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«Four real girls in a fairy’s world. NEW YORK TIMES b e s t s e l l i n g a u t h o r K i k i T h o r p e illustrated by J a n a C h r i st y ...»

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Four real girls in a fairy’s world.

NEW YORK TIMES b e s t s e l l i n g a u t h o r K i k i T h o r p e

illustrated by J a n a C h r i st y



Written by

Kik i Th orpe

I l lu st r a t ed b y

J ana Ch rist y

a stepping stone book™

random house new york

Keep reading for a sneak peek...

Never Land

Far away from the world we know, on the distant

seas of dreams, lies an island called Never Land. It is a place full of magic, where mermaids sing, fairies play, and children never grow up. Adventures happen every day, and anything is possible.

There are two ways to reach Never Land. One is to find the island yourself. The other is for it to find you. Finding Never Land on your own takes a lot of luck and a pinch of fairy dust. Even then, you will only find the island if it wants to be found.

Every once in a while, Never Land drifts close to our world... so close a fairy’s laugh slips through.

And every once in an even longer while, Never Land opens its doors to a special few. Believing in magic and fairies from the bottom of your heart can make the extraordinary happen. If you suddenly hear tiny bells or feel a sea breeze where there is no sea, pay careful attention. Never Land may be close by. You could find yourself there in the blink of an eye.

One day, four special girls came to Never Land in just this way. This is their story.

C h apter 1 Ever since four friends—Lainey Winters, Kate McCrady, Mia Vasquez, and Mia’s little sister, Gabby—discovered a secret passage to Never Land, each day held the possibility of a new adventure. Mornings, they woke up feeling like the luckiest girls in the world. Most mornings, that is.

“Lainey!” Lainey Winters opened her eyes. Her mother was calling her. She reached out, feeling around for her glasses. Her hand touched the wooden nightstand where she always left them.

But her glasses weren’t there.

“Lainey!” her mother yelled again.

“Come down here!” Lainey got out of bed. Without her glasses, everything looked blurry. Where could she have left them?

As she fumbled across the room, she stubbed her toe, hard. “Ow!” Lainey cried.

Blinking back tears, she hopped on one foot to her dresser and felt around on top.

Her glasses weren’t there, either.

The bedroom door opened. “Didn’t you hear me?” her mother asked. “I’ve been calling you for the last five minutes.” She frowned. “Where are your glasses?” “I don’t know.” Lainey looked around helplessly. “Somewhere...” “Not another lost pair,” her mother said with a sigh. “You’ll have to wear the spare ones.” It was Lainey’s turn to frown. She hated her spare glasses. Her regular big, square glasses were bad enough. But the spare ones were broken and had been fixed with tape. In Lainey’s opinion, they just looked dumb.

“When you’re ready, come downstairs.

There’s something I want you to see.” Her mother left.

Lainey found the old glasses in her desk drawer. Why couldn’t these be lost? she wondered. Then she got dressed and went downstairs. Her mother was standing in the kitchen with her arms folded across her chest.

“Look outside,” she said to Lainey.

Lainey looked out the window. “Oh no!” she exclaimed.

In front of their house, the garbage and recycling cans lay on their sides. The trash bags inside had been ripped open, and garbage was scattered around their yard.

More trash was strewn along the sidewalk. “What happened?” Lainey asked.

“Some animals must have gotten into the trash,” her mother replied. “Raccoons, probably. Did you leave those dishes out last night, Lainey?” She was talking about Lainey’s dog bowls. Every morning in the summertime, Lainey filled two big bowls with dog food and water and left them on the sidewalk in front of their house for any hungry or thirsty dogs that passed. Lainey didn’t have a dog, but she tried to get to know all the pets in her neighborhood. She liked to help out her furry friends whenever she could.

Lainey’s parents didn’t share her love of animals. Because they didn’t want a pet of their own, they didn’t mind the bowls.

But the rule was that she had to bring them in at night.

And she had brought them in, hadn’t she?

Lainey leaned closer to the window.

