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When Uncle Dangerfoot came to visit, everything in the house had to be just so.
The footstool was arranged in its place, the tea piping hot, the crumpets and jam on a platter, and Roxie Warbler watched for him at the door. The man who had wrestled alligators and jumped from planes was not to be kept waiting.
"And there he is!" cried Mrs. Warbler as her brother stepped handsomely out of a cab and came briskly up the walk. He wore a jungle helmet, a tan safari jacket with brass buttons, and he carried a long slender cane, which could, in an instant, become a harpoon, a gun, an umbrella, or a walking stick, depending on the circumstances and the weather.
Nine-year-old Roxie looked forward to his visits, for he had traveled all over the world with Lord Thistlebottom from London. And Thistlebottom was famous for his book, Lord Thistlebottom's Book of Pitfalls and How to Survive Them.
"Hello, Uncle Dangerfoot!" Roxie called, throwing open the door as he came up the steps.
The man with the handlebar mustache smiled down at his niece and tapped her fondly on the head with his walking stick. And that was about all the attention Roxie would get from her uncle, for although she had put on her best blue dress and her patent-leather shoes and she had brushed her hair till her scalp tingled, Uncle Dangerfoot was not a man of emotion and never hugged anyone if he could help it.
"Come in! Come in!" said Roxie's father, shaking Uncle Dangerfoot's hand and ushering him to the big easy chair with the footstool at the ready. "We are so glad to have you."
"So eager to hear about your latest adventure!" said Roxie's mother.
Roxie just stood to one side beaming, holding the platter of crumpets until her uncle noticed and helped himself. Then she sat down on the floor at his feet, waiting to leap to attention should he need some extra cream for his tea or a second lump of sugar.
"Oh, it was harrowing, let me tell you!" said Uncle Dangerfoot, taking a small sip of tea, then biting into his crumpet and jam. "It was uncharted territory in Australia, and our canteens had long since run dry...."
Roxie hung on every word, even though her uncle's stories tended to go on all evening. The crumpets and tea would be gone, and her uncle would still be talking. The flames in the fireplace would have died down and gone out, and he would still be talking. Sometimes Roxie was embarrassed by drifting off to sleep in spite of herself, and her father would carry her upstairs and tuck her in bed. But parts of her uncle's stories always lingered in her head:
"...So there we were, our lips parched, our mouths full of dust, our throats so dry we could scarcely speak. 'Do not panic!' Lord Thistlebottom said to me as we followed the dry streambed. 'Look for a sharp bend in the bed and keep an eye out for wet sand.' I, of course, having the sharper eye, spied it shortly, and there we dug down, down, down until we found seeping water...."
"I'm thirsty," Roxie murmured, her own lips
feeling parched, her throat dry. She opened her eyes to find that, once again, she was back in her bed, a glass of water on the night table, the first faint glow of morning coming through her window shade, and Uncle Dangerfoot, of course, gone.
She drank a little of the water and pulled the covers up under her chin. If only she could be as brave as her uncle. What a disappointment she must be! Not only did she sometimes fall asleep during his visits, but while he was afraid of nothing, Roxie Warbler was afraid of a lot of things: thunder, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and, most of all, Public School Number Thirty-Seven, where Helvetia's Hooligans seemed to have chosen Roxie to be their Victim of the Year.
It was her ears, of course. They were round ears, pink ears, ears of the normal variety, and Roxie scrubbed them daily inside and behind. But they stuck straight out from her head like
the handles on a sugar bowl, the ears on an elephant, the wings on a bat.
And though Roxie Warbler was neither fat nor thin, short nor tall, pretty nor plain, smart nor stupid -- a perfectly average child in the fourth grade at Public School Number Thirty-Seven -- her ears were the first thing anyone noticed when they looked at her and the only thing they seemed to remember.
