Last week we announced that TARA THUNDERBOLT and the Sky Dancer Cat by Perri Birney is our Kids Corner Book of the Week and the sponsor of our student reviews and of thousands of great bargains in the Kids Book category:
Here’s the set-up: TARA BLAIR needs some answers. Why is school such a drag and the principal out to get her? What happened to her father–do people just disappear like that? And what’s going on with this mysterious black cat that suddenly showed up at her window?
Little does Tara know she’s about to find out when she enters into a mystical world and meets a Sky Dancer, a powerful guardian of the earth, who sends her on an incredible journey of discovery. Tara goes from fighting off bullies in school to battling shadowy men bent on stealing everything they can, not caring who they hurt or what they destroy. But Tara doesn’t have to face them on her own for long. She makes new friends who are just as determined to straighten out the mess clueless adults have created.
Can someone so young really make a difference? The answer comes when Tara learns who she really is . . . A Light Warrior with a Secret Mission to Save the Planet!
* * *
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
The Girl Who Didn’t Know
When you’re up in the vast blue sky,
the world below looks pretty small.
In fact, if you were able to fly around like an eagle
or a blue jay or even a sparrow, you might discover that
things adults think are so important
are really no big deal.
That’s exactly what Tara Blair thought as she sat in detention at Glenmore Hills Elementary School. She stared out the window trying hard not to plug her ears, but it was getting far too difficult.
The principal Malcolm Wallows, who’d been giving her the third degree, walked toward her, knitting his eyebrows in an anxious twist.
“Young girls should not be impolite, yawn and look as if they disagree with what is being said. Of course, they absolutely shouldn’t stick their fingers in their ears when I’m telling them the rules!”
Tara could have sworn he hadn’t seen her desperate move. “Sorry, Mr. Wallows. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” she said, standing up from the hard wooden chair.
At that moment, Tara couldn’t figure out if she had gotten taller or if Mr. Wallows had gotten shorter during his tirade. Actually, she was pretty tall for an eleven year old (well, almost twelve). And now the mirror on the wall behind Mr. Wallows’ desk made her feel even more self-conscious. Light green eyes looked back at her as she caught a glimpse of herself. Why hadn’t she combed her hair before coming to the principal’s office? Her oval face was half-hidden behind a dark, wavy mass of locks that fell to her shoulders.
But Tara was at that strange age, after all. In fact, almost everyone in her class looked a bit off-kilter. Now that her arms and legs were shooting out of their sockets, she’d gotten into the habit of wearing her father’s T-shirts over her jeans. Tara thought the look sort of balanced her out—kind of.
Wheezing and coughing, Mr. Wallows held a crumpled tissue to his swollen nose as he spoke.
“I am the principal of this school and you will do as I say, young lady,” he commanded, his voice raspy. “You will not use your own mind or think for yourself in any way. We have set things out in a very orderly fashion so none of us will be disturbed by unnecessary creativity. We can’t have people jumping grades whenever they wish. One grade follows the next—do you understand, Miss Blair?”
Tara did not understand at all.
“But I didn’t really try to skip a grade,” she explained, somewhat exasperated. “I just wanted to see if things were less boring in seventh than they are in sixth. I wanted to know if it was more exciting, if there was anything more to . . . learn.”
Mr. Wallows, who was as lean as a cornstalk, started swaying as if Tara’s words were like a stiff wind blowing him back and forth. His bleary eyes grew even wetter, and if Tara didn’t know better, she would say he was about to burst into tears.
“I’ve really had it with you confounded kids!” Mr. Wallows blurted, his blood-shot eyes looking as if they were about to roll out of his head. “Too much educational TV and parents who let you watch strange movies—adventures and fantasies like Avatar and The Hunger Games—that no doubt have you believing you can change the world! They want you kids to think about what you can do for the planet, the animals, the environment and all such manner of nonsense.”
“What could be wrong with that?” Tara questioned.
