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Poster Girl

Chapter 1: Due Date - Tomorrow

Cynthia Lyden brought in her science poster today. It's not even due until tomorrow, and she brought it in today. She is so annoying.

I pray that Mrs. Duncan and Mr. Garcia don't pick Cynthia's poster to put in the school lobby. Mrs. Duncan said she would hang all the third graders' science posters in the hall. Mr. Garcia, the principal, is going to pick one from each class to put in the lobby. That way, our parents can see them at the next open house.

I haven't even started my science poster. No big deal, though. I'm not worried about getting a late start. My poster will be better than Cynthia's. Lots better.

I'm riding home on the bus today. Usually, I go to the after-school program, but Thursday is my mom's day off. So I get to ride home. That's good, because I can start my poster sooner.

Michelle Campbell is sitting next to me, reading Harry Potter. She's the only girl I know who talks less than I do. All around us, kids are shouting. Someone behind us keeps kicking the seat, but I ignore the thwump, thump, thump. I'm busy trying to think of a poster idea . . . an idea that's good enough to get picked for the lobby. Maybe I can make a poster so good Mrs. Duncan will say, "Why Paula, that's the most wonderful science poster I've seen in the twenty-seven years I've taught at Benjamin Elementary School!"

I stare out the window and think. But all I can think of is Cynthia's poster. Her topic was evergreens. She wrote her title in green and she had a matching green construction paper border around the whole poster -- so it looked like she'd had it framed! Cynthia always matches. She wears her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her hair scrunchies always match the clothes she wears. My hair is brown and short and always a mess. It sort of matches me.

Cynthia used to go to my day care, but then her mother hired an au pair. That's a fancy name for nanny- I think. So Cynthia goes home after school. When Cynthia went to the day care, she wasn't so bad. She used to invite me to her birthday parties. Then, when we were six, I spilled my punch on the rug, and I never got invited again. My mom said it was probably because we weren't in the same day care anymore, but I'm sure it was because of the punch.

I am just too messy for Cynthia. Everything about her is neat and clean. Like on her poster, she'd taped a page with writing about evergreens-a full page without one single cross-out! She also had taped on three different evergreen plants. Something that looked like a Christmas tree branch, a piece of rhododendron (my mom has some of them, so I know what they are), and a holly leaf with a couple of berries.

My topic is deciduous trees—that means trees that have leaves that fall off in autumn. As the bus stops to drop off a few kids, I watch a golden leaf fall from a tree. It flutters and floats and twists and turns until it joins the other leaves on the ground. The golden yellow leaves are so pretty. The color of sun. Leaves on deciduous trees are much more beautiful than evergreens.

And, suddenly I have an idea.

I'll paint a blue sky and green grass . . . and I'll draw a tree with branches, but no leaves-it's easy to draw trees with no leaves-and I'll tape a few real leaves at the ends of the branches. I'll tape some leaves on the bottom of the poster, too, like they've just fallen to the ground.

My poster is going to be way better than Cynthia's.

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