Summer Study, Volume 3
Cue-card Boy is standing next to our beanstalk.
(Me: "You look like a prisoner in front of a firing squad!
Everyone is going to think I make you read until you cry!")
(Camera Man: "Why do you look so emo?")
What may appear to be a red stick insect on the twenty-first leaf
is actually Jeffrey "Maniac" Magee,
although he was more of a runner than a climber.
A few afternoons ago, I helped my brothers do their homework--their "real" homework, not just one of the assignments I make them do.
One of the worksheets requires them to compare and contrast a character from the book they've read to someone they know in real life. Cue-card Boy insisted on doing it by himself and ended up comparing and contrasting two characters. I ended up sorting him out, anyway, but he didn't mind. On the other hand, Camera Man consulted me every step of the way . . . but he probably just wanted to bond. With him, I tried to share some valuable insight into the minds of his teachers, to bump up his grade and all; but the cuddly ingrate wasn't interested.
But here is the advice, anyway, for any procrastinating students who are putting off their homework so that they can read Shredded Cheddar. (Don't let anyone shame you, kids! You could be doing worse.)
"Which character should I pick?" he was asking without really asking, flipping through Louis Sachar's Sixth Grade Secrets. "Nathan . . . Tiffany . . . Laura . . . Mr. Doyle--"
"That's perfect!" I cried. "Choose Mr. Doyle!"
"Their teacher? But who do I compare him to? Teacher S---?"
He laughed at the ridiculousness of it.
"Go on!" I said. "The story's teacher and one of your own teachers. It's excellent!"
"A teacher?!?" He really thought about it then. "But what if Teacher R--- shows my worksheet to Teacher S---?"
Knowing all about faculty rooms, I admitted that Teacher R--- probably would pass it around, but that Camera Man had nothing to worry about as long as he wasn't mean about Teacher S---.
There was no convincing him, though, since Teacher S--- happens to be his least favourite teacher; and he ended up writing about the story's sixth-grade protagonist and one of his own classmates. And the only question I had to answer after that was whether "aggressive" was spelled with two G's. ("Yes, and two S's.")
But I made sure that both my brothers heard the tip in its entirety . . .
"Camera Man, how many students are there in your class?"
It actually took Camera Man about a minute to give me a definite answer. When Cue-card Boy came back to the room, he only had to think for a few seconds. There are ten students in all, in their class; eight, if I don't consider my brothers, which I of course always do.
"It's like this, boys . . . I'll bet that everyone in class is comparing a character with a classmate or a relative. If one of you had compared a character to a teacher, well, that would have made you a pink elephant!"
"A pink elephant?" Camera Man asked, finally looking interested. (Elephants are his favourite animals. I can be shameless in my rhetoric.)
"Yeah!" I said, really getting into it. "I mean, if you went to Africa and saw a huge herd of elephants--say, a thousand--and all of them were grey, all except one, which was pink--"
"How did it become pink?"
"Never mind! It's just pink! . . . Well, if that happened, which elephant would you remember?"
"The pink one."
"Because it's the only really interesting one," Cue-card Boy said, insulting elephant lovers the world over.
"The main thing you have to remember now, boys, is that teachers love pink elephants in their classrooms."
They were silent. I interpreted the pleasant look on Camera Man's face as a kind of subdued bliss at the prospect of seeing a thousand elephants in a single herd . . . and the slightly snide look on Cue-card Boy's face as suppressed laughter at the thought of a teacher he could skewer in a worksheet if he were irreverent enough.
But I think they understood what I meant.