Last week we announced that Sybil Nelson’s Ebonee and Ivory Go to Prodigy Camp 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:
Everyone expected ballet prodigy Ebonee and piano prodigy Ivory to be the best of friends but, instead, they turn out to be the worst of enemies. When a failed science experiment switches their bodies, Ebonee and Ivory learn they have more in common than they ever thought. Now they have to work together to save each other from the worst fate at prodigy camp…a disastrous performance!
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And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
I got the joke. Really I did. And it wasn’t too clever if you asked me. Sure, my name was Ebonee and her name was Ivory, but did that really mean that everyone at camp had to hum or sing that stupid “Ebony and Ivory” song every time they saw one of us? No, it didn’t. And it was getting down right annoying. Almost as annoying as Ivory herself.
“Oh Mylanta!” I yelled at her one afternoon as I did a plié warm up in our room. “Socks go on your feet or in a drawer.” I picked up two smelly green socks and tossed them at Ivory’s head. Thank goodness my bottle of hand sanitizer was in arm’s reach. Living with this chick, I probably would have died of like the bubonic plague or something already without it.
“You know what?” Ivory said in response. I stared at her and waited for her to finish her thought, but that didn’t happen. It never did. I swear that girl’s mind drifted faster than a hummingbird on a sugar high. I would never tell her but it was kind of fascinating. Just like it was kind of amazing to see how Ivory’s mind and fingers traveled from note to note as she played piano. Well, I think that’s how it worked. I never really understood how the brains of those music prodigies worked. How did they look at a bunch of black and white keys and turn it into a beautiful song? Ballet made so much more sense.
But I digress. As I thought, Ivory didn’t even finish her sentence. Instead, she actually walked over to my side of the room and turned off my warm up music.
“Dude, that’s rude!” I said. That was it! I couldn’t take it anymore. It was time for another letter to Dean Rollingsworth.
To be honest I had never, ever even heard of that “Ebony and Ivory” song before Prodigy Camp. Regular music wasn’t too common in my house. I could identify every Chopin Nocturne within five seconds by the time I was four but I had no idea who anyone on the radio was. I didn’t get my first taste of regular music until about a year ago when our maid left her iPod at our house. Since then I have been obsessed with R&B, Jazz, and Hip Hop. But since there was no “Ebony and Ivory” on that iPod, I was totally unfamiliar with that particular song.
Anyway, now that I know the song, I hate the song. A lot. It basically represents everything that has been wrong with this summer. Ebonee Washington. She was a terrible, terrible person, but everyone expected us to be best friends or something just because of a stupid song. To be completely honest, I was fooled at first too. I was totally looking forward to rooming with the daughter of 2morrow, the greatest Hip Hop mogul of all time. But Ebonee is nothing like him. She is uptight, boring, and I’m starting to suspect that she’s kinda addicted to hand sanitizer.
And what gave her the right to always play her boring ballet music in our room. I hated that music. It’s all I ever heard at home. I would prefer silence to that music. But I was never ever really in total silence. My mind was always filled with the syncopated rhythms of my next musical number.
When I turned off Ebonee’s music that afternoon, she started writing another letter to Dean Rollingsworth. Two can play that game, I thought. I took out a sheet of paper and stared at it while I held my pencil. Ten minutes later I was still staring at the paper. I knew exactly what I wanted to write. I wanted to say that Ebonee was an egotistical control freak who was driving me crazy and ruining my life. It sounded so perfect in my head, but for some reason, I couldn’t get it down on paper. I would need Suresh’s help…again.
“What cha’ doin?” Suresh Prathnian asked, poking his head into our room. It seemed like every time I thought about him he’d show up. How did he do that?
“Nothing,” Ebonee and I said in unison. She looked up from her paper and glared at me. She didn’t even want to agree with me about disagreeing.
“We’re writing letters to the Dean asking for new roommates for the rest of Prodigy Camp,” Ebonee said.
Suresh was the only friend Ebonee and I kind of shared here at camp. Everyone else was squarely on Team Ebonee or Team Ivory. Suresh seemed completely neutral however. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get him to hate Ebonee as much as I did.
