two months — December and January. (That is a special arrangement Mommy and Daddy made. It has something to do with the holidays, but I forget what.)
Speaking of holidays, Thanksgiving just ended a few days ago. It was really fun. Now Christmas is coming. I can hardly wait! It has been a very long time since Andrew and I spent more than a few days at the big house in December. This year we are going to be there for all of Christmas. We do not even have to leave when it is over. I know Christmastime will be exciting. Exciting things always happen at the big house.
“I hope you will not miss me too much, Goosie,” I said to my stuffed cat. “You will have plenty of company here. And you know I will come back. I always do.”
I wiped a pretend tear from Goosie’s cheek. He always gets sad when I tell him I am going. But he is fine once I leave. I know because Mommy checks on Goosie for me.
Aside from Emily Junior, I do not have to take much with me to the big house. That is because I already have lots of things there. I looked around my room to see if there was anything special I wanted to take this time. Of course there was! My angel collection. I started it a little while ago. I did not want to forget it. Especially at Christmas.
You see, I love angels. They are special and magical. I want to have as many as I can. And I want to know as much as I can about them. Here is what I have in my collection so far: An angel mug. A very good book called My Book of Angels. A postcard with an angel on it from my pen pal, Maxie, in New York. (She got it at a store called Everything Angels. Some day I will go there.) My angel rubber stamp. And a pipe cleaner angel I made at school. It is a gigundoly beautiful collection.
I think I will make tags shaped like angels to put on my gifts this year. I will need a lot of tags because I have a lot of gifts to give. That is what happens when you have two houses and two families.
Did I tell you yet how I got to have two houses and two families? I do not think so. I will tell you right now.
Hooray for Being a Two-Two
Are you ready? Here is the story of how I got to have two houses and two families. The story starts a long time ago.
When I was little, I lived in one big house in Stoneybrook, Connecticut, with Mommy, Daddy, and Andrew. Then Mommy and Daddy started fighting a lot. They explained to Andrew and me that they loved us very much, but they could not get along with each other anymore. So they got a divorce.
After the divorce, Mommy moved with Andrew and me to a little house not far away. She met a very nice man named Seth. Mommy and Seth got married. That is how Seth became my stepfather. So this is who lives at the little house: Mommy, Seth, Andrew, me, Rocky (Seth’s cat), Midgie (Seth’s dog), Emily Junior, and Bob (Andrew’s hermit crab).
Daddy stayed at the big house after the divorce. (It is the house he grew up in.) He met someone nice, too. Her name is Elizabeth. She and Daddy got married. That is how Elizabeth became my stepmother.
Elizabeth was married before and has four children. They are Kristy, who is thirteen and the best stepsister ever; David Michael, who is seven like me; and Sam and Charlie, who are so old they are in high school.
I already told you I have a sister named Emily. But I did not tell you that she is two and a half and was adopted from a faraway place called Vietnam. I love Emily a lot. That is why I named my rat after her.
Another person I love a lot is my step-grandmother, Nannie. Nannie is Elizabeth’s mother. She came to the big house to help take care of Emily. But really she helps take care of everyone.
Now I will tell you about the pets at the big house. They are Shannon, David Michael’s big Bernese mountain dog puppy; Boo-Boo, Daddy’s cranky old tabby cat; Crystal Light the Second, my goldfish; and Goldfishie, Andrew’s chimpanzee. (Just kidding!) Oh, yes. Emily Junior and Bob live at the big house whenever Andrew and I are there.
Remember I said I did not have to take much to the big house? That is because Andrew and I have two of lots of different things. We keep one of each thing at each house. That way we do not have to carry so much back and forth when we switch. I have a special name for Andrew and me. I call us Andrew Two-Two and Karen Two-Two. (I got that name from a book my teacher read at school. It is called Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang.) Andrew and I have two mommies and two daddies, two houses and two families, two cats and two dogs.
Here are some other things we each have two of. We have two sets of toys, clothes, and books. I have two bicycles. Andrew has two tricycles. I have two stuffed cats. Goosie lives at the little house. Moosie lives at the big house. I have two pieces of Tickly, my special blanket. And I have two best friends. Nancy Dawes lives next door to the little house. Hannie Papadakis lives across the street and one house over from the big house. Nancy and Hannie and I are in the same second-grade class at Stoneybrook Academy. (We call ourselves the Three Musketeers. That is because we like to do everything together.)
This year I will have two Christmases. I will have a little-house Christmas and a big-house Christmas. Hooray for being a two-two!
