Read an Excerpt
SIX THINGS YOU CANNOT TELL JUST BY LOOKING AT ME
1. That some people think my name is Just Grace, even though it’s only Grace. This is the kind of thing can happen if your teacher doesn’t listen properly when you say, "I want you to call me just Grace."
2. That I am super lucky because I have Mimi, my best friend in the whole world, living right next door to me. And even better than that: our bedroom windows are right across from each other.
3. That I have a friend named Augustine Dupre who is a French flight attendant, and she lives with her husband in a cool apartment that is right in the basement of my very own house.
4. That I like to draw comics because they make me happy.
5. That I am in third grade, and that my teacher is Miss Lois.
6. That I have a girl dog and her name is Mr. Scruffers. She came with that name so I couldn’t change it, but it’s okay, because now I am used to it.
THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING IN MISS LOIS’S CLASS
Everyone in our whole class has been waiting for the day when Miss Lois says, "Today we are going to start working on the spring fair." And that is because every year Miss Lois’s class does a special spring fair project. It’s the most fun thing you get to do in her class, and the only reason why when other people find out you have Miss Lois as a teacher they say, "You’re so lucky."
THE FIVE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT THE SPRING FAIR
1. It’s exciting, fun, and there are games and prizes and even giant blow-up rides.
2. Everyone comes—even people who are not in our school.
3. Our class gets to make up games and work at the fair.
4. Everyone helps at the fair, even moms and dads.
5. There is a cotton candy machine.
Every Monday since spring started I have been thinking, I bet today’s the day we get to start on the fair. And every Monday I have been 100 percent wrong!
HOW I KNOW THAT MISS LOIS WILL TALK ABOUT THE FAIR ON MONDAY
When Miss Lois tells her class it’s time to work on the spring fair, she always does it in exactly the same way. I know this because Grace F.’s cousin Benny had Miss Lois for a teacher last year, and he told Grace F. all about it.
Benny said that as soon as everyone saw the hat they started clapping and shouting like crazy, and that Miss Lois just stood at the front of the class smiling and nodding. This part of the story is hard to believe, because Miss Lois is not the kind of teacher who is okay with shouting. The part that I do believe is when Benny said it was super fun. Kids don’t lie about fun.
If you looked at Miss Lois, you would never think that she is the kind of person who would wear a crazy hat. That’s why just looking at people can fool you about what they are really like on the inside. Miss Lois is full of other surprises, too, because she doesn’t just wear crazy hats—she makes them, too! And all by herself!
Mimi says Miss Lois should get the gold star of making giant crazy hats, because her hats are excellent and very creative. That’s a big compliment, because Mimi knows a lot about crafts, and she wouldn’t give Miss Lois a gold star unless she deserved it.
MISS LOIS’S SURPRISE
I couldn’t believe it! The surprise happened today! And it wasn’t even Monday—it was Friday.
Fifteen minutes before class ended, Miss Lois came out from the closet wearing her giant nest hat from last year. Instantly everyone knew what that meant—it was time to work on the spring fair.
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT GRACE’S COUSIN
Benny is an exaggerator, because as soon as Robert Walters started shouting, Miss Lois pointed her finger at him and said, "Robert! No shouting." She did let us clap, though, so that part was true.
WHAT IS NOT EASY
When we were walking home, Mimi could tell that I was a little bit unhappy. Best friends are like that—they can tell about your inside feelings even if your outsides look totally normal. I told her I was grumpy about Miss Lois doing the Spring Fair announcement on a Friday.
WHAT MIMI SAID ABOUT MISS LOIS
"Maybe she was too excited to wait until Monday." "I know," I said. "But still, I wish it hadn’t happened today. Grandma is coming tomorrow, and now my brain is going to be confused about which fun thing to think about." "I think your brain can think of more than one thing at once," said Mimi. I looked at her and nodded. I felt better than before. Now I was mostly happy and only a tiny bit grumpy.
GRUMPY + HAPPY = GRAPPY
It was a brand new feeling word. "There should be more words for feelings," I said. Mimi nodded and right then I decided to keep a list.
"What are you going to do with your grandma?" asked Mimi. It was a good question, and it stopped me from thinking about feelings, which was also good. I needed my thinking energy to be on Grandma, because I had a big plan and it was to make her visit 100 percent perfect.
I told Mimi about the special dinner Mom was making, the surprise fancy brunch we were taking Grandma to, and the big sign I was going to put up right over Grandma’s door.
