Just Grace Walks the Dog (paperback) Just Grace Walks the Dog (hardcover)

Just Grace Walks the Dog: Excerpt

There are two kinds of unfortunate things: those that are unfortunate because they have not happened, and those that are unfortunate because they already really did happen. I am pretty unlucky, because right now in my life I have both kinds of unfortunate things happening at the exact same time! My unfortunate thing that did not happen is that I am not allowed to have a dog, and my unfortunate thing that did happen is that at school everyone calls me Just Grace.

Some people say that when bad stuff happens in your life it gives you lots of character, which means that you end up being a super-interesting person when you grow up. I must be filling up with character pretty fast, because unfortunate stuff is always especially happening to me. Maybe that means I’ll be on TV or something when I get big.

When something unfortunate happens it is probably better if the unfortunate thing is a mistake instead of an on-purpose unfortunate thing. So I am at least lucky about that, because my biggest unfortunate thing was definitely 100 percent an accident.

My real name is Grace, but at school my name is Just Grace, which is an unusual, stupid, and completely dumb name. How something can change from nothing special to completely dumb is a long, unfortunate story, and one that I am very tired of explaining. But if I don’t explain it, then people think that it’s an on-purpose thing and that my parents were crazy to name me that, and that I have been living with the awful Just Grace name since the day I was born, and maybe even worse, that I actually like it. And then they will look at me like I am 100 percent Just Grace. So I have to tell them the story so they can know that only my outside is Just Grace and that on my insides I’m a solid Grace all the way through. It’s like being a girl M&M. I look like Just Grace/candy on the outside, but on the inside I’m all Grace/chocolate! It might not seem like it, but it makes a big difference!

There are four girls named Grace in my class. Miss Lois, my teacher, said that we all had to change our names or she would never be able to get the right Grace’s attention when she said “Grace.” Even when she was explaining this I could kind of tell she was right because all four of us looked up when she said Grace, and Peter Marchelli, who sits right next to me, didn’t even stop doodling on his desk. Miss Lois named Grace Wallace “Grace W.,” and Grace Francis “Grace F.,” and Grace Landowski “Gracie,” and then right before she got to me I said, “Well, if everyone else is having a new name, can I be called just Grace?” Since no one else was using the Grace name, it seemed like maybe I could have it. But Miss Lois didn’t understand me, and even when I tried to tell her about her mistake she still didn’t listen, or even care about it anymore. She closed her ears and wrote Just Grace in her rule book of class names and attendance.

And then suddenly it was school law forever, that my new dumb name was Just Grace, because once it is written in the book it can never be changed. The first person to make fun of me was Grace F., and that was no surprise because back then she was still the Big Meanie and I thought she hated me. But that was before she changed back into Grace F., who is really very funny and an excellent artist, which are two things you would not imagine could be true until you got to know her.

Grace F., Grace W., and I all had to do a project together, and that is how we all became friends. Grace L. was in another group so she got to be friends with Walker Marcie and Bethany, but I still think it made her sad that she was not friends with us, because our names were all Grace and she was a Grace too, but not one who was in our group. I can figure out stuff like that because of my teeny tiny superpower. My superpower helps me know when people are unhappy, even if they are pretending to be happy, and even if they are very good actors. It’s called empathy power. The hard thing about superpowers is that they don’t come with an instruction book so it’s not always easy to know exactly when and how to use them. I think other superpowers, like superstrength or x-ray eyes, would be a lot easier to work. I felt sorry for Grace L. when we other Graces were joking around and having so much fun calling each other Grace, Grace, and Grace. But I couldn’t figure out what to do to help her, so I pretended I didn’t notice she was sad. This is a very hard thing for a person with my superpower to do, and it can sometimes end up giving me a stomachache.