It was Friday, the first of December. I woke up and got dressed at the little house. I went to school with Nancy on the little-house school bus. But when school was over, I took the big-house school bus home with Hannie.
My month at the little house was over. Two months at the big house were beginning.
“See you tomorrow!” I called to Hannie when we reached our street.
I raced to Daddy’s house. Nannie was waiting for me at the door. She had a big smile on her face.
“Come in!” she said. “Emily Junior is upstairs in your room. Emily Michelle and Andrew are in the kitchen. And I have a snack ready for you.”
Nannie had picked Andrew up from pre-school. Then she picked up Emily Junior and Bob from the little house.
I kissed Nannie hello. Then I raced into the kitchen to say hello
“I will be right back,” I told Nannie.
I ran upstairs to make sure Emily Junior was okay. (She was.) Then I unpacked my angel collection and set it on my dresser. I did not want my angels to be in a dark knapsack any longer than they had to. Angels are probably happy wherever they are. But I did not want to take chances.
After I washed up, I went back to the kitchen to have my snack. Nannie had made cinnamon toast with cream cheese, and hot chocolate to drink. Yum.
While we were eating, Kristy walked in.
“Welcome back!” she said. “I am happy to see you. I missed you guys.”
(I told you she is the best stepsister ever.)
Then David Michael came running in.
“Hi, Karen. Hi, Andrew,” he said. He dropped his book bag and grabbed a piece of cinnamon toast.
“Please wash your hands,” said Nannie.
After I ate my snack, I visited with Kristy, checked on Crystal Light, and did my homework. Before I knew it, Sam, Charlie, and Elizabeth had returned home. Elizabeth gave Andrew and me great big hugs. She was gigundoly happy to see us. Everyone was.
“Are you ready for a big-house Christmas?” asked Elizabeth.
“I am ready!” I said.
The Christmas spirit was already in the air. Sam was humming “Jingle Bells.” David Michael was telling Christmas jokes. My whole big-house family was in an extra good mood.
At dinnertime, the ten of us sat down around the table to eat. Big-house meals are always noisy and fun.
“We should get our tree early this year,” Charlie said to Daddy. “The best ones go fast.”
“We need to buy plenty of wrapping paper this year,” Kristy said to David Michael.
“You are right,” David Michael replied. “Last year we almost ran out.”
Sam and Elizabeth talked about decorations. Nannie said something about the cookies she and Emily were going to bake. It sounded as though everyone already had an important Christmas job to do. Everyone except Andrew and me.
“What about us?” I said. “Do we have a job?”
Daddy and Elizabeth gave each other funny looks. I think they had forgotten about us.
“We are sorry,” said Elizabeth. “You have not been with us much at Christmastime. So we did not think of a job for you yet. We will think of one very soon.”
“All the important jobs are taken,” I said.
“Do not worry,” said Daddy. “I promise we will find an important job for you and Andrew.”
I hoped so. Important jobs are my favorite kind.
“Good morning, class,” said Ms. Colman. “Please take your seats. Karen, would you take attendance for us? Afterward, I have an announcement to make.”
“Sure!” I replied.
Monday morning was off to a great start. It was my turn to take attendance. And Ms. Colman had a Surprising Announcement. (I love Surprising Announcements!)
I checked off each name as fast as I could. First I found my own name in the book. Check. I found Hannie’s and Nancy’s names next. Check, check. I looked around to see who else was present.
I sit at the front of the room because I wear glasses. Ms. Colman says it is easier to see from there. The other glasses-wearers who sit up front with me are Ricky Torres and Natalie Springer. (Ricky is my pretend husband. We got married on the playground at recess one day.) Ricky and Natalie were both there. Check, check.
Addie Sidney was present. (She was busy peeling Thanksgiving stickers off her wheelchair tray. She had a package of new holiday stickers waiting to replace them.) Check. Pamela Harding, my best enemy, was present. Check. So were her friends Leslie Morris and Jannie Gilbert. Check, check. Bobby Gianelli was present. (He used to be a bully. But he is not so much of a bully anymore.) Check. Terry and Tami Barkan were there. (They are twins.) Check, check. Audrey Green was there. Check. Hank Reubens was there. Check. I checked off a few more names. Then I was done.
“Everyone is here,” I said. “We are ready for the announcement.”
“Thank you, Karen,” replied Ms. Colman. “Last month you all made beautiful Thanksgiving decorations for Stoneybrook Manor. Everyone there loved them. This month, you have been invited to make new holiday decorations. And you have been invited to put up the decorations yourselves.”
