Inspired by Career Day at their neighboring school, the Wind Dancers decide to explore what they can do and be too—from a police horse to a performance horse, from a race horse to a ranch horse, with funny and surprising results.
About the Author
Sibley Miller, author of the Wind Dancers series, is the pseudonym for an author of novels for teens.
Illustrated by Tara Larsen Chang and Jo Gershman. Tara Larsen Chang is the illustrator of The Fairy Chronicles. Jo Gershman is the illustrator of The Nutcracker Ballet and The Night Before Christmas.
Read an Excerpt
Wind Dancers: A Horse, Of Course!
A Sumara Story
By Sibley Miller, Tara Larsen Chang, Jo Gershman
MacmillanCopyright © 2009 Reeves International, Inc.
All rights reserved.
"What should we do today?" Sumatra asked her fellow Wind Dancers, as they took flight over the dandelion meadow one bright sunny morning.
But before anyone could answer, Sumatra had an idea of her own. "How about a dance-off?" she suggested. "We could dance 'til we drop. Last one flying gets a pumpkin cake!"
"Well, we all know who would win that contest, don't we?" Kona responded. "You!"
"Okay," Sumatra said, rubbing her front hooves together eagerly and looking around. "How about ... hey!"
"Hay?" Brisa asked primly. "What's fun about hay?"
"I think hay's yummy!" Sirocco declared. "Especially if it's dripping in honey!"
Sumatra shook her head.
"Not hay !" she scoffed. "Hey ! As in, hey, what's going on down there at Leanna's school?"
The other Wind Dancers turned to look. As they'd been flying, they'd come to the big red-brick building that was their friend Leanna's school. But today, there were a lot more grown-ups there than usual at the start of the day.
"What are all those adults doing here?" Sumatra asked curiously. "Don't they have jobs to go to?"
"Jobs?" Brisa said. "You mean like how it's Kona's job to make us our apple muffins every morning, and Sirocco's job to sweep the kitchen floor with his tail after breakfast, and my job to look really pretty?"
"Not quite," Sumatra said dryly. "People have jobs that take much longer than a floor-sweeping. Lots of them go to an office all day."
"Being beautiful is an all-day job, too," Brisa noted.
"Uh-huh," Kona said, just as dryly as Sumatra had. Then she turned to Sumatra with interest in her coal-black eyes. "What do the grown-ups do in these offices?"
"You know, they work and stuff," Sumatra said vaguely.
"What kind of stuff?" Sirocco asked. As the children and grown-ups began to file into the school, he landed on the windowsill of Leanna's classroom, followed by Sumatra, Kona, and Brisa.
Before Sumatra could come up with an answer for Sirocco, Leanna's teacher spoke up.
"Class," she announced, "as you already know, today is Career Day! Several of your parents have come in to tell us about their different lines of work."
Sumatra nickered. Work! There was that mysterious word again.
"We'll start with Cassie's mom, Dr. Withers," the teacher said, motioning at a dark-haired lady in a long, white coat. "She's a large-animal veterinarian."
"That's right!" Dr. Withers said, smiling as she moved to the front of the classroom. "Some of you have seen me at your farms, helping out your cows, pigs, and horses when they get sick."
The Wind Dancers exchanged excited looks.
"She helps horses!" Brisa exclaimed. "She's an us doctor!"
"Neat!" Sumatra said.
Clearly, Leanna and her classmates thought so, too. Everyone began asking Dr. Withers questions like, "How do you take a horse's temperature?" and "What's your favorite animal?" and "Is your office in a barn?!"
The Wind Dancers settled in on their windowsill, eagerly listening to everything Dr. Withers had to say. By the time the next grown-up—a tack and feed store owner—spoke, the little horses were hooked!
* * *
When the morning ended—and Leanna's class trooped to the cafeteria for lunch—the Wind Dancers launched themselves off the windowsill. Their faces were thoughtful, and the flowers, ribbons, jewels, and butterflies in their magic halos were bright and bouncy.
"Mystery solved!" Sumatra said with satisfaction. "Now we know what grown-ups do when they go off to work."
"They fly planes!" Sirocco said, doing an excited flip in the air.
"They take lovely pictures for shiny magazines!" Brisa said dreamily.
"They boss people around in tall office towers!" Kona said with awe in her voice.