“Really? Again?” Suresh asked stepping into the room. “Haven’t you already written like twenty letters?” He plopped on Ebonee’s bed and added, “I really don’t understand why you can’t get along. I mean, haven’t you heard the song?” And then he started singing it! He made it about three seconds before I threw a smelly green sock at his head.
To whom it may concern,
I, Etta Groove Washington, being of sound mind and body do hereby request another roommate for the remainder of prodigy camp. I am no longer able to tolerate this miscreant I have been forced to live with. Do you know she talks in her sleep? Well, not so much as talks, but raps. She raps in her sleep. I have spent my life, all eight years of it, trying to get away from rap music. If I have to hear one more Kanye West lyric, I swear to Baryshnikov that I will pirouette on her face.
I really can’t take this anymore. This is not what I signed up for. When I found out I was going to be rooming with the daughter of 2Morrow, I was so psyched. He is one of my heroes. Possibly the greatest Hip-Hop mogul of all time. But his daughter is lame. Boring. She’s got less flava than boiled water. I’m having no fun at all. If she tells me to turn down my music one more time, I’m gonna bust a cap in her head. Okay, so it will be a pen cap, but a cap nonetheless.
To whomever got my last letter and chose to ignore it,
Seriously, this is not going to work. When I filled out my roommate questionnaire, I asked for someone who enjoyed the classics. You know, Balanchine or Beethoven. As far as I can tell, Catherine Alexandra Gabriela Celantini’s idea of classical is Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.
Still waiting on that transfer. Etta is killing me. Those are words I never thought I’d say since she was probably named after another one of my idols, Etta James. She was arguably the greatest soul singer of all times. This Etta doesn’t even know what Etta sang. That’s kind of confusing but, whatever. The point is, my so-called roommate has no soul whatsoever. And now she’s trying to suck the soul out of me like some sort of boring, soul-sucking, pointy-shoed ballet zombie. Can I please be rid of her?!!!!
“You guys wanna grab lunch or something?” Suresh asked. He was always concerned about where his next meal was coming from.
“We’re busy,” I said as a continued to work on the rough draft of my letter.
“Why are you always bugging us?” Ivory asked. “Why don’t you just go away and never come back?”
Suresh shook his head disapprovingly. “My grandmother always says you shouldn’t say things like that. What if it came true? Then how would you feel?” He grabbed Ivory’s iPhone off of her dresser and started tinkering with it as he said, “Besides, you know you love me. I’m the only person here who can stand both of you at the same time. I’m not on Team Ebonee or Team Ivory. I’m Switzerland.”
“Switzerland?” Ivory asked confused.
I rolled my eyes. “He means he’s neutral. Ugh, I can’t believe I have to share air with you.”
Suresh shook his head again. “You know, to me, you two are the most amazing girls on the planet,” Suresh said as he lounged on my bed. “I mean, Ivory, you can hear any song one time and then play it on just about any instrument. And Ebonee, you can watch someone dance and completely recreate it.” He placed Ivory’s phone on her desk. “There, you have free phone service for a year.”
“How’d he do that?” Ivory whispered as she stared at her phone. I wondered the same thing. If anything, Suresh was the amazing one. I couldn’t even pronounce the names of some of the classes he took in the science building let alone understand what he was studying.
“You guys have so much in common,” Suresh continued. “Have you tried talking about your problems?”
“Of course we have,” I said. “We’ve been to the dean like five times.”
“Well, let’s try again. Right now.” He turned our chairs around so that we were all sitting in a circle. “We’re all geniuses, right? We should be able to figure this out.”
Ivory crossed her arms and stared off into space. I wanted to cross my arms as well, but I refused because I didn’t want it to seem like I was copying her.
“Let’s start with nicknames. How did you get them?” asked Suresh.
Ivory sighed. “That’s easy. I play piano. Before I could even walk or talk, all I ever wanted to do was sit on a piano bench and bang on the keys. The ivory keys. Thus the name Ivory.”
“Great. See, Ebonee, I bet you didn’t know that about her, did you?”
“Yeah, I still don’t like her.”
“Now, Ebonee, your turn,” Suresh said ignoring my remark.
