Connect with others through creativity: Blaire’s story
A full plate
Blaire is excited to help plan her family farm’s first wedding! But when event details become too much and she starts spending less time with her best friend, Blaire must learn to balance all that’s on her plate before the bride says, “I do.”
Some kids can’t wait for the lazy, quiet days of summer.
Lazy? Quiet? No way, not at my house...and that’s just how I like it.
Pans and dishes clang in the big kitchen. Voices chatter and silverware clinks in the dining room. Upstairs, the vacuum cleaner hums. Outside, a tractor sputters its way across a field.
Then there’s the sound of the bell at the front desk, ringing one clear, musical note. Ding.
I turned away from the bulletin board, where I’d been pinning up a flyer for the big Ulster County Fair in August, and smiled at the man standing at the desk.
“Welcome to Pleasant View Farm,” I said. “Can I help you?”
“Um,” he hesitated, looking around for a grown up. He was obviously surprised to be greeted by a ten-year-old girl.
I get that a lot.
“I’m Mark Reilly and I have a reservation for tonight. I know I can’t check in until later, but I’m hoping I can leave a bag here while I go for a hike.”
“No problem,” I replied. “We can even bring it upstairs when your room is ready.”
“That sounds perfect.” He bent down and picked something up, then placed it delicately on the desk in front of me. “There you go.”
I looked at the bag.
And the bag looked right back at me.
Or I should say, two round eyes looked back at me, through a mesh panel on the side of the bag. Whatever was in there had two huge ears and a grey nose with whiskers.
“My chinchilla, Honeybun,” explained Mr. Reilly. “He’s quite the traveler.”
Okie dokie, I thought. I wasn’t planning on babysitting a chinchilla today, but when your family’s farm includes a bed-and-breakfast (especially one that advertises itself as “pet-friendly”), you pretty much expect the unexpected.
I watched Honeybun’s little nose twitch. “Your buddy seems a bit nervous,” I said to Mr. Reilly. “I’ll bet he needs a moment to relax.”
“He would like that,” Mr. Reilly said, his face softening with relief. “Somewhere dark and quiet.”
I smiled back. “I know just the place.”
“Thank you.” Then he said good-bye to us both and left.
I picked up Honeybun’s carrier bag and walked past the restaurant dining room and the door to the restaurant kitchen, then down a hallway. At the back of our house was a second, smaller kitchen—the one our family used—and my grandfather’s bedroom.
“You’ll be comfy in here for a while,” I said to Honeybun as I put him on Grandpa’s desk in the corner. “I’ll come back for you a little later.”
I turned to leave the room, only to be stopped short by my dress catching on the bag’s zipper and pulling it open.
Before I knew it, there was a flash of grey fur and a puffy tail moving past me. I squealed as the grey blob raced around my grandfather’s room, almost faster than I could keep track of him. Under the bed! Under the desk! Under the chair! And then . . .
Stillness. Where had he gone?! I could already see Mr. Reilly’s review on the travel sites: ZERO stars!!! Pleasant View Bed & Breakfast LOST my chinchilla!!!!!
Don’t panic, I told myself. This is your house, not Honeybun’s, and you know every nook and cranny.
I got down on my hands and knees, peeking under Grandpa’s bed. I saw two small eyes and two long ears. “Honeybun! Thank goodness,” I said, reaching for the chinchilla. “It’s okay, little guy. Let’s get you back in your bag where you’ll be safe.” I pulled him out slowly and started petting . . . Grandpa’s bunny slipper. Great. I’d been talking to a shoe.
Still on my hands and I knees, I checked under the dresser. Nothing. I looked behind Grandpa’s hamper. No chinchilla, just one dirty sock that hadn’t made it into the basket. Eww.
As I crawled slowly toward the door, I scanned the room, checking the corners. I poked my head into the hallway, calling a soft, “here, chilla, chilla, chilla,” hoping Honeybun would come running like a cat.
Nope. Instead I saw Grandpa, standing at the other end of the hall, looking at me with a confused expression. He was with a young couple, and the woman was holding a squirming toddler by the hand.
“Blaire?” asked Grandpa, peering at me over the top of his glasses. “What on earth are you doing down there?”
I jumped up and brushed myself off. “I . . . was . . . uh . . . trying to see which floorboard is the one that always creaks when you step on it,” I stammered, walking back to the front desk. “Doesn’t that bug you? It really bugs me!”
Grandpa raised an eyebrow. “It’s been one of the biggest mysteries of my life.” He knew something was up. “In the meantime,” he continued, “Blaire, these are the Springers. They came here on their honeymoon a few years ago, and now they’re back with their son, Aiden.”
