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Dwayne Ruggles is just a regular kid, living in a regular town — or so he thinks. One day, fabulously wealthy entrepreneur Howard Thigpen comes to school, and Dwayne notices that Thigpen is surrounded by a cloud of tiny sparks that follows him wherever he goes. The strangeness doesn't stop there — when Dwayne discovers that the ridges in his Thigpen Brand Blue Jeans and the grooves in Thigpen Brand Potato Chips are encoded with a secret message that he can hear through an old Victrola horn, he must stop Thigpen ...
Dwayne Ruggles is just a regular kid, living in a regular town — or so he thinks. One day, fabulously wealthy entrepreneur Howard Thigpen comes to school, and Dwayne notices that Thigpen is surrounded by a cloud of tiny sparks that follows him wherever he goes. The strangeness doesn't stop there — when Dwayne discovers that the ridges in his Thigpen Brand Blue Jeans and the grooves in Thigpen Brand Potato Chips are encoded with a secret message that he can hear through an old Victrola horn, he must stop Thigpen from stealing the lights in everyone's eyes. But what does that even mean?
It's a mystery, and Dwayne better figure it out fast before Howard Thigpen does too much damage. With the help of his friends Kevin Applebab and Emily Holmes, Dwayne upsets some pigs, hears voices in his fingertips, gets rid of 100 "Ghostbuster" records, and figures out a few other amazing things. Kevin Brockmeier has crafted a fast, funny novel that demonstrates the power of ingenuity and imagination.
My favorite teacher at Howard Thigpen Junior High School is Mr. Fred. Mr. Fred wins the contest hands down. His official teacher name is Fred Boosey -- that's what it says beside his picture in the yearbook -- but he's the sort of teacher who allows the kids to call him by his first name.
One of the things I like so much about Mr. Fred is that you never know from one day to the next which teacher you're going to get: the normal one or the complete loon. For instance, last Christmas the student council decorated all the classrooms with these creepy-looking plastic elf statues. Instead of flowing white beards they all had dark stubble on their faces. They looked like the world's smallest escaped convicts. Mr. Fred lined them up on the floor and threw chalkboard erasers at them. He called it "Bowling for Elves."
And then there was the day he phoned in sick, but came to class early and hid inside the podium. Mr. Fred is a little guy, shaped something like half of a hot dog -- the kind of person who can easily fit inside a podium. As the substitute teacher read our lesson to us, Mr. Fred began wheeling the podium across the floor behind her back. Every time she turned around, it would be a few inchesfarther away. Finally she figured out that something was going on, and when she stood up and reached for the podium, Mr. Fred rolled himself right out the door. He made her chase him down the hallway. It cracked everybody up!
I figure Mr. Fred must be bored teaching physical science to a bunch of zoned-out seventh graders all the time -- otherwise why would he do so many crazy things? But even the kids who normally just fall asleep on their desks in other classes always stay wide awake during his. He's got this talent.
The other thing I like so much about Mr. Fred is that he almost never spends the entire hour just reading to us from the textbook. Instead, he likes to help us conduct science experiments, real ones, making Mobius strips and mixing chemicals and things like that.
The week I want to tell you about, the most exciting week of my life, began the day Mr. Fred taught us about record players and how they amplify sound.
It was a Monday morning, and he started class by taking roll through a cardboard loudspeaker, the kind that cheerleaders use when they want to badger the fans at a game into roaring and clapping and behaving like a bunch of yahoos and rowdies, which is what my grandfather always calls them. By the time Mr. Fred came to the three Bobbies in a row -- Bobby Piccolo, Bobby Ray, and Bobby Roberts -- the entire room had gone quiet. We were all trying to figure out what he was up to.
"DWAYNE RUGGLES?" he said through the loudspeaker.
I answered, "Here."
That's my name, Dwayne Ruggles. There's a group of eighth graders who like to wobble their bellies and say "ruggles, ruggles, ruggles" every time they see me. They do this, and then they fall over laughing. They sound like the Hamburglar from the McDonald's TV commercials. I can never figure it out.
I admit that Dwayne Ruggles isn't the best name in the world, but I can live with it.
"And that's everybody," Mr. Fred said, shutting his roll book. "All right. Today, folks, we're going to conduct an experiment in sound." He brought the bullhorn back to his lips. "THUS THE LOUDSPEAKER." He put it back down.
"Now why does my voice seem so much bigger when I speak through the loudspeaker? It's because it concentrates the sound waves I produce -- it squeezes them together -- and this makes them louder." He drew a picture on the board to illustrate. "If you're standing outside and you want to call to your friends, but you think they won't be able to hear you, what do you do? You cup your hands around your mouth. Well, a loudspeaker works the same way."
Mr. Fred handed everybody a sheet of construction paper, a few strips of tape, and a straight pin. He told us to roll the paper into a cone and tape it shut so that it looked like the loudspeaker. "Then I want you to puncture the smaller opening with the straight pin. Just push it all the way through. Like so," he said, and he pressed the straight pin through the construction paper so that it split the hole right in two.
After we had all finished making our cones, he gave us each a pencil and a record album. Most kids don't own record albums nowadays, but everybody has at least seen one before, if not at home then in music videos or in dance clubs, where dj's use them to make that whick-a whick-a whick-a sound.
"Now," Mr. Fred explained, "with a record album, the music is locked inside the grooves in the form of tiny swerves and ripples. If you spin the record around, the pin will follow those swerves and ripples and pick up the sound, which will pass through the needle into the cone. And what will the cone do? It will make the music louder so you can hear it."
He told us to stick the pencil through the hole in the center of the record, spin it like a top, and then hold the needle to the groove. I tried to do this, but the lead on my pencil was broken, and my record just kept toppling over and whirling into my chest. Mr. Fred leaned over and whispered some advice into my ear. "Try using the eraser end, Dwayne. It will spin a lot better that way."
It worked just like he said it would. I could feel the construction paper vibrating in my hand as the needle traced the grooves in the record, around and around and around. . . .
Excerpted from Grooves by Kevin Brockmeier Copyright © 2006 by Kevin Brockmeier. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted January 19, 2006
This book was wonderful. At first I was skeptical about this book. I wasn¿t sure if this was my type of story, but I was wrong. Dwayne Ruggles is a real, down-to-earth character just trying to figure out what¿s going on. Grooves is filled with terrific humor that keeps you laughing throughout the book. It is the perfect mystery novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.