Emma Nelson readjusted the multitude of pillows cushioning her body from the hard, bumpy back of the truck’s cab. She and her twin brother, Charlie, had been sitting in the bed of the pickup for two hours already, having arrived at this prime sky-viewing spot just before sunset. Emma tracked her gaze along the direction of the dark shadow of Charlie’s arm as he pointed up into the night sky.
“I missed it again,” she replied, wrapping her plum-colored sleeping bag more tightly around her shoulders. Even on this early August evening, the night came with a bit of a chill. “What did it look like?”
“Like the sky was shifting,” said Charlie, lying back down on the air mattress beneath them. “Shimmery. Like looking at the sky through water after someone’s thrown a rock in the lake.”
“Missed it,” repeated Emma. She scooted to lie down again next to her brother, slipping into her sleeping bag.
“Maybe if you’d stop fidgeting,” said Charlie.
Emma didn’t reply. She couldn’t help it if she was fidgety. Her mind wasn’t on the sky.
The twins fell silent again, watching.
Two weeks earlier, their family had arrived back on Dogwinkle Island, a small island more or less near Seattle. They were there for a summer vacation “away from it all”—or at least, that’s how their mom and dad had put it. Their parents had dragged them out to the island over Christmas break to scout out this island as a possible vacation spot. The teens had not been terribly excited about the idea at first, but then Emma had met a friendly local boy and her opinion had changed. After that she’d been eager to get back, but on their return she’d learned the young man, Ben, was away. Emma and Charlie had been amusing themselves as best they could on this remote island. A week-long “Dogwinkle Days” festival and parade had provided entertainment for a while, but with the event over, the twins were bored again. Ed Brooks, the man from whom their family had rented a vacation cabin, had suggested they try this camping spot, a broad and wide clearing in the deeply forested northern part of the island.
“We saw UFOs there once,” Ed had told them.
“Or maybe it was northern lights,” his new wife, Ruby, had added, the tone of her voice rich with the rolling of eyes.
Whether UFOs or northern lights, any diversion was welcome. So far, they hadn’t been disappointed. At least Charlie (the younger by half an hour) hadn’t. Emma seemed to blink at all the wrong times, look left when the action was right, look down the second the sky lit up.
Emma was a homebody, in all senses of the word. She liked home and all its comforts. She did not like bugs, or sleeping on the ground, or the idea of being mauled by bears or stray wild boars or whatever nefarious indigenous monsters the island might be hiding. On hearing this, in his great kindness, Ed Brooks had loaned the teens his truck with its extended cab and extended bed, normally used for deliveries from his whiskey distillery. He’d asked if they wanted an enclosed van. Emma had wanted to say yes, but had been too embarrassed to admit it.
“Drive it carefully,” Ed had admonished, patting the white truck lovingly on the side. “You have a license, right?”
Charlie had puffed up. “We’ve been driving for a year, thanks.”
Ed had laughed, handed over the keys.
Charlie shifted in the bed of the truck so he was facing Emma, even though they could barely see each other in the dark. “Did you hear Ben is back?”
Emma was glad for the cover of night, as she felt the blood rising to her face. Anyone else might not have heard the mocking smile in his tone, but she did. “He is?” she said, trying to be nonchalant, but it was pointless. Charlie knew her as well as she knew herself, and vice versa.
“He is indeed,” Charlie said, his amusement clear. He loved his sister, but he loved teasing her, too. “Ed told Dad that Ben and his brother were off in Iceland for a few weeks. That’s where they’ve been. They just got back today.”
“Hm,” said Emma, but her mind whirred. Iceland! She had not heard that part. An adventurer, then! Her attention wandered from the sky again as she imagined herself and Ben cuddling together in an igloo. Did they have igloos in Iceland? She was going to have to do some research. Looking like an ignorant idiot in front of Ben was not an option. Maybe they’d get married in Iceland. Everyone could fly—
“There!” Charlie cried out. “Did you see that one?”
Emma looked up, too late, again. “Missed it,” she sighed.
Charlie laughed lightly. “More moon, less mooning, Em.” His voice softened. “We’ll go find him tomorrow so you can just accidentally run into him. But pay attention to the sky tonight. We need to catch some UFOs!”
