Excerpt from 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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13 Little Blue Envelopes

by Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 317 pages
    Oct 2006, 318 pages

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Dear Ginger,

I have never been a great follower of rules. You know that. So it's going to seem a little odd that this letter is full of rules I've written and that I need you to follow.

"Rules to what?" you have to be asking yourself. You always did ask good questions.

Remember how we used to play the "today I live in" game when you were little and used to come visit me in New York? (I think I liked "I live in Russia" best. We always played that one in winter. We'd go to see the Russian art collection at the Met, stomp through the snow in Central Park, then go to that little Russian restaurant in the Village that had those really good pickles and that weird hairless poodle who sat in the window and barked at cabs.)

I'd like to play that game one more time—except now we're going to be a little more literal. Today's game is "I live in London." Notice that I have included $1,000 in cash in this envelope. This is for a passport, a one-way ticket from New York to London, and a backpack. (Keep a few bucks for a cab to the airport.)

Upon booking the ticket, packing the backpack, and hugging everyone good-bye, I want you to go to New York City. Specifically, I want you to go to 4th Noodle, the Chinese restaurant under my old apartment. Something is waiting there for you. Go to the airport right from there.

You will be gone for several weeks, and you will be traveling in foreign lands. These are the aforementioned rules that will guide your travels:

Rule #1: You may bring only what fits in your backpack. Don't try to fake it out with a purse or a carry-on.

Rule #2: You may not bring guidebooks, phrase books, or any kind of foreign language aid. And no journals.

Rule #3: You cannot bring extra money or credit/debit cards, traveler's checks, etc. I'll take care of all that.

Rule #4: No electronic crutches. This means no laptop, no cell phone, no music, and no camera. You can't call home or communicate with people in the U.S. by Internet or telephone. Postcards and letters are acceptable and encouraged.

That's all you need to know for now. See you at 4th Noodle.


Your Runaway Aunt

A Package Like a Dumpling

As a rule, Ginny Blackstone tried to go unnoticed—something that was more or less impossible with thirty pounds (she'd weighed it) of purple-and-green backpack hanging from her back. She didn't want to think about all the people she'd bumped into while she'd been carrying it. This thing was not made for wearing around New York City. Well, anywhere, really . . . but especially the East Village of New York City on a balmy June afternoon.

And a chunk of her hair was caught under the strap on her right shoulder, so her head was also being pulled down a little. That didn't help.

It had been over two years since Ginny had last been to the 4th Noodle Penthouse. (Or "that place above the grease factory," as Ginny's parents preferred to refer to it. It wasn't entirely unfair. 4th Noodle was pretty greasy. But it was the good kind of greasy, and they had the best dumplings in the world.)

Her mental map had faded a bit in the last two years, but 4th Noodle's name also contained its address. It was on 4th Street and Avenue A. The alphabet avenues were east of the numbers, deeper into the super-trendy East Village—where people smoked and wore latex and never shuffled down the street with bags the size of mailboxes strapped to their backs.

She could just see it now . . . the unassuming noodle shop next to Pavlova's Tarot (with the humming purple neon sign), just across the street from the pizza place with the giant mural of a rat on the side.

The foregoing is excerpted from 13 Little Bue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022. All Rights Reserved.

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