With his face turning a strange shade of red, Mr. Wallows took a deep breath. He cleared his throat the way he did when he was about to make another boring speech in the auditorium.
“Miss Blair, you skipped your history lesson and entered a seventh grade class without permission. The whole class was disturbed, especially Mrs. Livingston, the teacher.”
“But there’s only one month of school left before summer vacation,” Tara pointed out. “I finished reading the entire history book on my own, right past the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. I’m chapters ahead. It’s—”
Mr. Wallows sneezed explosively into the tissue and blew his nose once again. “You will see the guidance counselor, Mrs. Pennyworth, tomorrow and tell her exactly what’s bothering you. We’ll see if she can’t fix you up. It’s unacceptable for you to be roaming about into other classes trying to learn something. If the world were run that way—people thinking they can find what they need on their own—then there would hardly be a need for schools at all. Isn’t that right, Miss Blair?
Works for me, Tara thought. She realized it was probably better not to say that out loud since Mr. Wallows already looked as though his head was about to explode.
After the principal waved at her to leave, Tara gathered her books and headed out into the hallway.
What’s wrong with that man? she wondered. Mr. Wallows didn’t understand a child’s mind, so how could he be the principal? Could it be that some adults have a job they actually can’t do?
“Sure does look like it,” Tara said aloud as she walked down the hall. She went to her locker and grabbed some books to take home.
Several students still lingered in the corridor. Jasper Davies, the boy who always wore baggy pants that hung off his hips and would never let a day go by without pulling her hair during recess, called out to her.
“Where you goin’, Blair?” Jasper asked. “Did Mr. Wallows ask you out or something?”
The Wilder twins, Jeremy and Max, who were hanging out with Jasper, laughed uncontrollably. It was plain to see they looked up to him and thought Jasper was a cool dude, especially with patches of football teams sewn on his denim jacket.
Bracing herself for the inevitable, Tara moved her book bag to her left shoulder so she could use her good swinging arm to cut off any hair-tugging attempts Jasper might make.
True to form, he wasn’t about to let an opportunity go by. Jasper darted over to her side. “Think you can get away from me, Blair?”
“I think I can knock you silly,” Tara answered, smirking.
“You think you can what? Did you hear that guys?
At that moment, Mr. Wallows stepped into the hallway. “What are you all doing? There’s no loitering.”
“Tara was just telling me what a great time she had in seventh grade today,” Jasper blurted, a sly grin on his face.
Before she could say a word, Mr. Wallows called out. “MISS BLAIR!”
“You mean Ms. Blair,” Tara said under her breath.
“What?! What did you say?”
Wide-eyed, Tara remained silent.
“Enough shenanigans!” Mr. Wallows shouted, his eyes darting between them suspiciously. “Now all of you, home!”
Turning on her heels, Tara moved quickly out the door, quite aware of what would happen as soon as the three of them were out of sight.
Luckily Jasper, who was about as clunky as a rhinoceros, dropped his books as he hurried to catch up with her. Groaning, he stopped to pick them up, the Wilder twins scrambling to his side.
“Catch you tomorrow, Blair,” he said, looking angry that she was getting away. “You can count on it.”
“Ugh,” Tara sighed, hoping Jasper would return to whatever alien planet he was from.
It was times like these Tara wished her father was around, but wishing didn’t make it happen. Thoughts of Julian Blair flooded her mind, bringing a lump to her throat. Tara tried to force back the memories as she raced down the street—past the bakery with the warm bagels they both loved, past the Shoprite and the gas station they would go to on their snack runs. She tried but it was a losing battle. No matter how fast she ran, memories of her father loomed at every turn.
Julian Blair had been a computer engineer, a software specialist. He was so good that he was offered a contract to create a computer network for the Indian Agricultural Department. It was supposed to be a three-month assignment. Three months came and went, but her father never returned.
