Authors: Nikki Loftin
“Unusual, finely crafted story of loss, betrayal, and healing.”
, starred review
“Magical realism meets coming of age in this sensitive and haunting novel.Â .Â .Â . Read this aloud and have both boys and girls alike utterly enraptured.”
, starred review
“Smart and beautiful by turnsÂ .Â .Â . Once you've read it, you'll have a hard time getting it out of your head.”
School Library Journal
“It is Loftin's skill in depicting both the human and the arboreal characters that will engage and inspire readers. The lyrical, descriptive prose and the hopeful ending will linger long after the final chapter.”
School Library Journal
“RivetingÂ .Â .Â . This is a book you'll long remember.”
âLynda Mullaly Hunt, author of
One for the Murphys
“An extraordinary readâI had to tear myself away from it.”
âKatherine Catmull, author of
Summer and Bird
“Perfectly captures the challenges of growing up and dealing with loss. Get ready to have your heart touched.”
âShannon Messenger, author of
Keeper of the Lost Cities
“Tugs and tears at the reader's heartÂ .Â .Â . lovely and magical.”
âBethany Hegedus, author of
Truth with a Capital T
Between Us Baxters
“Loftin's eye for strange beauty in unexpected places often takes the reader's breath away.”
âClaire Legrand, author of
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
“Will haunt your soulâand lift your heart.”
âKimberley Griffiths Little, author of
The Healing Spell
When the Butterflies Came
“A haunting, beautifully told story!”
âBobbie Pyron, author of
The Dogs of Winter
A Dog's Way Home
“The kind of book I wanted to read slowly.”
âShelley Moore Thomas, author of
The Seven Tales of Trinket
“This is a work of tremendous heart.”
âAnne Ursu, author of
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
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Copyright Â© 2015 Nikki Loftin
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Wish girl / by Nikki Loftin.
Summary: Twelve-year-old Peter has never felt at home with his noisy family, but begins to find the strength to live and to be himself when he discovers a special valley in the Texas Hill Country and meets Annie, a girl dying of cancer who knows and accepts him from the start.
[1. Individuality--Fiction. 2. Best friends--Fiction. 3. Friendship--Fiction. 4. Family problems--Fiction. 5. Cancer--Fiction. 6. Family life--Texas--Fiction. 7. Texas--Fiction.] I. Title.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Praise for Nikki Loftin's Nightingale's Nest
If we had a keen vision and feeling
of all ordinary human life,
it would be like hearing the grass grow
and the squirrel's heart beat,
and we should die of that roar
which lies on the other side of silence.
he summer before I turned thirteen, I held so still it almost killed me.
I'd always been quiet. I'd even practiced it: holding my breath, holding even my thoughts still. It was the one thing I could do better than anyone else, but I guess it made me seem weird. I got tired of my family saying, “What's wrong with Peter?”
There was a lot wrong with me. But at that moment the most serious thing was the rattlesnake on my feet.
I'd just run away from home for the first time.
Possibly the last time, too
, I thought, staring down at the ground, blinking slowly, as if I could close my eyes and make the snake vanish.
I stood as still as I could on the edge of a limestone cliff, the toes of my tennis shoes hanging off the hillside, my heartbeat thudding hard and fast at the base of my throat, my neck stiff, and my eyes on my shoes. On the diamondback rattler, gleaming brown and black and silver-gray, curled around both my feet, looped across the tops of my laces.
Its head was unmistakably wedge-shaped, and its tail was light brown, decorated with eight rattles. I'd had time to count them; I'd been standing there for at least fifteen minutes, trying not to move a single muscle.
My mouth had gone bone dry. I swallowed hard, and the snake's head, which had rested on the top of my left sneaker near my bare ankle, bobbed up, black tongue tasting the air.
I held my breath.
For a moment, I thought of kicking the snake off my feet, running for it. Then I realized it was completely wrapped around my ankles. If I tried to kick it, it would bite me for sure. So far, it was justÂ .Â .Â . smelling me, it seemed like. I remembered that from reading about snakes when I was little. They smelled with their tongues.
I hoped it liked what it smelled, because I remembered something else. Rattlesnakes could strike at twice the length of their bodies. So this one, if it wanted to, could bite somewhere close to my throat.
Boots. I should have worn boots. Or at least jeans, instead of my stupid gym shorts from sixth-grade PE.
Dark spots swam before my eyes. I had to breathe. I did so, slowly, trying as hard as I could not to make any sound at all, not to attract the snake's attention any more than I had.
The snake didn't strike, or move, just continued to lick the air. And then, a centimeter at a time, it laid down on my feet.
Like it was planning to take a nap.
I breathed slow and easy, or tried to, and wondered how long a snake's nap might take. How long was I going to be standing there, with a snake wrapped around my ankles, waiting to be bitten or to fall over?
Someone would come looking for me, I thought. I wasn't hiding or anything. They'd find me. If someone came over the hill and ran in the same direction I had for twenty minutes or so.
Out here in the totally uninhabited countryside.
I almost laughed. That was never going to happen. I was stuck out here, with nothing to do but wait, nothing to feel but fear.
As I stood there, trying as hard as I could not to rock back and forth for balance, I felt my shoulders begin to relax. There was nothing I could do, right?
Nothing but be still. Or die.