For Ages
6 to 9

Sky High is a part of the Zigzag Kids collection.

Charlie has lots of ideas. Need something to go sky high? Ah-ha! The zinger-winger! Need to launch a cheese popper into soup? The amazing popper-upper! But the zinger-winger zings more than wings and the popper-upper plops. Charlie isn't allowed to invent for a week. Meanwhile, the afterschool invention fair is coming up. He needs time to make something special. Good thing he has his friends and Mr. Redfern, another inventor, to help him out.

An Excerpt fromSky High

Chapter 1
It was time for the Zigzag Afternoon Center. Charlie couldn’t wait.
It was the first time for him this week. He’d been home sick with double earaches.
Nana stayed home with him while Mom went to work. Nana vacuumed all day.
“Hoo-hoo,” she said. “Borrrring!”
Nana wanted to be an inventor. Just like Charlie.
And that was the one thing good about being home. Charlie could invent all day.
He liked to invent all kinds of things.
But most of all, he wanted to invent something that would fly.
He’d look out at the clouds. He could almost see himself up there.
Nana wanted to be sky-high, too. “Someday, we’ll rocket ourselves right into space, Charlie,” she said. “Hoo-hoo.”
And right now he had two minutes to try his new invention: the Zinger-Winger.
On the way out to the school yard, he counted ceiling tiles. Maybe he could invent something with them.
He’d sit on one. There’d be a rocket underneath. Zoom!
He bumped into someone. Someone he’d never seen before.
The man had a whoosh of tan hair.
It looked like a pigeon’s nest.
“Counting ceiling tiles?” The man rubbed his elbow.
“It’s for an invention,” Charlie said. “I just don’t know what yet.”
“I count ceiling tiles, too,” the man said. “I’m an inventor.”
Charlie looked up at him. That whoosh of hair. A plaid tie with a gravy stain. Huge teeth, like a beaver’s.
Charlie felt his own teeth. He was glad they were a decent size.
Charlie and the man walked along the hall together.
“I’m Mr. Redfern,” said the man. “Everyone else has met me.”
Charlie nodded. “I’ve been home sick.” He rubbed his nose. He hoped he hadn’t broken it when he bumped into Mr. Redfern.
“We’re having an inventing fair at the Afternoon Center,” Mr. Redfern said. “And not only that. There’ll be something exciting. I call it a Great Happening!”
Mr. Redfern nodded. “I can’t tell everyone about it yet.” He grinned and showed his beaver teeth. “But believe me. It’s exciting.”
What could it be? Charlie wondered.
Mr. Redfern waved his arms around. His hair waved, too.
“I’ll be here for a week,” he said. “We’ll set up a lab. We’ll work on ideas! Projects all over the place!”
Mr. Redfern stopped short.
Charlie bumped into him again.
“What’s your name?” Mr. Redfern asked. He rubbed his other elbow.
“It’s Charlie.”
They reached the end of the hall.
Charlie started up the stairs. Mr. Redfern started down.
“Good to meet you, Chuck,” Mr. Redfern called after him.
“My name’s Charlie.”
But Mr. Redfern had disappeared.
“Things are looking up, Chuck,” Charlie told himself. “The Zinger-Winger. An inventing fair. A Great Happening.”
He thought about it. He’d try out the Zinger this afternoon. He’d work on it all week.
Right now, it had a few problems.
It didn’t really fly straight.
It didn’t really fly far.
But somehow, he’d change all that.
What an invention it would be.
Not quite a plane.
Not quite a rocket.
Charlie jumped up.
One of these days, he’d even touch the ceiling.
He headed out to the school yard.
“Hoo-hoo!” he yelled.

