For Ages
6 to 9

Star Time is a part of the Zigzag Kids collection.

In the fourth book in the Zigzag Kids series, it's showtime at the  Zelda A. Zigzag Afternoon Center. Gina loves to sing and she's determined to be the star of the play. She's already told everybody she knows to come see her. But her friend Destiny wants to be the star, too!

An Excerpt fromStar Time

Great days at the Zigzag Afternoon Center!
They were going to do a play.
Gina would be the star. She was sure of it. She’d told everyone she knew.
She ducked into the girls’ room. She held Destiny Washington’s bottle of Curls Galore gel.
Destiny had lent it to her yesterday. “I’m trying to be the nicest person,” she had said. “Even to kids who don’t deserve it. Stars do that.”
Today Gina was wearing her star shirt. Best of all, she had on Grandma Maroni’s loopy pearls. They hung down almost to her knees.
It was all because a used-to-be-famous actress was coming to the Center. Maybe in a limousine. Her name was Madam Ballantine.
She was going to tell them about acting.
Gina knew that part already.
She was going to talk about stars, too. That was what Gina wanted to hear.
“Mi-mi-mi,” Gina sang to herself. She’d never been a star. Not once in her whole life. But maybe this time . . .
She opened Destiny’s bottle of gel. It was a little sticky. It was blue.
How much should she use?
She held it up. The gel was thick and bubbly.
She shook it over the top of her head. Nothing poured out.
Then came a little bloop.
The rest of it came in a big galump.
It slithered over her hair and down her front. A long bubbly blue drip on her star shirt!
She scrubbed at it with a paper towel.
It wasn’t a drip anymore. It looked like a bird with wings.
Gina swallowed. Maybe Destiny had her sparkly purse today. If only she’d lend her that, too.
Gina could hold it exactly over the bird spot.
She scrunched up her hair the way Destiny had told her. Sticky but cool.
She headed for the lunchroom.
A million kids were there, screeching and screaming. It was snack time: fried mozzarella sticks today.
Gina slid onto the seat next to Sumiko.
Sumiko was looking at her hair. Or maybe it was the bird-with-wings drip. Then Sumiko looked away.
Sumiko was a polite girl. Even Mrs. Farelli, the tough art teacher, said so.
“Don’t you love Afternoon Center?” Sumiko asked. “The snacks are great.”
Gina touched the top of her head. She took a bite of the mozzarella stick. It felt like her hair.
Beebe leaned closer. Sometimes it was hard for her to hear. “The play will be exciting, too,” she said.
“Beebe’s right!” Gina said. Her heart thumped.
She had to be the star.
She’d told Grandma Maroni. And Aunt Suki. And Uncle Tony. She closed her eyes. Who else? Everyone on her block. Even the meat man at Stop & Shop. They were all coming to see her.
She had to look like a star.
“Have you seen Destiny?” she asked Sumiko.
“She’s around somewhere,” Sumiko said. “Her hair is gorgeous. It’s swooped up with a purple bow.”
“Nice.” Gina crossed her fingers.
“The bow has a diamond in the middle,” Sumiko said.
“Very nice.” Gina tried to cross her toes.
“And . . .” Beebe leaned forward. “She’s wearing a fat purple ring.”
Gina didn’t say anything. She had nothing left to cross.
That Destiny was so lucky. Her mom was a hairdresser. Gina’s own mom just hung around and drew Happy-Birthday-to-You cards.
Destiny looked like a star with her swooped-up-purple-diamond-bow hair.
Gina was ready to cry. Too bad she was such a loud crier. Loud as a hyena, Destiny had said once.
Gina had to get out of there before her crying began. “See you,” she told Sumiko and Beebe.
She went up the stairs.
No one was supposed to be in the classrooms during Afternoon Center. But just this once.
Somebody else was up there, too. Charlie was running along the hall. He was taking little hops. His yellow raincoat flapped behind him.
Gina forgot about crying. Charlie was fun. He was an inventor. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“It’s my Yellow Wing-O invention,” he said. “I’m learning to fly.”
“Wow. Good luck,” Gina said.
She opened her classroom door. It was quiet in there. No kids. No teacher.
Gina looked at her desk. It was a little messy. Books and papers were half in, half out.
She took a step toward Ms. Katz’s desk. The teacher’s desk was even worse than hers.
She told herself not to look. Ms. Katz’s stuff was private.
She couldn’t help seeing Destiny Washington’s math paper. There were cross-outs all over it.
Destiny’s paper was the biggest mess in the room. Gina’s paper was poking out, too. Very good, it said. Just a little sloppy.
She heard a huge clump out in the hall. Then “Oof.”
Charlie must have crashed.
There was a mirror in Ms. Katz’s closet. It was all right to look at that. Mirrors weren’t private.
She stood on tiptoe to see her whole self.
Would the used-to-be-famous actress like a girl with a bird-with-wings spot on her shirt?
The bird-with-wings had grown. Now it looked like a hippopotamus.
She was getting worried. Her heart thumped.
“Get your act together,” she whispered to herself. That was what Mrs. Farelli always said.
Gina opened her mouth wide. “Do, re, mi-mi-mi . . .” Lovely. Loud and clear, even with a thumping heart.
“I am going to be the star,” she sang.
If only Destiny would lend her that sparkly purse to cover the hippopotamus/bird-with-wings.