From that first day of school a month ago, when Roxie started up the walk to the building, Helvetia Hagus had watched her come, and
her eyes narrowed. So did the eyes of her little band of hooligans: Simon Surly, Freddy Filch, and the smallest, leanest, meanest hooligan of them all -- a wiry little hornet of a girl called Smoky Jo.
When Roxie had got up close to them, it was Smoky Jo who squealed, "Why, Grandma, what big ears you have!" and the other hooligans laughed and hooted.
Helvetia brayed like a donkey: "Hee-yah, hee-yah!"
Simon howled like a hyena: "Hoo-hoo ha-ha, hoo-hoo ha-ha!"
Freddy cawed like a crow: "Ca-haw! Ca-haw!"
And Smoky Jo squeaked like a mouse: "Eeeka. Eeeka. Eeeka."
Together, their braying and howling and cawing and squeaking sounded to Roxie like feeding time at the circus -- and trouble for Roxie Warbler. Roxie had tried her best to smile and be friendly, but that only made the teasing worse.
"I think we ought to tape those ears to the sides of her head where they belong," said Helvetia Hagus, a large-boned girl with a square face and a square frame who wore her kneesocks rolled down around her ankles.
"I think we ought to find something to hang on those ears," said Simon Surly, who was as tall and skinny as a broom. When he was feeling nasty, his lips curled down on the left side and up on the right.
"I think we ought to find something to pour in those ears," said Freddy Filch, a round, red-faced boy who wheezed when he talked.
Smoky Jo had eyes that positively gleamed, and her short hair circled her head like a barbed-wire fence. "I think we should hang her up by the ears!" she squealed, and they brayed and howled and cawed and squeaked some more.
Every day it happened again, only each day the hooligans crowded a little closer around Roxie. It did not happen in the classroom, where the teacher, Miss Crumbly, could see. And Roxie did not want to bother her parents about it, for how could the niece of the man who braved sandstorms and avalanches tell her parents that she was afraid of a small band of hooligans on the playground?
She had almost memorized Lord Thistlebottom's book by heart. Every bit of advice was followed by the admonition Do not panic. Roxie knew that if she were ever lost in the desert, she should try to sit at least twelve inches off the ground, because the ground could be thirty degrees hotter than the air. Do not panic.
She knew that if you are jumping from a plane and your parachute does not open, head for water if you can. Do not panic.
Roxie knew that if she found herself on top of a moving train, she should not try to stand up. Do not panic.
But she did not know what to do about Helvetia's Hooligans, who had chosen Roxie Warbler to tease and torment and otherwise make miserable for every day of her life in Public School Number Thirty-Seven.
Text copyright © 2006 by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Excerpted from Roxie and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Copyright © 2006 by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. 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 December 13, 2011
Read this as a part of In2Books, where I discussed it with a child pen-pal. Highly developed coming of age story that shows how to overcome adversity and school bullies, and have some adventures along the way! Some of the vocabulary might be a challenge for younger readers, but is understandable in context. All in all, Roxie emerges as a strong leader who knows how to stand up for herself- and even turns the bullies into friends once she tries to understand them.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 27, 2009
Posted May 21, 2009
Do you like crazy and adventurous books? Then read Roxie and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. In the beginning Roxie goes to school to face her worse enemies, the hooligans. When Roxie steps on the garbage pile she falls in and comes out on an island with some bad to the bone men. Will Roxie and the hooligans make it out alive or will the bad guys get the best of them? Read the book to find out.
I liked the book because it was exciting and the author made it feel real. I recommend this book to second or third graders who like adventure. You should read it because it was awesome. by Lacey
Posted May 12, 2009
I think that this book is the most enjoyable book I have ever read because it was so exciting and fun to read. It rocks. I wasn't able to put it down! I've already read it two times! and I'll probably read it again!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 30, 2007
If you like to read adventure stories, this one is very good. It's about running from bullies and running from thieves and being stranded on a deserted island with bullies and thieves. Yikes! Roxie remembers her uncle's good advise to get her through her perils. Don't panic. A very good story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2010
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