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Animal Rescue Team: Special Delivery!
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Animal Rescue Team: Special Delivery!

Written by Sue StauffacherAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sue Stauffacher
Illustrated by Priscilla LamontAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Priscilla Lamont



· Knopf Books for Young Readers
· eBook · July 13, 2010 · $6.99 · 978-0-375-89540-1 (0-375-89540-X)
Also available as an unabridged audiobook download and a trade paperback.

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At ten, Keisha Carter, the oldest Carter child, knew about a lot of things. But she did not know what ricotta was, and she did not want to ask. In the container on the counter, it had looked suspiciously like cottage cheese. In Keisha’s experience, cottage cheese was lumpy and yucky. It was very hard to sit at the intake desk and feel hungry for the pancakes Grandma Alice was making, which Keisha could now hear sizzling in the pan, and imagine cottage cheese inside them.

Normally, Grandma staffed the intake desk at Carters’ Urban Rescue in the mornings, but she was better at pancakes than Keisha, and Mama and Daddy were trying to get an enclosure ready for a pair of injured ducklings that had been found by a fisherman at the Grand River boat launch.

Keisha was almost glad when the phone rang because then she didn’t have to think about her breakfast being ruined by cottage cheese’s evil twin--ricotta.

“Carters’ Urban Rescue,” Keisha said in her grown-up voice (the very same voice she used when counting double Dutch).

“Is this Carters’ Urban Rescue?” Keisha heard a man’s voice along with a bunch of crackly and windy noises.

“Yes.”

“Sorry. You’re breaking up. Is this the place where you report wild animals?”

“It depends on what they’ve done,” Keisha said. “If they’ve broken the law, you should call the police department.”

Of course, this wasn’t true. Keisha was using one of her father’s jokes. The person at the other end of the line did not laugh.

Keisha heard more whistling sounds and also what sounded like water splashing on the ground. She really didn’t like it when people called her from the great outdoors because it was so hard to hear.

“I’m over here at the community garden,” the man shouted into the phone. “It smells awful! A skunk has been here and left a trail of his stinky skunk stuff.”

“Do you mean the skunk sprayed?” Keisha asked.

“Hold on, hold on. Jane’s got a point to make.” The phone got all muffly as if the man who was talking had pressed it to his chest.

The community garden sat next to Hillcrest School. It was a big flat area that used to be a baseball diamond, but the school had closed and the city had turned it into a community garden. Keisha loved to ride her bike past it and look at the sunflowers. By this late in summer, they were taller than Daddy. And Daddy was taller than almost everything.

Keisha heard a scraping noise. The caller had put the phone back to his ear. “My wife, Jane--Mrs. Peters--saw the skunk yesterday afternoon strolling through the nasturtiums. She thought it was odd at the time. And then this morning when Jane and I came to get our tools, all the other gardeners were standing around the shed with their noses plugged. Talk about making a stink! And it was coming from inside the shed. That’s where he did it.” 

“And you’re sure it was skunk spray?”

“Sure I’m sure. When I was a kid, I got sprayed by a skunk. My mother washed me in a bathtub of tomato juice. Who could forget that?”

It was Keisha’s job--or anyone’s job who sat at the intake desk--to figure out if the people who called Carters’ Urban Rescue had a real problem that needed attention or they just needed information about what to do next. A problem meant that someone from Carters’ Urban Rescue drove over in the old truck to check out the situation. A question meant that no visit would be made, but Keisha might be able to educate the man on the other end of the line to help himself.

As far as possible, the Carters liked to help people take care of their own problems. Besides, today was a very busy day because at 4 p.m., her little brother Razi was going to become the next new member of their 4-H Wild 4-Ever Club. You couldn’t be a member until you turned six. And Razi had turned six last month.

Keeping the phone pressed to her ear, she pulled the skunk file out of the drawer with her right hand and an intake form out with her left. Even if the Carters didn’t go out to the community garden, they still needed to know who called about what. Mama was very clear about this.

“Just a few questions,” she said. “Can I have your name and telephone number?”

“Peters, Albert Peters. Five-five-five six-two-seven-four. Look, it says here in the phone book Carters’ Urban Rescue. All I’m asking is, come out and rescue us from this skunk!”

“Usually, it’s wildlife we rescue, not people, Mr. Peters.” Keisha paged through her skunk file. “It’s strange that a skunk would spray in its own den,” she said. “You’re sure no one else saw it? Skunks usually have a reason to spray.”

“You don’t need to see a skunk, miss, to know where it’s been. Jane thinks he dug a hole under the shed. She’s showing me the dirt right now. Yup. There it is.”

Keisha didn’t want to sound too big for her britches by telling Mr. Peters many animals could have made that hole. Foxes, groundhogs and ground squirrels dug holes. Her brother Razi dug holes. Even baby Paulo could make a serious hole if you set him in the sandbox after breakfast with a soupspoon.

Excerpted from Animal Rescue Team: Special Delivery! by Sue Stauffacher; illustrated by Priscilla Lamont Copyright © 2011 by Sue Stauffacher. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.