Gina poked her head into the art room.
Destiny wasn’t there.
She opened the gym door next.
Clunk! A basketball hit her in the head. She tossed it back.
“Ew,” Habib said. “It has goo all over it.”
Gina gulped. She opened the girls’ room door. She heard a voice. A strange, wiggly voice.
“I’ve come from a planet far away,” it said.
Gina jumped back.
Something had invaded the school.
Slowly she poked her head around the door.
“Destiny Washington!” she said.
“Just practicing,” Destiny said. “That’s what stars do.” She stopped. “What happened to your shirt?”
Gina raised one shoulder. “Could I borrow your purse for tryouts?”
“My best purse, with the sparkly front and the striped back?” Destiny began to shake her head.
“I have to cover this stain.”
Destiny leaned closer. “It looks like a--what’s that thing with a horn on its head?”
“A rhinoceros?” Gina leaned forward. “I’ll be your best friend forever.”
Destiny rolled Chap Stick over her mouth. She smacked her lips together. “I guess so.”
Gina held up the purse. Yes. It covered most of her shirt. Only the rhino’s horn hung out. Or maybe it was the hippo’s tail.
They headed for the auditorium. Kids were all over the hall.
Habib was juggling a mozzarella stick.
Angel was jumping rope without a rope.
Angel’s friend Yolanda was Irish step dancing. Her shoes were clinking and clanking.
Click! Click!
Suddenly everything was still. No one moved. There wasn’t a sound in the hall.
Mrs. Farelli was snapping her fingers. She was the world’s best snapper.
Her snap meant: “Quiet!”
After a moment, everyone began to walk on tiptoe.
In the auditorium, Peter Petway and Mitchell McCabe were lying on the floor. Papers were spread out around them.
They were working on the play: A Robot World.
Peter was writing.
Mitchell was thinking.
The play was about a wild space station. Bad guys were all over the place. Too bad. Gina had been hoping for princesses, and frogs turning into princes.
She would have made a great princess.
Charlie would have made a great frog.
Now everyone ran to the window. Gina looked over Destiny’s shoulder.
A car had pulled up in front of the school.
It was an old car, a clunker.
It was the actress, Madam Ballantine!
She came up the walk. She was skinny as a pretzel stick. Her hair was a mess. Too bad she didn’t have any of Destiny’s Curls Galore gel.
Madam Ballantine came into the auditorium.
“We’re doing aliens and comets crashing,” Peter Petway said.
“Wonderful.” Madam Ballantine looked around. “I hope you’ll all come to my play on Tuesday. It’s at the Star Theater.”
“Of course,” said Mrs. Farelli.
“Of course,” Gina said, too. She stepped a little bit in front of Destiny. She wanted to be sure the actress saw her. She looped up Grandma Maroni’s pearls.
Destiny gave her a push. “You’re taking up my airspace.”
Gina pushed back.
“Hey!” Destiny yelled. “No pushing at the Zigzag School.” She grabbed her sparkly purse away from Gina.
Gina tried to grab it back.
What would the used-to-be-famous Madam Ballantine think of a girl with a hippo-bird on her shirt? Or a rhino?
Mrs. Farelli came toward them. “Outside,” she said. “Both of you.”
They followed Mrs. Farelli into the hall. Everyone must be staring, Gina thought. She looked down at her sneakers.
“This is a fine kettle of fish,” Mrs. Farelli said. “What must Madam Ballantine think?”
“Sorry,” Gina said.
“Sorry,” Destiny said, too.
“Sit out here for a while,” Mrs. Farelli said. “Get your act together.”
Mrs. Farelli disappeared back into the auditorium.
Gina and Destiny slid down against the wall. They watched a bunch of kids go inside.
Four girls said they were going to be stars.
Four boys said they were going to be robots.
“How long do you think we have to sit here?” Gina asked.
“Maybe for the rest of the afternoon,” Destiny said.
“But what about the actress?” Gina hoped she wasn’t going to cry like a hyena.
This afternoon wasn’t turning out very well.
Not very well at all.

