Girl of the Year 2013: Saige

Author: Jessie Haas
Illustrator: Sarah Davis


At first, Saige Copeland is excited for fourth grade. She'll be able to see her best friend Tessa again (Tessa was at music camp) and she'll have art lessons. But on the way to class, Tessa reminds Saige that the school had art last year. Because of New Mexico public school budget problems, the school only has art or music each year, not both. A new girl, Gabi, is disappointed too. At least Saige can go to her grandmother's studio to paint. Tessa's happy about music, and Saige tries to be happy for her. When the trio reaches the classroom, another girl, Dylan, waves Tessa over: she's saved them a table. It seems Tessa and Dylan got to know each other really well at music camp. When they start talking about how much practice it takes to become a virtuoso (ten thousand hours), Saige wonders if Tessa will have any time for her. 

After school, Saige heads for her grandmother's house. Between visiting the Spanish barb horses and painting, her grandmother encourages Saige to have a fundraiser so the school have art classes and music classes at the same time. Saige and her parents start planning a fiesta. Her father, an airline pilot who also has a hot air balloon, will donate balloon rides for a raffle. Saige asks Tessa for help drafting a letter to the PTA, but Tessa's too busy practicing with Dylan. Gabi offers to help. Saige feels torn because writing is the sort of thing she usually does with Tessa, but Gabi ends up being a huge help and they gather a lot of student signatures pledging to help raise money. Saige is happy the letter's the done, but still upset because she and Tessa seem to be growing apart. They even end up fighting when Tessa says all Saige talks about is the fundraiser and Saige counters with Tessa only talking about music.

Before the fight can be resolved, Saige goes to her grandmother's house only to find that she's fallen and an ambulance is taking her to a hospital (a neighbor found her). She's broken her femur and her wrist. She's going to be okay, but requires surgery and rehabilitation. Saige is comforted to find that Tessa has put their fight aside to express her concern. She and Dylan even agree to sing at the fundraiser. Gabi ends up helping out again, when Saige's family needs help taking care of her grandmother's dog and cat. She click-trains the dog so it stops barking all night. Saige wonders if she can use the same trick to get her grandmother's favorite horse to behave for the parade they're including in the fundraiser. 

The click-training is perfect for the horse. Soon he's picked up enough tricks that Saige and Gabi plan a show centered around them. He'll even paint! Saige hopes he'll do as well leading the parade--they haven't been able to practice much since her grandmother's fall. 

But the day of the fundraiser, he performs beautifully. Saige's grandmother is there to see, and Saige can tell she's proud. Tessa sings a beautiful solo, and Saige understands why she has to practice so much, and also knows they'll always share a special connection through their talents. Everyone loves the horse show with its tricks, and his painting gets more bids than some of the humans' artwork. Saige has her own piece up for sale--one she started with her grandmother's help and finished while Tessa sat in the studio with her, playing guitar and singing softly. 

Real Girl, Real Story

Lizzie writes about how she fell in love with showing horses. She'd been around horses her whole life, but it wasn't until her mother got a homeless pony, Toby, at auction that she got into it. Lizzie knows about being underestimated: she was born without her left hand and forearm. Working together, Lizzie and Toby have learned enough tricks that they're in horse shows all year round. Lizzie wants girls to know that if they work hard they can accomplish their dreams.


Dedicated to "Jo McNeil. Love you, miss you." Special thanks to Beth Larsen, Executive Director of Art in the School, Albuquerque, NM; Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Policy, Americans for the Arts; Amy Robinson, Master Dog Trainer and Director of Country View Canines, Oregon, WI; and Karla Dean at Country View Veterinary Service, Oregon, WI.

My dad tells this joke about Albuquerque: Do you pronounce the capital of New Mexico Alb-you-kwer-kyou or Al-ba-cur-key? Neither, it's Santa Fe.

Saige's grandmother's given name is Miriam, and she goes by Mimi.

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