As the summer ends, Zoey thinks something’s fishy—so she’s making waves! Includes “Sew Zoey” blog posts and fashion illustrations.
In the eighth book of the Sew Zoey series, for Zoey Webber, the end of summer means beach trips, concerts, and lots of time to sew. She’s making clothes for her friend Libby’s little sister, pillows for her friend Priti’s new bedroom, and a surprise for her brother’s rock band. It all seems to be going swimmingly, but under the surface, things are getting rough. Libby is frustrated that her little sister won’t leave her alone, Priti is struggling with getting a great new bedroom for a not-so-great reason, and Zoey hurts people’s feelings when she tries to figure out why her fabric swatches keep disappearing. Then someone unexpected shows up at Zoey’s front door…
You have NO idea how excited I am to be blogging again! After six weeks away at camp, being able to just pick up my laptop and blog whenever I want to feels AMAZING!
School’s starting pretty soon, but there’s enough summer left for a few small adventures, right? And even though my top priority is to be a good friend to one of my besties who really needs me at the moment, I’ve also got a mystery to solve. A fashion mystery. That’s right! I think I’ve figured out the identity of my longtime “mysterious benefactor,” Fashionsista. I’m still not sure how I feel about finding out for SURE who she is. After all, there’s something pretty awesome about having a secret friend who sends you amazing gifts! But I think it’s time. So, Fashionsista, if you’re reading this, check your mailbox for a letter from me. I’ll be mailing it to you just as soon as I get the courage to put it in the mailbox. . . . At least, I think it’ll be to you!
And in honor of the potential unmasking of my secret friend, I’ve posted a sketch of a masquerade outfit. . . . Isn’t it dramatic? Probably too much for the first day of school, though, right?
Zoey Webber was having a blast. It had been way too long since she’d spent a lazy afternoon at the community pool with friends, and she’d even been lucky enough to get a ride there from her older brother, Marcus, who was working as a lifeguard for the summer.
Zoey and her friends Priti Holbrooke and Libby Flynn had found three lounge chairs near the diving well, and they were stretched out chatting. Libby was filling Priti and Zoey in on the details of her ballet camp after Priti and Zoey shared stories from their six weeks at sleepaway camp. The only thing that could have made the afternoon better was if their other friend, Kate Mackey, could have been there too. But she was at preseason swim camp for another week.
“Guys, I have to tell you something,” Zoey whispered. The girls leaned in closer, sensing a secret coming. “My brother is seriously losing it.”
Priti and Libby both swiveled their eyes toward Marcus, who was perched on the lifeguard stand by the lap lanes. He wore sunglasses and a visor, and he appeared to be watching some young kids in the shallow end.
Priti squinted. “He looks fine to me, Zoey. What do you mean?”
Zoey blew out a breath that made her bangs fly up in the air. “I mean, he’s in total la-la land over my friend Allie. They’ve been dating all summer, and he’s completely spacey all the time! I asked him to put my pool bag in the car this morning, when we were leaving, and instead of putting it in the car, he put it back up in my room. I was in the kitchen, so I didn’t notice, and then halfway to the pool I realized it wasn’t in the backseat! So now I don’t have clothes to wear to meet Kate for ice cream later.”
“Ah-HA! So that’s why you texted me to bring an extra towel.” Priti laughed loudly. “I figured you’d been sketching and just forgot to pack your stuff.”
Zoey laughed too. “Well, I’m not saying that would never happen, but it didn’t today. Allie called him right as we were leaving, and he got all distracted. And he’s making my dad nuts because he’s always texting with Allie during dinner.”
“My parents hate that,” Libby said. “I have to leave my phone up in my room during dinner. They like meals to be for family conversation only.”
At the word “family,” Zoey noticed a shadow cross Priti’s face. Priti’s parents had just recently decided to divorce, and Zoey knew how hard Priti was taking it.
“You okay, Priti?” Zoey asked. Priti was normally the life of any party, louder and more cheerful and zanier than anyone else. But since she’d gotten the news from her parents, she’d been subdued.
Priti nodded, but her shoulders wiggled up and down too, so it was more of a shrug than a nod, and seemed to mean, Sorta, but not really.
“It’s just so weird,” Priti said. “I came home from camp, and my dad moved out, and now it’s just me and Mom and my sisters at home. It was so fast! Like, blink—no more Dad.”
Priti was sitting in the middle of the three girls, and without a word, Libby and Zoey leaned toward her and squashed her with a hug. It was a Priti sandwich, and after a few seconds, Priti had to burst out laughing.
Zoey pulled back and smiled. “We knew that was in there somewhere! Should we sandwich you again?”
Priti held up a hand. “No, please! Just change the subject. I’m fine as long as you guys keep talking.” She turned to Libby and patted her leg. “What’s new with you, Libs? Tell me everything. Pirouettes, pliés?”