“Tomorrow,” she said, “after I shower. This sleeping bag is terrible. I’m cold but I’m also sweating. I feel so gross.” She punched Charlie in the arm. “Dork.”
Charlie punched her back lightly. “Dork.”
And then they focused on the stars.
Just in time, as a blazing white-yellow light appeared out of nowhere, streaked brightly across half the sky directly overhead, and disappeared as fast as it had appeared.
The forest went silent.
“What was that?” said Emma, exhaling. She realized she’d been holding her breath.
“An airplane?” said Charlie, skeptically.
“Could be,” said Emma, though she didn’t really believe it either. “But where did it come from? And where did it go?”
Neither of them had an answer.
Once she’d settled into the night and let go of thoughts about her own honeymoon with Ben, Emma, too, had seen a lot of action in the sky. Her luck continued the next day: when she and Charlie drove down to Wishing Rock to return Ed’s truck, Emma was surprised and delighted, and perhaps a bit anxious, to find Ed sitting at a picnic table out front of the town building—visiting with Ben, the one heavenly body she most wanted to see. Wishing Rock was the small community at the southern tip of the island where Ed and Ben lived. In the unusual community, everyone in town lived in the same large, refurbished, L-shaped building. The town had been built a few decades earlier by Ed’s grandfather.
“Children!” called out Ed, waving at Emma and Charlie to come join them. “You brought back my truck in one piece, I hope?”
“Not a scratch!” said Charlie, shaking Ed’s hand as he returned the truck keys. “Better than you left it!”
Ed and Ben were sitting on opposite sides of the picnic table. Charlie slipped onto the bench next to Ed, leaving the seat next to Ben open for Emma. She was grateful for what she knew was conscious effort on her brother’s part, but felt a blush rise up from the back of her neck.
“Hi, Emma,” said Ben with a warm smile. “Hey, Charlie!” The young men reached across and fist-bumped each other.
Such ease of existence in the world, Emma thought. Being a teen boy seemed so much easier than being a teen girl. She smiled shyly back at the handsome young man. “Hey, Ben.” Smooth, she thought.
“Ben!” said Charlie. “Great to see you again!”
Ed reached across the table to give Emma’s hand a welcoming grasp. “Great camping spot, am I right? I gotta get up there again myself.” Ed looked at Ben. “I sent them up to that spot where your dad and I saw the UFOs that time.” He turned his attention back to Emma and Charlie. “One of these days someone is going to prove us right. I’m certain we saw something supernatural. No one believes us, but I feel it in my gut. So, what about you guys? Did you see anything unusual?”
Emma focused on Ed to calm herself. “Definitely,” she nodded. The strange activity from the night before, combined with nervous energy on seeing Ben, left her chattering. Normally she was quiet in groups, listening more than speaking, but she liked Ed, and she liked this island. She felt comfortable in this place in a way she never did at home or at school with her peers, whom she just couldn’t quite understand. She never fit in at home. But there was something about this place that made her feel like she belonged. “It’s like you said. The shimmery sky, mostly, is what we saw. A couple times—”
“—there was definitely something not normal,” Charlie, the more gregarious and outgoing of the two, finished her sentence eagerly. “Could have been planes, except they appeared and disappeared. Out of nowhere, into nowhere. Weird. Awesome.”
“Totally what we saw when we were out there,” said Ed. “Right, Ben?” He tipped his head toward the dark-haired young man. “Ben’s heard the stories a time or two.”
“Or fifty,” Ben said. “Yeah. Shimmers. Lights. That’s the way they tell it.” Ben’s smile at Emma indicated he wasn’t so sure his dad and Ed weren’t full of it.
His gaze was overpowering. Emma had to remind herself to breathe. “Have you ever seen it yourself, Ben?” she asked, quietly.
Charlie, both a pain in the behind to his sister and also her biggest fan, recognized her struggle. “Yeah, Ben, you should come along with us next time! Want to go? Maybe I’ll ask that girl I saw at the parade to come along.” He pulled out his phone and brought up his pictures. Much to his delight, he’d managed to get a picture of the attractive young stranger without being too obvious. “Do you know this girl? I don’t remember seeing her when we were in Wishing Rock in December.”
While Emma tried to will herself not to blush furiously at Charlie’s suggestion that Ben join them, Charlie passed the phone to Ben, who scrutinized the picture with enthusiasm. “No,” he said, raising his eyebrows, “I think I’d remember her.”