“Oh, I remember you guys!” I said, turning in a a slow circle and looking for any signs of Honeybun. The little boy let go of his mom’s hand and started spinning in a circle, too. I caught his eye and he giggled.
“We remember you, too,” Mr. Springer said. “We’ve been following the cooking posts you do with your mom on the farm’s website.”
I stopped spinning. “Thanks!” Mom and I have fun posting recipes and cooking videos. It’s always cool to be reminded that people actually read them.
“And it looks like you all have a big project going on with your old barn,” added Mrs. Springer. “I saw your father out there installing windows.”
“Yep,” I replied, peeking behind the long curtains that covered the front windows. “We’re converting it into an event space for parties and weddings.”
At the word “weddings,” Grandpa cleared his throat and changed the subject. “I hope you’ll enjoy your stay.”
“Thank you,” said Mrs. Springer, hurrying after Aiden, who had stopped spinning and was now headed for the front door. “Something tells me it won’t be quite as restful this time.”
I was just about to look for Honeybun behind the pillows on the window seat when Aiden started crying. His mom had picked him up, and he was not happy. Okay, the chinchilla would have to wait. I cannot let little kids cry at Pleasant View Farm.
“Aiden,” I said brightly. “Come with me.”
Mrs. Springer and Aiden followed me to the wall under the big staircase. Hidden in the patterned wallpaper was a tiny doorknob, easy to miss if you didn’t know to look for it. I opened the little door and as soon as he saw what was inside, Aiden stopped crying and squirmed out of this mom’s arms.
I’d spent months turning a storage space under the stairs into a play kitchen for kids and families who visited the B&B and the restaurant. It was an idea I’d gotten from one of my favorite design personalities online about doing creative things with unused spaces. Dad and I had a blast building a miniature pretend stove and fridge, and I’d filled it with toy pots, pans, dishes, and food. We even made a kid-sized table and two chairs, and I painted windows with curtains on the walls.
Mrs. Springer and I crawled in after Aiden. “Oh, Blaire,” she said, “this is absolutely delightfaaaahhhh!”
A puffy grey blob darted into the room and did a figure-eight around Mrs. Springer’s ankles.
“What was that?” she shrieked as Grandpa and Mr. Springer came running.
“Honeybun!” I shouted.
“Honey who?” Grandpa shouted back.
I didn’t stop to answer. Honeybun scrambled out of the play kitchen, dashed across the hall, and raced toward the dining room. I ran after him and—BAM.
I collided with my seven-year-old brother Beckett.
“I just saw a giant mouse!” he exclaimed.
“It’s a chinchilla, and he’s one of our guests,” I replied. “Help me catch him!”
Big ideas get bigger
If Blaire’s community service project for the local food pantry is a success, she and her classmates could earn a special award. But will her ideas make a big difference or be a big disaster?
Ms. Lewis clapped her hands three times.
“Ready to rock?” she called.
Everyone in our class clapped three times and shouted back, “Ready to roll!”
“Okay!” she said. “Monday Madness starts now!”
Every Monday morning, Ms. Lewis lets us have a party to talk about what was going to happen during the week at school. She said she didn’t know why everyone always had class celebrations on Fridays, because Mondays were when you really needed a party. “Besides, our classroom is a community,” she explained. “And our community needs a chance to connect before starting the week.”
Today, Amadi, Rosie, Sabrina, Thea, and I came together instantly, like magnets, and flopped onto a pile of pillows in the corner.
“I still can’t believe Marco from Room Revolutions is staying at your B and B,” Amadi said to me. “That is epic! When can I meet him?”
“And when will there be another animal pajama party?” Sabrina asked.
Before I could answer, there was a knock on the classroom door.
“Perfect timing,” Ms. Lewis said as she got up to open it. “We’re getting a new student.”
Everyone turned to see our principal, Ms. Cheeger, walk in with a boy. He had dark hair and was wearing a T-shirt with a cartoon of a cat eating a taco. It read TACOCAT SPELLED BACKWARD IS TACOCAT.
“Good morning, kids!” Ms. Cheeger announced. “I’d like to introduce you to Eli Carr. Eli just moved here from California. I hope you’ll all make him feel very welcome at Bluefield Elementary.”
“Hi, Eli,” I said, with a wave. “Welcome.” Everyone else did the same kind of thing. But Eli just stared at the floor.
Ms. Lewis went over to Eli and offered her hand. “Eli, I’m Ms. Lewis. So happy to meet you!”
Eli finally looked up, shook Ms. Lewis’s hand, then scanned the room. He didn’t smile or meet anyone’s eye.
“It must be freaky, being the new kid,” Thea murmured to me.
“Yeah,” I whispered back. “Especially with everyone staring at you. I’d be nervous.”
