PICKLELIME AND LEMON PIE
PJ Picklelime lives in a village very close to you. Meadows are knee-deep in wildflowers in early springtime. Summers are hot and dreamy when golden peaches the size of melons hang from the trees. Snow drifts like powdered sugar down the mountainside in winter.
PJ lives in a cottage with stone walls and stone floors that keep the family Picklelime cool in the summer and slowly absorb warmth from the sun to keep the family cozy in winter. The Picklelimes have barrels outside to catch rainwater in spring, summer, and autumn and snow in winter. A barrel on the roof pipes sun-heated water directly down into the shower below.
Families from all over the world live in PJ’s village because a computer company on the other side of the mountain brought people in from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and North America.
PJ looks different from other kids, as she was born with a crop of thick, black curly hair, inherited from the darker side of her mother’s family. “Oh, she’ll lose that,” said neighbor Shanti Patel over the fence one day. But PJ never lost her hair, and it continued to grow each year like a wild bush around her head, even wilder when winds heavy with salt came off the nearby ocean. Every time her parents tried to cut it, PJ covered her hair with her hands and screamed out loud until they put down the scissors.
“PJ, no one can see who you are under all that hair!” said her mom.
“Think of the money we could get if we sold PJ’s hair to the pillow makers,” said her dad.
PJ clapped her hands to her ears so their words just sounded all muffled and marshmallowy. “My hair has a job,” she insisted. “You don’t understand. My hair has work to do.” She wouldn’t tell her parents exactly what that work was.
You see, one day she had found a tiny little bird, a yellow warbler, peeking unhappily between the branches of the yellow Lady Banks rosebush that had burst into bloom to fill an entire corner of their back garden.
“Why do you look so sad, little friend?” PJ asked, stroking the bird’s yellow breast, which was a shade creamier than the roses that clustered around it.
“Because I can’t warble,” cheeped the bird. “Listen to my silly voice. All the other warblers left me behind when they flew south. They said I couldn’t be a warbler because I couldn’t warble, so I had to find my own way. But I don’t know where to go!”
“I have plenty of space for you,” said PJ. She made sure her parents weren’t watching from the kitchen window, then she bent over and parted her hair to make room for the tiny bird.
But the bird hesitated. “I’ve never lived in hair before, only a nest made of twigs and branches and old string and wool and bits of this and bits of that.”
“Well, let’s say my hair is a new kind of nest, ready-made and waiting for you to move in. You don’t even have to pay rent,” PJ told the bird.
So the little bird hopped off the branch of the bush and landed in PJ’s hair. PJ let go of her curls and they sprang around the warbler protectively, thick enough and black enough to hide his yellow feathers.
“This is different,” said the bird. “Soft and springy! I think I’m going to like this!”
“Just one problem,” said PJ.
“What’s that?” cheeped the bird. He dipped his head to burrow through PJ’s curls.
“There’s no bathroom on board. You’ll have to fly in and out. Make sure it’s when we’re alone and before you go to sleep. If my parents see you, they’ll make you go away. This is our secret, OK?”
“OK. Done!” said the bird.
“Now, the next thing we need to work on is your voice,” said PJ.
“My voice?” cried the little bird. “But I don’t have one. That’s why the others left me behind!”
“Nonsense,” said PJ. “They were just too impatient. Would you like me to teach you how to sing?”
“How can you? You’re not a warbler!”
“No, but I know how to sing!” PJ said.
“Well . . . ,” said the little bird.
“Then let’s get started.” PJ didn’t want to waste any time. “Now, you have to fly back into the roses while we work. I can’t talk to you when you’re buried in my hair since I can’t see you or hear you properly.”
With a tiny flutter of wings, the little bird untangled himself from PJ’s curls and flew into a cluster of roses a few inches from her nose.
“Perfect.” PJ smiled. “You match the flowers! No one can see you except me. OK, first things first. What’s your name?”
“I don’t know. I’m just the yellow warbler who can’t warble,” said the bird.
“Hmmm.” PJ thought for a moment. “What name would you like?”
“Something sweet?” asked the bird.
“Lemon Pie?” PJ suggested.
The little bird giggled so much, roses bounced around him.
“Right, Lemon Pie it is. Now then, Lemon Pie, let’s start with your breath. Don’t think about your voice. Just your breath. Breathe in, two, three, pause, then breathe out, two, three. Let’s try that together. Breathe in, two, three, pause, and breathe out, two, three. Wasn’t that easy?”
“Not easy. Dreamy. I’ll fall off my branch if you go on like this!”
“Then snuggle against the petals so you feel safe. Let’s try that again, but this time, add a little humming sound. Keep your beak shut and hummmmmmmm. . . .”
“Huu, hum, hum, hum, cough cough, huuuuuuuuu . . .”
“Beak shut, Lemon Pie. Try to turn huuuuuu into huuummmmmm.”
“There, you see, breath becomes hum!”
“It makes my chest feel all warm.”
Each day for several days, PJ and Lemon Pie went to the rosebush after PJ got home from school to humm and aaaah and ooooo and eeeee and ayyyy at one another, until the bird sort of lost himself in sound and forgot that he didn’t know how to sing. But this wasn’t really singing. It was a way of practicing different sounds and having fun.
Excerpted from Sunshine Picklelime by Pamela Ferguson; illustrated by Christian Slade. Copyright © 2011 by Pamela Ferguson; illustrated by Christian Slade. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.