Far Hills Junior High is having its Valentine’s dance, and Valentine’s Day fever has taken over the seventh grade! Madison can’t stop thinking about what to wear and whether she’ll go to the dance with a date. Her two BFFs seem to have this dance thing all wrapped up—they know exactly whom they’re going with. Madison’s crush, Hart, is giving her mixed signals and an anonymous secret admirer is sending her emails and putting sweet notes in her locker. Could her admirer be Hart, as she secretly hopes? When her good friend Drew asks her to the dance, Madison panics. There is so much Maddie doesn’t know about boys, Valentine’s Day, secret admirers, and everything in between. Why can’t the signs be easier to read?
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
Heart to Heart
From the Files of Madison Finn, Book 11
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2003 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
"I don't know, Phinnie," Madison Finn said as she peered out the living room window. "It looks pretty gray out there."
Madison's dog, a pug named Phineas T. Finn, barked twice at the window and looked up at her with his big, brown, puppy eyes.
"Okay, okay," Madison said, reaching down to give Phin's head a pat. "I'll get my coat." It was hard to resist Phin when he gave her that look.
"I'm taking Phin for a walk!" Madison yelled down to her mom.
"It's cold outside," Mom called from the kitchen. "Bundle up!"
"Yes, Mom," Madison said, grabbing her rainbow-striped scarf and matching hat.
February air nipped at Madison's cheeks as they stepped outside. The streets were quiet for a Sunday afternoon. Phin barreled ahead like a crazed sniffing machine, little puffs of steam escaping from his nose. Madison waited patiently for him to go through his usual routine, checking out every oak tree on their block. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other so her toes wouldn't go numb.
Sniff, sniff, turn.
Sniff, snuffle, turn.
Sniff, snuffle ...
Phin froze in his tracks, staring straight ahead, brown eyes locked on a golden retriever. Madison couldn't help but stare, too. The retriever was attached to a cuter than cute guy with sandy hair and an olive-green cap tilted on his head.
Phin tugged Madison forward, straining at the leash.
The retriever pulled his owner forward, too.
"Not so fast, Peaches," the cute guy said, keeping a firm hold on his dog's leash. He flashed Madison a bright smile. "Is it okay to say hello?" he asked, indicating the two dogs.
"Meeting Peaches would make Phin's day," Madison said, flashing her own smile.
The two dogs paused and looked at each other warily; then began sniffing. Phin's bottom wagged and wiggled. Madison laughed.
"My name's Toby," the cute boy said. "My family just moved into the neighborhood. Over on Ridge Road."
"I'm Madison." Madison gestured up the street. "We live on Blueberry Street."
Toby grinned again, and Madison couldn't help noticing how white and straight his teeth were. A hot blush started to creep up the back of her neck, the usual response Madison had in the presence of cuteness. Even though she had plenty of guy friends, Madison still got nervous around certain boys.
"Do you go to Far Hills High?" Toby asked. "I have to start there tomorrow, and I don't know anyone."
"High school?" Madison shook her head. "Uh, no ... No. I'm in middle school," she explained, flattered that Toby thought she could be older. "Seventh grade, actually."
"Oh, wow," Toby said with a shrug.
"Gee, it's starting to snow," Madison said, holding out her hand.
"Yeah," Toby agreed. The cold wind had died down and now it felt warmer, and faintly icy. Flakes were falling slowly and gently from the sky.
"Well," Toby said.
"Well," Madison said, unable to start up much of a conversation either.
The dogs weren't having the same problem. Phin and Peaches kept right on sniffing and snorting at each other.
"Well, I guess we'd better get going," Toby declared, tugging gently on his dog's leash.
"Well ... welcome to the neighborhood," Madison said.
"Nice meeting you, Madison," Toby said.
"You, too, Toby," Madison said, loving the sound of his name as she repeated it. He smiled one last time and pulled Peaches away in the opposite direction.
Phin pulled, trying to follow his new, golden girlfriend for a few paces. But he quickly reached the end of his leash. He looked up at Madison and blinked his big brown eyes once again as if to say, "Come on! Let's go! What are you waiting for?!"
Unfortunately for Phin, the look didn't work this time.
Madison's clogs left footprints in the thin dusting of white as she walked the last quarter of a block back to her house. Stepping into the hall, she kicked the snow off her shoes and removed her damp coat, hanging it back on the peg with her hat and scarf. Phin gave himself a good shake, too.
"We're baaaack," Madison said as they walked into the kitchen. Mom was sipping a cup of coffee as she read a piece of paper.
"Hi, honey bear," Mom said, leaning over to give Madison a kiss. "How's the snow?"
"So beautiful," Madison murmured as she looked out the kitchen sliding doors. "And Phin made a new doggy friend." Madison told Mom all about Peaches and Toby.
"A new girlfriend? But Phinnie, what will Blossom think?" Mom asked the dog, chuckling to herself.
Blossom was a basset hound who belonged to Madison's best friend, Aimee Gillespie. Aimee lived up the street, too. Everyone in the Gillespie family joked that Phin and Blossom were "dating."
"Is that for work?" Madison asked, pointing to the piece of paper in Mom's hand.
"Sort of. The Far Hills Gazette just faxed this over," Mom said, handing it over to Madison. "They're going to run it in tomorrow's newspaper."
Madison looked down at the page—part of a newspaper layout. In the center of a column titled "TV Top Picks" she saw the very short article Mom had been looking at. Someone had circled it in black ink.
Budge Films Fishes for Success on PBS
Ever wonder how fish sleep, what they do when the surface of their lake freezes over, or what they eat during the long, cold winter? Freshwater, a new documentary developed by the team at Budge Films, has the answers. This two-part documentary was shot entirely on location in the USA.
"A number of people have made documentaries about ocean wildlife," says Francine Finn, vice president of research and development for Budge Films and senior producer of Freshwater, "while very little has been done on fish and animals that live in rivers, streams, and lakes. These creatures are fascinating. Freshwater is one of our most exciting features to date."
With narrative by Sir Wallace Boyle, Freshwater is a fun, educational film that the whole family will enjoy.
Premieres Thursday at 8:00 P.M. Check your local listings.
"Wow, Mom!" Madison said. "This is great! They even quoted you."
"I know," Mom said warmly. "It's great publicity for the documentary."
Madison nodded. She'd seen Freshwater three times already. "I know lots of people will watch it," she said.
"I hope so," Mom sighed, blowing on the hot coffee in her mug.
Madison glanced back down at the paper. It was dated the next day. Below the article, Madison saw the horoscopes and the crossword puzzle.
"Want to hear your horoscope for tomorrow?" Madison asked.
"Sure," Mom said. "Then we can see if it comes true. Look under Leo."
They read it together.
Monday is a sociable day. Your name will be on everyone's lips, so be sure to project confidence when you walk into a room! If you're not feeling confident—just fake it. No one will know the difference.
"Hmmm, sounds pretty good," Mom said, taking her mug to the sink. "What's yours?"
Madison looked for Pisces. She read the horoscope silently.
Love is in the air! But winds that blow in your direction are not from familiar corners. Keep your eyes wide open. Romance will sneak up on you when you least expect it.
"Oh, brother," Madison giggled as she put down the paper.
Mom looked up. "What does it say?"
"It says I'll have a romance," Madison sighed. "I wish."
"Sounds good to me!" Mom said. "Maybe it's that boy you met walking Phinnie."
"Mo-o-o-om!" Madison moaned.
The truth was that Madison only liked one guy, another seventh grader at Far Hills Junior High named Hart Jones. Unfortunately, Hart had no clue that Madison was crushing on him. When they were growing up, Madison thought that Hart was just a dork. He always chased her and teased her and called her "The Finnster," the dumbest nickname in the history of nicknames. But then he'd moved away for a while. And something had changed when he moved back.
Madison hauled herself up from the chair she was sitting in. "I'm going upstairs to check my e-mail."
"Okay, but dinner's in an hour," Mom said, holding up a can of kidney beans. "We're having vegetarian chili."
"Fine," Madison said. Mom wasn't a very good cook, but chili was one recipe she'd mastered.
Phin's little nails clicked up the stairs behind Madison. He hurried into her bedroom and snuggled in the usual spot by Madison's feet. The computer hummed and beeped as the home page for TweenBlurt.com appeared. Madison checked to see if Aimee or her other best friend, Fiona Waters, were online.
But as Madison scanned the list of unfamiliar screen names, she remembered Aimee was at her dad's bookstore and cyber cafe, helping out. Fiona was with her aunt Brenda, who was in town visiting from California. Neither BFF would be online now.
Madison checked her e-mailbox instead.
Top Secret and Urgent
Time for Valentine's Day!
She opened the e-mails in order, starting with the message from Bigwheels, her computer keypal. Madison and Bigwheels met inside TweenBlurt.com and had been writing ever since. Since Bigwheels lived far away, in Washington State, they didn't see each other. Instead, they chatted online and sent e-mails as often as possible.
Subject: Top Secret and Urgent
Date: Sun 2 Feb 4:43 PM
I've totally fallen-in love! (BTW: I am screaming this because I am soooo excited.)
There's this way cute guy in math club I've been crushing on. His name is Reggie and he has hazel eyes and black hair and he is SO CUTE!! :) NE-way, I never even thought he knew that I was alive, but today he came up to me and asked me to the Valentine's dance, and I am so excited that I am freaking out! What will I wear? How should I act? Should I talk to him MORE now? Or less? Some of my friends say to play it cool, some say be extra friendly, and I have no idea what 2 do!!
You always ask me for advice. Now I need ur help.
Yours till the math clubs,
Madison reread the e-mail twice. Wow! Bigwheels never talked about boys like this. How perfect! Madison was dying to tell someone about Toby, the cute guy, too. She'd tell Bigwheels, of course!
She hit REPLY.
Subject: Re: Top Secret and Urgent
Date: Sun 2 Feb 5:26 PM
THAT is awesome newz. How could NE guy resist wonderful U? ;o)
Well, I think that you should just be normal and friendly with Mr. Wonderful. He already likes u, so why play it cool, right? HTH
I'm so jealous that you're going to your school Valentine's dance. I don't even know if we're having one! Oh, well. My horoscope said love is coming my way. Maybe if ur in love I will be soon 2? I hope so.
Even my dog Phin's in love. He has a crush on another girl dog we just met up the block this afternoon. They were cute. But the dog's owner was even CUTER. When we started talking he even thought I was in HIGH SCHOOL! Can u believe that? LOL
Good luck w/ur guy. Write sooner than soon and tell me EVERYTHING that happens.
Yours till the puppy loves,
After Madison hit SEND, she clicked on the next e-mail, advertising a sale on dozens of rose bouquets for Valentine's Day.
"Who do I buy these for?" she joked to herself. "Hart? Ha! Ha! Ha!"
She scrolled to the next e-mail. Dad had written, asking if Madison wanted to go out for Mexican food the next night with his girlfriend, Stephanie Wolfe. She'd made reservations for the three of them at Tamales, a new restaurant downtown.
Madison's stomach gave a low growl. It was almost dinnertime. She sent Dad a quick reply saying that she couldn't wait to go to dinner. Madison loved tacos.
Now only one e-mail remained. As Madison clicked on it, she did a double take. Orange Crush? Whose screen name was this!
From: Orange Crush
Date: Sun 2 Feb 5:13 PM
I've got a crush on u.
Your Secret Admirer.
Madison stared at the screen, reading and rereading the message even though it was so short. Her heart thumped. Her mind raced. She scrolled up and down, looking for hidden clues.
Orange Crush? Was it like the soda? Or did whoever sent this know orange was Madison's favorite color?
She shifted in her chair, kicking Phinnie in the side by mistake.
"Rowwrooooo!" the dog howled, jumping up to his paws.
Leaning over, Madison picked up Phin and cooed an apology in his ear. "Who sent this, Phinnie?" she asked.
Madison reached for the phone so she could call someone—anyone. She had a secret admirer? This was the kind of news a friend needed to share in person. But then she remembered that her friends were busier than busy.
What horrible timing, Madison thought.
She'd just have to wait to tell Aimee and Fiona about it tomorrow.CHAPTER 2
"Do you think it was him?" Madison asked, pointing to a supercute ninth grader wearing a leather jacket.
Aimee and Fiona cracked up. The three friends were standing in front of Aimee's locker. Madison filled them in on the mysterious e-mail from Orange Crush early Monday morning. At lunchtime it was still a great mystery.
"The truth is—it could be that guy," Fiona said.
"Well, the person has to be someone who knows you well enough to get your email address," Aimee said. "And they must know you like orange."
Madison glanced down at her orange backpack. "Well, that doesn't really narrow it down much. Anyone can see what my favorite color is."
"I bet it's someone you're already friends with," Fiona suggested.
"Yeah ... like Egg!" Aimee said, giving a quick little twirl. Aimee took ballet, and she usually did dance moves when she got excited, which was pretty often.
"Egg? No WAY!" Madison laughed. Walter "Egg" Diaz had been one of Madison's best friends since they were younger. He was more like a brother.
"Aimee, you don't really think the secret e-mail is from Walter, do you?" Fiona said quickly. "I mean—Walter doesn't like Madison, right? That was just a joke. You're joking, right?"
"Chill out, Fiona," Aimee said. "Of course I'm joking."
"Egg doesn't have a crush on me, Fiona," Madison said. She smirked. She knew that Egg was crushing on Fiona and vice versa. Fiona liked Egg so much that she called him by his real name.
Fiona bowed her head a little. "Oh," she said meekly.
Madison and Aimee exchanged looks and smiled.
"Besides," Aimee said with a laugh. "A secret admirer e-mail isn't really Egg's style. He's not really—the romantic type."
"Hmm," Fiona fiddled with one of her braids. "Maybe it was Chet."
"Chet?" Madison shrieked. Chet was Fiona's twin brother. "Oh, please!"
"Fiona!" Aimee yelled. "Chet is the only guy in this school who is less romantic than Egg!"
"I know, I know," Fiona laughed.
Aimee shook her head. "Come on, we have to get serious. Now, think. Who are the prime suspects?"
The girls stared at one another.
"Hart Jones?" Aimee suggested.
Madison felt her heart stop. Literally stop. When it started pumping again, it was chugging at twice its normal rate. "H-H-Hart?" she stammered.
"It could be him," Fiona said. "He has your e-mail address—right, Maddie?"
Madison let out a nervous giggle. "Yeah, along with practically everyone else in the seventh grade. Why would it be him? It could be Drew or Dan or Suresh, too."
"Yeah, but didn't Hart like you in second grade, or something?" Aimee asked.
Madison snorted. "I think he's probably gotten over that by now." She tried to sound like she didn't care, but secretly she was wondering if Aimee could be right. Was Hart Orange Crush?
When the bell rang, the three friends started toward the cafeteria.
"Hey—Maddie! Aimee! Wait up!"
Madison turned and saw Egg jogging toward them, followed by his friends Drew Maxwell, Dan Ginsburg, Chet Waters, and Hart Jones.
Madison wanted to hide.
"Hey, Finnster," Hart said, raking his brown hair out of his eyes.
"Hi," Madison said. It came out like a whisper. She looked away, unsure about what to do or say.
"You going to the cafeteria?" Egg asked. He was staring right at Fiona.
"Yeah, we're being lured there by the smell," Fiona said sarcastically.
"Mmmmm—mystery lasagna." Chet made a retching noise.
"Suspiciously, lasagna is what they served us last Friday," Dan pointed out. "Coincidence? Or ancient leftovers?"
Madison chuckled. She'd gotten to know Dan better this year because they both volunteered at the Far Hills Animal Clinic. Dan's mom worked there as a nurse, and Dan was an animal lover, just like Madison.
Excerpted from Heart to Heart by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2003 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.