About the Book
My secret sits at the back of my throat like a balled-up spider.
I don’t like it there. Who would?
Spider secrets are the worst.
For a whole year, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get this one out, but I’m afraid if I move, that secret might stretch out its legs and crawl down my throat, all the way to my stomach where I’ll never be able to reach it.
Shy Novalee starts the fourth grade determined to make friends. When her mom finds her grandfather’s violin, Nova decides to take fiddle lessons to impress her classmates. To her surprise, she’s a natural musician, and she even makes a few friends.
But Nova’s world soon tumbles out of control. Her violin teacher makes too many demands, and before long, she’s keeping secrets that threaten her universe. She must find the courage, voice, and persistence to confront the spider secret, but how can she?
For Readers and Book Clubs:
“At first I was enchanted with Stephens’ language. It was clear and appropriately sophisticated for middle graders. Best of all, it was dotted with lovely metaphors. As the story developed, I became more and more intrigued by the plot. The tone, the issues, and the resolution are all right on target. Stephens is a skilled writer with a knack for telling stories that young people need to hear. Get a copy for your grandchild or her/his teacher. It’s a great conversation starter as well as an effective and important story.” — Story Circle Book Reviews
“A lovely and profound story. Nova is charming and sweet and real—you’ll feel her sense of yearning.” — Samantha Mabry, author of All The Wind in the World
“A heartbreaking and redemptive tale of the secrets children feel they must keep and the courage they must find to tell.” — Amy Plum, international bestselling author
All my troubles began at that water drain. Two days before fourth grade started, I walked down to the water gutter between the tallest houses on our street. When I was tired of hearing my baby sister screaming or when my imagination was lonely or when I needed to make wishes, Alligator Alley was my favorite spot to go.
The long drain was made of concrete, and most of the time, it was empty. But when it thunderstormed, hundreds of gallons of water slithered down the trench. The water drained out into the street and turned like a snake down to a mouth in the curb.
It could be dangerous if you used your imagination, which I was good at.
First, I studied the two houses to see if anyone was home, because everyone knew those people loved to yell at kids. The lights were off, and the street was quiet except for the birds in the big oaks.
I stepped to the edge of the gutter. It was bone dry, but I imagined that the gutter was a river filled with alligators that wanted nothing more than a juicy bite of Nova thigh.
“Be careful,” I said out loud. “Don’t let the alligators get you.”
I jumped across the gutter and landed on my tiptoes, stretching my arms out to keep my balance.
“Safe!” I breathed. “Two more jumps and you get a wish.”
I stared at the gutter and saw the bobbly eyes of an alligator surface. His lumpy nostrils snorted air at me. He was waiting for me.
But I was too fast. I leaped two more times when he went for help from his crocodile friend, and I laughed at him and told him, “See you later, Alligator.” He snapped his jagged teeth at me and slid back into the middle of the river. I smiled, but felt a shivery chill raise my arm hairs.
I closed my eyes to make a wish.