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Let’s go back to the beginning: Report Card Day.
You probably already know that books and me don’t get along.
And I’m not exactly what you’d call the most studious kid in the world.
In elementary school, that didn’t really matter. I’d make my teachers laugh, and I’d participate in class, and I’d do just enough to get pretty good grades.
But everything changed in middle school. All of a sudden, the teachers expected me to actually read all the books and to pay close attention in class.
School turned out to be a lot more like school than it used to be.
Which is how Report Card Days became my least favorite days of the year.
“So what’s the plan?” said my buddy, the ridiculously brilliant and unnecessarily hard-working Jake Katz. We were sitting at lunch. He asked me that every Report Card Day, as if I had some grand scheme to leave school in the middle of the day, go to my parents’ computer, print out my report card (then delete the e-mail), find the nearest report-card-forgery expert and have him change all my C pluses to A minuses.
“I don’t have a plan,” I answered. Jake looked disappointed. I was pretty famous for my plans.
“My grades are definitely up this quarter,” chimed in Timmy McGibney, my oldest and most annoying friend.
“That’s super,” I said, “but I don’t want to talk about report cards right now.”
I felt nervous, and I wasn’t used to feeling nervous. I could usually get myself out of pretty much any bad situation, but going home to a lousy report card was kind of like going to a scary movie with your friends even though you hate scary movies. There was no way out.
I took a big swig of chocolate milk and immediately felt better. Chocolate milk is like that.
“Let’s talk about something happy,” I suggested, “like the fact that this is the last quarter of the year. Summer is right around the corner.” Summer was my favorite time of year, by far. No school. No books. No report cards. There was absolutely nothing wrong with summer.
Then Hannah Spivero came up to our table and put her arm around Jake Katz, and I immediately felt worse again. Hannah Spivero is like that.
(Hannah, for those of you who have been living under a rock, happens to be the girl of my dreams. Only now, those dreams are nightmares, ever since she shocked the entire nation by deciding to like Jake Katz.)
Right behind Hannah was Eliza Collins and her adoring gang of followers, who I like to call the Elizettes. Eliza is the prettiest girl in school and has had a crush on me since third grade. The combination of those two things didn’t make sense to anyone, especially me.
“Did I just hear someone mention summer?” Eliza asked. “What perfect timing! The girls and I have decided to form a Summer Planning Committee.” Then she looked right at me. “It’s coming up fast, and we need to make sure we have the best summer ever!”
Eliza was used to people cheering in her presence, so she ignored it.
“The first meeting of the committee is this Saturday at my house, and you’re all invited,” she added.
Hannah looked at Jake. “We have plans to go to the mall this Saturday.”
I’ll go to the mall with you, I thought.
“Maybe we can go to the mall on Sunday,” Jake said. “The Summer Planning Committee sounds fun.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Passing up alone time with Hannah Spivero went against everything I stood for as a person. “Okay, sure,” Hannah said, but I could tell she was a little disappointed.
“What’s wrong, Charlie Joe?” Eliza asked cheerfully. Since she liked me and I didn’t like her back, seeing me unhappy always made her happy.
“Charlie Joe is feeling nervous about his report card,” Timmy announced. He was another kid who enjoyed my misery.
“I am not.”
Hannah put her hand on my shoulder, probably figuring she could help me forget my troubles and make me feel all warm inside from just the tiniest bit of physical contact. (She was right, but that’s beside the point.)
“Oh, Charlie Joe, I’m not worried. You’ll probably figure out a way to convince everyone that C’s are the new A’s. I’m sure your parents will be taking you to Disneyland by the time you get through with them.”
Everyone laughed—it was a perfectly okay joke—but for some reason Timmy decided it was unbelievably hilarious, and instead of laughing he snorted apple juice through his nose and all over my fish sticks.
Great. Not only was I going to be nervous the rest of the day, I’d be starving, as well.
Timmy looked at the soggy fish sticks.
“Are you going to eat those?” he asked.
He’d eaten three of them before I could answer.
Charlie Joe’s Tip #2
YOU CAN’T GO THROUGH LIFE THINKING YOU’LL GET EXTRA CREDIT JUST FOR DOING NORMAL STUFF.
There’s extra credit … and then there’s just regular credit. Getting regular credit for something just means you’ve avoided getting in trouble. If you want to actually get rewarded, you have to do more than what’s expected. That’s where the extra part of extra credit comes from.
Here are some things that I used to think would give me extra credit but didn’t:
1. Wearing matching socks
2. Turning in homework
3. Not swearing
4. Brushing my teeth
5. Eating salad
Text copyright © 2012 by Tommy Greenwald
Illustrations copyright © 2012 Roaring Brook Press