Chapter 2
Still Friday
Charlie spotted Mitchell at the door. “Hey,” he called.
Mrs. Farelli, the toughest teacher at the Center, was right behind him. “Do I hear a hyena?” she asked.
Charlie ducked his head. “Come on outside,” he whispered to Mitchell. “Watch my Zinger-Winger in action.”
Mitchell looked back toward the lunchroom. “We have to hurry,” he said. “It’s almost time for snack.”
They rushed out the door.
Outside it was warm and sunny.
Jake the Sweeper was growing a garden in one corner of the yard. The vegetables were half as tall as Charlie.
Rows of beans twirled on sticks.
Cabbages poked up their heads.
Clifton, a kindergarten kid, was crawling around in the tomatoes. He held up a jar.
“I’m getting bugs for the new science lab,” he called.
“Want to watch my Zinger-Winger?” Charlie called back.
Clifton put the bottle down on a rock. “Sure.”
Charlie looked around.
A couple of kids stood near him. Yolanda, the artist. Gina, who wanted to be an opera singer. Peter Petway, who wrote the Afternoon Center newspaper.
Wait until they saw the Zinger-Winger in action!
“Stand back,” Charlie said. “Who knows what this thing will do?”
At home, he’d had the first trial run.
He’d jumped on the back of the couch.
He’d wound up.
“Go, Charlie!” Nana had yelled.
He’d thrown the Zinger.
Nana had ducked before it hit her in the head.
“Hoo-hoo!” she’d said.
Now Charlie gave the Zinger-Winger a pat.
Everything was in place. The paper cup nose. The paper clip propellers.
He held it up over his head.
He began to run . . . 
. . . across the yard.
It was hard to see where he was going.
Through Jake’s garden.
Into Clifton’s bug jar.
“Oh, no!” Clifton yelled.
“Watch out for the tomatoes!” Mitchell shouted.
Charlie took a leap.
It was time to let go of the Zinger.
He threw it as hard as he could.
Up it went.
There was a zinger of a noise.
“Sky-high!” Charlie yelled.
The Zinger-Winger went straight into a tree.
It teetered on a branch.
“Oh, no!” Charlie said.
He felt something under one foot.
A squashed tomato.
Clifton was yelling. “My bugs escaped! They’re crawling away as fast as their legs can carry them.”
“And that’s a lot of legs,” Mitchell said.
Jake came outside. “That was my best tomato.” He held his head.
Clifton looked as if he might cry. “I’ll have to start over,” he said. “I’ll never be ready for the Great Happening.”
“What went wrong?” Charlie whispered.
“Everything,” Mitchell said.
“Sorry, Jake. Sorry, Clifton,” Charlie said.
Peter Petway called over. “I’ll write this up in the Zigzag News--Read All About It. ‘Rocket-plane crashes! Also bugs and tomatoes.’ ”
“Maybe it’s snack time,” Mitchell said.
“I’ll come, too,” Clifton said.
“I’m going to do something good for you,” Charlie told Clifton.
“What?” Clifton asked.
“I don’t know yet,” Charlie said. “But something.”
He went over to Jake. “I’ll make up for the tomato,” he said. “Somehow.”
He looked at the tree.
The Zinger-Winger was too high to reach.
There went his invention.
He’d be the only inventor at the fair without an invention.
He walked backward into the school.
He was still looking at his poor Zinger-Winger.
The nose was dented.
One wing was on the ground.
The other was covered with leaves.
He went downstairs to the lunchroom.
What else could go wrong?

Chapter 3
Still Friday
Charlie was the last one in the lunchroom.
Mr. Redfern was up in front. He was standing on a box. “Don’t forget next week is inventing week,” he called.
“I used to be the bug guy,” Clifton said.
“Pick a project,” Mr. Redfern said. “Write about it on a poster.”
“My poster will be better than my invention,” Yolanda said.
Mr. Redfern was still talking. “Next Saturday, we’ll invite the world to see our work.”
“The whole world will see my Super-Fast Jump Rope,” Sumiko said.
“Maybe just the neighborhood,” Mr. Redfern said, and grinned.
“I’m making a Rainbow Gooper-Upper,” Destiny said. “It will turn hair a million colors.”
“I’ll do a singing project,” Gina said. “La-la-de-la.”
“I’ll do something with juggling.” Habib frowned. “But I don’t know what.”
If only he hadn’t ruined his Zinger-Winger, Charlie thought.
Mr. Redfern jumped off the box. “Don’t forget about the Great Happening,” he called.
He went out the door.
“Line up,” said Destiny, the lunchroom helper.
Everyone raced to the front.
Today was carrot cupcake day.
“Hey, Charlie,” Destiny said. “Too bad you were sick all week. But you’re in luck. I have something for you.”
“Hoo-hoo,” Charlie said.
“Calm down, young man,” the lunch lady said. She was stirring a bunch of tomatoes.
She was probably going to cook them into tomato soup with lumps.
Destiny pulled something out of a cabinet. She dusted it off with her sleeve.
She held it out to Charlie.
A leftover cheese popper from Monday!
Charlie turned it over in his hand.
It was round and tan.
It looked harder than Nana’s homemade cookies.
It probably tasted just as strange.
“I know poppers are your favorite,” Destiny said. “Better than cupcakes, right?”
“Thanks,” Charlie told her. “You’re the best.”
No one would eat that popper in a million years.
Clifton walked over. He was shaking his head. “I had all those ants,” he said through a mouthful of cupcake. “I had a beetle mother and father and two beetle kids.”
“How do you know they were a family?” Charlie asked.
Next to him, Mitchell was trying not to laugh.
But Charlie could see Clifton was ready to cry.
“Don’t worry,” Charlie said. “I’ll think of something to help.”
He tried not to breathe too hard. The whole room smelled like tomatoes.
Destiny was waiting.
Charlie took a bite out of the popper.
A small bite.
Yes, it was hard as a rock.
His tooth might even be broken.
“How does it taste?” Destiny asked.
“Good,” he told her.
Destiny smiled. She went to the front of the room.
She held out the tray of cupcakes to the line of kids.
Charlie’s mouth watered for a cupcake. But he couldn’t hurt Destiny’s feelings.
Mitchell leaned over. “Careful. You don’t want that popper to fall on your foot. You’ll break your toes.”
Charlie watched Mitchell eat.
He tried not to think about cupcakes. Instead, he thought about inventing.
He looked down at the popper. Maybe he could make it fly.
He’d call it the Amazing Popper-Upper.
There was a ruler in his backpack, and an apple left over from lunch.
He put the apple on the table.
He balanced the ruler on top of it.
“A seesaw,” Mitchell said.
Charlie put the popper on one end of the ruler.
“Take cover!” Mitchell yelled. “Cheese popper blasting through!”
Charlie slammed the other end of the ruler with his fist.
The popper flew.
It didn’t go very high.
And it came down fast.
Right into the pot of tomatoes.
Tomato mush flew all over the place. . . .
Onto the lunch lady’s hat, which looked like a shower cap.
Onto the carrot cupcakes.
For a moment, no one made a sound.
Mitchell’s mouth was wide open.
“That Charlie,” Clifton said. “He lost my bug family. And now he’s ruining the snacks.”
The lunch lady beckoned to Charlie. “I think we should have a talk.”
Charlie followed her into the kitchen.
He walked as slowly as he could.
Too bad he wasn’t still home sick.