“She’s not local?” asked Charlie.
“Never seen her before,” said Ben. “But now I’m curious.”
Emma’s heart sank.
“Your mystery dream girl,” said Emma.
“She’s not from Wishing Rock, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her at Moon Bay, either,” said Ed, referring to the second of the island’s three small towns. “Maybe she’s from Balky Point?”
“That’s the town with the lighthouse?” asked Emma.
“Our camping spot was near there, though, wasn’t it, Ed?” asked Charlie.
“Yes and yes,” said Ed. “You weren’t too far from it last night.”
Ben leaned toward Emma. “Some people say the lighthouse is haunted,” he said, a sparkle in his eye.
“Haunted!” she said, her nervousness suddenly disappearing. This was what she liked about Ben: even in her extreme discomfort at being around him in all his fabulousness, he made her comfortable, made her forget how anxious she was around him. Like Charlie, he was easygoing, comfortable in his own skin. Confident. Like her, though, he seemed to listen more than talk. She envied that balance.
Ed nodded. “Haunted. Strange things happen there sometimes, I’ve heard. Never seen it myself. Balky Point is a pretty small community, only about fifty people there, I think. Maybe they’re just trying to drive business up there, who knows.”
“Can we get into the lighthouse?” Charlie continued, eager for a new place to explore. The idea of a haunted lighthouse was compelling.
“As far as I know, it’s usually unlocked,” said Ed. “Worth a look, anyway. It’s a nice lighthouse, as lighthouses go, I suppose.”
Emma and Charlie exchanged a look: tomorrow, to the lighthouse.
Unable to contain their anticipation, Emma and Charlie biked from the cabin out to the lighthouse right after breakfast the next morning. The day was warm, the sun high in the sky: a perfect day to be outside. When they got to the lighthouse, Charlie was distracted by a long set of stairs next to the building leading down to the beach, the gentle waves sparkling in the sunshine. The lighthouse would wait a few more minutes. He jumped off his bike and ran down the steps before Emma could even get off her bike. She followed him, carefully picking her way down the weathered steps.
Charlie skipped rocks while Emma alternated between staring up at the red-and-white-striped lighthouse and scanning the rocky beach for any special stones that might catch her eye. Ed had told them how Wishing Rock got its name, and she was on the lookout to find a nice one for herself.
“My grandfather was originally going to call our town Inaboks—a town in a box—but luckily some people brought him to his senses before that happened. Instead, he named the town after wishing rocks. They’re all over our beaches. They’re the rocks with a white stripe, a white ring around them. Those are wishing rocks. Make a wish on one, and it’ll come true,” Ed had promised with a grand smile.
Emma had laughed. She liked Ed. “Exactly how long does it take for the wish to come true?” she asked.
“You know, Emma,” Ed had said, “time is a funny funny thing. Still, it never hurts to wish.”
Emma agreed. She had a very important wish she needed to make, and it involved a handsome dark-haired eighteen-year-old whose name began with B. It felt like Ben had expressed more interest in a picture of a girl on a phone than in real-life, right-there Emma, and who could blame him? The girl was beautiful. Regardless of whether wishes on wishing rocks worked, Emma could use all the help she could get.
Sensing her mood, Charlie called out to his sister as he lobbed stones into the water. “If he doesn’t like you, he’s stupid, you know.”
“I know,” she said. She knew. Still.
A bright white stone about three feet from her left toe caught her eye and interrupted her self-pity. “What is that?” she wondered out loud. Her class had studied rocks in fifth grade geology. She remembered igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. She remembered obsidian, limestone, pumice, marble, slate, and shale. But this, she could not place. She didn’t remember any stones as bright and smooth and shining and white as this, glowing as though it had energy inside it, burning to get out.
“What is this?” she called out, louder, as she bent to pick up the rock. She held it up high for Charlie to see. “I can’t remember what kind of rock this is.”
Charlie tossed his remaining handful of rocks into the surf and went to his sister’s side. Emma passed the smooth stone to him.
“I don’t remember, either,” he said, just as Emma had expected. Charlie was smart, but in school he was more interested in making people laugh than in studying geology. He handed the rock back to his sister and hopped across the beach back to the waves.