Tara didn’t like to think about his disappearance. It was a mystery she felt she would never understand. The whole thing made her blood boil, the anger feeling like acid eating away at her insides. Why didn’t he just finish his job in India and return home to New York? Why did he have to go on that stupid mountain trip in the Himalayas? It was as if the world had swallowed him up and he never existed. The Indian officials had told her mom that his rope broke and Julian Blair had fallen. But they never found him. How could that be?How could a person be there one moment and gone the next?
Her father had always said computers were his job, but mountains were his life. Tara found that idea difficult to understand. How could you love something so much that it takes your life away?
When she reached the corner of Broad and 75th Place, the crosswalk light turned red. Tara stopped and stood on the busy Queens street watching the cars speed past and life moving ahead. It just didn’t seem right or fair. For her and her mother, the world had come to an end, like a huge worn out clock that suddenly stopped ticking.
Her mother Michelle had traveled all the way to India when her father went missing and spent two weeks there talking to the local police and the American embassy. But no matter how many times they searched, her father’s body was never recovered. The police even showed Tara’s mom photos of the accident scene. No one could have survived such a fall, they said. Her mom brought the photos home, and when Tara saw the deep gorge where her father had fallen, her heart sank. She had to agree.
The light turned green for her to walk, and Tara made her way to the three-story brick apartment building where she lived. She sighed as she stared at the address looming in big black letters above the front door.
75-10 Broad Street
Tara trudged up the stone steps into the building, dreading every moment. Was her mother home? She entered the front vestibule and walked up the creaky stairs, counting each one—fifteen steps up to each landing. When she reached the third floor, she walked to the tall wooden door at the end of the hall and used her key to get in.
“Hey mom,” Tara called out.
It was quiet. She laid her schoolbag down and looked around the living room. There were papers scattered on the coffee table, along with a can of coke and an unfinished sandwich. Several books had been piled on the couch—books with strange titles that included words like afterlife, paranormal, and metaphysical. Tara stared at them breaking up the words in her mind.
AFTER LIFE . . .
PARA NORMAL . . .
META PHYSICAL . . .
Suddenly, Tara heard a click and the bathroom door opened.
Michelle Blair walked out looking like the walking dead. Ghostly pale, her face was drawn and blank, but her watery blue eyes told Tara she’d been crying. A tall woman, her long brown hair, usually wavy and attractive, was drawn back in a loose pony tail. Tara’s mom had always been pretty, but now it seemed like even her skin and hair had lost their shine. It had been six months since her husband’s death, but Michelle looked as though it had only happened yesterday.
“Hi, Mom.” Tara walked over to her mother and kissed her on the cheek.
Michelle held her much longer than usual, as if she was afraid to let go. Although neither one of them spoke, Tara could feel her mom’s pain. When Michelle released her from the hug, all Tara wanted to do was cry.
“Learn anything new today in school?” Michelle asked.
Tara gulped down the sorrow. “Plenty,” she remarked. “I learned to keep my mouth shut and that I’m supposed to act like I don’t know something even when I do.”
Was there just a hint of a smile on her mom’s lips? Tara thought she saw one for a moment, like the flicker of a candle.
“So now you’re beginning to understand what grown-ups do most of the time,” her mom said. “See, they are teaching you something in that school.”
Tara sighed and smiled. She had to admit she enjoyed social studies and she liked writing stories in her English class. And okay, she also liked history sometimes, even when her teacher Mr. Gottley would go on and on about a topic, like he did when he taught them about the Lewis and Clark expedition and wouldn’t stop talking about the Native American woman, Sacagawea, until everyone in class wished the two explorers would have sent that little Indian princess back home to North Dakota.
“I’ve been going through some of Dad’s papers and found this,” Michelle said, bringing Tara’s wandering mind back to earth.
Her mom placed a picture in her hands. It was a photo of all three of them—Julian, Tara and Michelle—sitting together at their lake house in the country. It was taken about a year ago, just before her dad left for India. It had been her eleventh birthday.
“I know you said you didn’t want to celebrate tomorrow,” Michelle said. “Are you still sure about that?”
