The Spoon In The Bathroom Wall

Overview

Living in the Bloggins School boiler room isn't glamorous, but that's life for Martha Snapdragon, daughter of the beleaguered janitor. Life only gets weirder when Martha realizes bizarre events are afoot at the school. There's the dastardly dealings of evil principal Dr. Klunk and school bully Rufus. There's the dozen dancing eggs and the misbehaving dragons, property of the mysterious science teacher. And then there's the strangest thing of all: a giant golden spoon that simply appears one day, stuck in the wall...

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The Spoon in the Bathroom Wall

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Overview

Living in the Bloggins School boiler room isn't glamorous, but that's life for Martha Snapdragon, daughter of the beleaguered janitor. Life only gets weirder when Martha realizes bizarre events are afoot at the school. There's the dastardly dealings of evil principal Dr. Klunk and school bully Rufus. There's the dozen dancing eggs and the misbehaving dragons, property of the mysterious science teacher. And then there's the strangest thing of all: a giant golden spoon that simply appears one day, stuck in the wall of the school bathroom. Although everyone tries, only Martha is able to extract the spoon from the wall—an act that leads her to a destiny far beyond her meager life in the boiler room.
   Tony Johnston's funny, magical story spoofs the legend of The Sword in the Stone—and conveys some poignant truths about teaching, leadership, and the responsibilities we have to one another.

Living in the boiler room of the school where her father is janitor seems normal to fourth grader Martha Snapdragon, until she has experiences with an evil principal, the class bully, and a mysterious giant spoon, all reminiscent of the Arthurian legends.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With duly preposterous pomp, this comically written caper builds to a crowning scene of glory."—Publishers Weekly

"The mingled fantasy and realism elements and Martha's underdog triumph
create an emotionally satisfying story."—The Horn Book Guide

Publishers Weekly
The sword is a bejeweled spoon and the stone is the bathroom wall in Johnston's (The Worm Family) lighthearted Arthurian spoof centering on a 10-year-old heroine. Martha Snapdragon lives with her janitor father in the boiler room of the Horace E. Bloggins School. Her patient father has for years toiled under the ruthless principal, Dr. Klunk, who is "pudgy and pasty and bald as a bottle, with beastly little eyes like mean raisins." Martha is constantly being teased by Rufus Turk "(rhymes with jerk)," the school bully who had "a pinchy face like a boll weevil, ratty little teeth, and hair the color of an orangutan." Shortly after Rufus tauntingly gives Martha the new nickname of "Marthur," she spies chiseled into the school wall the words, "The king is coming." Though some readers may realize immediately the literary reference with which the girl's nickname rhymes, science teacher Mrs. Ferlin "(rhymes with Merlin)," soon brings it to the girl's attention and agrees to give her lessons in how to be a teacher. Some madcap scenes transpire (including several involving Mrs. Ferlin's dancing eggs, which turn into dragons when Rufus maliciously boils them) before the spoon suddenly appears in the school bathroom wall and, well, someone must remove it. With duly preposterous pomp, this comically written caper builds to a crowning scene of glory. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Children who have gravitated to the popular genre of fantasy and science fiction will enjoy this tongue in cheek story contrastingly similar to one of King Arthur's legends. Martha Snapdragon lives with her father, Luther Snapdragon, in the boiler room of Horace E. Bloggins school. Her father, the janitor of the school, has to appease at all costs, Dr. Klunk, the ruthless principal. Dr. Klunk leaves something to be desired as director of the school. He is determined to make Martha's father's job challenging at the school. Martha, on the other hand, has to endure teasing by the school bully, Rufus Turk. He aptly begins calling her "Marthur." Under the guidance of her science teacher, Mrs. Ferlin, Martha aspires to become a teacher and is mentored by her. Mrs. Ferlin has a griffin and confides to Martha about her possession of dancing eggs that will hatch into dragons. One day while trying to escape from Rufus, Martha stumbles into the school bathroom and finds a jeweled spoon sticking out of the wall. The message left behind is that whoever is able to remove the spoon will be crowned king of the school. The conflicts then transpire as to who will be successful in the spoon removal and attain the school command. Sophisticated readers will see many striking similarities with another popular children's series. 2005, Harcourt, Ages 8 to 12.
—Rosa Roberts
School Library Journal
Gr 3-4-A magical teacher, baby dragons, a vengeful school principal, and a jeweled spoon stuck in a bathroom wall are featured in this fun take on the Arthurian legend. Fourth-grader Martha Snapdragon and her janitor father live in the boiler room of Horace E. Bloggins School, where he is at the beck and call of megalomaniacal Principal Klunk. Martha has her own nemesis: Rufus, the school bully who christens her Marthur and makes her life miserable. One bright spot is Mrs. Ferlin's fascinating science class (the teacher even has a griffin), and it is there that Martha reveals her secret wish-to be a teacher-and begins to receive lessons from Mrs. Ferlin. She also is privy to one of her teacher's secrets: she has a carton of dancing eggs that will eventually hatch baby dragons. One afternoon, while on the run from Rufus, Martha mistakenly stumbles into the boys' bathroom and discovers a jeweled spoon wedged in the wall. No ordinary spoon, it has a prophecy declaring that whosoever can pull it out is acknowledged king of all Bloggins. Of course, Principal Klunk is convinced it will be him, but readers know that Martha is the true king of the school. This entertaining story will be enjoyed by fans of Kate McMullan's "Dragon Slayers Academy" series (Grosset & Dunlap) or Will and Mary Pope Osborne's "Magic Tree House" books (Random), with the added bonus of Mrs. Ferlin's rules for teaching, which can apply to life as well.-Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Martha lives in the boiler room of the Horace E. Bloggins School. Her father Luther Snapdragon is the put-upon janitor always at the beck and call of the principal, Dr. Klunk. She loves her wizard of a science teacher Mrs. Ferlin, but is always on the run from school bully Rufus. Usually dark, dismal and awful, the school becomes a complete madhouse when the words "THE KING IS COMING - AND IT'S ABOUT TIME" appear on the wall. Soon after, the handle of a gem-encrusted spoon extrudes from the wall of the boys bathroom. A note accompanying the spoon indicates that the person who pulls it from the wall will be the king of the school. The story ends in the way such stories do. The villains are laughable, the characters cardboard and the logic lacking in this strained mixture of Arthurian legend and Lemony Snicket. Only for the largest collections. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152056254
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/1/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 146
  • Sales rank: 1,040,640
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 580L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

