Authors: Hazel Hutchins
TJ and the Rockets
Copyright Â© 2004 Hazel Hutchins
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be
invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Hutchins, H. J. (Hazel J.)
TJ and the rockets / Hazel Hutchins.
“Orca young readers”.
PS8565.U826T33 2004Â Â Â jC813'.54Â Â Â C2004-901634-2
Library of Congress Control Number:
: Can TJ overcome his fear of failure and build a rocket for the
upcoming science fair?
Free teachers' guide available.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its
publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of
Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP),
the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Cover design by Lynn O'Rourke
Cover & interior illustrations by Kyrsten Brooker
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who kept life exciting for everyone
with inventions and rocket launches
while he was growing up
My name is TJ Barnes and sometimes I should quit while I'm ahead.
Early Thursday morning, Gran turned up at our door with a long, skinny box. Inside were cardboard rolls, balsa wood and knotted string.
“It's a kit I picked up for you at a garage sale, TJ,” she said. “Smell this.”
She placed a small gray tube in my hand. The smell was sharp and smoky all at once.
“Gunpowder,” said Gran.
I couldn't believe what Gran was saying.
“You want me to build a bomb?” I asked.
Gran shook her head “no” and looked totally pleased at the same time.
“Model rocketsâthe kind that really fly,” said Gran. “That's a used rocket engine. The smell really does remind me of gunpowder.”
I didn't know what to say. I didn't know anything about model rockets.
“Do you remember telling me that the worst thing about school this year was going to be the science fair?” asked Gran. “I thought this might help.”
The science fairâjust the mention of it was enough to ruin my day. I didn't mind doing projects in class, but the idea of a science fair, when everyone in the whole school was going to walk by and say, “Look what a dumb thing TJ's come up with,” made me feel sick to my stomach. It especially made me feel sick when the person who taught science to the other class was Mr. Wilson.
Mr. Wilson is Mr. Super Science himself. He's built an entire laboratory in the back of his classroom. He has all kinds of special equipmentâbeakers, batteries,
microscopes, chemicals and books about everything under the sun. If you believe the rumors, he practically does the projects
the kidsânot that anyone ever admits it. Would you admit it if you had the most amazing project ever?
And there's another problem. Ever since I was little, things go wrong, wrong, wrong for me whenever Mr. Wilson is around.
In grade one, on the first really cold day, it was Mr. Wilson who found me with my tongue stuck to the bike rack.
In grade two it was Mr. Wilson who figured out that I was walking funny because I'd Crazy-Glued my fingers to my kneecap.
In grade three it was Mr. Wilson who was standing by the garbage pail in the hall the time I had to be sick and missed the bucket.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. I guess I must have looked sick again because Gran tried to reassure me, even if she didn't know what I was feeling sick about.
“You can do it all yourself, TJ,” she said. “I only have to be there when you launch. There are instructions and safety rules right in the box.”
Suddenly there was a thumping noise overhead. We looked up. Neither of us had X-ray vision, but we could guess what was going on.
“Say hi to the wild teenagers for me,” Gran said with a grin. “I've got to run.”
The next moment Gran was out the door and I was on my way upstairs.
The teenagers were my kittens, Alaska and T-Rex. I'd taken care of Gran's four cats last year and now I had two of my own. They were nine months old and full of the kind of energy that sometimes got them into trouble; that's why Gran called them the wild teenagers.
As I reached the top of the stairs the thumping noise stopped and something small and metal came flyingâ
out the bathroom door.
I looked into the bathroom. T-Rex was sitting innocently in the tub. He's gray with little white paddy paws and great big
kitten eyes. Those big eyes were looking up and they were very bright and shiny. Hunting eyes.
A hairpin fell into the tub. Instantly, T-Rex attacked it. When T-Rex cuffs something around the bathtub, he puts his whole body into it.
Thump, thump, thump, thumpâplop
. This time he sent it shooting out of the tub and into the toilet. Yuck! I didn't want to have to fish hairpins out of the toilet!
But T-Rex was sitting innocently, looking up again. I looked up too. There was Alaska, all black and orange and white, sitting on top of the medicine cabinet. She had squeezed in between the shampoo and the hair gel. She was pushing hairpins into the bathtub below.
This one landed on the floor instead of in the tub. T-Rex ignored it.
“Be careful,” I told Alaska.
There wasn't much room for her between the hair gel and shampoo. She
had to keep reaching further and further behind the containers to find the pins. The hair gel gave a little wobble.
“Look out,” I told her.
But even I couldn't see what was coming next.
When my best friend, Seymour, arrived ten minutes later, I was holding a towel-wrapped kitten under each arm.
“Did you know a single pair of cats can cover an entire bathroom with hair gel?” I asked. “First they push it off a high shelf so that it explodes and then they dance in it.”
“Another amazing cat fact,” said Seymour.
We'd done a report on cats last year. We were always looking for new facts.
“Does the dance include dressing up like Egyptian mummy-cats?” asked Seymour.
“They looked like a couple of punk rockers a few minutes ago,” I said. “I had to get them washed before they started licking themselves. Here, take this.”
I handed T-Rex to Seymour for drying. I dried Alaska. We set them on the floor.
Alaska shook one back leg and then the other as if she were doing some sort of disco dance. T-Rex walked around like a high-stepping wet rat. Seymour and I couldn't help it. We laughed so hard our sides hurt. The kittens looked disgusted and went into the living room.
I grabbed my schoolbooks from the table. Seymour pointed to the box that Gran had left.
“What's that?” he asked.
“Gran seems to think it's my science project,” I said.
“Looks like a mess to me,” said Seymour as we headed out the door. “Did I tell you? I'm not going to do a regular project.”
“Everyone has to do a science fair project,” I said.
“I'm not,” said Seymour. “I'm doing something better.”
And that was all I could get out of him because we were late and had to run for it.
It's like I always sayâour teacher, Ms. Kovalski is a witch. She