Paula wants to win the third-grade science poster contest more than anything. There's just one problem - and her name is Cynthia Lyden. Also known as Little Miss Perfect. Cynthia, a girl with a different hair scrunchie for every outfit. Cynthia, who handwrites whole pages without a single cross-out. Cynthia, who framed her poster and brought it in a day early. All Paula wants is a chance to shine a little. But is she smart enough to compete with Cynthia? And if so, will it matter? As the two girls compete, Paula makes a startling discovery that changes her desire to out-do her rival.
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From starting her school project the night before it’s due, to her always-messy hair, Paula will remind you of a kid you know. You’ll laugh and cheer as she tries to make the best science poster in third grade.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 1: Due Date - Tomorrow
Cynthia Lyden brought in her science poster today. It is not even due until tomorrow, and she brought it in today. She is so annoying.
I pray that Mrs. Duncan and Mr. Garcia don't pick Cynthia's poster to put in the school lobby. Mrs. Duncan said she would hang all the third graders’ science posters in the hall as soon as we brought them in. Mr. Garcia, the principal, is going to pick one from each class to put in the school lobby so that the parents can see them at the next open house.
I haven't even started my science poster. No big deal though. I’m not worried about getting a late start. My poster will be better than Cynthia's. Lots better. I'm riding home on the bus today. Usually I go to the after school program, but Thursday is my mom's day off. So I get to ride home. That's good, because I can start my poster sooner.
Michelle Campbell, the only girl who talks less than I do, is next to me reading Harry Potter. All around us kids are shouting. Whoever is behind us keeps kicking the seat, but I ignore them. I am busy trying to think of a poster idea good enough to get picked for Open House. Maybe I can make a poster so good Mrs. Duncan will say, "Why Paula, that’s the most wonderful science poster I’ve seen in the twenty-seven years I’ve taught at Benjamin Elementary School."
I stare out the window and think. But all I can think of is Cynthia's poster. Her topic was Evergreens. She wrote her title in green and she had a matching green construction paper border around the whole poster -- so it looked sort of like she’d had it framed! Cynthia always matches. She wears her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her hair scrunchies always match the clothes she wears. My hair is brown and short and always a mess. It sort of matches me.
Cynthia used to go to my daycare, but then her mother hired an au pair. That's a fancy name for nanny, I think. So Cynthia goes home after school. When Cynthia went to the daycare she wasn't so bad. She used to invite me to her birthday parties. Then when we were six, I spilled my punch on the rug, and I never got invited again. My mom said it was probably because we weren't in the same daycare anymore, but I'm sure it was because of the punch. I am just too messy for Cynthia. Everything about her is neat and clean. Like on her poster, she’d taped a page written about evergreens. A page without a single cross-out! She also had taped on three different evergreen plants. Something that looked like a Christmas tree branch, a rhododendron (my mom has them, that's how I know what they are) and a holly branch. My topic is Deciduous Trees -- that means trees where their leaves fall off in autumn. As the bus stops to drop off kids, I watch a golden leaf fall from a tree. It flutters and floats until it joins the other leaves on the ground. The golden yellow leaves are so pretty. The color of sun. Leaves on deciduous trees are much more beautiful than evergreens. Suddenly I have an idea. I will paint a blue sky and green grass. I will draw a tree with branches with no leaves on them and tape a few real leaves at the end of a branch. Then I will tape some leaves on the bottom of the poster, like they have fallen to the ground. It is easy to draw trees with no leaves. My poster is going to be way better than Cynthia’s.
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