By standing on her tiptoes, she could see down the front stoop. Two metal bowls were sitting by the bottom step—right where she’d left them.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Lainey said. “I guess I forgot.” Her mother sighed. “Sweetie, I think it’s wonderful that you want to help the neighborhood dogs. But I told you that dog food could attract other animals, ones we don’t want around. And now we have a problem. We can’t just leave all that trash out there.” “I’ll pick it up,” Lainey said. “It’s my fault. Just please let me keep the bowls.” Her mother considered this, then nodded. “All right. But you’ll need to clean up right after breakfast. You have swimming lessons this morning.” “Swim lessons!” Lainey groaned. That was even worse than having to pick up the trash. Every summer, her mother signed her up for swim classes at the community pool, even though Lainey begged her not to. “But I’m supposed to go over to Mia’s this morning,” she said.

“You can go to Mia’s in the afternoon,” said her mom. “You’re there all the time as it is. What do you girls do all day? You always come back with leaves in your hair and sand in your shoes, as if you’ve been trekking to Timbuktu.” Not Timbuktu. Never Land, thought Lainey.

But she shrugged and said, “We’re just...

you know, playing.” Her mother smiled and ruffled Lainey’s hair. “All right. Hurry and eat breakfast.

We have to leave for the pool by nine.” After breakfast, Lainey went outside armed with two big garbage bags and a pair of rubber dishwashing gloves. She looked around at the mess.

Lainey’s front lawn wasn’t large—just a gated courtyard in front of her row house. But the area was covered with coffee grounds, potato peels, plastic wrap, eggshells, crumpled paper towels, used tissues, and moldy leftovers. More trash was scattered all the way down the sidewalk.

Lainey wrinkled her nose. She wished she could find the animals that did this.

She’d give them a good talking-to!

With a sigh, Lainey snapped open a garbage bag and got to work. A slimy head of lettuce brushed against her arm. A milk carton dribbled sour milk onto her jeans.

“Yuck! Double yuck!” Lainey held her breath and kept going. As she worked, she imagined she was already in Pixie Hollow.

How much better things were there! She could go for a ride on the back of a deer. Or she could help the herding-talent fairies round up the butterflies.

Or watch her animal-talent friend Fawn tend to a newborn fox.

Lainey dragged the full bags back to the trash cans just as her mom came out of the house. “Time to go!” she told Lainey.

A horrible hour of swimming followed.

As usual, the pool was too crowded and the water was too cold. The instructor kept telling Lainey to put her face in the water. Lainey was an excellent dog paddler. But every time she dunked her head, she got scared and stopped swimming. It didn’t help that all the other kids in the class slipped underwater as easily as fishes.

By the time class was over, Lainey was embarrassed, shivering, and miserable.

It was almost eleven o’clock when she got home. Although Mia and Gabby’s house was only at the end of the block, Lainey didn’t want to lose a second. She ran full-speed and arrived out of breath.

The other girls were in the living room.

Pillows were spread out on the floor, and they each stood on one. Lainey saw that they were playing Snapping Turtles, a game Gabby had made up. The object was to jump from one pillow to another to avoid the snapping turtles in the “water”— the floor. Gabby loved the game, but the older girls played only when they were desperately bored.

“Finally!” Kate exclaimed when she saw Lainey.

“We’ve been waiting for ages!” Mia added.

“Mia! You stepped off your pillow!” Gabby cried. “The snapping turtles got you!” “Who cares?” Mia said, giving her pillow a little kick. “The game is over.” She put her hands on her hips. “Where have you been?” she asked Lainey.

“I... well, I...,” Lainey stammered.

“Why is your hair wet?” asked Gabby.

“Did you just get out of the shower or something?” asked Kate.

“Don’t tell me you slept in!” Mia exclaimed.

Lainey’s heart sank. Even her best friends were annoyed with her. “I didn’t sleep in!” she wailed. “I had swimming lessons. And before that I had to pick up all the garbage—” “Never mind,” said Kate impatiently.

“At least you’re here now. We can go to Never Land.” She said the last two words in a whisper.

“Come on,” said Gabby. “Let’s hurry!” Lainey’s mood lifted as they raced up the stairs to Gabby’s room, where the magical passage lay behind a closet door.

Visiting Never Land was like opening a present. There was always an adventure waiting. The surprise was finding out what it would be.

It will all be okay now, Lainey told herself as she stepped into the closet. Everything will be better once we get to Pixie Hollow.

C h apter 2 That morning in Pixie Hollow, on a high branch of the Home Tree, the fairy Prilla awoke with a start. She looked around her room.

Something had woken her. What could it have been?