Emma pulled a bottle of water out of her backpack and took a drink as she watched Charlie, so carefree. How did he end up so easygoing, when her mind was always racing? But even as she thought it, she knew it wasn’t true. He was a much deeper thinker than people gave him credit for.
The August sun dazzled off the water. Emma squinted and blinked, thinking she saw trails of light following Charlie as he walked. She put the water bottle back in her pack, along with the white rock, then rubbed her eyes. The trails were gone. “Must remember to drink more water,” she said to herself.
A spider ran across the rocks at Emma’s feet, and she shuddered. They’d been down at the beach for a good while already, and she was eager to see the lighthouse. Besides which: bugs. “Charlie!” she called out again. When he turned, she pointed at the cliffs. “Let’s go back up.”
When they’d run down the stairs earlier they’d noticed there were a lot of steps, but going up made that fact crystal clear. “… One hundred seventy-seven, one hundred seventy-eight … good stars … One. Hundred. Seventy-nine. One hundred and seventy-nine steps, my dear sister,” said Charlie, panting and puffing. “What this cliff needs is a good elevator. Make note of that, please, to tell the committee.”
Since they were little, Charlie and Emma had always told each other to “make note of that, please, to tell the committee.” How it started, who the committee was, and what they had ever thought the committee would do about it, neither could remember. But telling each other to make note of that, please, to tell the committee, was as familiar to them now as breathing, an automatic response, like saying “Gesundheit!” when the other sneezed.
“Noted,” said Emma, catching her breath behind him. “Looks empty,” she said as she approached the lighthouse. Could it really be haunted? She knocked on the entrance door. “Hello?” she said, pushing the door open. As Ed had predicted, it was unlocked. “Hello?” she repeated, stepping into the cool, dim room. “Anyone here?” She didn’t believe in ghosts, not really. But she did not particularly want to be proven wrong today.
Charlie followed her inside. “I think it’s empty,” he confirmed, “but it feels …”
“… not empty,” Emma finished. Despite there being no signs of life, there was an energy to the air, an electricity, like in the millisecond just before you get a static shock from clothes fresh out of the dryer in the depths of a cold winter. An air of possibility, of something about to happen. Emma shuddered.
The entrance room was small, maybe ten by fifteen feet, with an opening off to the side that led to a circular stairwell, which curved up to the top of the lighthouse. A few rustic and timeworn forest green benches lined the edges of the room. A small Plexiglas-topped table in the center of the room protected a display map of the land masses around Balky Point that could be seen from the lighthouse. Faded old pictures hung on the walls.
“I’m going up!” called out Charlie, the words trailing behind him as he raced up the circular stairway as though he hadn’t just climbed one hundred and seventy-nine steps from the beach.
Emma stayed below scanning the photos on the walls, mostly of groups of people smiling cheerily into the camera. The pictures were labeled: “Balky Point, 1900.” “Balky Point, 1911.” “Balky Point, 1918.”
“Must be the town residents?” Emma pondered out loud.
She casually glanced at the first few, but then a chill spread up her spine. She studied the photos more closely. Was that …? She looked at the next photo in line. And that …? But it can’t be!
“Charlie! Come here!” she yelled in the direction of the staircase.
Charlie either didn’t hear or was not interested in coming back just yet.
“Charlie!” Emma repeated, loudly. “Charlie, come down here!”
This time, Charlie clomped gracelessly but quickly down the stairs. “What? Em! Are you okay? What happened?”
Breathless, he raced to stand by her side.
She was staring at the wall.
Charlie looked at the wall.
“Neat wall,” he said, glancing at Emma out of the corner of his eye. “Great wall, Emma.”
She said nothing.
They stared at the wall.
Finally, Charlie whispered, “What are we looking at that was so important?”
Emma reached out to touch the glass on the picture in front of her. “This girl,” she said, pointing to a girl in the background of the picture, not part of the posed group, but separate, apart. She moved her finger. “And this man, beside her.”
“Huh,” said Charlie. “That girl looks a lot like—”
Emma, who had moved on to the next picture, interrupted him. “A lot like this girl,” she said, again pointing to a young woman who again was in the background of the picture, almost hiding, but not quite. “And this man.”
She moved to another picture. “And this girl, and this man.”
