Skip to content

Trouble Next Door (The Carver Chronicles Series #4)

Out of stock
Sold out
Original price $6.99 - Original price $6.99
Original price $6.99
$9.99 - $9.99
Current price $9.99
Featuring African American and Latino boys, The Carver Chronicles are high-interest, low reading-level stories from an award-winning author and former elementary school teacher full of kid-friendly charm and universal appeal.

“A pleasing addition to a series in which diverse readers can recognize themselves in starring roles.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Another warm and approachable outing with the [Carver School] gang.” —The Bulletin

Third-grader Calvin is dealing with his next-door neighbors moving away—and the school bully moving in. Meanwhile, competition at the school science fair is heating up, and Calvin must decide what to do when his data doesn't prove his theory. This lively installment in a chapter book series about a diverse group of elementary schoolers offers spot-on storytelling, relatable characters and situations, and plenty of action.

ISBN-13: 9781328900111

Media Type: Paperback(Reprint)

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication Date: 03-13-2018

Pages: 144

Product Dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Age Range: 6 - 9 Years

Series: Carver Chronicles Series #4

Karen English is a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winner and the author of It All Comes Down to This, a Kirkus Prize Finalist, as well as the Nikki and Deja and The Carver Chronicles series. Her novels have been praised for their accessible writing, authentic characters, and satisfying storylines. She is a former elementary school teacher and lives in Los Angeles, California. Laura Freeman has illustrated several books for young readers, including the Nikki and Deja and Carver Chronicles series, and Natalie's Hair Was Wild, which she also wrote. Laura grew up in New York City, and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and two children. Instagram: @laurafreemanart Twitter: @LauraFreemanArt.

Read an Excerpt


Goodbye, the Hendersons

Calvin is pacing the floor in his room. He has a problem. He has to come up with an idea for the science fair. His topic and hypothesis are due on Wednesday, and he can’t think of anything. He made the mistake of putting it off even though Ms. Shelby-Ortiz gave the stragglers an extra week. It turns out that Calvin and all his friends—​Carlos, Richard, and Gavin (yes, even Gavin)—​are in the group of stragglers.
As he paces, he runs stupid ideas through his head: how to make a rain cloud in a bottle (Rosario did that in second grade), how to keep a balloon from popping (Gavin did that one last year, and it seemed kind of like a baby project), how to keep an egg from breaking (That was Richard’s project, and, unfortunately, he managed to break eggs during his demonstration. So that project is out of the running. Could Calvin actually do Richard’s old project when it didn’t work?).
Maybe if he plays just one video game—​just to relax and free his mind—​an idea will pop into his head like magic. He pulls the controller out from under his bed, turns on the TV, sets it up, and starts a quick game of Wuju Legend.
While he’s playing, he listens for his father’s footsteps on the stairs. If he catches Calvin, then he’ll think that Calvin’s mother was probably right about not wanting Calvin to have a TV in his room.
It had been a close call. His mother had argued, “No. Absolutely not.”
But his father had said that they could give it a trial run, and if it became apparent that Calvin couldn’t handle it, the TV would be removed. Since then, Calvin has made sure he looks like the kind of kid who can handle having a television in his room. He tries to keep it mostly off—​except when he needs to play a video game to relax.