Sumatra frowned. Now that this whole "work" concept was cleared up, another idea was troubling her.
"Okay," she posed to her friends. "That's what they do. But what do we do?"
"Go for lunch, I hope," Sirocco crowed. "I'm hungry!"
"Oh, Sirocco," Brisa giggled. "You're always hungry."
"No, seriously," Sumatra said. "What are our jobs? We can't just play every day!"
"Even children have jobs, when you think about it," Kona agreed with a sage nod. "They go to school and learn things!"
"Maybe you don't have to have a job if you're magic," Sirocco said, popping one of his enchanted butterflies out of his halo and watching with satisfaction as a new one fizzed back in.
"And as I already said," Brisa reminded her friends, "my job is to fill the world with beauty."
"Just being magic or beautiful doesn't seem like a job," Kona said, biting her lip.
"I know," Sumatra agreed with a frown. Then suddenly, an idea occurred to her.
"Let's have our own Career Day!" she declared. "We could each decide what we want our jobs to be!"
"Oh, that's easy," Sirocco said. "I want to be an astronaut and fly to the moon!"
"Ooh," Brisa laughed. "And I want to be a clothing designer and make beautiful gowns!"
"I'll be a teacher," Kona said with a determined nod. "I think folks could learn a lot from me!"
"I don't know about that," Sirocco said, "but you're definitely bossy enough to lead a classroom!"
"No," Sumatra protested. "Kona can't be a teacher."
"Hey!" Kona pouted. "I am too smart enough to be a teacher!"
"I'm not saying you're not smart," Sumatra said, giving Kona a quick nose nuzzle. "It's just that you're a horse! Aninvisible-to-people horse. Even if school-kids could see you, they wouldn't understand your neighs and whinnies. And Sirocco, I think you'd be too little to fit into a space suit. They're made for grown-ups."
"Oh, yeah," Sirocco said sadly. "I guess I didn't think of that."
"And Brisa," Sumatra said, turning to the coral-pink filly, "I'm afraid sewing machines and hooves don't mix."
Brisa shrugged cheerfully.
"I guess I'll just have to go back to Plan A," she chirped. "Professional beauty!"
"No, wait!" Sumatra said. "There are jobs we could do. Horsy jobs! Think about our friends the big horses—they get saddled up all the time so their owners can ride them."
"So we just need to find careers that are good for horses!" Kona added.
"Sounds like fun!" Sirocco said, clicking his hooves together eagerly.
Sumatra's green eyes gleamed.
"It sounds," she declared, "like our day's adventure!"CHAPTER 2
A Walk in the Park
No sooner had Sumatra decided on the Wind Dancers' mission than Kona spotted something intriguing, if not exactly career-ish.
The violet-black filly watched people tromping along every sidewalk and path. She saw little children skipping alongside their parents, and school-kids on lunchtime field trips. Most of them carried blankets or lawn chairs, not to mention picnic baskets or lunch bags.
And they were all walking in the same direction—to the park!
Kona gave her friends a little wave with her front hoof and quickly drifted after the crowd. She had to see what they were up to!
Kona loved the park. It was just like nature, but ... not.
While there were plenty of tall trees, colorful flowers, and shapely shrubs, they were all lined up in nice, even rows and neatly trimmed, instead of running wild the way they did in the dandelion meadow.
What's more, the ponds were square and not muddy.
And the pathways were smooth and paved.
In other words, the park was a very orderly place. And Konaloved orderly places.
As Kona flew deeper into the park, she saw that it was packed with people!
"Something's happening!" Kona breathed.
Before long, she knew just what that something was. Kona heard it before she saw it—the twang of a guitar, the zing of a violin, and the badum, bum, bum of a drum.
"It's a concert!" Kona declared happily. "Maybe I'll listen for just a few minutes before I go searching for my horse career."
She zipped ahead and ducked beneath some low-hanging trees. She emerged on the big, open lawn in the center of the park. Around a little, circular stage, people were enjoying the band's jazzy music.
Kona was, too! She almost forgot about her career-finding adventure, until she spotted something else that made her gasp.
It was a horse! A solid-looking, chestnut brown quarter horse, looking regal as he stood on the edge of the crowd.
Standing next to the big gelding was an officer in crisp navy blue with knee-high boots, a helmet, and a shiny, gold badge over her breast pocket.
