Holling Hoodhood, a seventh grader at Camillo Junior High just knows that his teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates his guts. Not only does she constantly correct him, roll her eyes at his attempts to diagram sentences, and assign him 150-question tests on Shakespeare, but she throws him to the rats (literally!) and lets a bully almost tear him to little bits. In a class full of Jewish and Catholic students, Holling is the only Presbyterian, which means on Wednesday afternoons, when all the other kids leave for religious study, Holling is stuck in the classroom with Mrs. Baker.
However, Mrs. Baker proves to be the least of his problems. Against his will, Holling manages to secure a role in the town Shakespeare festival as Ariel the fairy. This requires him to stand in front of an audience wearing yellow tights and white feathers on an embarrassing place. As you can imagine, this is quite a humiliating experience. To top it off, the performance is the exact same night that Micky Mantle is signing autographs at the local sporting goods store and Holling's dad forgets to pick him up. In a hysterical scene, Holling runs across town (still wearing the fairy costume) and makes it just before the store closes. Here's what happens:
Micky Mantle looked me up and down. "I don't sign baseballs for kids in yellow tights." He tossed my perfect new white baseball onto the floor. It rolled past my feet and into the folds of my blue cape. The world should split in two. The world should split in two and I should fall in the crack and never be heard from again. Holling Hoodhood. Me. The boy in yellow tights with white feathers on the butt and a blue floral cape. The boy Mickey Mantle wouldn't sign a baseball for.
Things like this happen to Holling every day. To top it off, the year is 1967 and the country is at war in Vietnam. His older sister, a peace-loving flower child, runs away to California and his dad doesn't care about anything except their perfect home and the family business. And don't forget about Wednesdays with Mrs. Baker in the rat-infested classroom.
I hope I'm not giving the impression that the book is gloomy--it's DEFINITELY not. It's witty, interesting, well-written, and wickedly funny. I read this on an airplane over Spring Break and you could hear my giggles all the way down the aisle. All of the characters are uniquely memorable (even the ones you love to hate) and may end up surprising you. You may even end up surprising yourself by pulling some Shakespeare off the shelves. Toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
Recipe to Read By: Mr. Goldman's Cream Puffs (These are SO fun to make!)
Despite being devoured by man-eating rats and covered with layers of dusty chalk, lightly-toasted golden cream puffs make a repeat appearance throughout this novel.
2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 (17.3 oz.) pkg. frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed per package directions
1/4 c. milk
1-2 Tbsp. sugar
Mix together vanilla instant pudding mix, cream and milk. Cover and refrigerate to set.
Carefully open one pastry sheet along the creases; place remaining sheet in the refrigerator to keep it cold.
(Get mom for this step) Using a long, sharp knife, cut each strip of pastry at creases, forming 3 strips.
Cut each strip width wise into 7 pieces, slicing straight down-don't drag the knife across the pastry.
Flip each cut piece over ( to place the side you cut on down onto the sheet).
Place on lightly greased baking sheets, leaving room between each piece.
Combine egg and milk; lightly brush over pastry. Sprinkle with sugar.
Repeat with remaining puff pastry sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Using a serrated knife, slice through the center to make top and bottom halves.
Spread about 1 Tbsp. of filling on bottom half of each pastry and replace tops. Store in refrigerator. Place a note on cream puffs that reads, "Do not touch. Digestion may cause explosive stomach sickness." Do a little cream puff dance and rejoice that the entire batch of sweet, flaky deliciousness is all yours.