Yes, he feels better and ready to go, ready to get started. He claps his hands together and thinks. Nothing. He claps his hands together again, and this time he means it. Still, there are no ideas popping into his head. I know, he thinks. I need a change of scenery. Let me go out to the front porch and breathe in some fresh air. Maybe that’ll help my brain.
Calvin takes the stairs two at a time, marveling at his own athletic prowess. Then he’s out the front door, sitting on the top step of the porch, and noticing an interesting hustle and bustle next door. Movers are carrying things to a huge moving van. What? The Hendersons are moving?
The movers are carrying furniture and lamps, and neatly sealed boxes labeled DISHES, BOOKS, LINENS. How could the Hendersons be moving? They’ve been there forever.
They’re an older couple—​older than his parents, even. They happen to have three grandsons, all around Calvin’s age. Every year since Calvin was old enough to remember, the grandsons have come up from Florida to visit. For the whole summer. It’s been like suddenly having brothers and not being an only child anymore. How can the Hendersons be moving? How can they be doing this to him?
His father probably knew all about it. Why hasn’t he said anything? Calvin pulls himself up and heads for the kitchen, where his dad is sitting at the table reading the newspaper.
His father is just raising a coffee cup to his lips as Calvin bursts into the kitchen.
“The Hendersons are moving?”
“Oh, yeah.” He doesn’t even look up from his paper. “I meant to tell you. They’re moving down to Florida to be closer to their grandkids.”
“That’s not fair!” Calvin cries.
“That’s not fair! That means I’m not going to see Robbie, Todd, and Evan anymore.”
“Oh,” his dad says. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
Calvin looks at him as if he’s grown horns. How could he not have thought of that? How could he have kept all this from him? It’s major! Doesn’t his father care about how he feels? Now he puts down his coffee cup and looks as if he’s trying to come up with something that will make Calvin feel better.
“Well, you can always write them a letter.”
“No, I can’t.”
“Why not?”
“Because no one writes letters, Dad. They’d think I was crazy if I wrote them a letter.”
“Then how are kids pen pals?”
“What’s a pen pal?”
“Well, you can call them.”
“That’s not the same as them being here, right next door.”
“Well, I don’t know what to say, then.”
They just look at each other for a few seconds. Then Calvin flops down in a chair and stares at the box of cereal in the middle of the kitchen table. He feels abandoned all over again. His mom has been gone for a month helping Grandma Kate. She fell and broke her hip, and his mother had to go off to New Mexico to take care of her. She’s going to be gone for another whole month.
If his mother were here, they’d be having pancakes right now. He’d be pouring blueberry syrup over a stack of buttermilk pancakes instead of staring at the back of a box of whole-grain cereal.
“Well,” his father says, “maybe the new family will have kids. They could have three boys.” He shrugs. “It’s possible.” Calvin doesn’t respond. After a while his dad says, “They could have five.”
Calvin pours himself some cereal in silence. Of course they’re not going to have five boys. Does his father think he’s some kind of baby who will believe anything?

