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Eleven-year-old journalist Casey Smith is so busy trying to get a story for the newspaper about physical abuse that she neglects her friend Ringo, the school's first male cheerleader
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Linda Ellerbee is herself a girl reporter extraordinaire. She is the producer and host of Nick News, the Emmy award-winning children's TV series on Nickelodeon. About Casey Linda says, "A haunted cemetery? Monsters? Zombies? Or an 11-year-old Casey determined to find the truth? Who's the scariest? Casey, of course. That's why I like her." Ms. Ellerbee's production company, Lucky Ducky Productions, has earned a reputation as a supplier of outstanding children's programming for network, syndication, cable, and public television. Originally from Texas, Ms. Ellerbee now divides her time between New York City and western Massachusetts.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Girl Reporter Vanishes
My name is Casey Smith, and I'm invisible.
I kid you not. I can walk down the corridors of Trumbull Middle School without being seen or heard.
Maybe it's my disguise. Brown hair. Brown eyes.
Jeans. T-shirt. Sneakers. I'll admit, high fashion is not exactly up there on my list of World Issues to Explore. My idea of dressing up is deciding which of my eight pairs of Converse hightops to put on. Today I went with the brown theme.
It's not just clothing that makes me invisible. It's my life. I'm an eleven-year-old journalist stuck in the hopelessly small town of Abbington in the not-so-majestic Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. At the moment I was holed up in my power center'the newsroom of Trumbull Middle School.
Don't let the gray walls and scarred old desks and polka-dotted lime-green table fool you. Important stuff happens here.
Like the e-mail I was writing to my best friend, Griffin Kenny. He moved away last year, but through the magic of computers, I keep bugging him.
To: The beast
Something is seriously wrong. I'm invisible. At least I'm becoming invisible. Right now I'm watching my fingers fade from the keyboard. I'm vanishing as I write!
The thing is, if a reporter writes a story in a small town and no one is there to read it, does the story make a sound?
Because I've been coming up with some megaton stories . . . with zero impact.
At least, not the big prize: the Pulitzer. Yup, the big banana of journalism prizes. The Oscar of scribbling. The . . . oh, forget it.
Write Back Soon, Casey
I'll admit I was being melodramatic. But just a little. After all, I had blown the lid off Trumbull with major front-page stories: toxic waste, cheating conspiracies. Stories that grabbed the reader and didn't let go. I don't think I'm bragging when I say that I was personally responsible for bringing real news to our school paper, Real News.
So why hadn't the prize patrol called? Why did that voice in my head keep saying: "You? You think you can write? Get over yourself!"
Not that I would ever mention that voice to any of the other Real News staffers. Certainly not to Megan O'Connor, Our Totally Perky Editor. She'd probably stage a group hug or send me a "cheer-up" note with happy flowers dancing in the margins.
But I could say anything to Griffin. He was my best friend, even though he now lived a zillion miles away from Abbington. I clicked the icon to send my e-mail. Then I looked at the material I had downloaded from the Internet.
Pulitzer Prize–winning stories.
They were the reason I was sitting in the newspaper office on a Friday after school. I figured if I wanted to win a prize, I needed to study past winners. Besides, I had time to kill before I hooked up with Ringo, my geographically friendly best friend.
Hmm. One journalist had won for "comprehensive coverage of a botched bank robbery and police shoot-out." Another for a "compassionate narrative portrait of a mother and two daughters slain on a Florida vacation." There were awards for reporting on "the chaos and devastation" following an earthquake. . . .
Now that was news. Exactly the kind of meaty stuff I wanted to cover. And not just to win a prize. I like to get answers. Kids need to know what's really going on as much as adults do. Forget school dances or spelling bees. And forget letters from losers, like the advice column Megan had started running in Real News. Snore. Major REMs. But that's the sort of silliness Megan O'Connor, Princess of Pink, calls news.
Headlines floated through my mind:
PULITZER GOES TO COVERAGE OF MIDDLE-SCHOOL DANCE!
SEPTEMBER STOMP SENDS ECHOES ROUND THE WORLD!
I don't think so.
"You've got mail!" the computer announced cheerfully. Gotta love that voice.
I clicked on the mail icon, and Griffin's response filled the screen.
FROM: The beast
RE: What makes Casey tick?
I'm calling your bluff. This Pulitzer campaign is a total fraud! You say you want a prize, but we both know why you're such a talented reporter. You want kids to hear the truth.
Keep chasing that knock-your-socks-off story. (You can't help yourself, I know.)
But don't look over your shoulder for the prize patrol. What really matters to you is getting the word out.
I hate it when he pulls me up short like that. I opened my reporter's journal and began writing. . . .
Need (1) plan (2) story (3) crisis to cover (4) adventure (5) chocolate.
Hey, a girl can't be brilliant on thoughts alone.
My mind was clicking. But it was almost three thirty. Time for cheerleading tryouts.
You heard me. Not that I was planning to do any rah-rah jumps. In my book, cheerleaders, and the entire violent jock world they bounce around for, rate down there with the color pink, brussels sprouts and the gunk that sticks in the grooves on the bottom of sneakers.
But for some reason Ringo had decided to become Trumbull's first-ever male cheerleader.
MALE CROSSES CHEERLEADING GENDER GAP
A decent editorial, maybe. But award-winning material? Negative.
The things I'll do for a friend. Even for a weirdo like Ringo, who, best as I can tell, comes from the planet one planet beyond Jupiter. But that's what I like most about Ringo--his strangeness. Even if sitting around getting splinters in my butt while I watched airheads blast out inspirational chants wasn't my idea of fun.
I closed down the office, bought a chocolate bar from the machines outside the gym and plunged into the autumn sunshine. Despite my lack of an earth-shattering story, it was a nice day.
That is, until I walked through the gate and cut along the edge of the football field.
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Book Description Harpercollins, 2000. Library Binding. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0060282479