TONY JOHNSTON 's first novel for young readers, Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio,  was voted a Children's Book of the Year by the Southern California Booksellers Association. Her many acclaimed picture books include The Worm Family and That Summer. She lives in San Marino, California.

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Read an Excerpt

Martha Snapdragon (rhymes with wagon) lived with her father, Luther Snapdragon, in the boiler room of Horace E. Bloggins (rhymes with noggins) School. Nobody remembers what Horace E. Bloggins did to get a school named after him. Maybe it was for surviving the name Bloggins.
   The boiler room was like an oversize cracker box. A maze of steam pipes ran side to side along the walls, up and down, every which way, carrying steam to all the other rooms, heating the school in winter. Unfortunately, Horace E. Bloggins School was as old as mold. Nothing worked right, especially not the ancient steam pipes. So they also heated the place in summer.
   The constant blup and phlut of water gargled in the metal throats of the boiler-room pipes. Some clunked and clanked in an everlasting racket. Year-round, Martha and her father wore earmuffs to muffle the cacophony. (It didn't help much.) But their voices got muffled, too, so they had conversations like this:
   Luther: "How was school, dear?"
   Martha: "I don't think so."
   Luther: "Drat! Whacked my finger with the hammer!"
   Martha: "That's nice, Daddy."
   On a daily basis, the Snapdragons were nearly cooked, like crustaceans in a pot. They sweated a lot and their skin was as pink as SPAM. But even though the boiler room was sweltering hot, they were grateful that the principal, Dr. Klunk (rhymes with junk), gave them a roof over their heads, as part of Luther's (very low) pay.
   Luther Snapdragon was the school janitor, on call both day and night. Dr. Klunk woke him up whenever he felt like it (sometimes just for fun). Luther didn't mind. Times were tough and he was happy to have a job and a place to live for his little daughter and himself.
   Martha's mother had died some years before. Since then Luther Snapdragon had seemed a bit lost. But he loved his daughter and tried valiantly in his cloudy way to take care of her.
   "Look to the positive, Martha," he often said, trying to keep their spirits up. "Imagine something wonderful about our little home."
   Martha was always hungry. So she would scrunch her eyes shut and imagine her favorite thing, bacon, looped over every inch of pipe. Scrumptious bacon, popping and sizzling.
   But the Snapdragons were too poor to buy bacon. Sometimes they poached eggs in a pot on the pipework instead. They had to sling their laundry there, too, both clean and dirty. The light was bad, so often they wore dirty clothes instead of clean. Oh well. That didn't matter. They had each other.
   Martha was proud of her father for his hard work and devotion (thirty-seven years come July) to Horace E. Bloggins School. She knew how hard he worked, for the school and for her. So she tried to take care of him, too.
   Bloggins was a good school in lots of ways. It had some great teachers. It had nice lawns. And trees. It had cool brick hallways with great sayings chiseled into them. Sayings like:

LEARNING IS GOOD.
   SLACKING IS BAD.
   MATH IS TONS OF FUN.
   READ YOUR BRAINS LOOSE.