Tara felt like she’d been walking through a fog lately. She didn’t even know what day it was half the time, let alone remember her own birthday.
“No parties for me, Mom. I just don’t feel like it this year.”
Michelle nodded, letting Tara know she understood.
Once in her room, Tara closed the door and sat quietly on her bed, still holding the photo of her long-lost family in her hand. That’s exactly how it felt. She’d had a family once, but it had been stolen away—her father taken somewhere she could never reach and her mother, who was once so confident, transported into a world of uncertainty and fear.
I don’t want to be alone all the time, Tara thought, an only child, without a father.
Yet what choice did she have? Tara felt she had to be strong, that she had to be tough. There wasn’t time to lose waiting for someone to protect her. She had to do it herself. But how could she? She was just a young girl who didn’t know this or that about the world.
Will anyone teach me? Tara wondered. Can anyone help me at all?
A tapping on the windowpane startled her. She stared at first in disbelief, then in wonder, and finally with a protective fear enveloping her. Walking lightly on her feet, Tara approached the window. Looking at her with bright greenish-yellow eyes was a little black cat. It had four white paws and a large patch of pure white fur that formed a diamond pattern across part of its face and chest.
Tara stuck her neck out toward the glass pane, wondering if opening the window would scare the kitty. But it appeared this cat couldn’t have been afraid of much since it had climbed three floors up the fire escape to Tara’s apartment. No, it didn’t look a bit concerned. In fact, the cat appeared . . . impatient! The next thing Tara knew, the kitty raised its paw, looked her in the eye and tapped several more times. Tara opened the window and the cat took a step forward and hopped down onto the carpet.
“A Tuxedo,” Tara said aloud, recognizing the breed by its black and white coat.
But the cat paid no attention to her. Its eyes were fixed straight ahead as it roamed around searching out every nook, cranny and corner in Tara’s room—even around the back side of the treadmill her grandparents had bought her, which she of course used as a clothes hanger. Every once in a while the cat would let out a loud HISSSS, a warning to anyone or anything that might be hiding in the shadows.
By the time the kitty was done, Tara’s room felt cleared of the musty sadness that had taken it over. The curious black cat then hopped on the bed and focused its attention on Tara. Its dark, almond-shaped pupils grew larger as it looked at her intently.
“What made you climb all the way up the fire escape to my window?” Tara asked.
The cat just stared at her. Then after a few moments, the corners of its mouth seemed to curl. Tara did a double take. The strange little cat actually looked like it was . . . smiling.
Is that possible? Tara wondered. She shook her head as if she needed to rattle her brain to get it to start working again.
The black cat’s greenish-yellow eyes darted from Tara to the picture in her hand, and then once again, they flashed back at Tara and then back toward the picture.
Tara sensed something very peculiar about this feline. She sat on the bed beside the mysterious cat and ran her hand down its shiny black coat. She laughed as the kitty rolled on its back and started swatting at her fingers.
“So now I see you’re a girl kitty,” Tara remarked.
The cat began purring loudly. It jumped off the bed and circled the room. As the cat turned toward Tara again, it started hopping. She hopped on the table, back on Tara’s bed, up on a chair, onto the dresser drawers, and up on top of a pile of books. But it wasn’t the cat’s incredible ability to hop several feet into the air that astonished Tara. It was how it hopped that was so extraordinary.
“Bunny,” Tara blurted. “That’s what I’ll call you, because you hop just like one.”
Bunny responded by jumping down off the books and of course hopping up onto Tara’s lap. She looked Tara straight in the eye, her gaze steady and patient.
Tara didn’t know why, but she wanted to tell this cat everything—about how lonely and lost she felt, how much she missed her father, how confused and frightened she was. One thought after another came rolling into Tara’s head, but she didn’t even have to say them out loud. It was like a trusted old friend had come back to her.
Bunny’s gaze was penetrating, and Tara felt the words rushing out of her anyway, like a powerful river bursting out of a dam.
