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  • Laugh Till You Cry
  • Written by Joan Lowery Nixon
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307536976
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Laugh Till You Cry

Written by Joan Lowery NixonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Joan Lowery Nixon


List Price: $6.99


On Sale: February 04, 2009
Pages: 112 | ISBN: 978-0-307-53697-6
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD Cody doesn’t like Texas. He and his mom were only supposed to spend the summer there, helping out his grandmother. But Cody’s grandmother is sick and needs them to stay. Now he’s the new kid at the local middle school and all his friends are back in California. You’d think Cody’s cousin Hayden would show him the ropes. Not only is Hayden in the same grade, he lives next door. But Hayden doesn’t want anything to do with Cody.

Cody’s luck begins to change when he befriends Officer Ramsey, a policeman and aspiring stand-up comic. Officer Ramsey appreciates Cody’s jokes so much, he pays Cody for the material! But it’s no laughing matter when a crime is committed at school and Cody becomes a suspect. Cody is going to need more than jokes to solve this mystery—and clear his name.

From the Hardcover edition.



Dodging low tree branches, leaping over dips and cracks in the sidewalk, Cody Carter ran harder and faster down Chimney Rock than he had ever run in his entire life. Someone was chasing him and quickly closing the short gap that lay between them.

The person yelled something, but fear and his own loud gasping for breath blocked Cody's ears, and he couldn't make out what was said. The only words that bounced through his brain were his: I'm only thirteen years old. I'm too young to die.

Ahead of him lay San Felipe, with cars backed up, waiting for the stoplight to change. In the nearest lane was a blue and white cop car, and Cody aimed for it, knocking on the passenger-side window. As he stared into the wide, surprised eyes of the uniformed policeman behind the wheel, Cody managed to croak, "Help!"

The officer flipped on his hazard lights and jumped from the car. Cody was bent over the fender, wiping rivulets of sweat from his eyes and gulping air.

"What's the matter, kid?" the officer called as he walked around the front of his sedan. He placed a firm hand on Cody's arm. "Are you okay?"

Cody twisted to look over his shoulder. His cousin Hayden Norton had drifted back and was standing behind some of the solid, broad-limbed oak trees that lined the street. Hayden's buddy Bradley Lee was with him. They were both at least five inches taller than Cody, even though they were all the same age and in the same grade at school.

Hayden and Brad watched Cody warily, practically sniffing the air like a couple of dogs as they waited to see what would happen next. But Hayden's other sidekick, Eddie Todd, shorter and even sneakier, was quietly edging his way back along the street. It was just like Eddie to leave the others, Cody thought. If there was going to be trouble, Eddie wouldn't be in it, even though he probably started it.

"Those guys want to kill me," Cody told the officer. He straightened, able now to breathe more easily.

The officer smiled. "Take a poke at you, maybe, but are you really sure they want to kill you?"

The humor in his voice made Cody flinch. "They do," he insisted. "They said they were going to drag me back to school and stick my head in a toilet. Drowning somebody is killing them, isn't it?"

For the first time Cody craned his neck upward to take a good look at the policeman beside him. The man had to be at least six feet three, with broad shoulders. His dark eyes were crinkled at the outer corners, as if he were trying hard not to smile.

"What did you do to make them so mad at you?" The officer turned briefly, and Cody could see him sizing up Hayden and Brad. Eddie was long gone.

"I moved here," Cody answered. He pointed at Hayden, who was still peeking out from behind the trees. "That tall kid with the yellow hair and the big gut is my cousin Hayden. He just plain doesn't want me to be here."

"Where's here, besides Houston?"

"My grandmother's house. Hayden lives right next door. Mom and I came here to live with my grandmother because she's really sick."

"What's your grandmother's name?"

"Dorothy Norton."

"And where does she live?"

"On Longmont. I don't think it's too far from here."

The officer glanced back at Hayden and Brad. Then he opened the passenger-side door of his sedan. "Hop in," he said. "I'll give you a lift home."

Gratefully, Cody picked up his backpack and scrambled into the car, closing the door tightly behind him. He sneaked a quick look at Hayden, but the two boys had turned around and were strolling in the opposite direction.

As the officer started his patrol car, he said, "My name's Jake Ramsey. What's yours?"

"Cody Carter." Quickly he added, "Thanks for helping me out, Officer Ramsey."

"No problem. And call me Jake. It's easier to remember. Where are you from, Cody?"

"California. Santa Olivia." Cody heard the glumness in his voice and realized he was frowning.

Jake threw him a quick look. "I take it you'd rather be there right now than in Houston."

"Right," Cody answered. "My grandma's got something wrong with her heart. It beats out of rhythm, so my mom took a leave of absence from teaching kindergarten and came here to take care of her for a while. I had to come, too." Cody wiped sweat from his forehead and leaned back, thankful for the blast of cold from the air conditioner. "Texas is a lot different from California."

Jake nodded. "Sure, it's different, which is probably a good plan."

Cody shrugged. "If there was a plan, then Texas must have been Plan B."

Jake laughed. "You don't like Texas? I'm surprised. Most people like it. We get a lot of visitors. I read the other day that if you laid all the people who came to visit the Alamo end to end, the line would stretch around the world."

"And if you laid all the people who brag too much about Texas end to end . . ." Cody paused. "They'd deserve it."

