Author: Laurence Yep
Illustrator: Robert Papp
Mia has spent the last eight months working hard under Coach Schubert's tutelage, practicing for Regionals. There's one month to go until the competition. And Mia's outgrown her skates and her nice skating outfit--originally a hand-me-down from a cousin who longer competes, so no more hand-me-downs. Money's tighter than ever, since her father's second job now has fewer hours available, and Mia's mom just broke her leg. Plus the furnace might be going out, which isn't good in an upstate New York winter. Mia's parents sit the family down and tell everyone that they can afford Mia's Regionals or the tournament where Perry will be scouted by college recruiters--not both. Mia and Perry both immediately tell the other to take it. The only fair way they can figure is to flip a coin, and Perry wins that. No one feels too great about it, but that would have been the case regardless.
Fortunately, the owner of the skating rink hears of Mia's problem. He and his wife are able to find some lightly-used skates at another rink and buy them for Mia, as thanks for all the hard work she's done there. And the skating-loving owner of a sewing chain gives Mia fabric, notions, and a pattern for a new skating outfit--Mia had played the store's mascot a few weeks earlier and an encounter with the town mayor led to a lot of good publicity. Mia is overwhelmed and incredibly grateful. The pattern is complicated, and the fabric is very fancy. Mia and her mother are too intimidated to start. Coach Schubert, who knew about the help the St. Clair family was about to get (to avoid showing favoritism, she really couldn't help Mia, information Mia totally understood when the coach volunteered it). Coach Schubert used to sew her own outfits, and quickly puts the material together. Mia and her mother will add the embellishments, something Mrs. St. Clair can easily handle while resting her broken leg.
Finally it's time for Regionals. Mia and Anya are enjoying their first stay in a fancy hotel when they see Vanessa and her father arguing with the front desk clerk. Apparently their reservation was lost. Mia's and Anya's mothers exchange a glance and offer to let Vanessa stay with them. Her father quickly agrees and leaves the hotel, promising to come back the next day (no skating that first day) with something nice for Vanessa. In the room, Mia and Anya notice that Vanessa doesn't know how to share, and that she enjoys showing off the souvenirs her parents bring her back from their travels. At dinner, Vanessa seems confused by they normal interactions the other girls have with their mothers. When Vanessa's mother calls to say she can't make it to Regionals, Mia reflects that even though the money struggles are hard to get through, she wouldn't trade families with Vanessa for anything--Vanessa barely has a family at all. A conversation with a tearful Vanessa that night confirms that Vanessa can't depend on her parents for anything but money and trinkets from the travels, and that skating is the only thing she enjoys.
The next day all the skaters get time to practice on the ice. A skating diva tries to cut into Mia's allotted time, but Mia figures if she can stand up to all three of her older brothers at once she can stand up to a girl her own age. When Mia starts skating, the other girl gets back on the ice and mocks Mia's routine, alternately pretending to fall or performing the moves better. Her coach is irate and gets her off the ice and forces her to apologize. Coach Schubert compliments Mia for handling the situation with grace.
The day of the competition arrives. Vanessa's parents both show up, and she and Anya perform well. Mia won't perform until later. When she's warming up, the diva skates right toward her, almost taking her out. Mia shakes it off, and puts all thoughts of other skaters out of her mind. When it's her turn, she focuses on her routine. It all comes together beautifully. When the scores are posted, the diva has won, but Anya's second! Vanessa finishes fifth and Mia is thrilled to see she's placed third. Her whole family swarms Mia to congratulate her.
Real Girls, Real Letters
"Bad Sport" is used to being faster than her friend, but at all the latest track meets her friend has been faster. She's advised to focus on improving her times regardless of how fast anyone else is, and to try to be happy for her friend's success. "Karate Girl" feels weird for doing a sport that girls usually don't, but is encouraged that the important thing is to find a sport she loves so she can stick with it and stay healthy--and maybe she'll make some friends who are boys as well as girl. "Bad Actress" feels left out because her two friends made it through auditions into a play but she didn't. She's advised to find another way to get involved with the play, like painting scenery, and reminded that there are many more things she can share with her friends; the play won't last forever. "Jealous" is having a hard time dealing with the fact that the new boy in her class is a better artist, and gets advice similar to Bad Sport's. "No One 2 Play With" feels left out of her family of all boys, but is told that almost nothing is for boys or girls exclusively--she can see if there's anything her brothers enjoy that she can be part of. "Worst Player" is contemplating quitting basketball, and is told that if she's enjoying it she should stick with it, but if it's not fun it might not be worth it.
Dedicated to "Felicia Salinas, whose spirit I admire."
Mia plays Hearts with her brothers and shoots the moon, winning the game. The first time I played Hearts I didn't understand the rules and accidentally shot the moon. The whole family plays Hearts later. I've only played with four people and didn't know until just now that you can play with three to seven people.
Mia's brothers tell her that they prefer team sports because if they make a mistake, the other members can help. That's exactly why I don't like team sports: I don't like other people paying for my mistakes.
The stunt the diva pulled with trying to take Mia's practice time...I'm surprised she wasn't outright disqualified from the competition. I've competed in post-season track and field and coached athletes there too. Each athlete gets a certain amount of time to warm up, and stealing someone else's time would not go over well, especially being so purposeful and petty about it. And then to try to physically take her out? Why is she still competing? If I were the coach, I'd be humiliated to have my athlete acting like that.