Jack and Annie sat on their front porch. They were waiting for their mom to take them to baseball practice.
Tap, tap, tap.
Raindrops spattered on the porch steps. A strong breeze shook the tree leaves.
“Uh-oh,” said Annie. “Do you think a storm is coming?”
“I can’t tell,” said Jack, looking up at the clouds. “Sorry, kids,” their mom called from inside.
“Coach Dave just emailed—no practice today.”
“Darn,” said Jack.
“That’s okay,” said Annie. “Now we can go to the woods.”
“The woods?” said Jack. “Why?”
“I woke up with a feeling,” Annie said in a hushed voice. “Something really important is going to happen today. I thought it was baseball practice, like maybe I’d hit a home run or something. But now . . .” She smiled at Jack.
“Really? You think . . . ?” he said.
“Yes! Hold on! I’ll get our stuff.” Annie hurried inside.
A moment later, she returned with two small umbrellas and Jack’s backpack. She handed over the pack and one of the umbrellas. “Mom says as long as there’s no thunder and lightning, we can take a walk.”
“Great,” said Jack. He pulled on his pack. “To the woods!”
“To the tree house!” said Annie.
Jack and Annie opened their umbrellas and headed out into the rain. They ran down the sidewalk, across the street, and into the misty Frog Creek woods.
Raindrops fell softly as they hurried between the trees. The air smelled of wet leaves and damp earth. Finally, Jack and Annie came to the tallest oak in the woods.
“Yay,” Jack whispered.
Annie laughed. “Glad it rained today?” “Totally,” said Jack. He and Annie folded their umbrellas and climbed up the rope ladder.
The magic tree house was dry and shadowy inside. A book was lying on the floor. A purple leather bookmark was sticking out from between the pages.
Lying on top of the book was a necklace. It had a thin gold chain and a glass star. The star was no bigger than a penny. It gave off a soft yellow glow.
“Wow, a little star!” said Annie, picking up the necklace. “I wonder what it’s for.”
“Yeah, and where are we going?” asked Jack.
He picked up the book.
The cover showed a red, white, and blue flag with one big star. The title said: A History of Texas: The Lone Star State
“Great. Back to Texas!” said Jack.
“I love Texas,” said Annie. “Remember when we met Slim and saved Dusty’s colt?”
“Yup,” Jack said in a low voice. Annie laughed.
Jack was imitating their cowboy friend, Slim.
Jack turned to the page with the purple bookmark. He and Annie looked at an old black-and-white photo of a city by the ocean.“Galveston, Texas,”
read Annie. “I’ve heard of that city.”
“Me too,” said Jack. “Did Morgan leave us a note?”
“I don’t see one,” said Annie. “Is anything written on the back of the bookmark?”
Jack turned the bookmark over. “Yes!” he said. Tiny writing was painted on the leather. He read aloud: The place you must go On this late summer day Is an island in Texas Between Gulf and bay. “We’re here to help!” Is what you must say.
“Seek high ground now! Do not delay!”
Jack looked up. “Why do people need help?” he asked. “And why should they seek high ground?”
“Good questions,” said Annie. “Keep reading.” Jack read the next part: For those in the dark, Adrift and astray, A single bright star Can show them the way.
“So that must explain this,
” said Annie. She held up the necklace with the star.
“But it’s so small,” said Jack. “And it’s not really bright. How can it show the way to anything?”
“Go on, read the last part,” said Annie. Jack read the last lines of the rhyme: Learn from a hero
Who is humble and brave,
Who welcomes the hundreds Arriving on waves.
“What does that
mean?” asked Jack.
“I don’t know,” said Annie. “Let’s go to Texas and find out all the answers.” She hung the star necklace around her neck.
“Wait—do we have our Pennsylvania book to help us get back home?” said Jack. They looked around the tree house.
“There—” said Annie. She pointed to the Pennsylvania book, in a shadowy corner.
“Okay, all set,” said Jack. He placed his finger on the picture of Galveston, Texas.
“I wish we could go there
!” he said. The wind started to blow.
The tree house started to spin. It spun faster and faster.
Then everything was still. Absolutely still.
Copyright © 2018 by Mary Pope Osborne; illustrated by AG Ford. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.