Outside, Gina could hear the slap-slap of a jump rope.
Inside, she heard voices. “SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS SPACESHIP!” someone shouted.
That was Mitchell.
“He must be reading part of the play,” Destiny said.
“A nice loud voice,” Madam Ballantine said.
Gina peered through the crack in the door. “Do you think Mrs. Farelli forgot about us?”
The gym door opened.
Mrs. Farelli came out. She kept going down the hall.
A moment later, she was gone.
“Maybe she’s going home,” Destiny said. “I guess we’ll be here all night.”
“With nothing to eat?” Gina asked. Her mother would be sad. Mom wanted her to have good healthy food.
“Maybe they turn off the heat at night,” Destiny said. “We may freeze.”
Gina held on to Grandma Maroni’s pearls. She could see blocks of ice in the hall. Icicles on the ceiling!
“There’s something worse,” Destiny said. “Today is Friday. We may be here for the whole weekend.”
Gina opened her mouth. A sound came out.
“Are you going to cry like a hyena?” Destiny asked.
Gina snapped her mouth shut. The hyena was trapped inside her throat.
In the auditorium, Mitchell was yelling again. “WATCH OUT! THE SPACESHIP IS GOING TO CRASH!”
“Bloop. Bloop. Bloop,” said Peter Petway.
“Wow,” said Madam Ballantine.
“I guess that’s the spaceship crashing.” Destiny stood up. “I’m going in there.”
“You can’t do that,” Gina said.
“Mrs. Farelli wouldn’t want us to freeze to death. I think she just forgot about us.” Destiny banged open the auditorium door.
She went inside.
Gina thought about going inside, too. But suppose Mrs. Farelli came back?
She put her head back against the wall.
Tonight her mother was making turkey with stuffing.
No dinner for her.
And bedtime was nine o’clock.
Would she still be here? Sleeping on the hall floor like a frozen ant?
“I WILL SAVE YOU,” someone said in a loud voice.
Thank goodness, Gina thought. Then she realized. It was Destiny. She was trying to be the star.
Poor Grandma Maroni. Poor Aunt Suki and Uncle Tony. Poor meat man at Stop & Shop. What would they think if they heard Gina wasn’t a star?
She yanked on the pearls.
They flew all over the place.
The hyena was escaping from her throat. She couldn’t stop it.
She began to cry.
Someone opened the auditorium door. It was Clifton, a kindergarten kid. “You sound like a--” he began.
Gina gulped. She hoped he wouldn’t say hyena.
He didn’t. “You sound like a sad girl,” he said.
That made her cry even louder.
Jake the Sweeper popped his head around the stairs. He swept some pearls toward her. “What’s going on?” he asked.
Now everyone came out of the auditorium. They crowded around her.
Gina squinched her eyes shut.
“What’s this?” a soft voice asked.
She opened her eyes again.
The used-to-be-famous actress was staring at her.
Gina knew she was a mess. Her hair was gooey. She looked down. Her shirt had . . . not a hippo, not a rhino, but--
A pair of elephants.
How had that happened?
“Perfect,” the used-to-be-famous actress said.
Gina wiped her eyes.
“You can be a poor lost alien in the play,” the actress said.
Gina stood up. “Is that the star?”
The actress shook her head. “No, but it would be a lovely part. All you’d have to do is cry.”
“Not the star?” Gina said.
“Well--” said Madam Ballantine.
“I’ll be the star,” said Destiny.
“What about me?” Beebe said.
Mrs. Farelli came along the hall. “What is all this commotion?”
“I don’t want to stay out here forever,” Gina told her.
“I forgot.” Mrs. Farelli slapped her forehead. “I’m so sorry.”
Outside, Ramón, the college helper, blew his whistle. “Time to get on the bus,” he said.
“Hurry,” Madam Ballantine said. “See you on Tuesday.”
Gina stopped to pick up some of the pearls. She put them in her pocket. Poor Grandma Maroni. What would she say?
But Grandpa Maroni could fix anything.
Maybe he could even fix the necklace.
She raced up the stairs. She’d have turkey with stuffing for supper. She’d sleep in her own bed.
She waved goodbye to Mrs. Farelli and to Madam Ballantine.
She’d worry about being a crybaby alien next week.

Under the Cover