On Sunday, while Calvin is back to thinking and thinking about the science fair—​and playing just one more video game—​he hears the sound of a truck backfiring next door. He ignores it. Earlier that morning, he’d been busy looking at the calendar on his door and coming up with a plan. A weak plan, but still—​a plan. Every day until he comes up with a project idea, he’ll spend thirty minutes brainstorming. He’ll brainstorm and brainstorm until there’s a payoff. More noise next door distracts him then.
It sounds like someone’s moving in already. Maybe it will be a family with a kid after all. A boy just his age—​one who loves basketball like Calvin does and has the latest Wuju Legend video game. The one Calvin asked for and his father said, “I’m not spending that kind of money on another video game. You’ll have to save up for it.” And maybe this boy, who’ll be living right next door, might loan Calvin his video game whenever Calvin asks.
It’s a nice daydream until it’s interrupted by a woman’s voice—​a mean-sounding voice fussing at someone. Calvin hurries to the window and looks down. The slant of the Hendersons’ roof hides the woman from view. Still, he can hear her warning someone about “scratching my good table.”
Calvin needs to see who this person is and what’s going on. He slips downstairs to the living room and looks out the window over the bookshelf. It’s a woman with her hair in pink sponge rollers and wearing some kind of housedress that doesn’t even look like it’s for going outside. Plus, she’s got a cigarette in her mouth. Calvin’s eyes grow big. Cigarettes are bad for you. Why is she doing something that everybody knows is bad for you?
Suddenly she’s looking over her shoulder and calling, “Harper! I need you out here now!”
Harper. Funny—​whoever Harper is, he’s got the same name as this big boy at school. This big bully, Harper Hall. Calvin and his friends have recently come up with a name for Harper the bully: “Monster Boy,” because he acts like a monster, and everybody knows to give him plenty of space when they find themselves near him.
There’s no telling what he’ll do. He might snatch your chips from your sack lunch just as you’re pulling them out—​just as your mouth is watering at the thought of the first crunchy bite. He might belch in your ear as he’s passing by, or snatch your ball just as you’re getting ready to make a basket. And it doesn’t matter if you tell the teacher on recess duty. She’ll just fuss at him, and Monster Boy will apologize, but you know he’ll remember. He’ll remember who told on him.
Funny that there’s another Harper in the world, Calvin thinks. Now the lady’s calling him again. “Get going, Harper. I’m paying these movers by the hour. Get out here and grab a box!”
“I’m coming,” that other Harper replies, and he sounds a bit like the one Calvin knows. What a coincidence. And then Calvin sees him, the boy who’s being yelled at. Calvin sees him saunter over to an old truck and grab a box off the truck’s bed—​a box that contains a jumble of junky-looking stuff: old throw pillows and dusty dishes and a stray sofa cushion. The boy has turned away, and his shoulders are a little slumped, but even though Calvin can only see his back, he knows that it is Harper Hall. Harper Hall—​Monster Boy.
Calvin can’t believe it. Is this really happening? He closes his eyes and slowly shakes his head. Maybe he’s wrong. But when he opens them, there’s Harper Hall, ambling up to the front porch steps next door, loaded down with a box full of junk. This must be a dream—​or a nightmare. Harper Hall living next door to him? Calvin can only be glad he’s watching from the safety of his living room.
Harper makes one shuffling trip after the other with his mouth poked out like he’s missing his favorite cartoon or something. And that older lady—​probably his grandmother—​just stands on the porch and directs everything with one hand on her hip. Calvin almost . . . yeah, he almost feels sorry for Harper.
He looks toward the sound of a news show coming out of the den. His father always watches those news shows on Sunday mornings. Calvin needs to tell him the bad news. But then he wonders if his father will even remember what he’s told him about Harper already. He has a way of looking like he’s paying attention to Calvin’s complaints when he’s not. He decides to try anyway.
“Dad, guess what?” he says from the doorway.
“What?” his father says in a distracted tone.
But then, just as Calvin is about to speak, something catches his attention—​something on the back of the Sunday paper’s sports section. There’s one of those optical-illusion things you see from time to time in the paper or in a magazine: the one where you think you’re looking at a vase but then it turns into the profiles of two women’s faces. He stands there a moment making the illusion go from vase to profiles and profiles to vase, over and over. A light bulb goes off. An idea just pops into his head out of nowhere, and he yells out, “Yes!”
His father looks over his shoulder at him, frowning. “Dad, I have an idea for the science fair! I’m going to do something with optical illusions!”
“What are you going to do?” his father asks, turning back to the television.
“I don’t know yet. But—”
“Do you have a theory?” his father asks.
And it comes to Calvin just like that. “Yeah,” he says slowly. “I predict that boys can see an optical illusion faster than girls.”
“Oh?” His father sounds like he’s trying to keep from laughing.
“Yeah. Boys are faster than girls at everything.”
Now his father chuckles to himself. “What’s your hypothesis? Boys have faster reflexes?”
“Yeah,” Calvin says. “That’s my hypothesis exactly.” Then he realizes that now would be the time to try to get that video game.
“Hmm?” He’s back to focusing on the TV.
“If I get first prize . . . can you get me the new Wuju Legend game?”
His father sighs, and Calvin knows this is a sign of giving in. “I suppose,” he says.
“All right!” Calvin knows his father will never go back on his word.
My project is going to be the best, Calvin thinks. It’s going to be awesome.
“I’m going to find a bunch of great optical illusions, and I’m going to prove who’s faster at seeing them, boys or girls. Even though I already know the answer.”
“Oh—​uh-huh.” His father picks up the remote and changes the channel.
Calvin brushes his palms together with confidence. “I’m going to need poster board, Dad. I need to collect my data at recess this week. I want to make some kind of sign or something, so kids will know what I’m doing.” His dad is nodding slowly. Suddenly through the open window, there’s that woman’s loud, brash voice again.
Calvin goes over and looks out. He sees her on the front porch with her hands on her hips, hurrying Harper along as he carries an overloaded box up the walkway.
Calvin still can’t believe it. The biggest bully at Carver Elementary, moving in right next door. Now Harper is carrying a big box of pots and pans up the front steps, still with a pout on his face. Calvin knows that pout. It’s the Harper Hall special pout. The one that means he might just pound someone into the ground.
You don’t cross Harper. You don’t say a ball was out of bounds when you’re playing basketball if Harper is on the other team. You don’t make fun of him when he’s benched. You don’t say no if he asks for one of your three Oreos, even though you wanted all three. Harper is a big boy—​big for his age. Way bigger than the other fifth-graders, because he did third grade twice.
Calvin finally has a good idea for the science fair, but now he has a new problem—​Harper Hall living right next door. Isn’t that always how it goes? After one problem has been solved, isn’t there usually another one waiting just around the corner?
He interrupts his father again. “Dad,” he says, “there’s a problem. A major problem.”
But his dad doesn’t think it’s such a big deal. Instead he says it could be a good thing. And by the way, hadn’t Calvin been upset thinking there wouldn’t be someone his age next door to play with ever again? Well, here’s someone from his school. He should look at this as an opportunity. Who knows what the future holds?
Calvin looks at his father like he is speaking some foreign language he doesn’t understand. How could his dad be so wrong? Isn’t he a grownup? Shouldn’t he know things?
“He’s a bully, Dad,” Calvin says now. “Everybody at Carver is afraid of him.”
“A bully.” He mutes the television. “What makes him a bully?”
Calvin lists everything he knows with examples (which he exaggerates a bit to make his point).
His father looks thoughtful. “What do you think is going on with him?”
“I don’t know. I think he’s just mad all the time.”
“I wonder what would make a person mad all the time.”
“I think it’s because he gets benched a lot for messing up in class.”
His father considers this. Then he shakes his head slowly. “There has to be a reason for all of that. It sounds like he’s troubled.”
Calvin shrugs. He doesn’t know what his father is getting at, but it seems as if he is sticking up for Harper and not understanding how Calvin feels. He realizes that he’s going to get no help, obviously. He’ll have to take care of this problem on his own.
For starters, Harper is never going to find out that he lives next door to Calvin Vickers. Never. Not if Calvin can help it. He’ll just have to sneak in and out of his own house—​starting today. He looks at his father, who’s gone back to his TV news show as if the problem is solved.

