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December 21, 2016 at 11:00 AM EST

A girl who simply wants to learn. A boy who wants nothing more than to play ball. Another is dealing with possibly his first crush.

These are just some of the main characters featured in Flying Lessons & Other Stories, a short story anthology published in collaboration with We Need Diverse Books (WNDB). As a result, the collection features stories from a range of popular and award-winning authors including Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming), Tim Federle (The Great American Whatever), Grace Lin (When the Sea Turned Silver), and Soman Chainani (School of Good and Evil).

Matt de la Pena (Last Stop on Market Street), Kwame Alexander (Booked), Tim Tingle (How I Became a Ghost), Meg Medina (Burn Baby Burn), and Walter Dean Meyers (Monster) are also involved.

With the collection coming out Jan. 3, EW is pleased to present an exclusive excerpt featuring author and co-founder of WNDB Ellen Oh’s (Prophecy) foreword in the anthology.

Flying Lessons & Other Stories is currently available for preorder, and will be released Jan. 3. Read on for Oh’s foreword.

Penguin Random House


Foreword

Dear Reader,

When I was little, I found an abandoned kitten on the street. It was mangy, flea-ridden, and mean, but so cute. I loved it. We lived in an apartment building that had a no pets allowed sign in the lobby. But I didn’t care. I’d always wanted a pet. I mean, I had a baby sister, but she wasn’t as fun as a kitten. I was determined to take it home, even though I knew my parents would be mad because it was against the rules. So I scooped George up—yeah, I had al- ready decided to name him George—tucked him close to my chest, and headed for home.

By the time I walked the five blocks to my building, I was a wreck. I looked like a monster. Not only did George man- age to scratch up my entire face and chest, but he also taught me that I was terribly allergic to cats. My eyes swelled into leaky water balloons, and I was covered in huge welts that looked like radioactive leeches had attached themselves all over my body. My parents totally freaked out.

When my dad took George away from me, I whisper- yelled through my swollen throat, “That’s my cat!” As I reached for my pet, he hissed at me and scratched me one last time in good-bye.

Turns out George wasn’t alone. All cats hate me. Which is why I now own a dog. But I’ll never forget George. He’s the story my parents loved to bring up at every family re- union. About how I saved a poor orphaned kitten that tried to kill me.

But we all have stories like that, right? They might be milk-snorting-out-of-your-nose funny ones, or listen-to-how- cool-and-awesome-we-are ones, or come-close-so-we-can- whisper-in-your-ear juicy ones. They might be old favorites or stories about new experiences. But no matter what, our stories are unique, just like we are. And that is what this book is all about—ten diverse stories from ten great authors. For all of us.

Ellen Oh 

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