For Ages
8 to 12

VERONICA SPARKS IS hitting the road and she is going to shake the dust of her little town off her shoes and see the world!

Well, someday. For now, she’s hitting the road in an RV with her cantankerous grandfather and her hyperactive little brother. Ronnie’s grandfather is a wind prospector, and they are heading across Kansas in search of a good stiff breeze. Okay, so it’s not the trip of her dreams. But with her newly affirmatized attitude, Ronnie figures that traveling somewhere is better than traveling nowhere. That is, until her little brother manages to disappear into thin air.

On one weird, windy, wild ride across the prairie, Ronnie discovers that there are some things you just can’t plan for or seize control of—but that sometimes a little chaos is just what a girl needs.

An Excerpt fromThe Middle of Somewhere

Don't let life's little surprises get you down. 
Expect the unexpected! Remember, there's always 
a Plan B.
--Kent Clark, 
Seize the Way: 
Ten Weeks to SuperSize Your Life!

None of this that I'm about to tell you would have happened if my mother hadn't found that squirrel in the toilet.
Kent Clark says that life is full of surprises. This particular surprise started with my brother leaving the front door open again, which he's not supposed to do because there's a big tear in the storm-door screen that my mother never got around to having fixed.
When the squirrel got in, my brother was the first to go nuts. My mother went nuts right after, because when she's having one of her Bad Days it doesn't take much. Then the squirrel went nuts because--but let me back up.
It was the first Saturday morning in June. My brother--whose name is Gerald but we've always called him "Gee"--was sprawled on the floor in the living room watching cartoons. All of a sudden, a fuzzy tail flickered across the screen. Next minute, the furry little animal attached to the tail had whipped around on top of the TV and was staring my brother right in the face. Both were equally shocked, I'm sure, but Gee was the one who screamed. Then he threw what was closest to hand, which happened to be a bowl of Cheerios, and we were off to the races.
With Gee leaping and lunging after him, the squirrel zoomed all the way around the living room twice before discovering the kitchen door. His squirrelly brain probably leapt with joy--Ah, escape hatch!--as he shot through the opening.
Only to be confronted with another screaming person: my mother. She hadn't been much alarmed when Gee let loose, because Gee screaming is no big deal. But a small, four-legged mammal on the counter, knocking spoons to the floor and making tracks right through the pancakes on the griddle--that's a big deal. "Ronniiie!" she yelled.
Ronnie is me, Veronica Sparks. At that exact moment, I was on the bed in my room reading a copy of Architectural Digest from the library. Or maybe "reading" isn't the best word for poring over diagrams of how to organize a closet, which was my current project. That jangly tone in my mother's "Ronniiie!" made the magazine jump out of my hands and dive to the floor. Something big was going down.
And when I reached the kitchen door, it hurled itself at me: a reddish-gray ball of fur with a twirly tail and beady eyes and toothy mouth stretched wide like a little bear trap, landingright on my chest!
Then I screamed, which those who know me will agree is a very rare occurrence.
The squirrel leapt off my chest as quick as he'd leapt on. Next, a wild chase with dialogue to match.
ME: Open the back door and shoo him out!
MAMA: I tried that, but whenever I make a move he goes berserk!
ME: So?! He's not going any berserker! I'll chase him your way!
GEE: Aiieee!
MAMA: Don't let him get near the fan!
ME: I'll head him off!
GEE: Ow! Ow! Ow! (Which he yells sometimes, not because he's hurt but because it's an easy yell to do over and over.)
MAMA: Okay, now--oh no!
The "oh no" was because even though our peppy little visitor got safely through the door, it was the wrong door--back into the living room, with a little squad of Sparkses (that's us) in hot pursuit.
If I'd thought, while still on my bed looking over Architectural Digest, Hmmm, that particular tone in my mother's voice probably means that some wild animal is loose in the house. Therefore, on my way to the kitchen I'll open the storm door in the living room, just in case the critter heads that way--if such thoughts had run through my head at that point, tragedy could have been avoided. But I'm not so good at handling life's little surprises yet.
The squirrel saw daylight through the storm door and slammed his panicky body against it, but he missed the hole in the screen that got him into this mess in the first place. Bouncing off the screen, he spun around, getting even more confused, then headed for the hallway.
The straightest route from the hall led into my room, which at the moment was nothing but walls and corners. I was reorganizing, so all my stuff was piled in the middle of the floor: no posters, shelves, or anything to break up the monotony. That squirrel got up such a speed he was running sideways on the wall, like some hotshot skateboarder. But after twice around, he careened back into the hall and headed for my mother's bedroom.
Mama never reorganizes. And she never throws anything away. Her room always looked like an explosion in Granny's Drawers Antique Mall (where some of the stuff came from): two dressers, two sewing machines, stacks of plastic storage boxes, a wardrobe with its door hanging open, an empty birdcage, and (somewhere) a bed. And that's only the big stuff. To a squirrel, it must have looked like hideaway heaven, after bare-wall hell. He dived in and disappeared.
We heard some crackles and rustles, but soon not even that. In the sudden quiet, the three of us stared at each other. "All right," Mama said grimly. "He's in here somewhere. Gee, don't move. Ronnie and I'll flush him out."
So the two of us went on patrol while Gee stayed by the door. He couldn't just stay, though--he kept squatting down to peer under furniture, chanting, "Squirrel-ly. Squirr-rel-ly." We had to keep telling him to quit so we could listen for movement. For five minutes at least, we crept around like jungle commandos searching for the enemy spy--tiptoe to the hat rack; stop and listen. Peek under the bed; stop and listen. And try not to think of a screaming kamikaze rodent leaping from behind the rolls of gift wrap to latch on to your nose.
Finally, Mom straightened up and wiped the sweat off her forehead with a mighty sigh. "This is the last thing I need today. Rent's due, A/C's broken, and I've got to clean up this room. But if I don't get to the bathroom right now, I'm gonna pop." She eased around the sewing-machine table. "Keep a watch, Ronnie. If that nasty rodent makes a move, chase him out."

Under the Cover