Charlie’s mouth gaped open. “But that’s …”
“Show me your phone,” she said.
Charlie, who already knew what Emma was thinking, had his phone out and was scrolling through his photos. He found the one he was looking for, held it up to the wall next to the girl in the picture, the girl in all the pictures. 1900. 1918. 1929. The same girl, the same age, in every picture. And in his phone.
The girl from the Dogwinkle Days Parade.
“That’s totally her,” he said. “But … how?”
Emma pursed her lips. How, indeed? She looked again from one picture to the next. Could it be a younger sister, daughter, different generations through the years? Of course it was possible—everything was possible—but her gut told her this was the same person. The man’s picture was blurrier in most of the shots, as though he’d been moving fast when the pictures were taken, making it harder to tell if he was the same person throughout. But Emma’s instinct told her it was.
Without looking at Charlie, she said, “We should ask Ben. Maybe he knows.”
Charlie laughed. “You just want an excuse to see Ben,” he said. “Can’t fool me, Emma-bo-bemma.”
“Well, so what if I do,” she huffed. “You just want to see this girl, and you don’t even know her.”
Charlie was not deterred. “Can’t fool me, Emma-bo-bemma, can’t fool Charlie-bo-barley!” he repeated in a sing-song.
“Can’t fool a fool,” Emma replied.
“Whatever. We should ask Ben, and you know I’m right, so let’s go.”
As the day was getting late, the twins biked back to the cabin to borrow their parents’ rental car. Balky Point was at the north end of the island, about as far away as one could get on the island from Wishing Rock.
“What do you want the car for?” asked their mother.
“Emma wants to see her boyfriend,” said Charlie.
“Charlie hopes he can find himself a girlfriend,” said Emma.
“Fantastic,” said their mother, knowing better than to get involved in such a discussion. “Good luck. Be back for dinner.” She handed over the keys, and the twins were out the back door before she could tell them to drive safely.
They wove their way south on the roads, not quite sure how to get there. But, “We’re on an island,” said Charlie, “How lost can we get?” And he was right; the main road took them straight to the one-building town where they’d spent their winter vacation.
“Home sweet Wishing Rock,” said Charlie with a dramatic flair.
As they pulled into the parking lot, they saw several people out at the barbecue area. Emma quickly scanned the group: no Ben. They knew these other people well enough from their visit over Christmas that it would seem rude to walk right past them. And, the fact was, any of them was just as likely to be able to answer their questions as Ben was. It would be weird to walk by, Emma knew, but finding out about the girl was Charlie’s mission. Seeing Ben was hers.
Just as Emma shut her car door, though, she saw Ben come out of the building carrying a platter of skewers of meat. With his left foot he held the front door open for his mother, who trailed behind him, a pitcher of lemonade in her left hand and a tray of vegetable skewers precariously balanced on her right. Ben’s mother saw the twins first and said something to Ben, who looked in their direction and smiled. He put his tray down on a nearby table and jogged over to meet Emma and Charlie.
“Hey! What brings you back again so soon?” he said, all teeth and smile and charm.
Emma found herself tongue-tied. What was it about this young man that left her speechless and blushing? Why couldn’t she have a normal conversation with him like a normal person?
Much to Emma’s relief, Charlie stepped in.
“Ben, my man! You still need to tell us more about your trip! We got talking about UFOs and didn’t hear about Iceland! How was it?”
“What a country,” said Ben. “It’s incredible. Ed’s mom lives there, so we stayed with her for a few days up in the northwest. We drove around the whole island. Fantastic. Unbelievable. Waterfalls everywhere. You gotta go one day.”
“Iceland, that’s so cool,” said Emma. “Ha! Cool—like, it’s cold, get it?” The words slipped out of her mouth even as her brain willed her to stop. Ix-nay on the umb-day okes-jay, she said to herself. When she was particularly annoyed with her own stupidity, she often chided herself in Pig Latin. Don’t be such an ork-day.
Charlie, bless his heart. When it was just the two of them, he could be interminable. But when anyone else was involved, he had her back.
“Cool—cold!” He snorted—literally snorted, relieving the awkward silence. “She’s clever,” he said in solidarity, nodding his agreement with himself.