“My father . . .” Tara was crying now, tears gently rolling down her face. “Bunny, he died.”
Bunny appeared to absorb her words, to understand them. The cat’s eyes grew as wide as quarters.
“Bunny, I don’t understand why he had to die, why he’s not here with us now. I want to know where he went. I want to see him again.”
That’s when it struck her. Tara began to wonder if she was going a bit crazy. If you’re someone who sees mysterious black cats appear on your windowsill when you live on the third floor of an apartment building, and you start chatting with them, you’re not going to be considered normal.
At that very moment, Bunny jumped down off her lap, took a few strides forward and then . . .
She stood straight up on her hind legs, raised her front paws and took several steps toward the window!
Stunned, Tara thought her mind was definitely playing tricks on her. Did I really see that or just imagine it? She quickly convinced herself it must be some sort of weird cat thing. Yet she had seen it with her own eyes. It looked as if Bunny had briefly started to . . . WALK.
But Tara didn’t have much time to think about how impossible that could be. Bunny jumped up to the windowsill and headed back onto the fire escape.
Bolting off the bed, Tara ran to the window and stuck her head out. Bunny was already walking down the steel stairs. Feeling compelled to follow, Tara quickly climbed outside—an unnerving adventure to say the least—and held onto the railing as she hurried after Bunny. The cat scampered down to the first floor and then leapt off the last step onto the sidewalk below.
“Wait!” Tara exclaimed, huffing and puffing down to the final step.
The fire escape ended about eight feet off the ground. The leap might have been easy enough for Bunny, but Tara didn’t like the idea of jumping down from that height. Then she thought of the times she had suffered through gym class, swinging on metal bars. It was beginning to look like that crazy training would come in handy. Tara grabbed onto the very last step and lowered herself, dangling like a trapeze artist. Then, gritting her teeth, she let go and dropped to the ground.
Bunny wasn’t waiting though. The cat trotted down the tree-lined street and turned the corner at the end of the block. She was sitting by a storefront, looking quite nonchalant, when Tara finally caught up with her.
The Flaming Mirror
“What’s this?” Tara wondered aloud, huffing and puffing. She looked up at the sign above the large wooden door.
The Unbelievable Reality Shop
Before Tara could have another thought, the door swung open. A woman in her fifties with shaggy red hair and an emerald green dress stood there looking like something out of a Harry Potter film.
“Well?” the woman said.
“Well, aren’t you going to come into my shop?”
Before she could answer, Bunny strolled through the door. Tara had no doubt that her feline friend wanted her to follow.
“Come on in,” the woman encouraged, ushering Tara through the doorway as if she had a choice. “I’m Minerva. And your name is?”
“Tara. Tara Blair. Your store has such a curious name . . . Unbelievable Reality.”
“Oh yes indeed,” Minerva said as she walked toward the counter. “UNBELIEVABLE REALITY. Well, I suppose it is of course, isn’t it?
“It is?” Tara asked, not understanding.
“Oh yes, my dear. REALITY is most definitely UNBELIEVABLE.”
Minerva seemed a little strange, a tad batty perhaps, but otherwise quite likable.
As Tara looked around, she could see that this was no ordinary shop. There were crystals and colored stones everywhere, pictures of dragons and strange-looking birds, and even some weird types of musical instruments Tara had never laid eyes on before. Some of them looked like horns but they were covered in coral and turquoise. Odd shaped bells, silver cups, and porcelain bowls lined the countertop, and pictures of people with orange clothing, maroon robes, white dresses, and black frocks were hanging on the walls. Tara supposed they were priests and ministers of different religions and faiths.
Strolling through the shop, with Minerva silently observing her, Tara could see the whole place was also crammed full of old books with titles about great journeys, hidden kingdoms, and great warriors that saved mankind. Several wooden shelves along the walls were lined with large glass jars filled with what looked like different kinds of seeds, herbs, plant roots and dried berries.
