Lea is ready for adventure on a family trip to Brazil, where her big brother Zac is studying the rainforest. She can't wait to see the ocean, until she realizes that she's scared to swim in it. Disappointed in herself, Lea longs to show Zac that she's as bold and brave as he is—but then the fun turns to danger during a hike. Can Lea find her courage when it matters most?
The waves lapping the shore looked like the white peaks on the top of a lemon meringue pie. This was the moment I had dreamed about. I took a step forward and let the waves lap my feet. I stopped and closed my eyes to smell the salty sea air. It was like a perfume, and it wrapped around me like a hug.
My heart swelling with anticipation, I looked out at the ocean and took a big step forward. My pulse was racing. At first I thought it was because I was so excited to see the ocean. But all at once, I realized that I was scared.
A memory flashed in my mind. I must have been only about six years old, but it felt as if it were yesterday. I was sitting on the dock at Mark Twain State Park, dipping my toes in the water, when I leaned down to look at my reflection—and fell face-first into the lake. I flailed around in a panic. The dock was too high above the water for my short arms to reach. I knew how to swim—I had reached level three in swimming lessons—but as I tried to swim toward a ladder a few feet away, my head went under and I accidentally inhaled water through my nose. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't shout for help, I couldn't even cry. I had never been so terrified in my life.
Luckily, Zac had seen me. He jumped in and pulled me to safety, and before long I was in Ama's comforting arms.
"I was so scared," I confessed to Ama. She had been eager to take us to the park, and I wondered if I had let her down. "I'm not like you," I told her sadly. "You're always so brave."
My grandmother held me tighter. "Oh, Lea," she said, "I'm not fearless, but I don't let my fear stop me from doing the things I really want to do. You'll swim again," she assured me.
Ama was right, of course. I continued taking lessons at our local pool. I always tried to avoid putting my head underwater—and I never did try swimming in a lake again. But this was bigger than any lake—this was the Atlantic Ocean. And it had waves.
I shuddered at the memory and looked out toward the ocean. Then I remembered what Ama wrote in her journal: Now that I've gone to the trouble of traveling to a new place, I should see and do everything I can.
I took a deep breath.
The sand and water tickled my toes as the waves rolled in to the shore. Some were slow, others fast, thinning out by the time they got to me. I took another step. My feet sank until they were covered with soft, wet sand, and it was hard to lift them. Was this what quicksand was like? I took another step and then another until the water was up to my knees. So far, so good...
Check out the book Lea Dives In by Lisa Yee for the full story!
Lea can't wait to see the exotic animals of the Amazon and share her rainforest adventures with her friends back home. But she soon discovers that life in the Amazon is more challenging than she had expected, and the relationship between people and the rainforest is a lot more complicated than she'd thought. She wants to help, but is there a right—or wrong—way to do it?
The leaves stirred above me, and I was able to get several photos of monkeys swinging through the branches. I got one great shot of a monkey in midair as he leapt from tree to tree.
As we walked, I thought about the questions my classmates had asked on my blog.
I read that a lot of rainforest animals are endangered, Abby had written. What is causing them to die out?
I wasn't sure, so I asked Zac.
"The animals here face many threats, but one big problem is poachers," Zac said matter-of-factly.
Poachers? Didn't poaching have something to do with eggs? "What are poachers?" I asked.
"People who kidnap animals and sell them as pets. Every year, the rainforest loses over ten million animals to poachers."
"Ten million?" I exclaimed. "That's awful."
"Deforestation is also a problem," he continued. "Cattle ranchers and farmers clear the land for their farms, and loggers cut down trees to sell the wood—trees that were once the homes of many animals. Imagine if someone came to St. Louis and began to destroy all the homes in Lafayette Square. What would we do? Where would we live?"
I shrugged and shook my head, feeling helpless and horrified. Where would the animals go if the trees weren't here? My heart ached when I thought about all the animals that had been kidnapped and sold away by poachers, and the poor birds, monkeys, and even spiders and insects that had lost their homes in the trees.
