Switched – Jen Calonita

Who tells a kid to keep out of the library? As I tap my foot impatiently in the foyer of Fairy Tale Reform School’s new library services wing, that’s exactly what Headmistress Flora is telling me to do. At least, that’s how I interpret the glare she’s sending me from across the hall as I huff, sigh, and yawn while she’s talking to Happily Ever After Scrolls. Sparkle! Flash! The reporter covering the library dedication is waving his wand at Headmistress Flora and Princess Ella like he’s granting wishes, which I know he’s not. What is he doing anyway? And when is Headmistress Flora finally going to cut the blue satin ribbon and open the door? “Lovely smiles! Just lovely!” the reporter says as he jumps around like the Pied Piper, shaking a large wand that looks like a fallen tree trunk. Flora and her stepdaughter don’t seem to mind the fuss. They’re standing patiently (Grrr…) and smiling brightly in front of the library’s oversize stained glass doors. A library, I should add, that has been dangled in front of us in Miri the Magic Mirror’s daily announcements for months. All Miri does anymore is talk about the library. It has rare books that can unlock more than just stories! Books that have a mind of their own! Biographies that contain villains’ darkest secrets and potions! Mysterious works gathered from the far reaches of the kingdoms that will teach us things we’ve never even heard of! And the chance to gain knowledge about Enchantasia’s history and all its fairy-tale heroes, villains, and creatures! Truthfully, I’ve never been inside a library. Enchantasia Village had a tiny library annex, but the books were ancient and mostly nursery rhymes or trade books about hot cross buns or shoe leathers. Riveting stuff. I can’t imagine what the FTRS library will look like. Headmistress Flora and the ELF Construction Company have kept the project top secret. Ollie and I tried to get a sneak peek one night, but Wolfington somehow sensed us coming and sent us back to bed. The trumpets sound, and a court jester steps forward.

“‘And now a few words from Princess Ella about the new library,’” he reads from a scroll. Fairy be. How long is this ceremony going to take? My fairy pet, Wilson, the world’s cleverest mouse, sticks his tiny, pink nose out of my blue jumper pocket and squeaks in annoyance. (Technically, fairy pets aren’t allowed to leave the classroom, but I’ve never been a strict rule follower. Neither is Maxine, who houses her duck, Peaches, in our dorm room. The pair have become unlikely friends, like Maxine and me. Who knew an ogre and a human could be so tight?) “I know,” I tell Wilson. “I wish they’d quit with the speeches already. I am dying to get into the library too.” Wilson nods his little mouse head as if he understands me.

Ollie clears his throat, and I glare down at him. He’s super-short for a pirate. “Acting impatient is very unbecoming of an RLW,” he says, adjusting his bright-pink Royal Ladies-in-Waiting sash, the same one I’m begrudgingly wearing over my jumper. “Dedicating Fairy Tale Reform School’s first library is a very big deal.” He motions to the hundred or so classmates assembled in the hallway. The entire teaching staff is here too, along with the royal court, reporters, and some fancy folks from the village. “Headmistress Flora wants to make sure it is presented perfectly, since the royal court was gracious enough to give us such an extravagant present.” I roll my eyes. “You know Rapunzel can’t hear you being a fancy-schmancy, perfect RLW right now, right?” “An RLW is always polite.” Ollie puffs out his chest, making the writing on his sash easier to read.

(Ollie magically crossed out the word Ladies and wrote Lads next to the pirate skull and crossbones he drew. He’s RLW’s first male member.) His dark eyes are playful as he shakes his head. “Green does not look good on you, Gilly.” My jaw drops. “You think I’m jealous? I am not jealous!” “Yeah!” Maxine comes to my aid. “Gilly just wants to get in there to find books about Rumpelstiltskin.” Ollie and I slap our hands over Maxine’s drooling mouth. I wipe my hand off on my jumper. “Sorry.

” Maxine’s muddy-gray cheeks turn red. “I forgot no one is supposed to know that.” It’s true. We want to find that little monster. Not only did he trick Flora into giving up control of FTRS, but he also conned a group of kids in the village into joining his Stiltskin Squad by promising them they’d run the kingdom, and he convinced some FTRS students to go with him too. Including my younger sister Anna! I know the royal court is looking for him, but no one knows where he is or what he’s plotting. All I know is that it can’t be good, and I don’t want Anna with him when things go bad. Sparkle! Flash! The reporter is back at it, wanding the royal court this time. I can’t take it anymore. “What in the name of fairy is that thing anyway?” I grouse.

“It’s a Magic 2000,” says Jax. As a prince, he’s used to long and boring ceremonies. He also doesn’t mind ironing his school uniform (mine is wrinkly) and taming his curly, blond hair (my brown hair with the purple skunk stripe is wild today). His normally pale skin has bronzed, thanks to all the Pegasus flying we’ve been doing, patrolling the FTRS grounds for signs of Rump. So far, we’ve found none. “The royal court gave one to HEAS so they can start taking magical pictures. You should see them.” His violet eyes widen. “It’s like looking in a mirror! Pete and the Dwarf Police Squad have requested one too. Something about wanting magical pictures to use in Wanted scrolls.

