Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind

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    Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers

    175 Fifth Avenue, New York 10010

    Copyright 2012 by Valerie Hobbs

    All rights reserved

    Distributed in Canada by D&M Publishers, Inc.

    Printed in the United States of America

    by RR Donnelley & Sons Company, Harrisonburg, Virginia

    Designed by Roberta Pressel

    First edition, 2012

    1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

    mackids.com

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Hobbs, Valerie.

    Minnie McClary speaks her mind / Valerie Hobbs. 1st ed.

    p. cm.

    Summary: When quiet sixth-grader Minnie gets a new language arts teacher who makes

    her think and ask hard questions, she is inspired to stand up for what she believes in.

    ISBN 978-0-374-32496-4 (hardcover)

    ISBN 978-0-374-34978-3 (e-book)

    [1. PrejudicesFiction. 2. TeachersFiction. 3. Middle schoolsFiction.

    4. SchoolsFiction. 5. Self-confidenceFiction.] I. Title.

    PZ7.H65237Mi 2012 [Fic]dc23

    2011016860

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    :. Room 2, Mojave Middle School, Home of theMustangs.

    Minnie McClary, row one, seat four, nervously watched

    the clock. If a teacher did not show up in exactly three

    minutes, Room 2 was going to explode. It had happened

    yesterday, and the day before that, and it was sure to hap-

    pen again.

    Some little thing would set it off, a belch or a fart, a

    spitwad would fly. Kids would wriggle in their seats. One

    boy would leave his desk, then another. They would prowl

    the room like dogs sniffing for trouble, or do some dopey

    thing to make everybody nervous, like standing on the

    teachers desk.Minnie was trying not to worry about what would

    happen today. It was not her job to keep order. Like the

    rest of the class, she was only a kid. Unlike them, she was

    the newkid. She didnt know where she fit in yet, or if

    she ever would.She bit her lip and waited.

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    10:03. Feet shuffled, backpacks unzipped, forbidden

    cell phones appeared. Alicia, who always sighed dramati-

    cally, sighed dramatically. The boy who had allergies and

    never blew his nose began his nervous sniffle. Somebody

    hummed the theme fromJaws. Dereks fingers drummed

    the desk.

    Minnie tried to think about things outside this class-

    room, like the blank canvas in art class that was sup-

    posed to turn into a self-portrait. Her brother, Dylan,

    who had stopped being nice the minute he turned thir-

    teen. Her uncle Bill, who was building a helicopter in the

    basement.

    She tried not to think about her mom and dad argu-

    ing about Uncle Bill, but one thought led to the next,

    and then she was worrying. Minnie worried too much,

    her mother said. She should be having fun, like a normal

    eleven-year-old girl.

    10:04. Amira, the girl across from Minnie, turned toher with dark, troubled eyes. She seemed to be thinking

    what Minnie was thinking: what if nobodycame? In the

    three weeks since school began, their class had had five

    different subs. Only one of them, the principals wife,

    stayed longer than two days. She had gone on and on

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    about the beauty of verb phrases, and then went home and

    had a baby.

    Mr. Delgado came next. He yelled so loud the win-

    dows rattled.

    Miss Valentine, number three, had laryngitis and

    couldnt talk at all.

    Mr. Spinks, a retired engineer, taught them how

    to make stealth planes out of notebook paper. He didnt

    know what a verb phrase was.

    And now their language arts class had fallen apart.

    10:05. Ow! yelled Carl. He leaped from his desk,

    rubbing the back of his head. Who did that? He dived

    on Jorge and knocked him to the floor. Two of the girls

    and all of the boys, except for Todd Ingram, whose mother

    was the school board president, flocked to the back of the

    room.

    Todd sat quietly and drew. Theresa the goth girl opened

    a book and began to read. Amira bowed her head. Atrash can went clattering across the floor. Kids yelled and

    whooped and jumped around Carl and Jorge, who were

    scuffling on the floor.

    Minnie counted to ten. Twice. She looked at the door

    through which no one was coming. She checked the clock:

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    10:06. Her face felt hot and her ears itched. She could not

    keep her feet still. Without thinking, without really know-

    ing what she was doing, Minnie jumped up out of her seat

    and, with her fists clenched, shouted Stop! as loud as her

    voice would go. Stop it!