Ben laughed too, whether in pity or appreciation Emma didn’t know, but it was better than a blank stare. “Actually, it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, but it did get cold in some places. The north gets cold especially. You’re practically to the Arctic Circle, up there. At night, the sun sets but there’s still some light all night long.”
Emma slipped off into a reverie, her mind racing back to her honeymoon fantasy, details now filling themselves in. Her, and Ben, and … penguins? Polar bears? … Never mind that. Her, and Ben, and …
“The Land of the Midnight Sun,” Ben said, looking at her as though he knew what she was thinking. “That’s what they call it.”
“The Land of the Midnight Sun.” She repeated it like a prayer, a solemn wedding prayer.
Protector or no, Charlie had his limits. He kicked his sister’s shin, just a bump, really, covering it up by making it look like he tripped while reaching for a glass of lemonade. But it was enough to get the message across: she needed to stop embarrassing herself, or, worse, him.
“So you came to talk more about Iceland?” said Ben. “Are you thinking about going?”
“No, not Iceland. We’re here on business, sir,” said Charlie. “Mystery is afoot. Adventure is at hand. Curiosity lies ahead.” He stopped to admire his extensive body-part-related comparisons. “Get it? A foot? At hand? A head?”
Ben groaned. “You two are definitely related.”
Emma frowned. Gorgeous or not, criticizing her Charlie was not fair game. She reached her arms around her brother in a protective side hug, though it was as much to give her comfort as anything. Emma was always uneasy in groups and many social situations. Charlie could charm a crowd and have them wrapped around his little finger in ten seconds flat. Emma, on the other hand, never knew what to say. As a result, Charlie often went out while Emma stayed home. She said it didn’t bother her, but deep down, it did.
“We have a very interesting question,” she said. “Have you been up to the lighthouse at Balky Point? That’s not the interesting question. That’s the question leading to the interesting question,” she rambled. “There’s another question after that. That’s the interesting one.”
Charlie squeezed her to make her stop.
Ben, of course, had been to Balky Point. “That’s where all the kids on the island go to make out, or get lost, or just think,” he said. “Why?”
“Have you ever looked at the pictures on the walls?” asked Charlie.
“That’s the interesting question,” said Emma, half to herself.
A red tinge rose up Ben’s neck. “We don’t—I don’t usually go inside when I go there,” he admitted. “A lot more sitting on the cliffs and … looking out at the sea. And stuff.”
“You should look around inside more,” Emma said, annoyed at the implication. The honeymoon vision floating in a bubble over her head disappeared, popped by a young woman as blonde as the girl in the pictures.
“What’s inside?” asked Ben.
Charlie explained. “Photos on the walls, going back a century.”
Ben shrugged: this was exciting, how, exactly?
“But,” Charlie continued, “the same girl is in all of them.”
Ben furrowed his eyebrows in exaggerated confusion. “The same girl? You mean in a few pictures?”
“A lot of pictures. Decades apart,” said Charlie. He held out his phone for Ben to see, the same picture he’d shown Ben the other night. “This girl.”
This time, Ben’s confusion was real. “There are old pictures of the girl from the parade in the lighthouse?”
“Interesting, isn’t it?” said Emma, feeling vindicated. “Same girl. She’s in more than half the pictures. Her, and another guy, an older guy. Not recent pictures. Old pictures. More than a century old.”
“How is that possible?” said Charlie, affecting a deep movie announcer voice. “Explain that, compadre. First UFOs, then this. Dogwinkle Island, you are a crazy place. In a world where dogs and cats marry and fish walk on land, where giraffes can swim, where north is east and time travels backward …” He trailed off. “Yeah, that’s all I got,” he said, his voice back to normal.
Ben shook his head. “I don’t have a clue who she is. Never saw her before you showed me that picture.”
Charlie was deflated, Emma disappointed. “But Obi-Ben-Kenobi, you were our only hope,” said Charlie. “How will we find her now?”
Ben thought a minute, his gaze wandering to his friends at the barbecue, skewers smoking on the grill, people laughing and chatting. His eyes lit up, and he snapped his fingers. “A potluck!” he said. “Potlucks bring out people. We’ll have an island-wide potluck. Mom’ll organize it, no problem. Her sister is coming into town tomorrow. I’m sure they were going to do something anyway. We’ll just invite everyone. Maybe we can bring that girl out of hiding.”
