EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY
Skies Like These
by Tess Hilmo
Skies Like These is recommended for children ages 7 to 12. This book blast and giveaway is brought to you by Mother Daughter Book Promotion Services.
Twelve-year-old Jade’s perfect summers have always been spent reading and watching TV reruns, so she’s not happy when her parents send her off to Wyoming to her aunt’s house.
She meets a boy who calls himself Roy Parker - just like the real name of the legendary rebel cowboy Butch Cassidy. Roy’s dad’s hardware store has closed because a chain store has opened up in town, and Roy thinks it is just like the big cattle barons in Butch’s day who put the local ranchers out of business. He wants Jade to be his Sundance Kid and help him pull some stunts worthy of Butch Cassidy. Sabotage the big store? Outsmart the store’s owner by doing reconnaissance on his ranch?
Jade wants to be a good friend, but she’s not so sure about Roy’s schemes.
Jade gazed out the car window at knee-high yellow grass rolling and bending across the prairie like waves in the ocean, crashing into black, jagged mountains off in the distance.
“That big craggy one is Grand Teton,” Aunt Elise said, both hands tight on the steering wheel of her old Lincoln Continental. Jade wondered how her aunt could see over the dashboard, she was so short. “I’ve climbed it seventeen times.”
Jade looked sideways at her aunt. She studied her wild, choppy hair poking out every which way, then dropped her eyes down to the knit vest and awful brown corduroy pants that ended a full five inches above her sandals. Jade tried to imagine her aunt climbing Grand Teton. “Mom didn’t tell me you were a hiker.”
“What did your mother say about me?”
That was an interesting question. Aunt Elise had moved to Wyoming seven years ago. Before that, she lived a block over from them in Philly, but Jade was only five when Aunt Elise had moved and couldn’t remember much beyond the fact that her father always called her aunt “an unusual bird” and her mother always shushed him.
“She said you run a doggy dude ranch.”
Aunt Elise wiggled her shoulders. “Indeed I do. Diggity Dog Ranch, the best in all of Wellington.”
“How many doggy dude ranches are there in Wellington?”
“Well”—Aunt Elise hesitated—“just the one.”
“That’s quite the distinction then.” Jade had to agree with her dad. Aunt Elise seemed a bit odd, and the last place Jade wanted to spend part of her summer vacation, or any time really, was Wyoming. She loved Philadelphia, with its classic architecture and historical significance. She loved knowing every twist and bump of sidewalk within her neighborhood, and how Mrs. Wilkins didn’t mind if you picked a few raspberries from her bushes or how you should shop at Mr. Yee’s market because his candy bars were always a dime cheaper than anywhere else.
“I can’t believe you’re finally here.” Aunt Elise was smiling so wide her cheeks were about to split open.
“I can’t believe it either,” Jade said, slumping down in her seat.
“I was pinching myself all morning. I kept saying, Elise, you’ve been away from that precious niece for entirely too long. Today is the day you’ll see her again.”
Jade turned her head away from her aunt, toward the prairie grasses and flowers that spread out to the horizon. She had never seen so much open space. There was an occasional abandoned field or city park in Philadelphia, but they were still organized and gridded into allotted plots of land. Wyoming was seamless and vast.
“I see you’re a fellow adventurer.” Aunt Elise flicked a hand toward the tattered copy of Robinson Crusoe sticking out the side pocket of Jade’s backpack.
“Mom gave it to me. She said it was one of her favorites.”
“How far along have you gotten?”
“A little over halfway.” Jade fiddled with the blue tassel of the bookmark.
“What do you think of it?”
“Robinson Crusoe doesn’t seem very bright.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well,” Jade began, pondering the story, “as I see it, he would have saved himself a mess of trouble if he’d listened to his dad and stayed in England.”
Aunt Elise stared straight down the road. Jade couldn’t tell what her aunt might be thinking, so she turned her head back to the side window and counted fence posts along the highway. They were strung together with rusty barbed wire, holding in auburn horses, grazing cattle, and the occasional sheep. She counted all the way up to twenty-one posts before Aunt Elise broke the silence.
“So you start reading the greatest adventure tale ever written but think it would have been better if he had stayed home?”
“Pretty much, but I’m not finished,” Jade said. “It’s just that this Crusoe guy never really considered how dangerous life might be for him as a sailor. He should have been more judicious.”
“Judicious? What grade are you going into?”