But the thing I was excited about more than anything else was that Grandma was finally going to meet Mr. Scruffers. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t happened yet. Grandma had seen lots of pictures of Mr. Scruffers, but this was the first time she was going to meet her—person to dog.
"Your grandma is going to love Mr. Scruffers!" said Mimi. "She’s the best dog ever!" It was really nice to hear Mimi say that. It made me feel good, plus I knew it was true. "I’ve been teaching Mr. Scruffers a new trick," I said. "Grandma loves dogs that do tricks." Mimi looked surprised. "A new trick? Can she do it yet?" she asked. I was going to tell her about it, but then suddenly I had a better idea.
MY BETTER IDEA
Mimi and I were standing out on the path to my front door, so I grabbed her hand and pulled her toward it. "Come in" I said. "I’ll show you." Mr. Scruffers was on the other side of the door barking like crazy. Mimi took a step back. She doesn’t like it when Mr. Scruffers is super excited and jumpy.
Mimi turned around. "What if I go home and drop off my backpack?" she asked. "Then I’ll come back." "Okay," I said. I watched her go, and then slowly I opened the door, ready to face the flying furball of energy.
WHAT FEELS REALLY GREAT
Having a dog be super excited to see you. Mr. Scruffers always acts like I’ve been away forever, even if I’ve only been gone for five minutes. Dogs are special that way. They are filled with love. Even though I really like cats, they are not the same as dogs. Crinkles is the cat next door, and even though he really likes me and we have been friends for a long time, he still does not have the same kind of love as Mr. Scruffers does.
The best way to get Mr. Scruffers to calm down fast is to take her outside to the backyard. She loves sniffing around for squirrels. It’s too bad you can’t arrange a special squirrel-chasing surprise. That would be a perfect dog present.
MR. SCRUFFER’S NEW TRICK
I thought the new trick would be easy for Mr. Scruffers to learn, because she already knew all the parts of it. But I was wrong. Even with a whole box of dog treats—the new trick was not easy.
Mr. Scruffers was good at the sitting part, but every time I grabbed her paw she fell over onto the ground. If she could talk, she probably would have said, "What is it with you and the paw? Can I please just have it back, and can you give me that cookie you’re holding?" It’s not easy to say "No cookie" when your dog is at least trying. It doesn’t seem fair. So even though Mr. Scruffers got the trick wrong, I gave her the treat. It’s too bad that falling down wasn’t an impressive trick, because she was really good at that part.
I was standing there watching her when all of a sudden she jumped up and ran to the back door. I looked up and there was Mimi. "Did she do it?" asked Mimi. I shook my head. "I think it’s hopeless," I said. "She doesn’t get what she’s supposed to do." I explained the trick to Mimi, and told her how it was supposed to work. "It’s not like it’s an impossible trick," I complained. I didn’t say it out loud, but a big part of was feeling like giving up.
HOW MIMI CHANGED EVERYTHING
"Let me help," said Mimi. "I’ll hold the cookie and you can show her what to do." I thought for a moment and then said, "Okay." It wasn’t how I would normally teach a trick, but maybe Mimi was right. It was worth a try.
I called Mr. Scruffers over and made her sit next to me, and then I told Mimi where to hold the cookie. "Watch me," I said, and then I showed Mr. Scruffers what to do.
As soon as I put my hand out Mimi burst out laughing. She was laughing so hard, she dropped the cookie. Of course Mr. Scruffers jumped up and ate it. "I didn’t mean for you to do the trick," laughed Mimi. "I thought you’d hold up Mr. Scruffers’s paw and show her that way." Suddenly I was laughing too. Teaching Mr. Scruffers a trick with Mimi was definitely more fun than doing it by myself.
After we stopped laughing, we decided to try the trick Mimi’s way. Mimi is good at training. She isn’t an expert with dogs, but she’s an expert with little brothers, and that’s probably not much different. Robert is Mimi’s little brother, and she’s trained him to do—and not do—a whole bunch of things. Because of Mimi he knows not to throw balls in the street, not to flush socks down the toilet, and to always throw a lollipop in the garbage if it falls out of your mouth onto the sidewalk. Suddenly I was filled with training energy. Plus, Mr. Scruffers’s trick seemed a whole lot easier to teach than those other things.
