Pebbles On The Beach by Alex Raynham

Abby is a teenager, and she doesn't talk much to her parents. Abby's dad works hard for an oil company, and Abby's mom doesn't like her friends. Then, one summer, Abby stays with her crazy Aunt May in California. Here – with Aunt May and her neighbours Diego and Bianca – she learns to see things differently. But, one night, there's an oil spill on the beautiful beach near their home. What can Abby, her aunt, and the neighbours do? And who answers Abby's call for help? And how?

- Alex Raynham

Dallas Girl

Abby is from Dallas. It's the summer vacation. She's in her room with her friend Sadie. Sadie says, 'Let's go to a concert next week.' 'I can't,' Abby says. 'Dad's working in Dubai for DeepOil for three weeks, and Mom's going with him.' 'What about you?' Sadie asks. 'I'm staying with my Aunt May in California,' Abby says. 'I don't want to go, but nobody listens to me!'

Next week, Aunt May drives Abby home from the airport in her crazy old car. In Aunt May's house, Abby finds a lot of pebbles in her room. 'They're all different,' her aunt says. 'Your morn and I are sisters, but we're different, too!' 'What am I doing here?' Abby thinks. 'My aunt's crazy!'

The Boy On The Beach

Three days later, Sadie calls Abby. She tells her all about the concert. Abby listens quietly. She cries after she puts down the phone. When she goes into Aunt May's studio, her aunt says, 'I'm going into town for paint this afternoon. Do you want to come?' 'No, thanks,' Abby says. Suddenly Aunt May cries, 'Be careful! My new picture!' Now there's black paint on Abby's best pants. She runs angrily out of the studio and away.

 When she stops, she's on the beach. A boy is putting something into bags there. 'What are you doing?' she asks him. 'Picking up garbage,' he answers. 'When birds eat it, it kills them. 'I'm Diego,' he says. 'And you're staying in May Wilson's house.' 'How do you know?' Abby asks. 'We're neighbours!' Diego says. 'Do you want to help me?' he asks. 'OK,' Abby answers.

 They walk on the beach, talk, and pick up garbage. Abby forgets the paint on her pants. When it's time to go home, she says, 'Let's meet here again tomorrow.' 6 'No, let's go to the national park,' Diego says. 'My cousin Bianca works there. She can take us.' 'Hmm ... maybe,' Abby says.

The Park and a Storm

That evening, Abby tells her aunt, 'Sorry about earlier. Can I visit the national park tomorrow - with Diego and his cousin?' 'Sure,' Aunt May smiles. Next day, Bianca takes Diego and Abby to Point Reyes national park. They see a lot of animals. When they're walking there, Abby suddenly cries, 'Ugh ... there's something on me!' 'It's a beautiful beetle,' Bianca says. Abby looks down at the beetle. 'Well, it is a nice colour,' she thinks.

 Abby has a good time at the park. 'Do you want to come again? We can have a picnic next time,' Bianca says. 'OK, but when?' Abby asks. It's a windy evening when Abby comes home. 'Nice day?' Aunt May asks. 'Yes,' Abby answers, 'and we're having a picnic at Point Reyes tomorrow.'

 That night, there's a storm. Abby can't sleep. She gets up for some water. Just then, Aunt May comes in and finds her. 'What's the matter?' she asks. 'Well ... ' begins Abby. They sit at the table. Abby plays with the pebbles there, and speaks about her parents. 'Dad's always working, and Mom doesn't like my friends,' she says. 'Talk to them,' Aunt May tells her. 'How can I?' Abby answers. 

A Ship on the Rocks

Next morning, Abby and her aunt are watching TV. A reporter is talking. 'Today - after last night's storm - there's a ship on the rocks at Point Reyes, and a lot of oil in the water,' the reporter says. Diego and Bianca arrive at Aunt May's house. 'No picnic today,' Abby says. 'Not with that oil spill,' Diego agrees. 'But maybe we can help. We must go and see!'

 When they arrive at Point Reyes, there's oil on the beach. Diego and Abby see a lot of dead birds. The mayor is talking to a reporter. 'Neighbours from villages near here must help,' he says. 'We're having a meeting this afternoon.' 'Look at the beach!' Abby cries. ' What can we do?' 'Let's go to the meeting and see,' Bianca answers.

 There are a lot of people at the meeting. 'Teams of people can pick up the oil,' the mayor says. 'But how do we move the ship?' a man asks. 'I don't know,' the mayor answers. 'Ask that man there. He's from the oil company.' 'DeepOil can't move the ship,' the oil man says. 'It's our oil. But it isn't our ship, you see.' 'DeepOil' s my dad's company!' Abby says.

A Call for Help

After the meeting, Aunt May tells Abby, 'I can't call y our father. We don't get on. You must do it.' 'But Dad never listens to me,' Abby cries. 'You can change things,' her aunt says. 'Believe me.' 'She's right,' Abby thinks. So she calls. In Dubai, Abby ' s dad is sleeping when the phone rings. 'Uhh ... It's 4:00 a.m. here!' he says. 'What is it, Abby?' Sorry, Dad,' Abby says. 'I need your help.'

 She tells him about the ship on the rocks and the oil spill. He listens. 'Talk to people in your company, Dad!' she says. 'Please persuade them. They must help.' 'OK,' he answers. After the phone call, Abby tells her aunt, 'He's talking to people at DeepOil. It's working !' 'You see!' Aunt May says.

 Next morning... Bianca and Diego are cleaning the beach when Abby and Aunt May arrive. They work all day ... and all week! One day, Abby and Diego are cleaning birds. 'There's oil all over me. But I'm OK with that,' Abby thinks. ' I can't believe it!' After work, her phone rings. 'Abby, your morn and I are in Dallas,' her dad says. 'You can come home!' 'Oh, Dad!' Abby cries.

The Summer Finishes

Abby listens to her phone. 'Everybody here in the Dallas office agrees,' her dad says. '.A DeepOil team's coming to Point Reyes.' 'That's wonderful!' Abby cries happily. 'Hey, take it easy! They can't empty the ship in a day!' her dad says. 'So can I stay here for longer?' she asks. 'Sure!' her dad answers. Next week, the DeepOil team arrives and begins work. Abby and Diego help at the beach for weeks.

After work, the two of them visit the national park. They learn about the animals there from Bianca. But then the summer finishes, and Abby's vacation finishes, too. At the airport, Aunt May gives a heavy little bag to Abby. Diego gives a picture of a whale to her. 'Can you see whales here?' Abby asks Diego. 'In the spring,' he answers.

 Abby ' s dad meets her in Dallas. 'Sorry about your vacation,' he says. 'Why ?' Abby laughs. 'I get on with Aunt May. I want to visit her again next spring.' At home, Abby empties her aunt's heav y little bag on the table. 'Every pebble's different,' she tells her parents. Her morn smiles. Her dad laughs. And Abby laughs, too. Suddenly it's good to be home.

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