Read Zoe in Wonderland Online

Authors: Brenda Woods

Zoe in Wonderland

Also by Brenda Woods

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach

A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

My Name Is Sally Little Song

Emako Blue

The Red Rose Box

N
ANCY
P
AULSEN
B
OOKS

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, NY 10014

Copyright © 2016 by Brenda Woods.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Nancy Paulsen Books is a registered trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.

eBook ISBN 9780698172968

Edited by Nancy Paulsen.

Design by Annie Ericsson. Text set in Baskerville Classico.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover art © 2016 by Frank Morrison

Cover design by Kelley Brady

Version_1

Contents

For Dominic

1

Four Things That Definitely Aren't My Fault

T
he first thing that's definitely not my fault is that our last name is Reindeer. No one, not even Grandpa Reindeer, is quite sure how that came to be the family name. And even though everyone complains about it—well, everyone except my daddy—no one ever did anything to change it. As for me, I get tired of the jokes, especially around Christmastime.

Once, last year, I explained to Grandpa and Nana Reindeer how you can actually go to court and legally change your name, but they both stared at me like I'd just said a cussword. Then Nana Reindeer shook her finger at me the way she used to when I was little and I'd
done something bad and whispered, “Hush, Zoe, with that modern nonsense. Like it or not, it's our name.”

The second thing that's definitely not my fault is that my daddy, Mr. Darrow Reindeer, is a horticulturist, which is a fancy way to say he knows a bunch of stuff about growing flowers and plants and trees. And because I'm the only one of his three kids who's interested in learning about it, he's teaching it to me.

The third thing that's not my fault either is that we live in a house behind my daddy's business in Pasadena, California, which is called:

Doc Reindeer's Exotic Plant Wonderland

And if anyone ever asks why he named it that, he informs them that he's a doctor of plants and this is his wonderland.

The last thing I cannot and will never be able to take responsibility for is the fact that I have an extremely annoying older sister, Jade, and an even more annoying younger brother, Harper. That puts me, Zoe G. Reindeer, smack-dab in the middle. The G. stands for Gabrielle. It's also my mom's name.

I have to admit there are two things that are my fault.

Two Things That Absolutely Are My Fault

  1. I did send away for the seeds.
  2. I didn't read the directions before I planted them.

And not reading the directions led to
the sign
that changed everything.

Now—about the seeds . . .

2

Sort of Like a Seed

T
he outside of a seed has a hard coat or shell, and the inside, which Daddy says is called an embryo, comes alive when you water it. Sort of like a seed, there's this thing inside of me that's nothing like my outside, and it's alive.

Some days it comes alive a lot, and other days it happens maybe only once or twice, kind of like a sneeze or hiccup.

Sometimes it keeps me from paying attention. And not paying attention can get me into humongous trouble—trouble that wraps around me tighter than a cocoon and is almost impossible to wriggle out of.

I really never know when it's going to come alive, but once it gets going, it's kind of like a bowling ball
that's rolling faster than fast down the lane toward the pins—impossible to stop.

Like yesterday, for example.

After school, I was walking home past the park where a girls' soccer game was being played. I was on a soccer team once, but I quickly found out that I stink at sports. So I did what most people do who stink at sports: I quit. But sometimes it's fun to watch, so I stopped and stared through the chain-link fence. The players' feet were tangled around the ball, everyone trying to get control.

And suddenly, it—the thing that's inside of me, which I guess you could call my wild imagination—came alive and she—
Imaginary Zoe
—appeared.

Zoe G. Reindeer, super forward, was on the field with the ball, in a perfect position. Her eyes zeroed in on the goal. She aimed and kicked with all of her might. The ball zoomed through the air. Their tall goalkeeper stretched sideways like she was made of rubber, trying desperately to guard the net, but she failed, and the ball crossed the goal line. Zoe's teammates hoisted her in the air!

When the buzzer signaling the end of the game sounded, I blinked, and just like that, the real Zoe
was back. The real me was still peering at the players through the fence, watching the winning team give each other high fives. The real me still stunk at sports and was now going to be late getting home from school.

The real me, a shy, perfectly plain girl-person, wears glasses. The real me never stands out, not at school, not at home, not at anywhere. The real me doesn't like loud crowds. Mostly, the real me likes the quiet of the Wonderland's pond and greenhouse and of half-empty movie theaters. The real me has only one friend. Plus the real me has big feet, feet that make me resemble the letter
L
. The real me can't even whistle. If they gave awards for being boring, I'd get a gold medal.

But
Imaginary Zoe
is everything the real me isn't. Instead of being eleven years old, she's already a teenager and even has her driver's license. She's really pretty and can sing and dance and has friends who hover around her like a flock of pigeons, and she gets really good grades without studying a lot, and she never forgets things, and everyone loves her, especially her parents and brother and sister and even teachers. Plus she doesn't stink at sports.

Sometimes I try very hard to keep
Imaginary Zoe
from disappearing, but because my real world keeps interrupting with all of its stuff like chores and homework and getting annoyed and having to brush my
teeth and sometimes being forced to eat pickled beets,
Imaginary Zoe
vanishes.

Now that I've explained how I'm sort of like a seed and also about
Imaginary Zoe
, I can tell you about the real seeds.

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