One Final Firecracker (Hamlet Chronicles)

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9780060852849: One Final Firecracker (Hamlet Chronicles)

It's the end of the school year for Miss Earth's class. Everyone is sad to leave their favorite teacher, but there's also a lot to celebrate: the circus is in town, Miss Earth and Mayor Grass are getting married, and Fourth of July celebrations are about to begin. No one wants to be left out of the fun . . . not even a deadly Siberian snow spider, the ghost of a baby elephant, an alien elf (disguised as an angel), a stupid cupid, or a fire-breathing half-lizard-half-chicken-practically-dragon. Will all the unexpected guests bring the big top crashing down? One thing is certain—it will be a summer no one in Hamlet will ever forget!

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About the Author:

Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; Lost; Mirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1. THE SINISTER SISTERS

Miss Earth concluded, Any questions about your final homework assignment of the year, kids?” For once, her students were speechless shocked with joy. Each child held a graduation present. The green ticket with gold letters promised to ADMIT ONE to The Sinister Sisters’ Circus on the evening of July 2.
How many Sinister Sisters are there?” asked Fawn Petros. And how sinister are they?” I know the answer to that,” said Thud Tweed. I saw their circus once before, when I spent the summer at a fat farm in the Poconos. The Mistress of Ceremonies is named Vampyra. Her skin is a deathly pale and her straight black hair is pulled all to one side and falls to her hip. Corpsina, the comic relief, is dumpier. Her red curls flatten on the top, and spring out like wings on either side of her head. The Sisters are creepy. I love them.” They’re not really sinister. It’s entertainment, that’s all,” said Miss Earth consolingly. The greatest show on earth. Your last assignment of grammar school is to come to the circus with me, and enjoy it. You don’t have to hand in a written report afterward.” We couldn’t even if we wanted to,” complained Sharday Wren. The circus comes to town on July 1st. It plays one night only, on July 2. And by then school will be out. It’s all over.” I never heard of a bunch of kids who didn’t long for summer vacation!” said Miss Earth in a bright tone.
But Miss Earth,” said Hector Yellow. You’re being married the next day! You can’t take us to the circus the night before your wedding.” Miss Earth replied, I can do anything I want. My fiancé will be having a bachelor party with his pals in the town garage, and I have decided I’d rather spend the evening with you. It’ll be my last night as a single woman, and who better to celebrate it with than my students?” Your former students,” moaned Anna Maria Mastrangelo. Oh, lighten up,” said Miss Earth. I’m not going anywhere.” But we are,” said Anna Maria. We’re going to middle school. Assuming we graduate, that is.” A safe assumption,” said Miss Earth. Graduation is the day after tomorrow. You’d know by now if you were being kept back a year.” There were several sighs. Some were sighs of relief. A few were sighs of regret, from children who wished they could repeat the grade so they wouldn’t have to say goodbye to Miss Earth.
Their teacher continued. I know most of you are coming to my wedding on July 3. But on that memorable day, I’ll probably be too preoccupied to attend to you as I’d like. Going to the circus the night before seems like a more suitable capstone to our happy time together. It has been happy. Hasn’t it?” She looked around. She’d never seen her students with such long faces. Miss Earth had been their teacher for two years running. Life as they knew it was about to come to an end.
Changing the subject usually helped. Miss Earth said, Thud, why don’t you tell us a little more about the Sinister Sisters’ Circus?” Thud Tweed said, Oh, it’s so cool. It has a few wild animals a lion in a cage, some elephants. Maybe they have got a gorilla by now. A real gorilla, not a Missing Link.” At this Thud turned and sneered affectionately at Sammy Grubb, who returned a smile, though wincingly. Some weeks ago, using a rented gorilla suit, Thud had tricked Sammy into thinking that a Missing Link in the human evolutionary chain had turned up in Hamlet, Vermont. Sammy hadn’t entirely lived down the shame.
Also,” Thud continued, the Sinister Sisters have this great trick just before the final parade. They shoot an audience member out of a cannon. It’s so cool.” Do they ask for volunteers, or do they accept nominations?” asked Sammy Grubb. Thekla Mustard would be a good candidate to shoot out of a cannon. Preferably into New Hampshire.” Sammy Grubb, though I intend to go far,” said Thekla primly, I’ll do it under my own steam, thank you very much.” Class, pay attention,” said Miss Earth. Due to the snow days we took this winter, our school year is running later than usual. Our graduation ceremony is on Friday. Saturday night is the Big Night in the Big Top. Sunday is my wedding, and Monday is the Fourth of July hardly a week away. It’s a packed schedule to close out a very packed year. So before we’re dismissed today, let’s reflect on our time together. I like that phrase of Thekla’s, that she intends to go far. I’m sure you all do. I’m sure you all will.” She continued. Now, put those circus tickets in a safe place. We need to prepare for change. Imagining change helps it to happen. Can you think up a connection between something that happened to you this year and something you would like to happen to you in the future?” Hands went springging up in the air. Miss Earth thought: How bracing to see my students so engaged in the possibilities of life!
Don’t just rush forward with yourrrrr first thought,” she said. Take out a bit of scrap paper and write down several ideas. Put them in order of priority. Choose the most thrilling one to tell us about.” She watched the children scramble to obey. Sunny children in t-shirts and jeans, ribbons and braces, ponytails and earrings both boys and girls and a few outlawed rub-on tattoos that Miss Earth decided to overlook this once. Chin up, she said to herself; you don’t know for sure where you’ll be in the fall. Behind this desk with a new set of students? Or somewhere else? In any event these children will have flown on toward the rest of their lives. Don’t let your lower lip wobble!
Ready? All right, who would like to start? Yes, Thekla, your hand is up first, as usual. I wonder if you’ll ever give anyone else a chance to lead?” Thekla ignored this question as rhetorical. She stood properly by her desk and smoothed down the front of her skirt. My year has been spent at the helm of the Tattletales club, whose members are all talented, all wonderful, all girls, all the time. With largeness of spirit, of course, I overlook the short time I was deposed by the ingrates and turncoats whom otherwise I’m happy to call my closest friends.” Thekla turned her brilliant, somewhat phony smile on the whole class. With this in mind, I imagine for myself next year a new position. I dream about being the founding head of a new group comprised of the Tattletales and the Copycats. Girls and boys both, together in one club, Miss Earth; that ought to please you. In recognition of your contributions, we could call ourselves the Earthlings. My title, more magnificent than either Chief or Empress, will be Angel. Angel Thekla. You’re all invited to join.” Thekla smiled. She had Miss Earth’s attention. Miss Earth had always disapproved of how the boys and the girls in her classroom banded together in separate clubs. This Earthlings notion should please her. A noble aspiration,” said Miss Earth. From there?” In bored voice, studying her fingernails, Thekla recited, Class president, homecoming Queen, a seat in the House, two-term Senator from Vermont, chair of some important subcommittees, Cabinet Member, my party’s nominee by acclamation, and beloved President of the United State of America. Perhaps I’ll reform the U. N. while I’m at it, as a sort of after-hours hobby.” What makes you think any boy would join any club you wanted to run, Angel Thekla?” asked Sammy Grubb. Or live in any country you intended to govern, Madame Dictator?” Miss Earth looked at Thekla Mustard as if seeing her for the first time or for the last. How she’d changed! She’d had a haircut over the summer, and now sported a cap of tight golden ringlets. She was more pert. And almost willowy. And Sammy Grubb had shot up three inches this year. He looked less like a grubby Little Leaguer and more like a teen heartthrob on the cover of a magazine that sneak-peaked the daytime soap operas.
She brought herself back to earth back to herself. Oh, all right, Sammy, since you’ve volunteered to go next.” Sammy leaned forward on his elbows and looked around. I’ve been Chief of the Copycats for all these years, but it hasn’t made me want to be chief of anything else. If anything, I’ve had my fill of clubs. No, my best time this year was hunting for the Missing Link in Foggy Hollow, and finding the Flameburper’s cocoon. I like the thought of missing links. Learning what’s the same about different creatures, and what’s not. Maybe I’ll go into deep-sea exploration to find new species of fish. Or travel to Mars and discover if there are Martians.” Admirable,” said Miss Earth.
Lois Kennedy the Third raised her hand next. Lois was looking more like a kickbutt radical activist than ever. Somewhere over the hills, corporate America had every right to tremble.
Lois asked, Remember the investigative TV reporter, Meg Snoople, who came here last fall when the Siberian snow spiders infested the town? Meg Snoople snoops till she droops. She’s my role model. I like spying on people. I want to be like Meg Snoople.” Perhaps you’ll work for the IRS,” suggested Miss Earth. Hector?” Hector Yellow said, I enjoyed decorating the church hall when Petunia Whiner gave a charity concert to raise money for the town’s new fire engi...

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