Libby—who was normally the sweet, easygoing one—surprised the girls by saying, “Well, actually, my little sister is driving me bonkers.”
“You mean Sophie?” Zoey cocked her head, curiously. Sophie was little, only about six years old, and the girls hardly ever saw her. With the age difference, and Sophie still being in elementary school, their schedules just didn’t intersect.
Libby nodded guiltily. “I feel terrible even saying it. But Sophie’s really sensitive—like me, but even more so—and she cries all the time. I try to be understanding and help her, but she gets upset about literally everything. And we’ve been home together so much this summer!”
Priti grabbed Libby’s hand sympathetically. “Just because you’re sisters doesn’t mean you have to like each other all the time! My older sisters drive me bonkers, too, and they’re way past the crying phase. I think that’s just how siblings are.”
Zoey wanted to chime in too, but Marcus didn’t really drive Zoey bonkers. He was a pretty great brother, actually. Although he had been pretty dopey for putting her pool bag back up in her room. But since he’d also given her a ride, and had been nice enough to agree to take her to meet Kate later, she decided it was a draw. He was still a good brother.
Libby sighed. “I know this sounds crazy, but I’m pretty excited for school to start in a few weeks, so I won’t be home as much. Even homework seems better than calming Sophie down from yet another tantrum!”
The girls laughed, and Priti nodded. “I’m ready for school too. I need to get out of my house and stop thinking about my family problems!”
“Do you know what I’m looking forward to?” Zoey added. “Tomorrow night’s Cody Calloway concert!”
She and Libby clutched hands and then squealed. Several people sitting nearby turned to stare at them, and Zoey blushed. She hadn’t meant to sound like the crazy tween fan of a gorgeous teen heartthrob, but that’s exactly what she was. Cody Calloway was gorgeous and had an awesome new album out, and best of all, Libby’s mom was taking her, Libby, and Sophie to his concert. Zoey would actually be in the same venue as Cody. She desperately needed the right outfit!
Priti smiled and shook her head. “Cody’s all right, but, really, he’s not nearly as cute as Joey Joseph-Brown.”
Priti always said that, so Zoey took it in stride. She’d let Priti have her opinion, even though it was wrong—Cody was the best-looking boy on the planet. Zoey had even put a picture of him on the back of her bedroom door, so she could see him whenever her door was closed.
The girls enjoyed the sunshine and talked awhile more, until Marcus’s shift was over and he came to collect Zoey. Libby and Priti planned to stay until Libby’s mother came to get them after work.
Priti very nicely loaned Zoey a long T-shirt to wear to the ice cream parlor, so she wouldn’t have to go in just her bathing suit. It wasn’t exactly the outfit Zoey would have chosen, but at least it wasn’t a Joey Joseph-Brown T-shirt. That would make her feel like a traitor.
As they drove to the ice cream parlor, Marcus said, “By the way, Allie’s coming too.”
“Of course,” Zoey teased good-naturedly. “I’d hate for you guys to spend a single minute apart.”
“Ha-ha,” Marcus said. “You’re hilarious.”
“No, you are.”
“No, you are.”
The teasing continued until they arrived at the parlor, and Zoey saw her oldest friend in the world, Kate Mackey, waiting for her. Kate was fresh from swim camp and looked as damp and messy as Zoey.
The girls hugged and then went straight to the counter to order. Mrs. Simms, the owner, happened to be wearing the cloth headband, in the store’s colors, that Zoey had made for her several months before. It always gave Zoey a thrill to see someone wearing one of her designs. It made her feel like she was really on her way to being a top designer one day.
Allie came through the doorway a few minutes later and zoomed toward Marcus. After they’d said hello, she came over to Zoey and Kate, who’d already ordered.
“Hi, Zoey!” said Allie, giving her a hug. “You’re back from camp! How was it?”
“Good,” Zoey replied. “I had a blast. But I definitely missed blogging and my friends from home! How’s your summer been?”
Allie smiled shyly, edging closer to Marcus. “Pretty awesome. I added some new accessories to my Etsy site, and I’m superbusy with orders.”
“That’s great!” Zoey said. “I’ll check it out.”
There weren’t any tables for four available in the ice cream parlor, so Kate and Zoey grabbed a high table for two by the windows, and Allie and Marcus sat in the back.
Once they were seated, Kate and Zoey couldn’t help sneaking peeks at Allie and Marcus sitting close together, their heads nearly touching as they shared a hot fudge sundae.
Kate giggled. “Wow. They are in loooove.”
It wasn’t the type of thing Kate usually noticed or cared about, which made the observation doubly funny to Zoey. “They are. Loooove for sure.”
Kate started to lick her double scoop of praline delight, but she stopped and said, “Oh my gosh! I was so distracted by watching Marcus and Allie that I forgot to tell you the news! I was voted swim team captain today!”