"I’ll get more treats!" I said. I ran into the house and grabbed the whole box of cookies. When I got back outside Mimi was kicking Mr. Scruffers’s ball for her. Chasing a ball is Mr. Scruffers’s third favorite game in the whole world. It comes right after chasing squirrels and chasing Crinkles. The only bad thing about the ball game is that once you start it, Mr. Scruffers doesn’t ever want you to stop. I wasn’t so sure she was going to be interested in cookies and learning a new trick when her brain was thinking about chasing the ball. I was hoping she was like me. Maybe she could think about two things at once.
THE SAD BUT TRUE THING
Mr. Scruffers has a one-thing-at-a-time-only kind of brain. When I shook the box of cookies, she looked up at me for a second but then went right back to staring at the ball beside Mimi’s foot.
"I think we’re going to have to use the ball instead of the cookies," I said. Mimi pulled her foot back and gave it a little kick. It was a bad kick, but Mr. Scruffers didn’t care. She pounced on the ball and then held it in her mouth, biting and slobbering all over it.
"I’m not touching that!" said Mimi. She moved away. "It’s covered with slobber." Mimi rubbed her hands against her pants, like just talking about it had made them slimy. I couldn’t blame her—it was pretty disgusting, but I was used to it, and I loved Mr. Scruffers, so it was different for me. "That’s okay," I said. "I’ll hold the ball. You can hold Mr. Scruffers." "Okay," said Mimi. "I’ll try."
WHAT WAS EASY TO DO
Hold up Mr. Scruffers.
WHAT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO
Have Mr. Scruffers stay up once you let go. Every time Mimi grabbed her paw, she fell over. "Mr. Scruffers watched us watching her." I shook my head. It was not a trick.
WHAT WAS TOO BAD
That Mr. Scruffers couldn’t understand what we wanted her to do. Out of all the words I said, Mr. Scruffers probably didn’t understand any of them.
I tried saying "Good dog" a lot, but that didn’t help either. After the sixth time of trying the trick, instead of coming back to me, she ran up the steps and scratched her paw against the door. She wanted to go in. That pretty much made it official. She hated the trick. I looked at Mimi and shook my head. There was no way it was going to work.
Mimi tried to make me feel better. "Maybe we could make Mr. Scruffers look special. I could help you make a bow for her." This was a nice thing for Mimi to do. I nodded and gave her a mini smile. It’s not easy to be happy when your big plan for something you really wanted has just failed.
In the end we let Mr. Scruffers back inside and went over to Mimi’s house. Making a bow was going to be a lot easier than teaching Mr. Scruffers a new trick. I just hoped it was going to work as good as a trick would have.
Mimi has a ton of craft supplies, but it took me only about two seconds to pick out the exact perfect thing to use for Mr. Scruffers’s bow. Grandma’s favorite colors are yellow and blue, and right there in the middle of everything was some yellow and blue polka-dot fabric. "Perfect," said Mimi. "All we have to do is cut out the parts for the bow and then sew it up." Mimi is excellent at making things, so I let her do the cutting and sewing part. While she did that, I cleaned up the huge pile of stuff she had pulled out of her closet. Mimi is also excellent at making a mess.
Now that I didn’t have to think about Grandma anymore, I started thinking about the spring fair. The first thing our class had to do was come up with a theme for our part of the fair. Last year’s class picked birds, so all their games were bird-themed— that’s why Miss Lois’s hat was a giant nest.
Miss Lois says she doesn’t want a hundred theme ideas, so each person is only allowed to suggest one idea. Once all the ideas are together, we’re going to vote on one to be our class theme. Voting on stuff never makes everybody happy, so Miss Lois is going to have to be ready for one very happy winner and a lot of other people being sad.
WHAT IS NOT EASY
Just because you want to think of a good idea doesn’t mean you can.
Not being able to think of anything good was making me feel frustrated, and not just frustrated, but mad and frustrated. I was mustrated. "Mustrated!" I said it out loud. Mimi looked up. "What’s that?" she asked. "A mustard?" I shook my head. "No, it’s mad plus frustrated," I shook my head and made a grumpy face. "You’re good at those puttogether words," said Mimi. I smiled. Compliments always feel good. They are like being rained on by happiness.
About an hour later we had a new bow for Mr. Scruffers and a list of two pretty good fair ideas.
OUR FAIR IDEAS AND WHO THOUGHT OF THEM
1. SUPERPOWERS (There would be games about different superpowers.) Me
2. CANDY (Every game could have something to do with a different kind of candy.) Mimi
Once you have an idea you really like it’s hard to think of anything else that seems better. I was happy with my superpowers idea. It fit me.