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Illustrated by Marla Frazee
Cover design or artwork by Disney Book Group
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Clementine can’t believe her ears: her beloved teacher, Mr. D’Matz, might be leaving them for the rest of the year to go on a research trip to Egypt! No other teacher has ever understood her impulsiveness, her itch to draw constantly, or her need to play “Beat the Clock” when the day feels too long. And in his place, he’s left a substitute with a whole new set of rules that Clementine just can’t figure out.
The only solution, she decides, is to hatch a plan to get Mr. D’Matz back. Even if it means ruining her Mr. D’Matz’s once-in-a-lifetime chance, it’s worth it — isn’t it?
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of…ouch!”
There is a lot of poking that goes on in third grade. It was Norris-Boris-Morris. “Horace,” he whispered.
“I’ll think about it,” I whispered back.
Norris-Boris-Morris’s name is really Norris. I know that now. But in the beginning of the year, I used to call him all three “Orris” names because I could never remember which one was his. He liked that. And now he’s always trying to get me to add another one. Last week he tried for Glorris, but I said No. It has to be a real name.
“Okay,” I said after the pledge. “Norris-Boris-Morris-Horace.”
My teacher caught my eye and tugged on his ear. This is our secret code for Time to Be Listening. So I sat up and listened to him, even though it was just “Raise your hand if you’re absent” and “Who’s got milk money?” stuff.
But right after that, it got interesting.
“Clementine, would you please go to Principal Rice’s office to get her.”
Whenever my teacher needs someone to run an errand to the principal’s office, he sends me. This is because I am so responsible. Okay, fine, it’s also because I get sent so often I could find my way with my eyes closed.
Which I tried once. You’d be amazed at how many bruises you can get from just one water fountain.
When I got to Principal Rice’s off ice, she stuck out her hand for a note from my teacher to tell her what the problem was.
“Nope, no little chats today!” I told her. “Today I’m just here to bring you back to our classroom.”
“Oh, right,” she said. “It’s time.”
As we walked down the hall, I reminded her that I hadn’t been sent to her office for a little chat on Friday, either. “Did you miss me? My teacher said I had a red-letter day. He said I was really getting the hang of third grade.”
“I did notice you didn’t come in, Clementine,” Mrs. Rice said. “In fact, I heard you had a very successful week. Congratulations. Your teacher said you and he were really in sync these days.”
“In sync. It means you work well together. You understand each other.”
Back in the classroom my teacher sat down at his desk and let Mrs. Rice take over, because she is the boss of him. But he was smiling. Mrs. Rice was smiling, too, when she said, “Class, we have some news to tell you.” This tricked me into thinking it was good news.
“As I’m sure you all know,” she went on, “your teacher has a special interest in ancient Egypt.”
We knew that, all right. Mummies and sphinxes and pyramids were scattered all over the classroom, and for the past month, everything had been Egypt this and Egypt that.
Which I was glad about. My last year’s teacher had been nuts about Ye Olden Prairie Days. This would have been okay except she only liked inside stuff…making bonnets and cooking johnnycakes. I wanted to do some Ye Olden Prairie Days outside stuff, like lassoing buffalo and digging for gold and catching outlaws drinking beer in saloons. But my last year’s teacher said, Nope, it was bonnets and johnnycakes and sitting in your seat all day. Besides, she said, all that other stuff was from Ye Olden Wild West Days. Just remembering how boring last year was practically made me fall asleep.
But I didn’t, because I wanted to know what the good news was.
“When I learned that this year’s Adventures for Teachers program was an archaeological dig in Egypt,” the principal continued, “I nominated your teacher.” Mrs. Rice looked proud of herself, but I didn’t see what was so great yet. “And I am delighted to tell you that over the weekend, we learned Mr. D’Matz is a finalist!”
When Principal Rice said our teacher’s name, all the kids sucked in their breath at the same time. This is because “D’Matz” is almost a swear. Actually, it’s almost two swears. If you say the first part wrong, it could sound like a word that also means a wall that holds back water. If you say the second part wrong, it could sound like a word that also means a donkey. But no one would think you meant those words.
On the first day of school, I was trying so hard not to make a mistake with either part of his name that I made a mistake about both parts. I am not even kidding about that.
At recess, I apologized and explained that I only said his name wrong because I was so worried about saying his name wrong. Mr. D’Matz said he understood and besides, it was bound to happen one day.
But since then, all the kids just call him “Teacher.” We aren’t taking any chances.
I guess Mrs. Rice didn’t care about making a mistake. She probably thought, So what if I get sent to the principal’s office? I live there!
“Mr. D’Matz will be leaving after lunch today—he’ll spend the week with the Adventures for Teachers Committee. But we’ll see him again on Friday at the statehouse. There’ll be a ceremony there to name the winning teacher, and we’re invited. Then, if he’s chosen, Mr. D’Matz will fly off to Egypt for the big adventure.”
We all sucked in our breath again when she said his name, and so I almost missed what she said next. But I heard it: “Which means he will be gone for the rest of the year.”
Mrs. Rice went on talking, but my ears were so full of gone for the rest of the year that I couldn’t hear anything else.
I looked over at my teacher. I waited for him to jump up and say, “Nope, sorry, Mrs. Rice. I can’t go away for the rest of the year because I promised to be here. I stood right in front of my students and said, ‘I will be your teacher this year.’ It’s still this year, so I have to stay and be their teacher. I won’t break my promise.”
But he didn’t do that. He just sat at his desk smiling at Mrs. Rice!
“This is a Tremendous Opportunity,” Principal Rice was saying in her capital-letters voice. “We should all be very proud of Mr. D’Matz.”
All the kids clapped and made faces like they were happy about the Tremendous Opportunity and proud of our teacher. Not me. I don't think breaking a promise is a reason to be proud of someone.
When we lined up for lunch, my teacher said, “Good-bye, see you all Friday!”
All the kids said, “Good-bye, see you Friday,” except me. My mouth made the words, but my voice wasn’t working.
I guess my feet weren’t working either. Everybody left, and I was stuck standing at the door.
“Yes, Clementine?” my teacher asked. “Is everything all right?”
“Of course,” I said. Except my voice still wasn’t working right because it came out sounding exactly like “No!”
“No?” my teacher asked. “Want to tell me what’s wrong?”
“How come you didn’t tell us? How come on Friday you said, ‘See you next week’?”
“I didn’t know then. Principal Rice nominated me in secret. Those were the rules,” he said.
“Well, what about all the things you said we were going to do this year? What about Fraction Blasters? What about our Weather-Across-the-World project? What about Friend of the Week?”
“I’ll leave my lesson plans for the substitute. You’ll do them with her.”
“But you said we’ll do them.”
“You don’t need me to learn those things.”
“But what about me getting the hang of third grade? What about us working well together in the sink these days?”
Mr. D’Matz leaned back in his chair. “Oh,” he said. “I see. Clementine, I think you are getting the hang of third grade. All by yourself. I think you’d be successful with any teacher.”
I gave him a look that said I’d heard that joke before and it was N-O-T, not funny.
“Really,” he said. “And it’s part of my job to know when students are ready for things. Do you remember the story about the mother bird and the baby birds?”
I did, because it was his favorite story. When-ever he would start to tell it, all the kids would make secret here-we-go-again faces at each other. Since there were no other kids there, I made the face inside myself when Mr. D’Matz started.
“The mother bird lays her eggs and takes very good care of them. She sits on them until they hatch and then she keeps them warm and feeds them in the nest,” he said.
Everybody knows about that part—the nice part. It’s the end part that’s so bad.
- On Sale
- Mar 12, 2013
- Page Count
- 160 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers