A sensory-sensitive girl struggles to make friends in an impossible fifth-grade world filled with fantastical creatures only she can see.

In a small Indiana town, ten-year-old Meredith Smart sees the whimsical in the mundane. Fireflies dance inside lampposts, flowers wave in greeting, and a troublesome beetle named Flossie plots to ruin her life. No one believes her—not even her parents. They argue about her ‘confusing’ behavior. She fears her actions are tearing her family apart. To ease her parents’ concern, she devises a plan—ignore the fantastic, and make friends in time for her upcoming eleventh birthday party in fourteen days.

The first day of school turns into a disaster when no-good Flossie sabotages her plan, causing Meredith to meltdown in front of the entire fifth-grade. With her hopes of acceptance dashed, she is confused when a boy called Jax offers her friendship. Jax claims he too can see her fanciful friends and provides Meredith the opportunity to right an old wrong. Her decision pulls her deeper into her fantastical world than ever before. Meredith must decide how far she will go to save those important to her—both real and fantastic—without losing part of herself.

Complete at 48,000 words, The Dandy-lion is a middle-grade fantasy combining chimerical elements of Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw with the friendship bond of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia. Primarily a story of friendship, this manuscript depicts a world seen through the eyes of a sensory-sensitive child.

I am a retired paramedic/nurse residing in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m a member of SCBWI and belong to the Central Phoenix writing group, having served four years as a lead.

 

Chapter 1

Tiny bug feet scamper across the pillow and tickle my cheek.

“Kssch! Kssch!” Flossie hisses in my ear. His shiny black armor twitches and two beady eyes stare at me.

Stare all you want, beetle-breath. I grab my journal from the bedside table and wiggle down in my toasty sheets. I’m not letting some thieving beetle ruin my plans on the first day of fifth-grade.

My attention steady on the journal, I open my list and double-circle ignore Flossiewith red ink.

Flossie cheek-nudges me with his forked horn. Male rhinoceros beetles are annoying, head-butting everything because they have horns. Of all my Fancys who could have stuck around, I would have picked him last.

The alarm clock buzzes.

Careful, I reach over Flossie and smack the button.

Go time!

I leap from bed and hopscotch across the wood floor to warm my feet bottoms. The attic groans, cracking its old bones. Grammy swears our house has arthritis. I follow my plan step by step, taking the exact time required to get ready for school.

Six minutes left.I slide into my favorite jeans and a white t-shirt. My shirt has a gopher swimming backstroke on the front and says, Gopher it.

Dad shouts from downstairs. “Meredith, you better hurry or you’ll be late.”

I tuck my journal into the front pocket and toss my backpack over my shoulder.

“Coming,” I say, and hop two stairs at a time, avoiding the squeaky bottom step. I almost make it out the door when Mom rushes from the kitchen, carrying a brown paper bag.

“Don’t forget your lunch.” She shoves the sack into my hands.

“Did you pack my—”

“Ketchup. Yes. Eight packets.” Mom stares at my shirt. “That shirt has a rip. Why don’t you change?”

“Can’t.” I fold the bag top twice to smooth any wrinkles. If I change, everything falls apart, and I already crossed wear gopher shirtoff my list.

“Maybe the pink sweater?”

“She’s fine,” Dad says, joining us from the kitchen. He winks at me. “Right, Mere?”

Mom glares at him.

I nod, wiping palm sweat on my jeans. “It’s a snag, not a rip. Snags aren’t against school policy.”

Mom wrings her hands. “Honey, can you please try your best today? New schools are—” She squeezes her eyes closed for a second. “Well, especially the first day is difficult.”

“But I have my plan,” I say, reminding her of my list.

“Right. Your plan. Good.” Mom sighs. “Are you sure you don’t want me to walk with you to the bus stop?”

“Positive.” I rush to leave before she insists.

“Stay strong. You got this.” Mom blows me a kiss, and I head out the door.

When I hit the porch, I hike up my backpack and prepare, taking a deep sniff to test the air. My nose detects damp cement blanketed by stale leaves, with a hint of fresh corn.

Today smells like a good day to find a friend.