Arthur, for the Very First Timeby Patricia MacLachlan
Arthur Rasby is ten years old and having the worst summer of his life. His parents don't listen to him, so he writes everything down-everything that's real-in his journal. But when he goes to stay with his Great-Aunt Elda and Great-Uncle Wrisby on their farm, his world is turned upside down. For the first time Arthur wonders what's real and what's not.
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Read an Excerpt
The summer that Arthur Rasby was ten years old was a problem summer. During the daytime his mother and father argued. At night they whispered loudly. Also, the downstairs toilet hummed and wouldn't stop. The plumber, a woman in overalls the color of vanilla pudding, came to fix the hum. She banged, poked and stuck her head down the tank. The hum went on, though.
"Do you like your job?" asked Arthur politely. He perched on the edge of the bathtub taking notes in his journal.
"Until now," said the plumber grumpily.
After the plumber left, Arthur kicked the toilet hard and the humming stopped.
Then moles came to visit the Rasby lawn. At least that's what Arthur's father said they were. He showed the crisscross of humped lines on the lawn to Arthur.
"What do moles look like?" asked Arthur.
"Ugly," said his father. Arthur wrote in his journal:
"And they always come no matter what I do!" said his father angrily.
Ugly, but loyal,
wrote Arthur. A nice quality, he thought.
When Arthur asked more questions, his father yelled and threw a shovel against the garage. It left a brown mark on the white paint, which made his father even angrier.
Arthur sat a long time beneath the honeysuckle bush waiting to see a mole. He wondered if moles had humming toilets and grumpy fathers too. Did they have small unseen creatures burrowing in their lawns? He put his ear close to the ground hoping to hear the sound of scrambling feet, or at least flushing, but all he saw was a black ant carrying a large white crumb. He smoothed a grass path for it so itwouldn't stumble.
Arthur's father came out of the house and put his hand on Arthur's head. "Let's fix ourselves something for dinner," he said. "Mom's not feeling well."
Arthur knew that this was his father's way of saying he was sorry for yelling about moles.
"What is there to eat?"
"Chipped beef," said Arthur's father, and they both laughed.
They went inside, holding hands.
"Are you lonely this summer?" asked Arthur's father as they ate peanut-butter-and-lettuce sandwiches.
Arthur"s friends had all gone to camp or to visit their grandparents. But Arthur knew what his father really meant. He knew his mother was going to have a baby. He just didn't want anybody to know that he knew. Nobody had told him. But he thought he knew the signs. His mother stopped to babble and ogle at babiesstrange babies. It was embarrassing. She spent her mornings in the bathroom being sick, which, Arthur thought, was the trouble with the toilet. She got faraway looks on her face. "What?" she asked Arthur idly when he asked her a question. "What did you say?"
Arthur knew that his father would want him to like the idea of having a brother or sister. But Arthur didn't. Babies were not human. They made monkey sounds. You couldn't talk to them. They grabbed things and wet their pants and threw up all over everything. Arthur knew. He had made a study of babies. He had an entire narrow-lined notebook full of observations on babies. And he didn't want one.
"No,", Arthur said to his father. "I'm not, lonely. But I sure would like a pet rat. A white one with a long pink tail."
"A white what?" asked Arthur's mother, standing at the kitchen door.
"A white rat," Arthur told her with some satisfaction. He knew how his mother felt about rats. He watched her bathrobe billow out behind her as she fled to the bathroom.
And so it was that Arthur came to stay with his Great-Aunt Elda and Great-Uncle Wrisby the summer of his tenth year.
"They'd like to have you," said his mother.
"There's lots to do there," said his father.
And Arthur went to his aunt and uncle's house while his parents went off to practice not yelling at each other.
On the way to his aunt and uncle's, Arthur took out his journal to see what he had written about them. When he had been seven, he had written one entry under their name.
Their house is big like a manshun. It smells like banas.
He corrected the spelling to read "bananas" and stared a bit at "manshun." Arthur had been almost a baby when he'd written that. The thought made him squirm. He wondered if he'd been a monkey-babbling, wet, grabbing baby.
"Here we are," called his father. Arthur heard a strange note of excitement in his voice.
The house was immense. Arthur smiled. Some things didn't change from when he was seven years old. Once he had revisited a mountain, only to find that when he was ten years old the mountain was only a small hill. The house reached back over the land like someone stretching, its wings on either side like arms thrown back. Arthur wondered if it would still smell like bananas. Arthur could see Uncle Wrisby's famous garden in the side yard, planted in alternate rows of onions and roses. No one had ever known why he planted such a garden. Maybe no one had ever asked. Arthur made a note in his journal to find out why.
Uncle Wrisby loped out to the car, tilted slightly forward as if he had a wind at his back. He was uncommonly tall, with a small head much like a graying tennis ball. It perched on top of his body precariously, as delicate as the gold-rimmed glasses that rested on his nose.
He bent down to peer in the car windows. "Come in, come in," he shouted. He was hard of hearing, so he yelled. Everyone who talked to him yelled, too, even though Uncle Wrisby read lips very well.
Meet the Author
Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless books for young readers, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novels for young readers include Arthur, For the Very First Time; The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt; Skylark; Caleb’s Story; More Perfect than the Moon; Grandfather’s Dance; Word After Word After Word; Kindred Souls; and The Truth of Me; she is also the author of many beloved picture books, many of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily. She lives with her husband and two border terriers in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.
Lloyd Bloom is the award-winning illustrator of numerous children's books, including Like Jake and Me and Yonder. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book is enjoyable for kids in the group of 9-12. I would say that this book needs better description but overall great.
This book has a good outline to it and has a good grip on what a reader is looking for. Although, it needs a bit more raw action in it.