The Christmas season is looking up for Madison. Her dad’s promised her a big ski trip, she’s performing in the big Winter Jubilee concert, and all her friends will be around during the break. Madison feels full of cheer with all that she has to look forward to. Then her two BFFs start avoiding her, and her dad cancels the trip. Maddie’s super-fun Christmas plans are falling apart. Then a chance volunteer opportunity at the local retirement home pairs her with an older woman who never has visitors. As Madison puts more effort into visiting Mrs. Romano at the home, she realizes how giving to others can fill you with cheer in return.
About the Author
Author Laura Dower has a lot in common with Madison Finn: They’re both only children and they both love dogs, the color orange, and books! Laura has written more than ninety kids’ books to date, including twenty-five in the series From the Files of Madison Finn. Her other books include the new Palace Puppies series and For Girls Only, a guide to girl stuff. When she’s not writing, Laura loves to garden, sing (loudly), and volunteer as a scout leader for her daughter and two sons. She and her family live in New York. Want to be keypals? Drop her a note at www.lauradower.com.
Read an Excerpt
Give and Take
From the Files of Madison Finn, Book 10
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2002 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
Madison Finn was in a chat room with her two BFFs, Fiona Waters and Aimee Gillespie. Even though they had walked home together from school, there was still lots to discuss.
Madison didn't want to log out of the chat room with her friends, but she signed off after Fiona signed off, hit the STANDBY hot key on her keyboard, and rolled over onto her bed to think.
She had a lot to think about. The Winter Jubilee concert was going to be fun. The holidays were coming. And best of all, Madison was going skiing with Dad.
He'd promised to take her along with him on a real winter vacation to Mount Robinson, a peak in upstate New York. They'd gone once before for a day trip years ago when Mom and Dad were still married. Mom skied the expert trails while Madison and Dad hung out on the bunny slope.
Since the Big D (divorce), Madison had to alternate holidays between her two parents. Madison knew that going away together with Dad would make up for a few of the weekly dinners he had missed lately. Even Mom thought a ski trip was a great idea.
Clicking back onto her laptop, Madison opened her e-mailbox. The only emails there were spam—junk e-mail. Somehow she had been added to a promotional mailing list, receiving e-mail from different girls' catalogs and websites. Dad always said that Madison shouldn't open e-mail from strangers because it could download viruses onto her computer. She always followed his advice.
DELETE. DELETE. DELETE.
Madison was sad to see no e-mail from her long-distance keypal Bigwheels. No e-mail from any of her friends. And no e-mail from Dad either, confirming details of the ski trip, like Madison had hoped.
She opened up the special calendar app that helped her to organize her time, after-school meetings, homework, volunteering, and more. As usual, Madison's schedule was jam-packed. December had something to do typed in for almost every day of the month.
12/5 Wednesday. Math test. Chorus rehearsal.
12/6 Thursday. Science lab w/Ivy.
12/7 Friday. Chorus!!! Work on essay. Help Mom decorate.
12/8 Saturday. Hockey game @ school.
She scrolled down and keyed in additional chorus rehearsal dates. Winter Jubilee practices would probably be taking up most of Madison's time over the next few weeks, but she didn't mind. Winter Jubilee was one of the most anticipated weeks of the school year.
"Maddie," Mom said, entering Madison's room without knocking. "I saw you left me this permission slip on the kitchen counter."
Students participating in Winter Jubilee activities needed to have parental approval if they were going to be taken off the school premises. Mom signed on the dotted line and handed it over.
"Thanks, Mom," Madison said, taking the slip.
"By the way," Mom said, sitting down on the edge of Madison's bed, "did you finish that essay you were working on?"
Madison shrugged. "Not really. I'm doing something else right now."
"Fun ..." Mom asked, eyebrows arched, "or for school?"
Phin, Madison's pug, waddled over to the bed and put his paws up on the edge. Madison reached down to pet his little back.
"Both, Mom," Madison said. "You know I use the laptop for homework and a bunch of other stuff."
"Well, the dog needs to go out," Mom said. "Why don't you take a little break from the 'stuff' and walk him around the block."
As soon as he heard the words out and walk, Phin jumped off the bed and started to chase his tail. Madison flopped back onto the bed.
"Do I have to?" she groaned.
Mom made a face. "Get up, honey bear. Now. Before he pees on your ..."
"Okay, okay!" Madison said. "You don't have to be all gross about it."
Mom laughed and handed over the dog leash.
"Rowrooooo!" Phin howled, jumping up into the air on all fours as if he had springs on the bottom of each paw.
Madison laced up her sneakers and grabbed a warmer sweater for herself and for Phin. The pug squirmed as Madison tugged on a green knit cover-up Gramma Helen had knit for him the year before. He looks like a cross between dog and leprechaun, Madison thought as she pushed his paws through.
"Don't stay out too long," Mom cautioned. "It's starting to get even colder outside. And wear that scarf around your head, please."
"Mom, don't be such a worrywart," Madison said.
"I worry. I'm your mom," Mom said, grinning. "Speaking of worrying, did your father call you to confirm the ski plans for the end of December?"