Chapter 4
Charlie started down the stairs.
He was on his way to the lunchroom.
He was in a zinger of trouble.
Friday, the lunch lady had put her hands on her hips.
Red polka-dots had covered her shirt.
“No more inventing for you, Charlie,” she’d said.
“Forever?” he’d asked.
She’d looked up at the ceiling. “For at least a week.”
A week!
“You might help out here,” the lunch lady said. “I have no time to keep this place clean and invent new snacks.”
“I guess so,” Charlie had said.
“Start Monday,” she’d said. “There’s plenty to do.”
Now it was Monday.
He hoped the lunch lady didn’t want him to cook.
“Hey, Chip,” said a voice behind him.
Charlie turned.
“I’ve been looking for you,” Mr. Redfern said.
Charlie swallowed.
The Inventing Fair and the Great Happening would be over before he even began.
“Come down to the new lab,” Mr. Redfern said. “You can see what’s going on.”
Charlie looked toward the lunchroom.
He shook his head.
“You can have snack anytime,” Mr. Redfern said.
“I guess so,” Charlie said.
They walked down the hall together.
Mr. Redfern threw open the door to the lab.
“Whew!” Charlie said.
Chairs were upside down.
Dust covered the tables.
Charlie sneezed about eight times.
Mr. Redfern sneezed, too. “What do you think, Chase?” he asked.
Some science lab! But Charlie didn’t say that. “It’s going to be . . . ,” he began.
“Yes, stupendous.” Mr. Redfern rubbed his hands together. “It takes imagination. We just have to add a lot of stuff.”
Charlie nodded. It would take a lot of imagination to get this place going.
“A boy’s collecting insects,” Mr. Redfern said. “Someone’s making a typhoon. And someone is flying a rocket all over the place.”
Did he mean me? Charlie wondered.
“The Great Happening is going to be . . .” Mr. Redfern raised his shoulders. “Spectacular.”
“What--” Charlie began.
Mr. Redfern rushed on. “Want to get this place set up with me?”
“I’m on my way to the lunchroom,” Charlie said.
Mr. Redfern pulled a bag of pretzels out of his pocket.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “You won’t starve to death, Calvin.”
Mr. Redfern rolled up his long sleeves.
He began to push tables around.
Charlie didn’t have sleeves to roll up. But he began to push tables, too.
Mitchell stuck his head in the door. “Is this the new lab?”
He looked as if he didn’t believe it.
Charlie didn’t believe it, either.
Now Mr. Redfern jumped on his desk.
He waved a mop over his head.
“Have to get rid of the cobwebs,” he said.
Charlie and Mitchell put chairs around the tables.
“Looking better already,” Mr. Redfern said.
Habib came in the door. “The lunch lady wants to see you both,” he told Charlie and Mitchell.
Charlie gave the table one more push.
“See you tomorrow, Chris,” Mr. Redfern said.
Charlie nodded.
He and Mitchell went down the hall.
“I’m in trouble, too,” Mitchell said. “I was working on a typhoon thing. I spilled water all over the lunchroom.”
A typhoon. What an idea!
“I have to help the lunch lady for a week,” Mitchell said.
And now the lunch lady was standing in the doorway.
She went to the closet door. “Stand back!”
She opened it slowly.
A huge pile of junk clattered out.
“You two could clean this,” she said. “Neaten up the whole thing.”
It would be worse than cooking.
But then Ramón, the college helper, blew his whistle.
Afternoon Center was over for the day.
“See you tomorrow,” the lunch lady said.
Charlie and Mitchell rushed upstairs and out the door.
Charlie made a list in his head.
Help with bugs.
Help with garden.
Help in lunchroom.
It was almost too much to think about.

Chapter 5
Charlie slid along the walls.
He ducked behind doors.
He didn’t want to see Mr. Redfern.
No, he didn’t want Mr. Redfern to see him.
How could he tell Mr. Redfern that he couldn’t invent?
He’d have to say he had to help the lunch lady.
“Hey, Charlie!” Clifton yelled. He was pushing a green box along in front of him. “I’ve been looking for you.”
The box looked as if it was falling apart.
Charlie looked over his shoulder.
No Mr. Redfern.
“Hi, Clifton,” he said.

Under the Cover