Best Snowman on Larkin Street

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    After Ella gulped down her breakfast, she quickly put on her jacket, boots, hat, and gloves. She opened the front door and eagerly stepped onto the porch to see the glistening, new-fallen snow.

    Ella dragged her feet through the snow, making two narrow trails across the yard. She reached the sidewalk and peered down the street. The Gonzales twins were already out in their yard, busily constructing a snowman.

    “Their snowmen are always the biggest and fanciest on the street,” Ella grumbled to herself, “because there are two of them to do the work. Well, I’ll show them. I’ll build the best snowman that’s ever stood on Larkin Street—even if it takes me all day!”

    Scooping up a handful of snow, she patted it into a ball and began rolling it in the snow. Around and around and around the yard she went, until her arms ached from pushing and sweat trickled down her forehead.

    “Whew!” Ella stood back in admiration. She’d never seen such a gigantic ball. She glanced proudly toward the Gonzales’s yard—and her eyes popped as the twins set still another snowball on top of the four already there. A five-layered snowman!

    “Nuts!” Ella said crossly. She wished that she had someone to help her—this was hard work! She flexed her arms, took a deep breath, and began rolling a second ball.

    “Can I help?”

    Ella whirled around instantly, but her excitement turned to dismay when she saw who was standing hopefully in the driveway.

    Deon! Of all the people on Larkin Street—of all the people in the whole third grade—Deon was the very last person whom Ella would pick to help her. Deon was big enough, but he was awkward. He couldn’t make it through a day of school without dropping something, tripping, or crashing into desks and shelves and people—even Mr. Brown, the principal. Deon’s nickname was the Clumsy Giant.

    Deon would probably trip and fall on top of mysnowman and smash it to pieces, Ella thought. I don’t want him to help.

    She opened her mouth, all set to tell him—nicely, of course—to go away. Deon’s head drooped sadly. He seemed to know exactly what she was thinking.

    “Oh,” said Ella, hating to see him so unhappy, “all right. You can help. Here, let’s lift this up.”

    An enormous grin spread across Deon’s face as he plodded into the yard and bent over. Together they lifted the ball and set it on the sturdy base.

    “Great!” Ella exclaimed as she dusted the snow off her knees. Then she looked down the street again and groaned. “The Gonzales’s snowman is so tall!”

    “Yours is a lot wider, though,” Deon encouraged her.

    Ella was pleased. “I’ll make the head, and you can make the neck, OK?”

    “Sure!”

    In another half hour they were finished.

    “Fabulous!” Ella said, beaming. “It’s much better than the Gonzales’s snowman.”

    “Are you going to put a face on it?” Deon asked eagerly.

    “Of course. A face and a hat, buttons, …”

    “A belt?” Deon asked.

    “Terrific!” Ella exclaimed. “Why don’t you get a belt and buttons, and I’ll take care of the rest,” she said. “I’ll meet you back here in ten minutes.”

    “OK,” Deon agreed. He lumbered down the sidewalk.

    Ella rushed inside and began rummaging through the kitchen.

    “Who’s that you’re playing with?” asked her mother.

    “Oh, that’s Deon,” Ella explained, slamming a drawer shut. “He’s eight, too, even though he’s so big.”

    Mom chuckled. “He reminds me of your Uncle Terry. Terry was big like that when he was a boy. Papa called him a bumbling old sheepdog.”

    “Uncle Terry was that big?” Ella was amazed. Uncle Terry looked just like anybody else now. Oh, he was a little taller than average, and quite a bit chunkier, but still he was normal.

    “He certainly was a clumsy child,” Mom said. “But now Aunt Rosemary says that he’s the best dancer that she’s ever danced with!”

    Ella kept sneaking glances at Deon as they decorated the snowman. Will Deon grow up to look and act like everybody else? She wondered. And had Uncle Terry minded being called a bumbling old sheepdog? I bet Deon doesn’t enjoy being called the Clumsy Giant! Uncle Terry is a pretty super guy—and Deon really is a nice boy.

    Soon the snowman was dressed with pop-bottle-cap eyes, a carrot nose, a potato-peeling mouth, an old fishing hat, a moth-eaten blue and green scarf, five shiny black buttons, and a sagging brown belt. Ella lifted up the hat and plopped down an old mophead for hair, and Deon leaned a broken fishing pole against the snowman’s arm.

    Deon laughed. “We should make a sign: ‘I’m all ready. Where are the fish?’”

    Ella grinned. “That’s a good idea.” She paused, then said, “Come on in. I think that we have paint and cardboard somewhere.”

    Mom greeted them cheerfully and gave them cookies and milk after they finished their sign. She didn’t even mind when, on the way out, Deon knocked over a chair and just missed toppling a lamp. “No harm done,” she said, reaching out to steady it. “Now,” she added, “put your sign up, then wait for me. I’m coming out with the camera.”

    “Your mom’s nice,” Deon told Ella as they propped the sign against the snowman. “My mom’s always afraid that I’ll break things. She starts yelling at me as soon as I come into the house: ‘Stay away from the table! Don’t set foot in the living room!’” Deon sighed. “I wish that I could take a shrinking potion. I hate being so big.”

    “Don’t worry,” Ella said reassuringly. “My Uncle Terry was big like you when he was eight, but now he’s just like everyone else.”

    “Really?” Deon’s eyes brightened.

    “Yes. After Mom takes our picture, you can come in and play and she’ll tell you about him.”

    “Are you ready?” Mom called as she tramped through the snow. “One of you get on each side of this super snowman and smile!”

    “The best snowman on Larkin Street,” Ella said proudly as Mom focused the camera. “The best friends too.”

    [illustrations] Illustrated by Robyn S. Officer