Then she heard it. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

The sound seemed to be coming from inside her closet.

Prilla got out of bed and tiptoed across the room. Her closet was a little nook in the wall covered by a maple leaf. She stopped in front of it and listened.

No doubt about it. There was something inside. Taking a deep breath, she pulled back the leaf.

“Ahh!” she screamed. A fat green caterpillar sat in the middle of the closet, chomping on her favorite rose-petal dress.

“Shoo!” Prilla yelled. “Scram!” The caterpillar didn’t budge. She threw a slipper at it. The caterpillar ignored her. It finished nibbling a hole through her dress, then started on a tulip skirt.

“Stop, you!” Prilla screamed, throwing the other slipper.

“Prilla? Are you all right?” Beck called through her front door.

Prilla ran to let her in. Beck was an animal-talent fairy. Maybe she could help.

“Hullo!” Beck said when she saw the caterpillar. “How did he get in here?” “I must have left the window open— Hey, stop that!” Prilla yelled at the caterpillar, who was now nibbling a daisy sundress.

“Shh! Not so loud,” said Beck. “Caterpillars don’t like loud noise.” “But he’s eating my clothes!” “Well, he’s hungry,” Beck said. “Can’t you see he’s about to make a cocoon? That’s why he’s so fat. He needs a lot of food right now. Don’t you, big fella?” She scratched the caterpillar on the back.

Prilla frowned. She’d thought Beck might be a bit more helpful. “I’ll have to ask the sewing fairies to remake everything,” she said.

“They won’t be able to make anything today,” Beck replied. “It’s Great Games Day.” “Oh no!” cried Prilla. How could she have forgotten? Great Games Day was a rare and exciting event. Fairies of every talent competed to show off their skills.

There was a leapfrog race for the animaltalent fairies and an obstacle course for the fast fliers. On the rapids of Havendish Stream, the water fairies held a leaf-boat rodeo. Sewing fairies made fanciful hats, and baking fairies whipped up elaborate cakes. There were poppy seeds to snack on and sunberry punch to drink, and a huge roasted sweet potato for everyone to share.

All the fairies dressed up in their best leaf or flower.

And now Prilla’s favorite clothes had caterpillar holes in them!

Once Beck had coaxed the tubby bug out the door, Prilla turned back to her closet. The caterpillar had nibbled everything except for one wilted poppy dress in the back.

Prilla had never liked the poppy dress.

The sleeves were too tight and the petals drooped. But it would have to do.

It was late by the time Prilla made it to the tearoom for breakfast. Her favorite honey buns were gone, and so was almost everything else. Normally, the baking fairies would have made more. But Prilla knew they were hard at work on their Games Day cakes.

Just as she reached for the last scone, a hand shot out and grabbed it. Prilla turned and saw the fast-flying fairy Vidia.

“Vidia!” Prilla said. “I was about to take that!” “A bit slow, though, weren’t you?” said Vidia. “The quickest hawk gets the mouse, as the saying goes.” “But you have plenty to eat.” Prilla pointed to Vidia’s plate, which was piled high with breakfast treats.

“Yes, but I need a big breakfast,” Vidia replied. “I’m competing today. I don’t think you can say the same.” Prilla felt her face turn red. Vidia was right. She wasn’t part of Great Games Day.

Fairies of the same talent always competed against each other, but there were no other fairies with a talent like Prilla’s.

Prilla could travel to the mainland— the world of humans—in the blink of an eye and visit children everywhere. She was proud of her talent, for it kept children’s belief in fairies alive—and that kept the fairies’ magic alive. But sometimes, on days like today, Prilla wished her talent weren’t so unusual.

“Well, I’m off to win a race,” said Vidia.

“Have fun watching.” With a swish of her pointed wings, she flew away.

Smarting from Vidia’s remark, Prilla sat down at the table. There was hot tea, at least, thank goodness. She poured herself a cup and sighed. What an awful morning. But I guess that means the day can only get better, she told herself, taking a sip.

“Ow!” Prilla winced. She’d burned her tongue.

* After her tea, Prilla flew down to Havendish Stream. All along the banks, fairies were getting ready for the games.

The animal-talent fairies were saddling up their frogs. Downstream, water fairies were hoisting their leaf-sails. On the far bank, garden fairies were warming up for the carrot toss.

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