“What if they’re gone from the island already?” said Emma. “We don’t want to miss them.”
“You said they’ve been in pictures on the walls for decades,” said Ben. “Seems they’re here to stay.”
Emma had to admit Ben had a point. “But a potluck?” she said. “Doesn’t that take time to plan?”
“Are you kidding?” said Ben. “In Wishing Rock, we potluck like we breathe.”
# # #
Questions for Discussion
Do you believe in Unidentified Flying Objects—UFOs? What would you say or think if someone told you they’d seen a UFO? Would you like to see a UFO?
Emma likes to keep to herself, but Charlie is more outgoing. Where is your comfort zone? Do you like being by yourself or a few close friends, or do you like meeting lots of new people?
Emma ponders the difference between herself and Charlie, saying that he seems carefree whereas her mind is always racing. Then she corrects herself, recognizing that Charlie is a deeper thinker than people give him credit for. Do you think sometimes people seem different in real life than maybe they are inside their heads? What good qualities do you think other people see in you? What good qualities do you appreciate in other people?
Writing activity: If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go? Why would you want to go there? What would you do there? How did you first hear about it? Make up (and write) a story about your first day of your dream vacation!
Drawing activity: Look at some lighthouse clip art. When you find a lighthouse you like, try drawing it. Or, draw one from your imagination! What would the perfect lighthouse look like? Bonus drawing activity: draw your version of the Balky Point lighthouse!
Imagination activity: For me, one of the hardest things about writing is coming up with names! The name I gave to the small town where the lighthouse is located, Balky Point, came to me out of nowhere, and I love it. If you had to name a town, what would you name it? Tell someone a story about your town. Is it a big city or small town? How many people live there? How did it get its name? What kinds of work do people do there? Is it by a river, a lake, a mountain, a forest? Is it in the United States? Is it on Earth? Bonus points: Draw a map of your town!
Research activity: In thinking about Iceland, Emma wonders if the country has polar bears or penguins. Do you think it has polar bears? Do you think it has penguins? What other animals might you expect to find there? How many people do you think live in Iceland? How big do you think it is—think in terms of your own state or country; is it bigger or smaller or about the same? Research and find out! Bonus points: find out whether the north and south poles have polar bears and/or penguins!
Rock activity: Emma finds a stone on the beach she’s never seen before. She recalls some of the kinds of rocks that she learned about in class: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic; and within those categories, she remembered obsidian, limestone, pumice, marble, slate, and shale. Look up pictures of these rocks to see what they look like. Which is your favorite? Why? Next time you’re at the beach, see if you can identify the rocks you find!
Field trip: If you live near a lighthouse, go visit one! (Call or go online ahead of time to see whether it’s open to the public, and when there might be someone there to talk to you and answer your questions.) If you don’t live near any lighthouses, visit one virtually: go online and look at some lighthouses in a state or country you’re interested in, and pick a favorite. Whether you visit in person or online, find out: how old is it? From how far away can the light be seen on a clear day? Lighthouse power is measured in candelas. What is the candela output of your lighthouse? Is the lighthouse still active? Does someone still live and work there, or has it been automated? How tall is the lighthouse? How many steps is it to the top? Are people allowed to go up? Who cleans the light, and how often? What is the “optic”? What is the “lens”? What is the “lantern”? How far is it to the next nearest lighthouse? Some lighthouses let people stay overnight in the lighthouse or in the keeper’s house. Would you want to stay in one?
Vocabulary: Do you know the meaning of these words? If you already know them, write down their definitions. If you don’t know them, try to guess their definitions from the context clues in the sentences around them. Then check the dictionary to see if you were right! If there were other words in this chapter that you didn’t know, add them to this list!
She did not like bugs, or sleeping on the ground, or the idea of being mauled by bears or stray wild boars or whatever nefarious indigenous monsters the island might be hiding.
“He is?” she said, trying to be nonchalant, but it was pointless. Charlie knew her as well as she knew herself, and vice versa.
“—there was definitely something not normal,” Charlie, the more gregarious and outgoing of the two, finished her sentence eagerly.
Charlie passed the phone to Ben, who scrutinized the picture with enthusiasm. “No,” he said, raising his eyebrows, “I think I’d remember her.”
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