I didn’t want to talk about this. It was private. A personal connection between my brother and me. I teared up a little just thinking about him. I really missed him over this summer.
During the silence Suresh grabbed my phone and started messing with it. Once I was sure I wouldn’t burst into tears or anything, I said, “I’m kind of skinny. So when I was really little, I guess about three or so, I looked kinda ridiculous imitating the dance moves I saw on TV. My older brother would tease me and say my knees looked like elbows. He’d call me Elbow-knees. He couldn’t quite say it right so it sounded like Ebonee.”
“Ha! What kind of idiot can’t say Elbow?” Ivory laughed.
I glared at her. “He’s deaf you insensitive jerk!”
Ivory’s mouth flew open but she didn’t say anything. Instead she just turned beat red. She had some nerve calling my brother an idiot. Once again I knew we would never be friends.
The room was silent as Ivory and I just stared at each other. Suddenly, her phone started vibrating and playing that puke-inducing song.
“Suresh!” Ivory yelled as she went to silence it. “How dare you switch my ring tone?”
“Sorry, couldn’t resist,” he said laughing. He handed me my phone and headed for the door. Suddenly he stopped and turned around. “That’s it!” he yelled.
“That’s what?” I asked.
“I have the answer to your problems. We just need to switch things up a bit. Meet me in Dr. Whitaker’s lab in two hours. No, three hours. No, two hours and forty-three minutes.”
“But we have class,” Ivory protested.
“Fine, go to class, but come to Dr. Whittaker’s lab right after. And one of you bring me a burrito!”
I was distracted when I went to my afternoon dance class. I kept thinking about Suresh and what his supposed answer was to our problem. In my opinion, the only real answer was a new roommate, but I had to admit I was intrigued by what he could come up with.
“Ebonee, your movements are rigid, as usual,” Madame St. Claire said when I finished the combination. “You need to relax. You dance as if you have something to prove. You need to dance as if you actually enjoy it.” After climbing on stage she said, “Watch me,” before starting the combination. She looked amazing. “Now, that is how I want you to do it for the showcase tomorrow. Just like that.”
“Yes, Madame,” I said trying to hold in how offended I was. I left the stage gracefully enough, but it took all of my self-control to not respond to that woman. If anyone was rigid it was her. I bet she wasn’t dancing at this level when she was just eight years old. Who does she think she is? Who made her the expert? Well, I guess twenty years with the Royal Ballet kind of made her an expert. Whatever, I’m not rigid. At least, I hope I’m not.
It’s performance class. Doesn’t that mean we are supposed to PERFORM? I liked performing. I liked it a lot. Most piano prodigies do. If all I had to do in life was perform a piano piece every day, I’d be a happy camper. But no, Mr. Evans insisted that we learned music history as well. So half of performance class was dedicated to reading stupid boring books. I hated reading. I wasn’t good at it. I knew sooner or later he was going to ask me to read in front of the class. I was so sure that I had been practicing with Suresh all week. But I still wasn’t prepared when Mr. Evans said, “Ivory, why don’t you start reading for us on page 173? The second paragraph.”
I turned to page 173. The words on the page didn’t make sense. I couldn’t tell where the second paragraph started. I couldn’t even tell which letters belonged to which words.
“Ivory? Did you hear me?”
I didn’t know what to do. The room suddenly got hot and it was hard for me to breathe. There was no way I could read that paragraph. Everyone would laugh at me. So, I did the only thing I could do.
I slammed my book shut and said, “Look, I don’t know why we have to learn about these old dead guys. Why can’t we learn about some modern musicians? You know, people who matter today.”
Mr. Evans looked confused. “Wow, Ivory, this is shocking coming from you. Your mother is the first violinist for the San Francisco Philharmonic and your father is the conductor.”
“Exactly, so I know everything about all the old dead classical composers. It has been shoved down my throat all my life. I want to learn about Billy Holiday and Louis Armstrong or some old school hip hop greats like Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Flash.”
“You can learn about whoever you want to on your own time, but in my class you will do what I say.”
“Well, maybe I don’t want to be in this class.” I grabbed my books and walked toward the door as the other students pointed at me and whispered. I didn’t care. I would rather they think I had an attitude problem than think I was stupid.