But on Miss Brinker's school bus, in the seat with the rip in the green plastic, Olympia and Leah fall in love, the way children do: immediately, completely, and without knowing or caring why they shouldn't. Olympia Crooms, with her happy hair, and Leah Breck, with her silly red dog, are two smart girls.
Olympia's father works other men's orange groves in rural Central Florida and tells his daughter that school is the best way to reach for the stars. Leah's father moves his family from the Space Coast to the country where she and her brother can climb orange trees, imagine lions in the tall grass, and learn to feed baby cows milk from a bottle.
At Evegan Elementary, two smart girls find each other and have to decide if they will learn the hardest lessons of all: the false traditions of their fathers.
"I never expected to be moved to tears by a book meant for adolescents. Buy it, read it, share it, and let yourself be changed by it." ~Lacey Smith
Excerpt: Olympia’s voice was a whisper in Leah’s ear. “I don’t have those things, those cooties.”
“I know. I don’t even care what those things are.”
“Cootie bugs. Miss Rhodes is saying I have bugs crawling and living in my hair and at my house.”
“Miss Rhodes didn’t mean you.” Leah felt icky.
“She couldn’t mean you.”
“It’s because I’m one of the poor kids, you know. She said it: sharecroppers.” Without looking, Olympia pulled her hand out of Leah’s and started trying to flatten the wrinkles out of the crushed paper doily on the valentine. Leah put her hand over Olympia’s, the valentine a ruined mess under their fingers.
“But Miss Rhodes has hair just like yours.”
“No,” Olympia said, shaking her head. “No, Miss Rhodes doesn’t want hair like mine, like she had when she was a little girl. She wants white folk’s hair. That’s what Granny Mac says. ‘Cuz some colored folks like her don’t know who they want to be any more.’”
Leah looked at the neat part in her friend’s black braids, and loved the way Olympia’s barrettes danced when she dropped her head. She saw only the complicated, clever patterns in her friend’s clean black hair. Leah saw only Olympia.
She wrote her first children's chapter book, The Pocket Fairies of Middleburg, in 2005. Writer's Digest called "the perspective of these tiny beings [the pocket fairies] refreshing, enchanting, and intriguing." Florida Publisher's Association was kind enough to award her little book the President's Book Award for best children's book of 2005. Mrs. Zern has since published an inspirational book, The Long-Promised Song, serving as both writer and illustrator. Three collections of her humorous essays (ZippityZern’s Uncommon Nonsense) can be found at Smashwords.com, and her award winning essays have been recognized and published at HumorPress.com.
Her current project, Mooncalf, is her first work of historical fiction for Middle School readers. Set in rural Central Florida, the author tells the story of two misfit girls and the hard lessons they must learn about friendship and love from their friends, their families, and their world. The mystical state of Florida remains an enchanted and delightsome place for both Mrs. Zern and her husband of thirty plus years, and so they continue to make their home among the palmettos and armadillos in the historic town of Saint Cloud.