“Well”—Aunt Elise seemed to be measuring her words—“promise me you’ll keep reading it, okay? You might be surprised how judicious Mr. Crusoe really is after you see all he does to handle himself on that island. It’s impressive stuff.”
Jade shrugged and went back to counting fence posts.
“Uh-oh, storm on the horizon.” Aunt Elise was squinting at the sky.
Jade sat up and leaned forward. It was bright blue overhead, but dark clouds shifted and stirred off in the distance. “Those clouds are miles away.”
“Weather moves fast across open land. That looks like a powerful front.” A gust of wind swept across the prairie, flattening tall grasses in its wake and hurtling into the side of their car. “Hang on.” Aunt Elise tightened her grip and sat up as tall as she could, as if that would make a difference.
Jade locked her car door and tugged on her seat belt. “It’s only a little rain, right?”
The corner of Aunt Elise’s mouth curled into a half smile. “Nothing about Wyoming is little.”
Suddenly a crack of thunder split the sky. Darkness fell and dense rain poured from above. Lightning ripped across the western horizon.
“One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.” Aunt Elise counted up to ten Mississippis before another explosion of thunder enveloped them. “That bolt landed two miles away.”
“How do you know?” Jade asked, her voice trembling.
“Five seconds equals one mile. Start counting from the flash of lightning and stop with the thunder. That’s the speed of sound.”
The towering mountains Jade had been admiring were not visible anymore. Steel-gray mist shrouded the car and silvery raindrops—the fattest she had ever seen—battered the windshield with earsplitting thumps.
“Don’t worry,” Aunt Elise called out. “We’ll make it.”
How her aunt could even see the road through the storm, Jade hadn’t a clue, but she seemed to know how to manage it. She swerved past rivers of rain and plunged through puddles that sent fans of water spraying out from the wheels. She watched the lightning and counted seconds before the thunder clapped above. “It has to get closer before it passes,” Aunt Elise said. “One Mississippi, two…”
“Excellent,” Aunt Elise said.
Lunatic, Jade thought, squeezing her eyes shut. She should have been signing up for the summer reading program down at the library like she did every year. She should have been organizing the pantry and trying out new cookie recipes and playing mini golf with her friends. Anything other than being in the middle of nowhere with a woman she hardly knew. What were her parents thinking, sending her off like this?
“And there it goes,” Aunt Elise said.
Jade tentatively opened her eyes and saw shards of sun slicing through the mist. The pelting rain slowed and slipped off the back of the car, like they were driving out of a car wash. She turned around and saw the storm moving on behind them.
“That was a good one,” Aunt Elise said. “But it’s over now.”
Jade worried that wasn’t true.
She was worried it had just begun.
Praise for the Book
"A robust cast of well-developed characters and a delightful, swiftly moving plot will leave readers wishing for Jade to extend her stay in Wyoming." ~ School Library Journal, Amanda Struckmeyer, Middleton Public Library, Madison, WI
"Drawing on rich Western lore and creating characters as gritty as the earth itself, Hilmo paints a picture of a town where everyone is connected ... A heartening, comforting story with enough tension to keep readers hooked." ~ Kirkus Reviews
"A robust cast of well-developed characters and a delightful, swiftly moving plot will leave readers wishing for Jade to extend her stay in Wyoming." ~ School Library Journal
"Writing with humor and heart, Hilmo gently reminds readers of the benefits of being shaken out of one’s routine, especially the sense of perspective gained by traveling to new places and trying new things." ~ Publishers Weekly
"A fantastic story for the 7-12 age range it is full of lighthearted humor and goings on. The characters are fully developed and loads of fun, the dialogue is engaging and the scenery is captivating. Jade a spunky city girl and Roy a down to earth cowboy create an incredible chemistry that draws you deep into their adventures. Full of suspense, good nature, childhood problems, loyalty and friendship this is one you definitely want your children to read (and is fun for the adults too). I highly recommend it!" ~ 5-Star review, Ally M., Amazon
"Mystery, intrigue, friendship and the true essence of childhood all form the backbone of this astounding book that will surly become a classic. I felt Author Tess Hilmo’s character descriptions are perfect with a deep POV that had me walking alongside both Jade and Roy on their fun filed adventure. As mentioned this is perfect for a summer reading list and highly recommend to all. 5 Stars!!!" ~ 5-Star review, Michael B., Amazon
About the Author
Tess lives with her husband and three children in Highland, Utah. Her first book, With a Name Like Love, received three starred reviews and was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and an ABC New Voices title. Skies Like These is her second novel.
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