One bad thing about Horace E. Bloggins School was Dr. Klunk. The principal was pudgy and pasty and bald as a bottle, with beastly little eyes like mean raisins. He looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy stuffed into a suit.
   Dr. Klunk wasn't a doctor at all. He lied about that. He wasn't a real principal. Big fat fib. But he was a sneak. That's how he'd squirmed himself into this Place of Power.
   Dr. Klunk wanted to boss everybody. And to be rich. But he was too sneaky to do his own dirty work. He got the school bully, Rufus Turk (rhymes with jerk), to spy on teachers and dig out their secrets. Then he could really boss them around (and pay them less). Rufus stole kids' lunch money for Klunk. In exchange he and his gang could do whatever they pleased.
   Rufus was a runty kid, like Napoléon. He had a pinchy face like a boll weevil, ratty little teeth, and hair the color of an orangutan. It was unfair to compare him with orangutans, for those apes are gentle creatures. Rufus wasn't.
   Once he'd stuck a kindergartner in a tree. He laughed like crazy while the little kid bawled. Dr. Klunk had ordered a pizza and plunked a chair nearby. He laughed, too, spitting out pepperoni. Martha couldn't bear it. She'd scrambled up, helped the kid down, and got one thousand demerits.
   Kids didn't bother to tell their parents what went on at Bloggins. They used to, but their parents didn't believe them. They believed the principal- imagine! Martha didn't tell her father much, either. She didn't want to worry him. Besides, Luther Snapdragon was too kind to think that anybody could be so evil. "Look to the positive," Luther would have told her. "At least you have a principal."
   Rufus loved to terrorize everybody. But mostly he loved to torment Martha Snapdragon. Just seeing her fried his brain with anger. Sometimes he tied Martha's shoelaces together. Then he gave her a shove. Poor Martha hopped a lot, then fell on her face and got all scraped up. One or two of the other kids laughed, but mostly they felt sorry for her. They liked Martha. She'd saved lots of them from Klunk and Rufus. (So Rufus hated her even more.)
   Rufus also squished chewing gum into her hair. Though she cut it out as carefully as she could, Rufus kept sticking gum into it. Her hair always looked like a horse had chewed it.
   "You're nuthin' but a brain-o!" Rufus hollered whenever he saw Martha. "And your father's the janitor! Har! Har! Har!" (His father made movies and went to parties and ate sushi with movie stars and did other important stuff.)
   Martha felt glum. Why was Rufus after her? She had no idea. She hated the taunts and the shoving and the chewing-gum treatment, but she hated jeers about her father more. And she couldn't stand that ruffian bullying little kids. But Martha was just one girl- usually limp as uncooked bacon, from sleepless nights and skimpy meals. She just had to take it. Martha couldn't do anything about Rufus. She could do even less about Dr. Klunk. 

Copyright © 2005 by the Johnston Family Trust 
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. 

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First Chapter

Martha Snapdragon (rhymes with wagon) lived with her father, Luther Snapdragon, in the boiler room of Horace E. Bloggins (rhymes with noggins) School. Nobody remembers what Horace E. Bloggins did to get a school named after him. Maybe it was for surviving the name Bloggins.

The boiler room was like an oversize cracker box. A maze of steam pipes ran side to side along the walls, up and down, every which way, carrying steam to all the other rooms, heating the school in winter. Unfortunately, Horace E. Bloggins School was as old as mold. Nothing worked right, especially not the ancient steam pipes. So they also heated the place in summer.

The constant blup and phlut of water gargled in the metal throats of the boiler-room pipes. Some clunked and clanked in an everlasting racket. Year-round, Martha and her father wore earmuffs to muffle the cacophony. (It didn't help much.) But their voices got muffled, too, so they had conversations like this:

Luther: "How was school, dear?"

Martha: "I don't think so."

Luther: "Drat! Whacked my finger with the hammer!"