“This is such . . . well, uhh . . . such an interesting store,” Tara said, hoping she sounded polite.
“Yes it is,” Minerva asserted. “I sell herbs and gemstones, crystals, musical instruments, and of course, a great deal of books! But I don’t believe you’ve come to Unbelievable Reality to buy a book now, have you?”
“I’m really not certain why I’m here,” Tara said. “I was following Bunny—I mean—the cat and—”
“You’re here because you have some questions, I imagine,” Minerva stated, squinting at her. “Wait, let me find my glasses.”
Minerva searched the cluttered countertop. “Ah, there they are,” she said, placing a pair of orange-colored spectacles on her nose that Tara thought looked like tangerine peels.
“Why, you’re sort of a curious-looking girl,” Minerva asserted, observing Tara from head-to-toe. “Kind of long for your age, aren’t you? Long arms, long legs, and, oh my, such wavy hair!”
The very last thing Tara needed was to hear she was curious-looking. Being a kid felt awkward enough. She certainly didn’t want this strange woman focusing on how LONG she was.
“But I guess we ought to get down to business,” Minerva said, brushing her bushy red hair aside. “Do you know why you’re here?”
“As I said, I followed the cat.” Tara gave Bunny a sidelong glance.
“You followed her for a reason. You’re on a quest, my dear. You’re trying to find out who you are.”
“What do you mean find out who I am?” Tara thought it was a strange remark.
“People need to find out who they are, Tara. It’s that simple. But it’s also hard. Well, you see, it’s like this—If you’re afraid to tell the truth and are too concerned about what people think, if you make friends by hiding something about yourself, and if you don’t spend some time on your own and ask yourself questions about what you like and what you dislike or about how you feel, then you’ll never really know who you are at all.”
Tara didn’t know how to respond. This woman certainly seemed to talk a lot.
“Why do you think . . . What did you call that cat?” Minerva shifted her glasses down her nose.
“Bunny,” Tara said.
“Oh, yes. Why do you think Bunny brought you here?”
Tara had to admit she didn’t have the slightest clue.
“Well, I’ll tell you why,” Minerva chimed, as if waiting for a response would take too long. “Because there’s some things you need to learn, and she’s guiding you so you can figure them out.”
Tara couldn’t imagine what she could learn in this strange old shop, especially from Minerva. The woman was rather odd, after all. Tara was wondering whether she should stay or leave, when the rich smell of incense and herbs made her swoon. She felt heady like she did after a huge thunderstorm.
“By all accounts,” Minerva stated, focusing all her attention on Bunny, “that is not a cat—not a normal one, anyway. Believe me, she’s a powerful guardian. A protectress. There are others, but this one’s especially strong. She’s a Dakini, a sky dancer from Shambhala.”
Tara’s eyes narrowed as she tried to understand. “What is a sky dancer and where is Shambhala?” She imagined the place must have been somewhere on the other side of the planet because they never went over it in geography.
“Sorry, can’t tell you where Shambhala is—big secret, you know,” Minerva answered cryptically. “But I can tell you that sky dancers—Dakinis—are protectors, guardians that help you when you need help.”
Bunny, who had hopped onto a long purple couch next to an enormous seashell lampstand, gave a very contented and confirming purr.
“Any kind of help?” Tara asked.
“Yes, any kind of help. But most of all they help you to know yourself and to realize the truth.”
That’s what Tara wanted most of all, to know the truth, especially about her dad. What happens to people when they die? Did they just vanish? Were they completely gone or did their spirit—their soul—go somewhere?
Standing in the middle of the cluttered shop, Tara felt the aching in her heart. Why did she always feel so alone?
“Being alone isn’t so bad,” Minerva remarked, as if reading Tara’s mind.
“How would you know—?”
“Your thoughts? It’s really not that hard. You have to be quiet and still, and then you’ll be able to hear and see a lot more.”