” “No scroll is going to find the Rump,” says Jocelyn. The Evil Queen’s younger sister has arrived fashionably late. She’s the only one at our school who gets away with not wearing a uniform. (She wears a blue sash around her moon-and-stars skirt to support the school colors.) She pushes her long, black hair off her pale, almost-white neck. “I told you. When he’s ready to destroy the kingdom, he’ll pop up.” “That’s comforting,” says Kayla, her fairy wings fluttering in agitation. She has more reason than most to get antsy about Stiltskin, who turned her mother and sisters into trees because…well, actually, we don’t know why. Kayla’s mom says they have very little memory of why he cursed them.

Which is yet another roadblock we’ve faced in finding the little beast. Kayla’s amber eyes lock on the HEAS reporter. “That trickster convinced all those kids who went with him that the only way to stop evil is to work by his side!” Her nostrils flare. “They have no clue they’re unknowingly helping him try to take over Enchantasia.” “I know!” says a goblin in front of us, listening in to our not-so-quiet conversation. “My roommate, Simeon, was all, like, This guy listens to me! He wants to keep us safe, give me gold, and make me rich.” The goblin snorts. “Like Rumpelstiltskin would ever give up any of the gold he makes.” The goblin laughs. “Those kids who left with him were so dumb.

” “They are not dumb!” I snap, unable to control myself. “Maybe they’ve realized they made the wrong choice, but now they have no way to get back home. Did you ever think of that?” Jax puts a hand on my shoulder. The HEAS reporter has stopped wanding, and all my professors are looking at me: Professor Wolfington, Professor Harlow, Madame Cleo (visible in a mirror made of sea glass that Professor Blackbeard is holding), and Rapunzel, who runs our Royal Ladies-in-Waiting club. Rapunzel shakes her head at me ever so slightly. Fiddlesticks. So much for flying under the radar this morning. “Sorry!” I shout to the reporter and the others. “Please proceed with the wand thingy. I’ll be quiet and not point out that we’re running fifteen minutes behind schedule and some of us have to be in Wanding: How to Block Curses in an hour.

” Headmistress Flora glances at the large clock in the foyer. “Ms. Cobbler makes a valid point. Our new professors will be arriving any moment. We should get the ribbon cutting underway.” There is a murmur of excitement over the mention of new teachers. Our group has been making bets on what villain Flora turned who is coming to work here. Or maybe it’s a princess. We do tend to employ both these days. Could it be the Little Mermaid, Madame Cleo’s bestie? Or the Ice Queen? Some days, this large, magical castle does get quite warm.

Maybe she could cool things down. Or Hua Mulan? She’s supposed to be one of the greatest warriors ever. We could use her. Or Little Red Riding Hood! I think of the bow and arrow she gave me on our quest to find the golden goose, and I grin to myself. Maybe Red is the one who is going to teach our From Mischief-Maker to Model Citizen classes! It makes perfect sense! I smile at Professor Wolfington. I bet he convinced Red to leave the Hollow Woods and teach at Fairy Tale Reform School. “Without further ado,” says Princess Ella in a breathy voice, “the royal court would like to open the doors to Fairy Tale Reform School’s new library.” Everyone starts to cheer as Ella cuts the ribbon with a large pair of scissors. “It is our hope that the knowledge and dreams you find in the books behind these doors will help you on your journey to not only find yourself, but also to help defend Enchantasia.” Everyone rushes to the doors.

I’m not sure most people hear Princess Ella’s speech, but it is actually kind of inspiring. “Ooh!” says the crowd, stopping dead in their tracks as the doors magically open. Maxine’s mouth begins to drool again. “It’s like the library goes on forever!” I squint into the light. Somehow, it feels like the library is actually outdoors on a grassy field. I blink, and the background changes to a snowy mountaintop. I blink again, and I’m standing on a riverbank. Gingerbread, how does the room’s view keep changing? And why can’t I see a ceiling? Or walls? The floors, however, sparkle like glass, and it’s as if the bookcases go on and on forever. Somewhere in this jungle of books is the one that will give me answers. I just know it.

My friends and I join the slow procession into the library as Miri shouts various instructions from mirrors hanging from stands around the room. “No touching any books until the Magical Librarian arrives! There are rules about these books that must be followed!” Jocelyn snickers. “Whoever heard of a book having rules? It’s not a person.” “No food, drinks, spelling, or wands allowed in the library,” Miri adds. “Books are meant to be read, not eaten by your fairy pets! The top floors of the library are for older students only and require permission from the Magical Librarian. First floor only today! No running or flying in the library! And please, keep your voices down!” she yells. Obviously, Miri is exempt from the rules. “Did you hear that?” I whisper to Jax. “Top floors require permission. That must be where the best books on villains are.

