The Arizona Zone: Stories

A Sweet -- and Spicy! -- Welcome

By Lissa Rovetch
Art by Amanda Morley and BB Sams


A Sweet--and Spicy!-- Welcome



Dear Arizona,
    A new family moved in next door. My parents keep telling me to go meet the kids, but I don't know what to say or do. How am I supposed to welcome them?
   — No Etiquette in Connecticut



Dear No Etiquette,
   When my friend Ollie and I saw a moving truck pull up in front of the blue house on the corner, we crossed our fingers, hoping there’d be a new kid to play with. It just so happened that the window in Ollie’s kitchen gave us the perfect view for watching the movers while we munched our lunch.

“That looks like a comfy couch,” I said as the movers struggled to get it through the door.

“Look at all those boxes!” said Ollie. “There won’t be any room left for people in the house.”

“Speaking of people,” I said, “I think we’re out of luck when it comes to this new family having kids. I don’t see any kid stuff— just fancy furniture.”

“Everything is still in boxes,” Ollie pointed out, crunching on an apple. “We’d need X-ray vision to know if there’s kid stuff or grownup stuff inside.”

Just then, a man and a woman came out of the house. They greeted Abuela, Ollie’s grandmother, who was outside watering her flowers. Before long, they were all talking and laughing.

“I told you,” I said. “No kids!”

Ollie pointed at a girl riding up to them on a bike. “Then who’s that?”

I clapped. “She looks nice!”

Ollie jumped up. “Let’s say hi.” “Aren’t you supposed to bring a treat when you welcome people to the neighborhood?” I said.

Just then, Abuela walked into the house. “Well, that family is very nice,” she said. “And the girl is about your age.”

“Can we make them some cookies?” Ollie asked.

“That’s a great idea,” Abuela said. “You can pick a recipe from this cookbook.”

A Sweet--and Spicy!-- Welcome

“Yay. Thank you!” I flipped to the index.

“Do we really need to follow a recipe?” said Ollie.

“YES!” Abuela and I said loudly.

You see, Ollie is kind of famous for getting creative with recipes and turning delicious treats into undelicious disasters. You know how some people are naturally good at baking and don’t need a recipe to make something taste fantastic? Well, Ollie is not one of those people!

“What a great job you two did,” Abuela said, pulling our cookies out of the oven. As soon as they were cool enough to put in a container, Ollie and I ran out the door. We found the new girl riding around on her bike.

“Welcome, neighbor!” I said. “I’m Arizona. I live in that house over there. And this is Ollie, who lives right there.”

“Hope you and your family like chocolate-chip cookies, because we made these for you,” said Ollie.

“That’s so sweet!” the girl said, choosing a cookie and taking a bite. “I’m Gabriella, but everybody calls me Gabbie.” Then she stopped chewing and made a funny face. “What kind of cookies did you say these were?”

“Chocolate-chip,” I said.

“Are you sure they’re not chocolate-chip-and-something-else?” she asked.

“Ollie . . . ?” I raised my eyebrows and crossed my arms suspiciously.

“Regular cookies are boring!” Ollie said. “I might have snuck in some extra spices when you weren’t looking.”

“Oh, brother,” I groaned.

“I wanted them to taste like Abuela’s hot chocolate. I used a little cinnamon and chili powder!”

Ollie and I each took a cookie and had a bite.

“Whoa!” I said.

“Yeah,” Ollie said sheepishly. “I put in too much chili powder.”

“No matter how weird these taste,” Gabbie said, “they’re the best ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ cookies I’ve ever had!”

I laughed. “Could that be because they’re the only ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ cookies you’ve ever had?”

Gabbie put a finger to her chin like she was thinking very seriously, then she smiled. “It could be.”

The three of us laughed.

After a little while, Abuela came outside to see how we were doing, and Gabbie’s mom invited us all into their house for a snack.

“Thank you,” I said. “This fruit salad is delicious.”

“Yes, thank you,” said Ollie.

“But it needs just one thing . . . ,” said Gabbie.

“Chili powder!” the three of us shouted together.

So, dear No Etiquette, I think it’s exciting that there are new kids in your neighborhood. They’d probably love it if you stopped by to say “hello” and “welcome.” Just act friendly and be yourself. That’s usually the fastest way to make a friend.

By the way, it’s really not necessary to bring a treat. But if you do, consider leaving out the chili powder!

Ciao for now,


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A Sweet -- and Spicy! -- Welcome
- Age 10,
from New York
"Loved it!"
- Age 8 ,
from Florida
"There was a new kid moving into our neighborhood, and this story helped. I love it!"
- Age 10,
from Texas
"This is a very nice story about how to welcome new neighbors."
- Age 9,
from New Jersey
"Once, my mom added WAY too much salt when she was making rice. It tasted bad! I love this story!"
- Age 11,
from Missouri
"I really liked the story, and I have a friend who just moved in the area. "


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