Below you will find the first chapter of my chapter book, Hanna, Homeschooler. I hope you enjoy it! Please feel free to leave comments below. You can purchase Hanna in e-book or paperback at Amazon.com and BN.com.
Hanna sat in the window seat looking out at the grey morning. It was seven-thirty, and usually she wouldn’t be dressed yet. But she dressed for this morning.
The two girls across the street, first Kira and then Cassie, came out of their houses. They were right on time.
Kira and Cassie were going to the first day of school. Hanna wasn’t. She sat in the window seat, thinking about that.
Hanna had only moved into this house during the summer. A few months before, her dad had lost his job. Mom said Gram needed help with the big house now that Gramp was gone. So they moved from their cabin in the Sierra mountains to Central California, where Mom had grown up.
It was flat, and hot, and there were so many houses. They had left behind Hanna’s friend, Henry, and all the trees that Hanna knew like people.
Hanna’s dad had been leaving home early to go to school. He was training to be a nurse, which Kira said was weird. Mom explained that being a nurse was a good job, but in the past, only women did it.
But Dad was doing it because he wanted to help people. Hanna didn’t think that was weird.
Kira and Cassie were different than any kids Hanna had known. Hanna wondered if they thought she was weird, too.
Kira and Cassie’s moms backed their cars into the street and were gone.
“What are you doing up so early, pumpkin?” Mom asked Hanna, coming up behind and kissing her head.
Hanna squirmed away.
“Uh-oh, the rare spiny pumpkin has come to our house again!” Mom said. “What do you see happening out there on those manicured lawns?”
“Kira and Cassie went to school,” Hanna said. “I wonder what they are going to do for the first day. What are we going to do today?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Mom said, stroking Hanna’s hair. “I’d like to do some baking.”
Hanna sighed. That didn’t sound like much of a plan.
Hanna’s mom was very busy with the baby, David, who was really not a baby anymore. He was born early and spent months inside an incubator getting big enough to come home, so Mom said he’d be like a baby a little longer than other kids.
David was almost two and he crawled almost as fast as Hanna could walk. Hanna’s mom said Gram’s house was a babyproofing nightmare. Gram fought with Mom about moving her knickknacks up out of the kids’ reach. Gram said her house was looking all disarranged.
When she thought Hanna wasn’t listening, Mom told Dad the house was like a dusty tschatschke shop. That word was pronounced “chach-kah.” That was Mom’s word for all Gram’s stuff. Gram didn’t like to get rid of anything.
Hanna liked Gram’s stuff—each thing had a story. And she liked the window seat where she could sit and see so much action.
Mom went off to dress David and Hanna wandered into Gram’s room.
Gram used to sleep in the big master bedroom upstairs where Mom and Dad were sleeping now, but she wasn’t so good with stairs now. Her room was back behind the living room and had wine-colored wallpaper with a flower pattern. Gram called it the “den,” which made Hanna think it used to be inhabited by lions. But Mom told her it used to be the TV room.
Gram had a TV in there, and it was always on, playing the weather.
“Hi Gram,” Hanna said from the doorway. Her parents had told her not to go in unless she was invited.
“Hannietta,” Gram said. She was sitting at her vanity so her reflection looked at Hanna. “Come in.”
Hanna sniffed as she entered the room. The whole house smelled like Gram, but it was strongest in this room. Dust, roses, and furniture polish.
Gram turned. She had a little object in her hand, which shook like she was cold. Hanna knew that Gram used to make beautiful things like the quilt on Hanna’s bed. Now her hands wouldn’t let her sew or knit anymore.
“You can help me with this, dear,” she said.
Hanna stood over her and looked down at the yellowed book on Gram’s vanity. It had pictures stuck on with little black corners, which was what Gram had in her hand. Hanna noticed that one corner was missing from around a photo of a smiling man in a uniform.
“It’s so hard for me to place these, now,” Gram said, letting Hanna take the corner from her hand. “Can you lick it and stick it on that corner?”
Hanna licked the back of the little corner and eased it onto the photo. She and Gram pressed down their fingers one on top of the other to stick it down.
“That’s Gramps,” she said to Hanna.