Before she could think twice about it, Kona zipped right up to the gelding and fluttered excitedly before his eyes. She expected the big horse to gasp in surprise, the way most animals did when they first saw a tiny, flying horse. (After all, it wasn't every day that one came face-to-face with magic!)
But the gelding merely snorted and said, "Move aside, miss! I'm working here. Keeping the peace. Hup, hup! "
Startled, Kona immediately obeyed and fluttered out of the horse's view.
But she didn't fly away. She couldn't! Not after hearing what the big quarter horse had said: "I'm working here!"
"You have a job?" Kona breathed in the big horse's ear.
"Of course I have a job!" the gelding rasped in his deep voice. "I'm a police horse! Law and order! That's my job!"
"But ..." Kona replied with a frown, "what exactly does that mean?"
Again the horse snorted.
"Follow me, recruit," he declared.
Then he made a loud rumble and began trotting toward a pretty bed of flowers. A few boys were laughing and wrestling among the colorful blooms, knocking many of them off their stems, and flattening others.
"Oh, those poor flowers!" Kona fretted. The magic flowers in her halo cringed, too.
"You there!" the police horse neighed at the boys. "Move it along now! Hup, hup!"
The boys froze in mid-grapple and gazed up at the very large horse looming over them. Then they squealed, scrambled to their feet, and ran back to the grass where they were supposed to be.
"Wow!" Kona breathed.
"See what I mean?" the gelding responded. "Nobody argues with a Very Big Horse!"
"Nobody?" Kona asked incredulously.
"If they do, they get a ticket!" the gelding replied with an extra-loud snort.
Kona was stunned! Whatever the big horse told people to do—they did!
"Being a police horse is like bossy-hooves heaven!" Kona said to the gelding. Then she cleared her throat. "Not that I'm bossy or anything!"
"What's wrong with being bossy?" the gelding demanded.
Kona felt her heart sing! Clearly, police horse was the perfect career for her! Grinning, Kona began scanning the park, along with the gelding.
"Do you see any pets pilfering picnic food?" she asked the police horse. "Mockingbirds mocking someone? Cats catfighting?"
"I've got my hooves full with all these pesky people," the police horse replied, as he began trotting toward a litterbug. "But more power to you, recruit. Go forth and keep the peace. Law and order! Hup, hup!"
Before Kona knew it, her friend was gone.
Which meant keeping the peace in the animal world was all up to her!
Kona puffed out her chest with pride. Then she began zipping around the park, looking for critter crime.
It didn't take her long to find it! In the same flower bed where the gelding had caught the wrestlers, Kona spotted a fountain of black soil spraying into the air.
"Hmmm!" Kona said, as she zipped down to the garden to investigate.
Sure enough, an animal was at fault. Specifically, a chipmunk! He was scrabbling at the dirt with his paws, sending dirt and flowers up behind him.
"What are you doing?" Kona whinnied, landing in the dirt next to the little rodent. The chipmunk stopped digging for a moment to glance at her. He was holding a giant nut in his mouth.
"Um, what I meant to say," Kona said, trying to look stern, "was hup, hup! You there. You're damaging park property!"
Instead of retreating in shame, though, the chipmunk shrugged and kept on digging.
"Hey!" Kona cried. "You can't do that!"
But by the time she'd finished protesting, the chipmunk had dropped his nut into his fresh dirt hole and covered the treasure up.
"But, but," Kona stuttered, "I told you not to dig up the flower bed!"
With his mouth nut-free, the chipmunk could finally respond.
"Well, I'm telling you, horsy," the animal chittered, "that I'm a chipmunk. We find nuts, see? We dig holes and bury 'em. When winter comes, I'm gonna dig this nut back up and eat it for dinner. And there's nothing you and your sparkly little wings can do about it!"
Kona was so shocked, she could barely speak. Which didn't matter anyway because the law-breaking chipmunk had scampered away, chittering cheekily as he went.
"Well ... well ..." Kona sputtered, "I'll just have to find another creature to curtail."
The rest of Kona's day went pretty much the way of the chipmunk. When she ticketed a robin for trying to build its nest in the park's stage area, instead of in a tree, the robin thanked her for the nice birch bark that she could use for her nest.
And when she tried to get some honeybees to stop buzzing so loudly, one of them stung her!
"I don't get it!" Kona declared as she licked at the throbbing welt on her foreleg. "Everybody listens to the big police horse!"
"Every human," another (loudly) buzzing bee corrected her. "But animals? We abide by the laws of nature—not bossy-hoof horses!"
"I am not bossy—" Kona began, before she cut herself off with a sigh.
"Oh, what's the use?" she asked herself. "Clearly, the only place I can keep order in is our apple tree house. My career of busting baddies is a total bust!"CHAPTER 3
In the Center Ring ... Brisa!
When Kona had dashed to the park, Brisa had darted away as well.
She'd spotted some pretty colors winking and blinking at her from the far edge of town.
And when Brisa spotted something pretty, she was powerless to resist (even if she was supposed to be looking for a career that was about more than beauty).
"Tra, la, la, la," Brisa warbled as she flew toward the spots of color.
As she got closer, she saw that the colors—lemon yellow, tangerine, and sky blue—were triangular flags!
When she was even closer, Brisa realized that the flags were attached to the poles of a giant, striped tent! Excited children with adults streamed through the opening.
"Oh!" Brisa cried. "What is this place?"
She zipped over the peoples' heads into the tent. Once inside, she gasped in awe.
Brisa saw three bright-striped rings laid out in the sawdust-covered floor, glittery trapezes hung near towering platforms, and cartoony clowns warming up the crowd.
It was a circus!
An instant later, Brisa couldn't see anything, because a beam of light had just flashed in her eyes!
The coral-pink filly darted to the side and blinked away the spots dancing before her eyes.
She looked around the tent in confusion, until she saw a small canvas doorway toward the back. The tent flap was propped open and sparkly light was spilling through it.
"Ooh!" Brisa exclaimed with curiosity. She zipped through the tent flap, and gasped.
She was backstage!
There were performers stretching their muscles and warming up their voices.
There were monkeys and baby elephants having pre-circus snacks.
And everywhere Brisa looked, there were mirrors surrounded by giant lightbulbs. Plus costumes decorated with rhinestones and sequins.
Every time the light hit the sequins and stones, beams of color bounced into the air.
"This is what made me see stars out in the big top," Brisa said. "I was blinded by beauty! Speaking of which, it's been at least an hour since I looked in a mirror."
Brisa saw a particularly large make-up mirror in one corner and flew over to it, intending to give her mane a quick comb.
But the moment she fluttered in front of the glass, a musical voice jangled her.
"Ex-cuse me," the voice said. "But that mirror is reserved for the star of the circus. And the star of the circus is me! I'll thank you to keep your sparkly little self out of my way!"
Brisa gasped, flitted away from the mirror, and looked down at the speaker.
The horsy speaker.
"Ooooh!" Brisa cried.
She was gazing down at a filly who was more beautiful than any spangled costume.
The graceful Percheron had a snowy-white coat and silvery gray mane and tail, which was woven with pink ribbon.
Between her ears, the big horse wore a red feather. And her hooves were painted pink!
Aware of Brisa's stunned admiration, the filly preened.
"Go on and say it," she said indulgently.
"Say what?" Brisa asked with wide eyes.
"What everybody says when they first meet me," the filly said. "'You're TrixieBelle LaRue, the world-famous circus horse!'"
"TrixieBelle?" Brisa breathed. It was the most beautiful name she'd ever heard. "Circus horse?"
"Wait a minute," TrixieBelle said, as she squinted at Brisa. "Do you mean to say you haven't heard of me?"
Brisa shook her head no. But before the sparkly filly could feel insulted, Brisa rushed to add, "But I don't have to know you to know that you have the perfect career for me! I want to be a circus horse just like you!"
TrixieBelle paused and gave Brisa a hard look. Brisa shook her blonde mane as TrixieBelle took in the little Wind Dancer's jeweled necklace and magical halo, along with her shimmery coral-pink coat.
Excerpted from Wind Dancers: A Horse, Of Course! by Sibley Miller, Tara Larsen Chang, Jo Gershman. Copyright © 2009 Reeves International, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Macmillan.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Meet the Wind Dancers,
CHAPTER 1: Horsework,
CHAPTER 2: A Walk in the Park,
CHAPTER 3: In the Center Ring ... Brisa!,
CHAPTER 4: Sirocco the Swift,
CHAPTER 5: Not Quite Home on the Range,
CHAPTER 6: All Work and No Play?,
Preview: Hungry as a Horse,