Let’s go!” Headmistress Flora steps into my path before I reach the first winding staircase. “Ms. Cobbler, where do you think you’re going? As Miri explained, we are staying on the first floor today.” It’s almost as if she knows what I’m after. “But—” I start to protest. “Gillian, I told you before,” Flora says wearily. “There are days for fighting and days for celebrating, and today is a celebration. Open your eyes and marvel at this place!” I sigh heavily and let my eyes drift upward. The room is so majestic that I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a royal court palace. There are water fountains with cherub statues that talk and glittering signs that flash to show what books are on which floor.

There must be thousands of books in here, shelved on four different floors. The categories fly by: Potions, Spells, Magic Tricks, Hexes, Surviving the High Seas, How to Talk to Animals, and From Wicked to Winning Self-Help Books. I don’t see a villain category or the History of Enchantasia section, but they have to be here. A large atrium beckons us forward. It looks so enchanting with all the stained glass windows that seem to reach the school’s highest turret. Magic carpets float in the air, waiting to take readers up to out-of-reach shelves, while kids run to cushy, oversize pillows perfect for curling up on for hours of reading, studying, or napping. Swish! A magic carpet races over my head, carrying books to different shelves. I watch several more zoom past, swooping by a fairy librarian station where workers are reading magical scrolls and wanding books out of thin air. “Isn’t that your sister?” I ask Kayla, pointing out a fairy with shimmery, blue wings on the second floor. The fairy stacks books on a rug that zooms over the atrium to a shelf on another floor.

“Yes, that’s Brooke Lynn. My mother and sisters are working in the library,” Kayla says proudly. Kayla seems so much happier now that she has her family back. Her fairy wings have taken on a healthy, glittery appearance, and she’s always singing in the hallways. (Thankfully, she has a decent voice.) “Professor Harlow felt we should all live on school property till we find out what Rumpelstiltskin is up to and what he wanted with my family in the first place.” “They still don’t remember anything?” I ask. Kayla frowns. “No, but they hope having access to the library will help. My mother is a big reader, and she’s hoping they’ll come across a book that will jog their memories.

Mother says our new librarian is the best in all the lands. Not that they’d tell me who she is.” “Greetings, Fairy Tale Reform School students!” a glowing, white mirror says to a group of kids standing in front of it. “Who can tell the difference between a book you can trust and a book you can’t?” An ogre laughs. “Why wouldn’t you trust a book?” “Well,” says the mirror, “it depends who wrote it. Would you trust advice from a villain? What if the villain wrote the book under another name, and you had no idea who the author really was? That’s what the librarians are here for. To guide you.” “I don’t care what that mirror says. There has to be a section on villains,” I tell the others quietly so Flora can’t hear me. “We are a school run by former villains, so they must have books about them and where their stories started, don’t you think?” Maxine frowns.

“I see a lot of picture books and stories my mother used to tell me in the forest. All these books look safe. Nothing villainous.” They can’t all be Mother Goose stories! I scan the spines on the shelf till I find something that looks dark and mysterious. Aha! The Siren Call of the Deep Sea. That sounds villainous! Rumpelstiltskin could be mentioned in there. “Look at this one.” I glance at the cover. It has gold lettering and a weathered spine that smells a bit like sea air. How can that be? “It has a skull and crossbones on it.

Definitely evil!” “Thief, you’re going to get us in trouble,” Jax says warily. “We were told not to touch the books till the librarian gets here.” “Don’t be such a do-gooder, Prince.” Jocelyn takes the book from my hands and feels the raised detail on the cover. “What’s the harm in touching a book? I love how wicked this book looks.” Her eyes flash darkly. “It’s like you can feel the battle between good and evil seeping from the pages.” She hugs the book to her chest, and we all look at Jocelyn strangely. “What? Is it wrong to love a good power struggle?” Ollie quickly takes the book from her. “No, but I think this is a pirate tale.

” “Because there is a skull on it?” Jocelyn frowns. “Skulls also stand for poison.” “Or pirates,” Ollie counters. He turns the book over in his hands, which are covered with pirate skull and crossbones tattoos he’s conjured up. I can’t stand waiting any longer. “Let’s take a sneak peek at the first chapter to be sure.” “I think we should wait,” Jax says, but I reach over Ollie and crack the book’s spine before anyone can stop me. Immediately, I hear a whooshing sound like wind. “Uh-oh,” Ollie says as Flora and Rapunzel come running from opposite directions. “Don’t open that book any further!” Flora cries, her hands outstretched to snatch it.

Too late. The book jumps from Ollie’s hands and spins in the air. The pages blur before the motion stops on an open page. All is quiet. Ollie sighs. “Oh good. For a minute, I thought—” His voice is cut off as a pirate leaps out of the pages and points his sword at Maxine’s throat.

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