"Plans?" Madison said, thinking fast. "Yes. Well, he e-mailed me actually. Today. He e-mailed me to say the trip was all planned and I shouldn't worry, so neither should you."
Madison gulped. That was a lie. He hadn't e-mailed.
She'd never lied to Mom before.
"So when are you leaving?" Mom asked, leaning back onto Madison's bed.
"L-l-leaving?" Madison stammered. "You mean to take Phinnie out?"
Mom laughed. "No, honey bear. To go skiing. When is your Dad taking you away?"
Madison's stomach flip-flopped. She'd lied once. Now she needed to lie twice?
"Gee ... I don't remember exactly, Mom. Right before Christmas sometime," Madison said. "Like he told us before. You know. What he said."
"Oh," Mom said nonchalantly. "I guess it was unfair of me to assume your Dad would just propose these big plans and ... well, I won't say it."
"What?" Madison asked. "What were you going to say?"
"No, no. I won't say anything more about your dad."
"Say it," Madison sighed. "I've heard it before."
Mom looked taken aback. "Excuse me?" she said.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to snap like that," Madison said.
"Well, honey bear," Mom said slowly. "I just don't want to see you get your hopes up for some great vacation and then have him change the plans."
"Oh, Mom," Madison said. "You don't understand. That isn't what's happening this time at all."
"Are you sure? Because sometimes your father—"
"Please don't worry," Madison said, cutting off her mother midthought. "Everything will be fine. Dad and I will have an awesome winter vacation and everything will be perfect ... except that you won't be there."
Mom smiled. "Thanks, sweetheart. I'll miss you too."
"Rowrrooooooo!" Phinnie wailed. He scratched at his ears and belly. The green sweater itched and he wanted O-U-T Madison was happier than happy that the dog was acting up. It provided the best distraction.
She clipped on Phin's leash and walked down the stairs, out the front door, and into the cold.
The pair wandered down the block at a slow pace. The air was so cold that Madison could feel her toes through her shoes and socks. Phin could see his doggy breath. Madison's wool scarf helped keep out the chilly wind.
After a few moments, Madison found herself walking past Aimee's house. Her BFF lived only a few houses down from Madison on Blueberry Road. Sometimes Madison would stop by on her walks around the neighborhood.
She climbed up the doorstep and rang the doorbell. It played a few bars of Beethoven. Mr. Gillespie loved classical music, even on his doorbell.
"Maddie! What are you doing here?" Aimee said when she opened the door. She bent down to scratch behind Phin's ears.
"Do you want to go for a walk with me and Phin?" she asked. "And Blossom, of course." Blossom was Aimee's basset hound who hated the cold weather but loved Phinnie.
Aimee slipped on her parka. "Let's go!" she said.
Phin and Blossom sniffed each other hello while their walkers walked, talking some more about the school concert, Ivy, and homework. Aimee had been in the middle of finishing her science homework when Madison arrived.
"I have too much to do," Aimee complained.
Madison nodded in agreement. "Me, too."
"And I think science class is such a drag," Aimee said.
Madison agreed. "Me, too."
"And I wish it would snow," Aimee said with a sigh. "Winter isn't winter without snow and ice. The cold isn't the same. Know what I mean?"
"It sort of smells like snow," Madison said.
"I'd give anything to go skiing over vacation like you," Aimee said. "Instead, I'm stuck at home hanging out with my dumb brothers."
Madison shrugged. "Yeah, I'm psyched. I haven't been to Mount Robinson for a long time."
"And it's in Longmont, which is such a cool town," Aimee said. "They have this store with handmade ballet shoes. I remember because my mom took me there for my birthday one year. Remember? I'd give anything to go back there again."
"I'd give anything to—" Madison started to say, but she cut herself off. She sniffed the cold air and walked a few paces ahead with Phin.
"Hey, Maddie, wait up!" Aimee yelled. She and Blossom ran to catch up. "You didn't tell me. What are you wishing for this holiday?"
Madison considered sharing her real wish, a secret one about Mom and Dad getting back together. But she didn't. Instead she yelled up to the sky.
"SNOW!" Madison bellowed. "SNOOOOOOOOW!"
"You're the best," Aimee said, laughing.
The two friends locked arms and continued their walk around the block.CHAPTER 2
"Sit over here!" Fiona yelled, waving to Madison and Aimee as they entered the chorus rehearsal room.
Madison glanced around. Most of the seventh grade had shown up for the first official Winter Jubilee singing practice. The entire class would sing at the final events; but kids were only required to attend a few rehearsals before then. Many students had afternoon conflicts with other clubs and teams.
Aimee nudged Madison. "Don't look now, but—" Aimee groaned.
"Hello, Madison," Ivy Daly said. She edged past and sat in the row directly behind Madison and her friends. The drones followed. Madison could feel the enemy breathing behind her.
The feud between Madison and her friends and Ivy and her drones had lasted for more than three years and showed no signs of slowing. It didn't take much to fuel bad feelings among the girls: a funny look, a long stare, or even a Winter Jubilee choral rehearsal.
"Don't say hello, why don't you?" Rose Thorn snickered.
