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COME SPELLING BEE season, the tiny town of Preston erupts in excitement: the bee is televised, and the hottest ticket in town. This year, an assortment of sixth-grade miscreants is going for the top prize: Jennifer, an overscheduled free spirit whose parents are obsessed with her college applications; Mutual, a previously home-schooled outsider who's enrolled in public school for the first time in order to participate in the bee; Harlan, the class clown who has spectacular plans for making the most of his time in the spotlight; and Chrissie, the constant observer, who suspects something is off at the bee and will stop at nothing to get to the truth. Principal Floren is acting shady to everyone—but, as he insists, “I am not a crook.”
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Adam Selzer lives in downtown Chicago. Check him out on the Web at www.adamselzer.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
myxomatosis--noun. A disease only rabbits get. Even though she studied rabbits for a living, Samantha was not exactly sure how to spell "myxomatosis," and didn't particularly care.
You might think this is weird, Chrissie, but I love it when snow gets into my shoes and my ankles get so cold that they actually hurt. Everyone knows that there's no feeling in the world better than taking off cold, snowy socks and putting on something warm, right? Well, you can't get that feeling if you don't get snow in your shoes in the first place. So when I walk home from school, I step in every snowdrift I see. Sometimes I just shove the snow right into my socks when I get close to home.
Does that seem too weird? I know I'm a little weird, but most of the people in this town are completely nuts. There's a difference, you know. And I'm not really sure which one of the two I am sometimes.
Anyway, you wanted my story from the beginning, right? That's where it starts. Walking through the snow. I was walking home last Monday, and I heard Marianne Cleaver coming up behind me.
"Jennnn-i-fffeerrrrr!" she shouted.
She was hopping around, trying to step in the footsteps everyone else had already left, making her braids flop about like they were snakes attached to her head. It's a safe bet that she's never had a single snowflake get into her shoes. If you ask me, Marianne is a remarkably boring person.
If you gave me a choice between talking to her and having a bunch of bowling balls dropped on my toes, I'd have to think long and hard about which to choose. If I were any meaner, I would have just run away, or maybe creamed her with some fresh snow, but I paused and waited for her to catch up with me.
"Hi, Marianne," I said, as politely as I could.
"I have to talk to you!" she said.
Well, that's just super, I thought. I assumed that she probably wanted me to join some new after-school activity she was starting--and that my parents would make me join, no matter how stupid it was. They're always looking for new ways to pad my college application, even though I won't be applying to any colleges for at least five more years. With all my activities, I'm lucky to get twenty free minutes per night.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Are you going to enter?" she asked.
"Enter what?" I asked, pretending not to know.
"The bee," said Marianne, as though she were talking to a five-year-old. "Are you entering? A, yes, B, no, or C, undecided."
Have you ever heard of people who read so many old books about knights that it sort of gets into their head, and they start putting bowls on their heads and running around thinking that they're knights themselves? Well, Marianne is like that with tests.
She takes a practice SAT every night. Most of the books she reads in class during sustained silent reading (SSR) are books on test-taking skills. And somewhere along the line, she started thinking she WAS a test, or her brain got stuck in testing mode, or something like that. Whatever it is, it makes her speak in multiple-choice questions. It's like I was just saying--I may be weird, but I'm pretty sure she's nuts. She's always going around saying that she's "gifted," but I think that if I had whatever gift she has, I'd want to exchange it.
"C," I said, "undecided."
I jumped a step ahead of her to slide across a patch of smooth ice on the sidewalk in front of somebody's driveway. I'm an expert ice slider.
"But you did better than anyone else in our grade last year," said Marianne. "That makes you a prime contender."
"I guess so," I said. "What's it to you?"
"Well, isn't it obvious?" asked Marianne. "I need to know what the competition is going to be like, and I thought you might chicken out. So are you entering? You can't be undecided. Just A, yes, or B, no."
"I don't think I'll enter," I said, casually.
I actually knew perfectly well that I'd be entering. I just wanted to see how she'd react if I said I wasn't. It's fun to push Marianne's buttons sometimes.
"Can you tell me why not in fifty words or less?"
I stopped spinning for a second and wondered if Marianne was actually going to count how many words I used. I wouldn't have been surprised.
"Well, I won't be able to study much with all my other activities, for one thing."
My parents make me join everything. I was a member of the School Spirit Squad, secretary of the Recycling Club, and even the founder, and sole member, of the Flying Mermaids, the Gordon Liddy Community School synchronized swimming team. And on afternoons when the school doesn't have an activity or two to keep me occupied, they find other places for me to go. Until the school golf club and indoor soccer started to take up too much time, they'd signed me up as a volunteer bedpan cleaner at the nursing home. Yuck.
don't even learn anything from most of them--most of them just take up time when I could actually be learning something. Honestly, sitting around eating cat food would be a better way to spend time than most of the activities, if you ask me. All I do in most of them is sit around while everyone else gossips about the people who aren't there.
But according to my parents, having an impressive college application is more important than actually being smart. I really hope they're wrong. I know for a fact that they're completely nuts, and people who are nuts tend to be wrong a lot, right?
But Marianne's parents believe the same thing, and she agrees with them completely.
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Book Description Delacorte Books for Young Read, 2008. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110385735049
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