Well, that sounded a bit too simple. Tara thought there had to be a special technique or some sort of unusual brain chemistry that made you psychic so you could hear people’s thoughts or see what they were doing.
Minerva paid no mind to Tara’s puzzled look. “As I was saying, there’s nothing wrong with being alone. Sometimes you come to this world and you’re alone for a reason—because you need to be.” Minerva’s eyes grew wider as she spoke. “This universe is trying to make you strong, sharpen your wits, tune up your emotions, connect with your spirit, and open up your heart. When you accomplish all that, you’ll know who you really are.”
“Do you honestly think I can find out who I really am?” Tara asked, a nervous knot growing in her stomach.
Minerva gave her a knowing look, as if she could feel Tara’s anxiety. “I’ve seen it often with kids, especially around your age. They can already tell that they’re special, that they have a gift they must share with the world. They just don’t know what that gift is yet!”
Tara felt her mind go pop, as if Minerva just pulled a cork out of the top of her head.
“I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” she blurted in an anxious rush. “How do I get the answers I need? How do I find out about—?
Tara felt her heart beat faster. “How could you possibly know that I’ve been thinking about my father?
Minerva fell silent. She stared at the incense smoke as it swirled up from the burner. Finally, she spoke.
“If you really want to know, if you really want answers, you’ve got to go through the mirror.”
What in blazes is this woman talking about? Tara wondered. She turned to her left, and just past the counter, against a high wall as if it were part of it, was an old mirror that covered half the paneling from floor to ceiling.
“Through the mirror?” Tara questioned. She walked up to it and tapped up and down the glass and along the frame. There didn’t seem any way to open it or get around to the other side.
Bunny jumped off the couch, walked over to the looking glass, and glared at herself. Growling, her whiskers stiffening, she looked fierce and cold as if she was about to attack her own reflection.
Bunny’s acting really strange, Tara thought. But before she could question Minerva further, the reflection in the mirror began to ripple. The ripples grew larger and the reflection started moving in waves. By the time the waves settled, Tara was no longer looking at Bunny, Minerva, herself, or The Unbelievable Reality Shop. Instead, she saw a high waterfall, a huge pool of water and a forest beyond, all beaming and vibrating in the mirror! Then without warning, the frame burst into red-hot flames, licking the air around them.
Startled, Tara raced to the phone on Minerva’s desk.
“What are you doing, girl?” Minerva asked, chuckling.
“Calling the fire department, of course!” Tara yelled. How can this woman be so light-hearted about a fire in her shop!
Minerva was laughing so hard now she was holding her sides. She walked over to Tara and took the phone out of her hand.
“Child, this is no ordinary fire,” Minerva explained. “It’s wisdom fire. You have to make a leap in order to enter into the next world. If you don’t, the opening in the mirror will close and all you’ll see is this dusty, old room and lots of herbs and books!”
Tara hesitated. Why would I jump through a ring of flames!
“There’s nothing ordinary about this place at all!” she shouted, hoping the fire wouldn’t burn the building down with them in it.
At that moment, Bunny walked up to the mirror’s edge and paced back and forth like a lion.
“BUNNY! NO!” Tara screeched. “Don’t get too close!”
But the sky dancer cat didn’t listen. Before Tara knew it, Bunny leapt right into the mirror, disappearing instantly.
Tara stared in disbelief. It couldn’t be possible!
“Where did she go?”
“You asked a question,” Minerva said matter-of-factly. “You wanted to know something, and you wanted to know it with all your heart. Bunny heard you and she’s going to help you find your answer . . . in Shambhala.”
“Shambhala?” Tara found the whole idea astounding.
“I told you. She’s a sky dancer. She can’t be held to this world.” Minerva flashed a toothy smile at her. “Can you?”
The flames looked twice as large now. Could she?
No way. Not in a million years. Not for —
“Get in there,” Minerva roared. “Just jump!”
Her heart pumping wildly, Tara leapt into the air, wondering where on earth she was going to land.
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