Madison ignored her.
Mrs. Montefiore clapped her hands and tapped her music stand. As several students helped pass around copies of sheet music, Mrs. Montefiore read through the list of songs they'd be singing.
"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"
"Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel"
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
"The Grinch song should be for them," Fiona whispered, indicating the row where Ivy and the drones were sitting.
Madison stifled a giggle. "Just ignore them," she said.
"Hey! Where's Adam Sandler's Hanukkah song?" Aimee said, cracking herself up.
"ATTENTION!" Mrs. Montefiore yelled.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.
The music teacher steadied her conductor's baton and shot a glare over in the girls' direction. She explained the week's schedule of events for Winter Jubilee; asked the kids to sing a few scales; and led the entire room in a quick review of each song's first verse. Madison faked it, mouthing the words. She wanted to be a part of everything but she wasn't a great singer. So she decided she'd be a part of everything silently.
Fiona, on the other hand, sang like a pop star. Madison knew that the drones had to be jealous of Fiona's voice. During the first part of "Winter Wonderland," when Fiona hit all the high notes perfectly, Madison swore she heard Rose and Joanie cough. Sabotage! Sometimes the drones were even more obnoxious than their leader.
Their leader, Poison Ivy, didn't say much. But Madison guessed Ivy was too busy singing herself to make fun of anyone else. Not only was Ivy the seventh-grade class president, top student, and all-around popular girl, but she could sing like a pop star, too.
After running through the song list once, and watching the clock for an hour, the seventh graders gave themselves a roaring round of applause. As everyone gathered their book bags to leave, Mrs. Montefiore invited Señora Diaz up to the front of the rehearsal room.
"You are not dismissed!" Mrs. Montefiore commanded the students. Everyone sank back down into their chairs.
Señora Diaz was Madison's friend Egg's mother. Ever since she was little Madison had known Señora Diaz. Now Madison was even in Señora Diaz's Spanish class at Far Hills Junior High. Madison wasn't an A+ Spanish student, but she wasn't failing either. As usual, she was somewhere in the middle.
"Hola!" Señora Diaz greeted everyone with a grin. "I have an exciting volunteer project to tell you about, over at The Estates, a nursing home in town. I spoke to my sister who is a nurse at the home and she suggested that some members of our chorus might be interested in doing volunteer work there."
A girl in the front row raised her hand. "Do you mean more singing?"
"No, Señorita," Señora Diaz continued. "We are looking for a small group of students willing to give up a few afternoons from now until the holidays in an Adopt-a-Grandparent program. Students will keep company with senior citizens whose families live far away."
"Are these people sick ?" some boy yelled from the back row.
"Not like YOU!" Chet said, louder than he meant to. He covered his mouth and apologized.
"To answer your question," Señora Diaz said, "some people are sick with diseases, while others are just lonely."
Everyone started whispering again. The room got noisy in seconds.
"STUDENTS, PLEASE!" Mrs. Montefiore yelled, tapping her baton, her voice booming through the din. All at once, the room hushed.
"I'm going to put a sign-up sheet right here on the desk," Señora Diaz continued. "And I'd like both boys and girls to sign up. Remember that you need to have some solid free time to do this. After-school activities will be a conflict for some of you, but I do hope the rest will consider helping out."
Madison's brain was already buzzing. She could sign up to volunteer! She loved to volunteer! She could make time to adopt a grandparent! It would be fun to spread a little holiday cheer.
Plus, Madison thought, it would be great to volunteer with Fiona and Aimee.
Before she could maneuver her way out of the row of seats, however, Madison watched Ivy and her drones rush the front desk and the sign-up sheet. Ivy stopped to say something to Señora Diaz.
"Hurry," Madison said. "Move, Aimee."
"What is your rush?" Aimee asked. "I'm getting my stuff."
"I want us to get to the sign-up sheet. I don't think anyone has signed up yet and the three of us have to do it together—" Madison said, climbing over her friend.
"The three of us?" Fiona said. "Wait. Maddie, I can't volunteer."
Madison stopped short. "You can't?"
"Neither can I," said Aimee.
"I have soccer," Fiona said.
"And I have ballet," Aimee said.
"Oh, yeah," Madison sighed. "Of course. I forgot."
"Why don't you go sign up by yourself?" Aimee asked. "You like doing that kind of stuff. That would be cool if you volunteered at The Estates."
Madison shrugged. "Yeah, I guess. But by myself?"
Aimee and Fiona lingered by while Madison approached the sign-up sheet. Egg and Hart were standing nearby.
"Hey, Finnster," Hart said, calling Madison by a name he'd made up years earlier. "You signing up?"
Hart was Madison's junior-high crush: cute, smart, and silly. Madison couldn't take her eyes off him.
"I think so," Madison said, looking for a pencil in her orange bag. "Are you guys signing up?"
"Well, my tía Ana, the one who's a nurse, is super cool," Egg explained. "So I figured it would be a good thing to help her out. I mean, I've got hockey practice, but my mom is bugging me to do it, so ..."
Excerpted from Give and Take by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2002 Laura Dower. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.