It was the first week of September, and Elisa Michaels was sitting at the kitchen table doing her homework. She was writing a report for her second-grade class. Whenever she came to a hard word, she asked her mother for help.
There are five people in my family, she wrote.
I have a big brother and a little brother. My big brother is named Russell. He is eleven years old. My little brother is Marshall. I call him Marshie because be's soft like a marshmallow. He is two years old I have a mommy and a daddy. I don't know how old they are.
Elisa put down her pencil. "Mommy, how old are you?" she asked.
"Why do you want to know that?" Mrs. Michaels inquired. She was standing nearby ironing.
"I need the information for my report."
"Are you writing a report about me?" Mrs. Michaels asked, sounding surprised.
"I am writing about our whole family."
"You can skip the part about my age," Mrs. Michaels told her. "Tell about your brothers and yourself."
Elisa looked at Marshall, who was sitting on the kitchen floor with his pacifier in his mouth and happily rolling a ball toward the wall. When the ball returned to him, he rolled it again. Elisa liked to play with him.
Everyone who saw Marshall commented on what a good toddler he was and how well he could entertain himself. Elisa didn't want to write about that. And she didn't want to write about Russell, who was growing so big that soon he would be as tall as their mother. Sometimes Russell teased Elisa. Sometimes he was mean. Mostly, though, she thought he was a good brother. She could say that, but she didn't want to.
Elisa pushed her eyeglasses up on her nose. She could say that she wore glasses, but everyone who saw her would already know that. She could say that she was seven years old, but everyone in second grade was seven or going to have a birthday very soon. She could say that she'd lost her two top teeth, but everyone could see that, too. Then she got another idea.
I have two cousins. One is Howie. He is almost the same age as Russell The other cousin is Artie. He is nine years old Their real names are Howard and Arthur. No one ever calls them that. I have three grandparents. I don't see them very much, because they live far away. I am glad my mommy and daddy don't live far away.
Mrs. Michaels looked over Elisa's shoulder. "Very good," she said. "How much did the teacher say you had to write?"
"One page," said Elisa. The words she had written almost covered the paper in front of her.
"I am going to copy it over to make it neater," she told her mother. "If I write a little bigger, it will be just right."
"You didn't tell anything about your grandparents. How they come to visit, the gifts they send even when it isn't your birthday, the special things you do with them." "I wrote enough, " said Elisa. "Writing is hard work."
"Welcome to the real world," said Russell, coming into into the kitchen. "And if you think second grade is hard, wait until you get as old as I am."
"Will you help me with my homework when I'm in sixth grade?" Elisa asked.
"Fat chance," said Russell. "When you're in sixth grade, I'll be in high school. I'm not going to have time to help you."
"I wouldn't worry about sixth grade now," said Mrs. Michaels as she folded up the ironing board and put it away. "And you're doing just fine in second grade."
"Anyhow, what's for supper?" asked Russell. "I'm starving."
"Look," said his mother, pulling a pan out of the refrigerator.
"Lasagna! My favorite," Russell shouted when he saw it. "Hurry and put it in the oven."
"Who wants to help me cut up vegetables for a salad?" she asked.
"Not me," said Russell. "I've got tons of homework. I just came to check on supper."
"I'll help," said Elisa. "I can copy my homework later."
"Then put your papers away and wash your hands," said her mother.
As Elisa tore the lettuce leaves into small pieces, she said, "I wish Grandma could come and visit. I haven't seen her in a long, long, long time."
Grandma was what Elisa called her mother's mother. Nana was what she called her other grandmother.
"Grandma is planning to come here in April," Mrs. Michaels said.
Elisa stopped tearing the lettuce leaves and counted out the months on her fingers: "Eight months," she said. "That's too long to wait."
"Eight months is a long time," agreed Mrs. Michaels ...
Excerpted from Elisa Michaels, Bigger & Better by Hurwitz, Johanna Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site. Copyright © 2003 David Bouley
All right reserved.