Calvin’s dad usually drives him to school in the morning and then heads on out to his job at Big Barn Food Warehouse. He’s the store manager. Calvin has already decided to climb into the car extra early and then duck down until he sees Monster Boy leave. It’s a perfect plan.
And then, after school, he’ll go to Gavin’s or Richard’s or Carlos’s house to . . . He stops to figure it out. Yes. To work on his science project with them.
His father will like that. He’ll think Calvin and his friends are being responsible and finally getting the hang of using time wisely. This could go on for a while—​a long while. Maybe until he graduates from high school. And then he can go away to college and never have to see Harper Hall again.

But that night Calvin does see Harper Hall. He’s just about to turn on his bedroom light to get into his pajamas when he glances out his window and across the driveway at the room directly opposite his. The lamp is on and the blinds are open. In the dark, Calvin moves closer to get a better view of Harper punching his pillow around his room and seemingly having a great time doing it. Toss-punch, toss-punch, toss-punch. He can’t hear him, but somehow Calvin knows that Harper is putting his all into each punch. He’s probably preparing for his next fight, keeping those arm muscles in tiptop shape.
Calvin pulls his desk chair over to the window and takes a seat. He feels pretty safe sitting in the dark where Harper can’t see him.
Monster Boy appears to be having great fun with his pillow boxing. When he tires of that, he sword-fights an imaginary foe with a yardstick. Why is he so angry? Shouldn’t he be in bed, anyway?