Anna finds herself torn between two friends in the second book of a charming illustrated chapter book series about the joys and challenges of elementary school friendships.
Sadie and Isabel are Anna’s two best friends, and Anna can’t wait to go with them on the class field trip to the zoo—but she keeps getting caught in the middle. Isabel wants Anna to see the tortoise with her, but Sadie wants to see the spiny anteater. Isabel wants to do their group report on giant pandas, while Sadie wants them to write about zebras. With a little help from her beloved dog, Banana, as well as some wise advice from her family, can Anna figure out what it means to be a best friend to two very different people—and still be a friend to herself?
Anna, Banana, and the Monkey in the Middle Chapter One Rise and Shine
I popped up like a jackrabbit-in-the-box, feeling wide-awake and eager as a beaver. I had animals on the brain.
“Banana!” I said, leaning over the side of my bed. “We’re going to the zoo!”
Banana looked up at me with her big doggy eyes and thumped her tail against the pillow in her basket where she sleeps. I reached down to tug her soft ears. She understood, of course, that by “we” I didn’t mean her and me—dogs aren’t allowed on school field trips. I meant me and my best friends, Sadie and Isabel, plus the rest of our class and the other two third-grade classes. It was going to be a super fun day.
“I wish I could sneak you there in my backpack,” I said. “Then you could meet the prairie dogs!”
My teacher, Ms. Burland, had shown us pictures of prairie dogs and some of the other animals we’d be seeing at the zoo. We’d learned what the animals eat and how they play and other cool things about them. I liked hearing about the animals’ habitats, like where they sleep and what parts of the world they’re from. Ms. Burland says the animals that live in a place are part of what makes that region unique. (“Unique” had been our word of the day. It means special and different and one of a kind.) That made a lot of sense to me. Banana definitely makes my house unique, and my room is extra special because she sleeps there.
“But actually,” I told her as I slid out of bed, “prairie dogs are in the squirrel family, not the dog family. So if I took you to the zoo, you’d probably want to chase them.”
Banana wiggled in agreement. She loves chasing squirrels.
“They’re called prairie dogs because they bark like dogs,” I said. “And because they live in the prairie. Except for the ones that live at the zoo.”
Banana yawned and stretched her front legs. I guess she’d heard enough facts about prairie dogs.
I made my bed and pulled on my outfit of black leggings, a pink-and-white striped shirt, pink sneakers, and black-and-white polka-dot socks. While I got dressed, I sang a silly song that Isabel had made up. “We’re going to the zoo! A-doob-a-doob-a-doo! We’re going to the zoo! You and me and you!” Yesterday at recess, Isabel and I had linked arms and skipped around the playground, belting out the song at the top of our lungs. We’d stopped short when I’d noticed Sadie watching us with her arms crossed and her eyebrows worried. We hadn’t meant to leave Sadie out. It had just happened. Luckily, Isabel had grabbed on to Sadie and soon we were all three skipping and singing, and Sadie looked happy again. But it had been a close call.
Sadie and I have been friends forever, but we only just met Isabel this year. It’s twice as much fun having two best friends, and mostly, we all get along great. But in some ways Sadie and Isabel are still getting used to each other, I think. I was glad we would have the whole day at the zoo to have fun as a threesome. Banana and I were certain that by the end of the field trip, Sadie and Isabel would be calling each other “best friend” too.
I grabbed my backpack off the floor and a note fell out of the side pocket. I unfolded the paper and saw it was a drawing Isabel had made of two cute pandas chewing on bamboo. She’d written Anna under one of the pandas and Isabel under the other. The pandas even kind of looked like us. Isabel is an amazing artist.
I smiled at the drawing and taped it up on my mirror, under a photo strip of Sadie and me goofing around in a photo booth. “There,” I said to Banana. “How does that look?”
Instead of answering, Banana pounced on her favorite plastic bunny toy and shook it back and forth, growling as it squeaked. I laughed. Banana is just a little wiener dog but I think in her head she’s as huge and ferocious as a tiger. A tiger that likes to cuddle in my lap, and sometimes spins in circles, chasing her own tail.
“Come on, crazy beast,” I said. “Time for breakfast.”
I put on a headband and my gold pony necklace with the sparkly blue eye, and galloped out the door.
Anica Mrose Rissi grew up on an island off the coast of Maine, where she read a lot of books and loved a lot of pets. She now tells and collects stories, makes up songs on her violin, and eats lots of cheese with her friends in Princeton, New Jersey, where she lives with her dog, Arugula. Find out more at AnicaRissi.com and follow @AnicaRissi on Twitter.
Meg Park is a character designer and illustrator for clients including Disney, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures. Meg lives in Scotland with her two cats Louie and Boo. She loves drawing, painting, and telling stories through her artwork.