Yippee! This was a great announcement. I am very good at making decorations. I love field trips. And I like to visit the people who live at Stoneybrook Manor. (They are older people who cannot take care of themselves at home anymore.) I was sure they would want to tell us in person how much they loved our decorations. And I would be happy to listen.
The holidays were looking better and better every day.
School was fun. The day passed quickly. On the way home, Hannie had an announcement of her own to make.
“I am glad you will be at the big house for the holidays this year, Karen,” she said. “Now you can be in our Christmas pageant.”
“Your what?” I asked.
“Our Christmas pageant,” Hannie replied. “Every year the kids in the neighborhood get together to put on a pageant for our families and neighbors. It is a really big deal. We do it at my house. We turn the dining room into a stage. The sliding doors make great curtains. We have props and costumes and everything.”
“It sounds like fun,” I said.
“It is. Everyone looks forward to it. Now you and Andrew can be in it, too,” said Hannie.
“Thanks,” I replied.
We had reached our stop, so I had to say good-bye to Hannie. She promised to tell me more about the pageant later that afternoon.
I was surprised that Hannie had not mentioned it to me before. I had been missing out on all the fun. Oh, well. At least Andrew and I would get to be part of it this year. Better late than never.
After school, I ate a snack with David Michael and Andrew. Then it was time to go to Hannie’s house. She had called a meeting for everyone who wanted to be in the Christmas pageant. (I guess Hannie was going to be in charge of the pageant this year. Maybe I could be in charge another year.)
David Michael had been in the pageant before and wanted to be in it again. Andrew wanted to be in it, too. So the three of us went across the street together. I knocked on the door. Linny answered it. (Linny is Hannie’s brother. He is nine going on ten.)
“Come in,” he said. “We have been waiting for you.”
The living room was filled with kids from the neighborhood. They were Scott Hsu, who is seven and Hannie’s pretend husband; Timmy Hsu, who is five; Callie and Keith Bates, who are four-year-old twins; and Maria Kilbourne, who is eight.
“Attention, everyone,” said Hannie. “I know some of you are here for the first time. So I will explain everything as we go along.”
I watched Hannie lead the meeting. I felt bad that I was not in charge. But only a little bit. After all, Hannie is a Musketeer. The Three Musketeers’ motto is one for all and all for one.
“We are going to put on the story of the Nativity, just like last year,” said Hannie. “We will need to cast the parts of Joseph, Mary, the three Wise Men, the angel, some shepherds, and some animals.”
I raised my hand to ask a question. I did not want to interrupt Hannie while she was talking.
“Yes, Karen?” said Hannie.
“How will we decide who gets which part? Will we draw straws or something?” I asked.
“I have already assigned the parts. It took me a long time, but I think you will all be happy,” replied Hannie. “I will tell you which parts you are playing as soon as I find my list. I know I have it here somewhere.”
Hannie looked in all her pockets. Finally she pulled a crumpled paper from the back pocket of her jeans.
She read out the pa
“Baby Jesus will be played by one of my dolls. And I want Karen to have the part of Mary,” said Hannie.
“Hey, how come?” asked Linny. “That is supposed to be your part. You play Mary every year.”
“This is Karen’s first year in the pageant,” said Hannie. “I want her to have this important role.”
Hannie smiled at me. I smiled back. But I was not happy. I did not want to be Mary. I was not happy. I did not want to be Mary. I was dying to play the angel. It was the only part I truly wanted. The angel would get to wear wings and a halo. I would give anything to switch parts with Hannie.
But I could not say so. Hannie was being nice to me. I decided that even though I was not going to play the angel, I had to act like one.
I smiled at Hannie and did not say a word.
An Important Job
“Attention, everyone,” said Daddy. “Elizabeth and I have decided on a job for Andrew and Karen. It is a very important job indeed.”
“Hooray!” I said. “What is it?”
We were at the dinner table. My big-house family was all ears. They wanted to hear about our new job.
“Well, we usually have a star at the top of the Christmas tree,” said Elizabeth. “But our star is so old it is falling apart. We thought it would be nice to have an angel on the tree this year. Your job is to find one.”
“Wow! I know everything about angels,” I replied.
“My teacher says I am an angel sometimes,” said Andrew.
“Your teacher is right,” said Charlie. “But you are too heavy to sit on top of the tree.”
While everyone was laughing at Charlie’s joke, I was thinking. Thinking about our job of finding the angel. It really was an important job.
“You do not have to look so serious,” whispered Sam. “It is not your job to find a real angel.”
“I know that,” I replied.