We continued to walk in silence. After a while, we came into a small clearing. Zac went to inspect a large millipede that was squirming up a tree trunk. I kept my distance, but zoomed in my camera lens for a good shot. Then I panned around us, taking photos of the lush rainforest. The forest floor was covered with leaves, and when I looked closely I could see armies of ants and other insects scurrying every which way. Then I spotted something strange on my camera screen. Slowly I lowered the camera. On the ground ahead of me was a small pile of matted fur in the leaves. At first I thought it was a stuffed animal or—my breath caught—a dead one. But then I saw that it was breathing. As I approached, I could see that it was moving one of its arms very slowly. It had long black-and-white fur, and was curled up in the leaves—
"Zac!" I called out. "Zac, it's a baby sloth!"
Check out the book Lea Leads the Way by Lisa Yee for the full story!
It's spring break, and Lea has invited her Brazilian friend Camila to St. Louis. On a visit to a crumbling mansion, they come across an old photo of a woman who seems to have a connection to Lea's grandmother. Lea is determined to find out this woman's identity. But in her search for clues, she forgets to be a good host to Camila. Can Lea find a way to reconnect with her friend—and discover the truth about the mystery woman?
A faint, high-pitched sound came from nearby. A ghost? Big old houses are often haunted. I glanced at Camila. From her face, I could tell she'd heard it too. The sound came again, more insistent. It seemed to be coming from behind a nearby door. Camila moved to open the door, but I stopped her.
"Wait." I bent down, putting my eye to the old-fashioned keyhole. All I could see was a drab, dusty back hallway—until a small cat with black fur and white paws whisked across it! I gasped.
"It's a kitten," I whispered to Camila, but before I could say maybe we should try not to scare it, Camila pushed open the door. In a flash, the kitten bolted down the hall, zipping around a corner.
"Come on!" Camila said, bouncing with excitement.
"Hold on," I cautioned, but Camila was already a few steps down the hall. "Mom said not to go too far." Still, I was as excited as Camila. I love animals, and what if this kitten needed our help?
In the distance, I heard the tiny mew again. We crept down the dark hall, trying to be quiet. The wood floor was dirty and uneven, and the boards creaked with each step. The walls had rough, splintery holes where plaster had fallen off. Somewhere in front of us, I could hear tiny claws skittering. The kitten!
We rushed after it. The black-and-white furball streaked down the hall past a side stairwell and closed doors. It jumped over some old paint cans and slowed, but as we caught up, it veered left, nudging a room door open. Camila and I reached the room, panting.
"There's nowhere left to go," I said. For a second I thought, I should go get Mom. But what if the kitten ran away before we came back? I didn't want that. We edged inside. The room was crammed with old furniture and boxes stacked almost to the ceiling. I could hear the kitten scuffling around somewhere near the back.
"Let's try to get on either side of it," I whispered to Camila.
She nodded and we split up. I slipped between unsteady-looking towers of boxes, trying not to bump anything. The kitten sounded closer now. I peeked around a corner. Through the maze of boxes, I could see the kitten washing its face with a paw as it perched on a grimy windowsill.
Camila was edging in slow motion between two boxes. As she got close to the kitten, I realized I was too far away to get to the other side of it in time. I waved to get Camila's attention, but as I did, the kitten saw Camila—and she lunged for it!
It screeched, jumping for the nearest stack of boxes, and caught the edge of a box, holding on for dear life with its claws.
"Oh NO!" I shrieked, as the kitten clawed its way up the stack of boxes. Camila and I screamed, scrambling to dodge boxes as the stack collapsed and dust and papers rained down. I looked up just in time to see the kitten land nimbly inside a hole at the top of the wall and disappear.
Camila and I stood dazed. Old dusty photographs and papers were everywhere, like piles of dirty snow. "We have to clean this up," I said, surveying the mess.
Camila and I hurried to pick everything up, struggling to lift boxes and stuffing papers back into them.
I gathered some papers and photographs up off the floor and sighed, glancing down at a large black-and-white photo on top. In it, a girl a few years older than me posed by a window in a 1950s-style dress. Her face was heart-shaped, and her shoulder-length blonde hair was swept back in sleek waves. I was about to put the photo into a box with the other papers when I saw something that made me stop, stunned.
"What is it?" asked Camila, but I barely heard her.
Hanging around the girl's neck in the picture was my grandmother Ama's compass necklace.
Check out the book Lea and Camila by Lisa Yee and Kellen Hertz for the full story!