Back-to-School with the Judy Blume Project: Jim Denney's 'Martian Girl' Part 2

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Happy Back-to-School with the #JudyBlumeProject!  This started with a special surprise, even to my partner, Dana @thekitchwitch, of a four-part series that began Monday with installment one.  Today's post is installment two, and I will post installments three and four next week, again on Monday and Thursday.

I am thrilled to present this amazing guest post in four parts by author, Jim Denney, of the Timebenders series.  I became friends with Jim on Twitter, my son has read (LOVED!) the first book in his series, Battle Before Time, and Jim thinks the world of Judy Blume, and our little #JudyBlumeProject (GAH!).  As a MG author himself, he thinks so much of Judy Blume, that among his many projects, he took time out to write and share this riveting story, Martian Girl, with US!  GRATEFUL!

I'm certain you'll enjoy this ode to seemingly everyone's favorite, Judy's Margaret.  Check out our Facebook page, and you'll see that nearly every post to date includes AYTGIMM among the most meaningful and life-affirming of Judy Blume's prolific works for generations of tween girls during the angst-ridden onset of puberty.  And rightly so.  I hope this shows that any manner of respect you'd like to pay to Judy will be considered, and I hope this will inspire more men (young or young at heart) to contribute their thoughts and memories to our wonderful little project that one day hopes to be published as an anthology to honor our Judy.  

Without further ado, I'm thrilled to present...




        Hi, God, it's me, Zandria, again.

        I'm sorry I had to stop recording right at the scariest part. I just couldn't keep talking. I hid my face in my arms in case everything exploded.

        I know that sounds dumb. But I was so scared. I thought that if I covered my eyes, maybe the explosion wouldn't hurt so bad.

        I hope you didn't think I died when I stopped recording. I really thought the ship was going to rattle apart. The noise and shaking got worse and worse for a few minutes--

        Then it got quiet. Everybody stopped screaming, even me.

        Dad says we're in space now, about three hundred kilometers above the Earth. In ten hours, we'll dock with theAres, the big ship that runs between Earth and Mars. Twenty other transport ships from Earth will dock with the Aresaround the same time, ships from all over the world. The transports will attach themselves to the Ares, making one big mega-ship that will take more than four thousand settlers to Mars.

        So we're really going to Mars.

        Part of me feels like crying, but mostly, I'm just sleepy. Being shaken around like a rat in a dog's mouth is really tiring.  

        Oh, and Mom just woke up. She wanted to know how soon till we launch. Dad and I laughed and laughed.

        Talk to you later, God. So tired. Gonna nap now . . .


        Hello again, God. Well, that was some nap! I slept for ten hours.

        A loud clanking noise woke me up. Dad said it was the sound of our transport docking with the Ares. About half the transports from Earth have docked already.

        If only there were windows so I could have one last look at Earth!

        I wish I had walked around the neighborhood before we left, just taking everything in, what San Pedro looked like and sounded like and smelled like, so I could remember my home town years from now. I'm afraid that when I'm on Mars, living in those tunnels and domes, I'll forget the life I had back on Earth.

        The flight attendant said we're "in freefall" now. That means we're weightless and we'd float around like balloons if we weren't strapped in. They won't let any of us passengers out of our seats. They don't want us floating around and crashing into each other.  

        Oh, I did get out of my seat once, but just to go to the bathroom. A flight attendant had to go with me to make sure I didn't bump into anybody. The bathroom is a tiny little closet that smells awful, like chemicals and poo. The toilet on a spaceship is really complicated to use and the instructions are hard to understand.

        There are fifteen steps to using the toilet if you're a boy, sixteen if you're a girl (not fair!). There's one really disgusting thing you have to do if you're going number two—I don't even want to talk about that.

        We have to use these tiny, awful bathrooms all the way to Mars—more than two hundred days!

        I can't let myself think about it.


        It's me again, God—Zandria the reluctant space-girl.

        Last time, I told you we were weightless. Well, not anymore.

        After all the transports had docked, they started spinning the Ares, like rolling a log on the river. The spinning motion makes artificial gravity.

        I wish we could just float around weightless in our spaceship, bouncing around like ping-pong balls. That would be so much fun. But Dad told me the artificial gravity is for my own good. It keeps my bones, muscles, and heart from getting weak.

        I've been wondering how spinning the spaceship makes artificial gravity, and I think I figured out how it works. I remember one time in the backyard, I filled a plastic bucket half-full of water and I swung it around and around. Even when the bucket was upside-down, the water didn't fall out of the bucket. Swinging the bucket in a circle presses the water against the bottom of the bucket so it can't spill out.

        I think spinning the spaceship works the same way. When the spaceship spins, the motion pushes all the people toward the outer hull, like water pushing against the bottom of the bucket. Instead of floating around weightless, we have artificial gravity to keep our bodies from getting weak and mushy.

        The artificial gravity on the Ares isn't as strong as Earth's gravity. Dad says it's about one-third of Earth's gravity—the same as we'll have on Mars. So I feel lighter than I did on Earth, but I can't float around.

        That's too bad. I was hoping I could float all the way to Mars.

        Oh, wait, there's an announcement—

        The Ares is about to leave Earth orbit and head out for Mars. We're supposed to turn off our electronic devices. I guess that includes my Amulet.

        I'll talk to you later, God.


        Hello, God. Zandria here.

        How long has it been since I talked to you? We don't have days and nights on this spaceship, just "waking periods" and "sleeping periods," so I forget how much time has passed. Last time I talked to you, we were leaving orbit around the Earth and setting off for Mars.

        They put us in a tiny little cabin that's barely big enough for one person, let alone three. My parents and I can hardly turn around without bumping knees and elbows. And as for privacy—forget it!

        I have to take these little white pills every day to protect myself against cosmic rays. I'm not sure what cosmic rays are, but I think they're some kind of invisible death rays. They're all over outer space, and they can go right through spaceship walls, through our organs and bones, and they can make us sick. These white pills protect my body cells from the invisible death rays.

        When I was taking my pill this morning, I said, "At least we won't have to take these when we get to Mars."

        Dad said, "I'm afraid we will. Mars doesn't have a thick atmosphere and a magnetic field to protect us from cosmic rays like Earth does. We'll have to take these pills for the rest of our lives."

        That's just great! What else haven't they told me? The more I find out about Mars, the less I like it.

        I try to spend as little time as possible in our tiny cabin. Sometimes I wander around the corridors and explore, but most of the doors are marked "Unauthorized Personnel Keep Out." I've never felt more "unauthorized" in my life.

        Talking about this stuff is making me sad. I don't want to talk anymore, God. Maybe later.


        It's me again, God. Zandria.

        I just found out they have a library on the Ares. Can you believe it? There must be about a zillion books in the computer system. You just order a book from the menu, then lie down on a reading couch and the book appears in the visual display above you. The computer scans your eyes and knows exactly when to turn the page. It's so much easier than reading books on my Amulet.

        The library has three reading couches, but no one else has ever come to the library while I've been here. I guess people don't read very much anymore.

        I found a new author I really like. Her name is Judy Blume. Well, she's not new, exactly. She wrote most of her books way back in the twentieth century......


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