    And something extraordinary happened. As if Min-

    nie had cast a spell, every kid in the room did exactly

    what she said. They stopped what they were doing and

    froze in place. Now they were all staring at her, at Min-

    nie the new girl, the very short, hardly noticeable new

    girl in the first row. Even Amira, the girl who might have

    been a friend, stared at her in horror, as if Minnie had

    sprouted horns.

    Even Minnie seemed to be staring at Minnie. She

    could not believe what she had done, or that the floor

    would not open and let her drop through.

    10:07. The doorway filled with the huge body of

    their principal, Mr. Butovsky, wearing his navy blue suitand a red tie knotted beneath his chins. Back to your

    seats! he bellowed. Kids scurried to their desks, quick

    as lizards. Minnie slid into her seat, her heart ticking like

    a clock gone haywire.

    Mr. Butovsky had been their sub for two days. He hadread to them out of a book called Crime and Punishment.

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    For a while the class had been patient. But the words were

    huge and the sentences went on forever. So he kept tor-

    turing himself, Mr. Butovsky had read, looking down

    over his three chins and through the reading glasses bal-

    anced on the end of his nose, tormenting himself with

    these questions, and he seemed even to derive some plea-

    sure from it.

    No one could understand why the principal had cho-

    sen to read them the crime book. Yes, they had been bad.

    Yes, they had thrown spitwads and played games on the

    phones they werent supposed to bring to class. But they

    didnt murder any little old ladies like the guy in the

    book did.

    They had listened a while longer to find out what

    their punishment would be. Maybe this wastheir pun-

    ishment! One by one they had all given up on the crime

    book, even Minnie, who always did everything right.

    But Mr. Butovsky was upbeat today and all of hischins were smiling. I have some very good news, chil-

    dren, he said, righting the trash can. We have found you

    a teacher.

    Nobody said a word. Room 2, fourth-period language

    arts, was wary of new teachers who blew in and out likethe wind across the desert.

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    Her name is Miss Marks and shell be starting to-

    morrow, he said. You will have her for the rest of the year.

    The whole year? said Alicia, who was pretty and

    brave and always spoke up.

    The whole year, said Mr. Butovsky. Now lets get

    to work, shall we? He opened Crime and Punishmentto

    the page he had marked. Eyes glazed over. Jorge laid his

    head on his desk. Carl used his backpack as a pillow.

    Amira sat without seeming to breathe, as patient as stone.

    Minnie tried, really tried, to listen, but all she could

    think about, the only thing she could think about, was

    what she had done. The enormity of the thing. How she

    had jumped right up out of her seat and yelled at the top

    of her lungs. She still couldnt believe that shed done it.

    Her face tingled with shame. Her whole body felt hot

    and sticky. It was wrong. It was wronger than wrong: it

    was embarrassing, and she would never live it down.

    She sat with her hands clenched together, her ownshrill voice still ringing in her ears.

    Mr. Butovsky looked up from the book, squinting at

    the window. Will somebody please lower that blind? he

    said. Nobody moved. Then Carl, from the very last seat

    in the very last row, in his nastiest, nasally voice, said,Let Miss Goody-Goody do it.

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    Every face turned toward Minnie.

    Derek and Carl did a fist bump. Dude! said Derek.

    Somebody snickered, then somebody else.

    Minnie stopped breathing. She blinked and blinked

    to hold back her tears, but they leaked out all the same,

    rolling over her cheeks and off her chin as Amira, wear-

    ing her black head scarf, got up and with her perfect

    dancers posture went to the window and lowered the

    blind, and Minnie waited to die.

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    M P .

    A stew of smellsgrease, laundry detergent, orange peels,

    musty sheets, and dirty socksrose up to greet her. She

    started down the stairs.

    Her uncle Bill was asleep on his Salvation Army couch,

    curled up with his arms around his chest. His gray T-shirt

    was the one hed worn yesterday, and the day before that.

    It was stained with grea