“Gramps?” Hanna was surprised. He was young and thin and had a full head of hair. The Gramps Hanna remembered was old and thin and quiet.
“Haven’t you seen my photos yet?” Gram answered. “Oh, I have so many. From when I was a child, when your grandfather and I married, when your mother was young.”
Gram pointed to the handsome young Gramps and a group shot of young men in uniform. “This was when Gramps went to war. Did you know he was a fighter pilot?”
Hanna shook her head.
“Oh, yes, he was a hero!” Gram exclaimed. “He went overseas and shot down enemy planes. Then his plane was shot down and we didn’t hear from him for two years.”
Gram’s face softened into that faraway look she got.
“His family and my family lived across the street from each other in Brooklyn, you know. In New York. We knew each other before we knew each other!”
Gram bubbled with laughter.
“We always knew each other’s business because from our living room you could see right into his. I remember the day the telegram came saying he was missing in action—the army didn’t know where he was, but they thought the Germans had probably caught him. That day I saw the telegraph boy go up the steps of his house and I ran across the street and was there before they’d even had a chance to read it. I can still hear his father reading that telegram, and his mother trying not to cry, and his little sister—that’s Aunt Molly—saying, What does it mean? What does it mean?”
Hanna considered this story.
“So Aunt Molly was a little girl?” she asked doubtfully. Aunt Molly had always seemed even older and stricter than Gram.
Gram bubbled with laughter again. “Why, yes, dear, she was nearly ten years younger than George. Haven’t you ever seen our family tree?”
“What’s a family tree?” Hanna asked.
“Let’s draw one!” a voice said cheerfully from the door. It was Mom, who’d been watching with David balanced on her hip. “Come on!”
Gram and Hanna followed Mom out of Gram’s bedroom.
Mom opened the cabinet in the dining room which she’d emptied of Gram’s stuff so she could keep homeschooling supplies. She drew out an enormous roll of white butcher paper, placed David on the floor, and rolled it out. She fixed the paper at each end of the long dining room table with tape and then ripped off the roll.
Meanwhile, Gram had figured out what Mom was up to. She’d taken out Hanna’s bucket of markers. She wrote Rosa Weinstein in red at the top of the butcher paper and circled it. Next to that, she wrote Schmuel Schimmelfarb in blue. Gram’s letters were shaky like the scary letters on Halloween posters.
“Can you help me, Hannietta?” Gram asked. “Under Rosa, write 1884, and under Schmuel, write 1878.”
Hanna was surprised when lunchtime came. She and Gram had munched on apples and muffins while the family tree spread and grew down the paper so they had to connect some of the people with snaking long lines.
When she looked at it, Hanna did think it looked like a tree, with long, long roots. Gram could remember all the names and almost all the birthdates without looking at her book, but after they were done she got out her book and showed Hanna pictures of all these people who were related to Hanna. There were so many! And they came from countries in the world that didn’t even exist anymore.
After lunch, Mom printed out a map of Europe and Hanna outlined and shaded in where Austria-Hungary was when Rosa and Schmuel had left and come to America by ship. The ship only had sails and no motor! Then Hanna went outside to swing and climb the tree, while Mom and Gram helped David learn how to use the baby slide.
“Are you really so set on keeping her out of school?” Hanna heard Gram ask. “Do you really think she’ll learn what she needs to?”
Sometimes Gram and Mom talked grown-up talk that made Hanna feel like she was just a name on the family tree.
Later, when she was sure they were home, Hanna got permission to go across the street to see Kira and Cassie. She found them talking at Cassie’s swingset, looking serious and proud.
“My teacher’s name is Mrs. Conger,” Cassie said. “We made our handprints with finger paint and traced our names under them to put on the wall.”
Cassie, Hanna knew, was in kindergarten. She didn’t know how to read yet, but she was big and strong and Hanna liked her funny laugh.
“My teacher’s name is Mr. Greg,” Kira said. “My mom was afraid I wouldn’t like a boy teacher, but he’s so nice. And in first grade, we don’t have to take naps like kinders.”
“What did you do in school today?” Kira asked Hanna.
Hanna felt their curious eyes on her as she felt her face get hot.
“Oh, nothing,” she said. “We just baked muffins.”