Zoey nearly dropped her own cone. Not that it was such a surprise—after all, Kate was an amazing swimmer and always did her best to support her teammates—but it was surprising that Kate hadn’t told her the moment they’d arrived.
“That’s so awesome!” Zoey said. “You deserve it. You’ll be the best captain ever! Ice cream toast!”
The girls giggled and clinked their cones together. Some praline delight glommed on to Zoey’s triple fudge, but she didn’t mind.
“I have something to tell you, too,” Zoey said, leaning close, as if she might be overheard. “I finally wrote a letter to Daphne Shaw, asking if she was Fashionsista. It took me, like, an hour, and the letter is only half a page long! But I’m too scared to send it. I mean, what if it is Daphne, but she doesn’t want to be unmasked? Or worse, what if it isn’t, and she thinks I’m a crazy stalker-fan? I just don’t know if I should mail it or not.”
Zoey shook her head woefully and then bit off a huge mouthful of ice cream.
Kate took a few licks of her own cone, looking thoughtful. “Well,” she began, “I’ll tell you something. When I’m on the field playing soccer, or swimming in a meet, I don’t have time to think. I have to just act. If someone in the lane next to me is about to pass me, or someone’s going to steal my ball, there’s no way I can wait to weigh the pros and cons. So I just do. I listen to whatever my gut tells me, and I go for it.”
Zoey listened, nodding her head slightly. Kate made sense. Zoey knew the reason she’d been somewhat successful so far as a designer was because she kept doing. She created her blog, and made outfits for friends, and ran her Myfundmaker campaign for Doggie Duds, and started her Etsy store. And she didn’t know in advance how any of those ventures would have turned out—she just went for it. So maybe the same was true with Fashionsista’s identity.
She just needed to go for it.
Only—and this was where Zoey had to listen to the voice deep down in her belly—what if she didn’t want to let the mystery go yet? What if the reason she was dragging her feet was to eke out every last bit of suspense?
It was something to think about.
“Great advice,” Zoey told Kate. “You really should be team captain.”
Kate laughed, blushing slightly at being called a team captain. Then, suddenly, Zoey remembered the other thing she wanted to discuss with Kate: Priti.
“When we were at the pool today, Priti kept talking about her parents,” Zoey said. “And she was trying to laugh and be herself, but she seemed overwhelmed. And I have no idea what to say to help her!”
“Me neither,” Kate said, licking a drop of ice cream that was pooling on the rim of her cone.
Kate’s parents were high school sweethearts, and still very happy together, and Zoey’s mother had passed away so long ago that to Zoey, having one parent around the house was totally, 100 percent normal.
“Maybe we should do something to cheer her up,” Kate suggested. “Something to take her mind off of it.”
Zoey agreed immediately. “How about a day at the beach? We’ll get Libby, and the four of us can spend the whole day there—away from everything that’s going on at Priti’s house.”
“Brilliant!” said Kate. “Who doesn’t love a day at the beach? Let’s do it next week. I’ll ask my mom to drive.”
Relieved they’d come up with a plan to help their friend, the girls concentrated on finishing their ice cream.
As Kate bit off one of the last remaining chunks of her cone, she said, “Maybe you should be team captain of something, Zoey. You’ve got a lot of team spirit. And you could design yourself a special little captain’s hat to wear!”
Both girls laughed until they couldn’t laugh anymore.
Chloe Taylor learned to sew when she was a little girl. She loved watching her Grandmother Louise turn a scrap of blue fabric into a simple-but-fabulous dress, nightgown, or even a bathing suit in an instant. It was magical! Now that she’s grown up, she still loves fashion: It’s like art that you can wear. Chloe has written more than thirty books for children and lives, writes, and window shops in New York City.
Nancy Zhang is an illustrator and an art and fashion lover with a passion for all beautiful things. She has published her work in the art books L’Oiseau Rouge and Street Impressions and in various fashion magazines and on websites. Visit her at Nancy-Zhang.com. She lives in Berlin, Germany.
"Most novels about fashion end up being more about little divas than about the clothing; this is an exception. This story celebrates the rewards of personal creativity and risks of self-expression. . . . This book will appeal to a middle-grade crowd that isn’t into vampires and dystopias, as well as to those who create art with their hands."
– Kirkus Reviews
"An aspiring fashion designer is the affable heroine of this first book in the Sew Zoey series. . . . In a smoothly written story of overcoming challenges with ingenuity and style, Taylor shows a knack for characterization and dialogue, and her detailed descriptions of Zoey’s designs will entice young fashionistas."
– Publishers Weekly
"The characters are enjoyable and well developed, and the plot is humorous and entertaining. The black-and-white drawings that open each chapter add a bit of fashion flair. With a touching ending that will leave readers with a warm, fuzzy feeling, this novel will appeal to young fashionistas."
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