Thea and I had lived in Bluefield our whole lives. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to walk into a classroom full of strangers.
After Ms. Cheeger left, Ms. Lewis led Eli to the carpet and said, “Eli, would you like to share a fun fact about yourself?”
Eli’s eyes traveled all over our classroom, taking in the posters on the walls and the giant solar system Ms. Lewis had hung from the ceiling. Then he sighed as his gaze settled on the big map of the United States above the whiteboard. “Okay. I’ve lived in eight different states, and I’ve visited seventeen others.”
Whoa. That’s a lot of traveling. I’d only ever been to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Living on a farm, and running a restaurant and B and B, meant that my family stayed close to home. I felt like I traveled a lot because I spent so much time talking to our guests about where they were from. But Eli was a true traveler. I couldn’t wait to ask him about that.
“That is a fun fact, Eli,” Ms. Lewis said. “I hope you’ll tell us more soon. Now find yourself a spot on the carpet. We were just about to have a snack.”
My stomach twisted. This was the moment I was dreading.
Ms. Lewis said, “We’re all taking turns bringing the Monday Madness snack, and Joey is starting us off.”
As Joey jumped up to get a paper grocery bag from his cubby, Ms. Lewis turned to me and said, “Blaire, would you help me with napkins?”
I got up and followed her to the back of the room. “I want to show you where I keep the items your mom sent in,” Ms. Lewis said quietly. “Feel free to come get these any time you need to switch out a snack, okay?”
Ms. Lewis opened a cabinet, and there were the dairy-free cookies and granola bars Mom had bought, plus some of the trail mix we make at home. “Thanks,” I whispered. I grabbed a stack of napkins and looked to see what Joey had brought.
Two boxes of bright orange cheese crackers, filled with cheese spread.
A definite no for me.
I sighed, turned back to the cabinet, and pulled the container of trail mix from the shelf. I put the napkins on top, hoping no one would notice my separate snack.
“Do you want to tell the class about your lactose intolerance?” Ms. Lewis asked quietly.
I shook my head quickly. “Maybe some other time.”
Ms. Lewis smiled and squeezed my shoulder. “You just let me know when you’re ready.”
At the carpet, Joey passed out bowls and then sent the boxes of crackers around the circle that had formed. I sat next to Thea and tucked the trail mix between us.
As she handed me a bowl, Thea winked and said, “We got this. Don’t worry.”
Rosie was sitting on the other side of me, and when she started to hand over the box of crackers, Thea leaned in front of me and took it. “Pour the trail mix now,” Thea whispered to me.
I took the lid off my trail mix and shook some into my bowl. My eyes darted around the circle, and then I smiled at Thea. She was right. No one noticed.
Almost no one.
“Ah-hem.” Joey cleared his throat. He was standing in the middle of the circle with his hands on his hips. “Chef Blaire? Is my snack not gourmet enough for you?”
A couple of kids laughed, and my face went red-hot. Everyone was staring at me, and I didn’t know what to do. It was the moment I’d feared, but a thousand times worse.
Guidance for girls today
Staying connected. Sharing a meal, sharing a talent, sharing a story. Spending time together grows relationships, and Blaire teaches girls that real-world interactions are the best kind of social media.
Inspiring creativity. Expressing herself through cooking and decorating not only allows Blaire’s confidence to grow, but it serves as a chance to give joy to others.
Finding balance. Discovering creative inspiration online is exciting, but Blaire must learn to keep a healthy combination of tech time and real time with friends.
Strong characters aren’t born—they’re made
The first Girl of the Year™ launched in 2001, and every one is meant to represent and celebrate today’s girls. Our goal is to create a friend who is both relatable and inspirational.
As with each previous Girl of the Year, our staff of editors and product designers extensively researched and carefully curated Blaire and her world. Because our goal is to provide an authentic and accurate story for each character, we consulted with outside advisors knowledgeable about the challenges Blaire faces.
Our panel of experts:
Megan Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH
Academic Division Chief at University of Wisconsin
To give a realistic portrayal of Blaire’s growing struggle with the role of technology in her world, we requested input from Dr. Moreno, known for her innovative approaches to promoting adolescent health online.
Amanda Cox, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai Health System
Because every single detail needs to be just right, we asked Dr. Cox, who draws on more than a decade of experience related to allergies, to review Blaire’s food-sensitivity storyline.
Lindsey Lusher Shute
Co-Owner, Hearty Roots Community Farm
Farming is an important part of the story, so we sought out Lusher Shute, who resides in the Hudson Valley like Blaire’s family. She says, “Farmers are out to change the country by growing great food, taking care of the soils and water, and daring to compete.”
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