Jake laughed again as he turned onto Longmont. "That's a good joke. Where'd you get it?"

Cody turned to him, surprised. "I didn't get it anywhere. I made it up." He pointed to an older, cream-trimmed one-story brick house, sandwiched between two large, more recently built two-story homes. "That's my grandmother's house."

Jake parked in front of the house and pulled out his wallet. "I'd like to buy your joke," he said.

"What do you mean, buy my joke?"

"I play sax and sit in with a combo most weekend nights at a club over on Richmond," Jake told Cody. "They usually have a stand-up comic for entertainment, and once a month they hold open-mike night, when anyone can try out a routine. I love my police work and I love playing music, but I've always wanted to be a comedian. The thing is, comedians need material. Good material. Jay Leno and David Letterman don't come up with their opening monologues on their own. They pay a whole bunch of writers to make up those jokes."

Cody was interested. He wasn't allowed to stay up late on school nights, but on Friday he stayed up long enough to hear the Top Ten List on Letterman, and on Saturdays his mom let him watch Saturday Night Live. "How come you want to be a stand-up comic?" he asked. It was hard enough for him to think of a cop as a musician. It was really stretching it to imagine a cop making people laugh! And Jake didn't look like a comic. He looked like what he was--a big, tough police officer.

From the Hardcover edition.
Joan Lowery Nixon

About Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon - Laugh Till You Cry

Photo © Gittings

“In every story I write I give a great deal of thought to the main character, because the story is his, or hers. The direction of the story is determined by the main character’s ambitions and reactions. The main character is the one to whom the readers will relate.”—Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award and a two-time winner of the California Young Reader Medal.


Whether it’s engrossing historical dramas, chilling mysteries, suspense-filled page-turners, or adventure stories, kids, teachers, and librarians love the books of Joan Lowery Nixon.

Nixon is half Californian, half Texan. She has a degree in journalism and credentials in elementary education. Nixon has written over 130 books for children from preschool age through young adult—including science books, co-authored with her husband, geologist Hershell Nixon. Her books have garnered numerous awards and accolades, including the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile and the Texas Institute of Letters Award. Many of Nixon’s books have won state children’s choice awards. She is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. Nixon has four children and several grandchildren.

Nixon describes the pleasure she gets from writing mystery and suspense: “When I was young I discovered an evening radio program called I Love a Mystery. It was intriguing, suspenseful, and at times absolutely terrifying, and the title was correct. I did love a mystery—on radio, in films, and especially in books. Maybe I’m really a detective at heart because much later in my life, when I began to write books for young people, I discovered writing mysteries was even more fun than reading them.

“A mystery begins to develop in my mind when something sparks an idea and a question grows from it. What would it be like to move into a house in which a murder had taken place? How would I feel if my best friend were arrested for murder on circumstantial evidence? As a question develops into an answer, I give a great deal of thought to my main character. She is the most important part of the story, and I see it take shape through her eyes. Before I write a word of the story I know how I’ll begin it and how I’ll end it, making sure to put in honest clues and distracting red herrings—just to make the mystery all the more fun to solve. I love mysteries, and I want my readers to love them, too.”

In creating the acclaimed Orphan Train Adventures, Nixon explored a time and place in America’s recent past that is not widely covered in history lessons. She explains, “It was a part of history I hadn’t known: that beginning in 1854, over 100,000 homeless children were rescued from the streets of New York City and sent by train to new homes in the West. As I researched early journals, I found many letters—some hopeful, some sad—and reports which told of tears as brothers and sisters were separated or a child was not chosen. I wanted to bring history and fiction together in an exciting, adventurous time and place, to tell the stories of those who could have traveled west on the Orphan Train.”

Many of Nixon’s readers have written to her asking how to get published. Her novel The Making of a Writer, a part memoir, part how-to book, is her answer to them. From her first publication at age 10—a poem titled “Springtime”—to her graduation from Hollywood High during World War II, Nixon shares the incidents from her childhood that helped her to develop as a writer.


“A fast-moving, entertaining mystery with an intelligent and spunky heroine.”—Booklist

“Another solid Nixon mystery without too much violence and lots of suspense.”—Booklist

“Another successful page-turner. . . . Reluctant readers and mystery lovers alike will welcome a trip to this mansion.”—School Library Journal

“Thrilling . . . a riveting tale of suspense set against a background of fascinating historical context brought up to date through e-mail and the Internet.”—School Library Journal

“Enriched with family troubles, guilty secrets, and a whiff of the supernatural, this page-turner will please the legions of Nixon fans.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Masterfully constructed. . . . Ingeniously plotted, fast-paced and lighthearted, this mystery manages to blend an engrossing double murder brainteaser with the blossoming of a self-conscious teen into a self-assured young woman.”—Publishers Weekly

“Nixon’s reputation as the grande dame of mysteries for young readers remains solidly intact with this thriller . . . a topnotch choice.”—Starred, School Library Journal


“As close to perfect a book. . . . The plot is rational and well-paced; the characters are real and believable; the time setting is important in U.S. history; and the values all that anyone can ask for.”—VOYA

“This exciting and touching novel projects an aura of historical reality.”—School Library Journal


“There is suspense, surprise, and heartfelt emotion, and there is a useful historical note at the end.”—Booklist

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