Martha: "That's nice, Daddy."

On a daily basis, the Snapdragons were nearly cooked, like crustaceans in a pot. They sweated a lot and their skin was as pink as SPAM. But even though the boiler room was sweltering hot, they were grateful that the principal, Dr. Klunk (rhymes with junk), gave them a roof over their heads, as part of Luther's (very low) pay.

Luther Snapdragon was the school janitor, on call both day and night. Dr. Klunk woke him up whenever he felt like it (sometimes just for fun). Luther didn't mind. Times were tough and he was happy to have a job and a place to livefor his little daughter and himself.

Martha's mother had died some years before. Since then Luther Snapdragon had seemed a bit lost. But he loved his daughter and tried valiantly in his cloudy way to take care of her.

"Look to the positive, Martha," he often said, trying to keep their spirits up. "Imagine something wonderful about our little home."

Martha was always hungry. So she would scrunch her eyes shut and imagine her favorite thing, bacon, looped over every inch of pipe. Scrumptious bacon, popping and sizzling.

But the Snapdragons were too poor to buy bacon. Sometimes they poached eggs in a pot on the pipework instead. They had to sling their laundry there, too, both clean and dirty. The light was bad, so often they wore dirty clothes instead of clean. Oh well. That didn't matter. They had each other.

Martha was proud of her father for his hard work and devotion (thirty-seven years come July) to Horace E. Bloggins School. She knew how hard he worked, for the school and for her. So she tried to take care of him, too.

Bloggins was a good school in lots of ways. It had some great teachers. It had nice lawns. And trees. It had cool brick hallways with great sayings chiseled into them. Sayings like:





LEARNING IS GOOD.

SLACKING IS BAD.

MATH IS TONS OF FUN.

READ YOUR BRAINS LOOSE.





One bad thing about Horace E. Bloggins School was Dr. Klunk. The principal was pudgy and pasty and bald as a bottle, with beastly little eyes like mean raisins. He looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy stuffed into a suit.

Dr. Klunk wasn't a doctor at all. He lied about that. He wasn't a real principal. Big fat fib. But he was a sneak. That's how he'd squirmed himself into this Place of Power.

Dr. Klunk wanted to boss everybody. And to be rich. But he was too sneaky to do his own dirty work. He got the school bully, Rufus Turk (rhymes with jerk), to spy on teachers and dig out their secrets. Then he could really boss them around (and pay them less). Rufus stole kids' lunch money for Klunk. In exchange he and his gang could do whatever they pleased.

Rufus was a runty kid, like Napoléon. He had a pinchy face like a boll weevil, ratty little teeth, and hair the color of an orangutan. It was unfair to compare him with orangutans, for those apes are gentle creatures. Rufus wasn't.

Once he'd stuck a kindergartner in a tree. He laughed like crazy while the little kid bawled. Dr. Klunk had ordered a pizza and plunked a chair nearby. He laughed, too, spitting out pepperoni. Martha couldn't bear it. She'd scrambled up, helped the kid down, and got one thousand demerits.

Kids didn't bother to tell their parents what went on at Bloggins. They used to, but their parents didn't believe them. They believed the principal- imagine! Martha didn't tell her father much, either. She didn't want to worry him. Besides, Luther Snapdragon was too kind to think that anybody could be so evil. "Look to the positive," Luther would have told her. "At least you have a principal."

Rufus loved to terrorize everybody. But mostly he loved to torment Martha Snapdragon. Just seeing her fried his brain with anger. Sometimes he tied Martha's shoelaces together. Then he gave her a shove. Poor Martha hopped a lot, then fell on her face and got all scraped up. One or two of the other kids laughed, but mostly they felt sorry for her. They liked Martha. She'd saved lots of them from Klunk and Rufus. (So Rufus hated her even more.)

Rufus also squished chewing gum into her hair. Though she cut it out as carefully as she could, Rufus kept sticking gum into it. Her hair always looked like a horse had chewed it.

"You're nuthin' but a brain-o!" Rufus hollered whenever he saw Martha. "And your father's the janitor! Har! Har! Har!" (His father made movies and went to parties and ate sushi with movie stars and did other important stuff.)

Martha felt glum. Why was Rufus after her? She had no idea. She hated the taunts and the shoving and the chewing-gum treatment, but she hated jeers about her father more. And she couldn't stand that ruffian bullying little kids. But Martha was just one girl- usually limp as uncooked bacon, from sleepless nights and skimpy meals. She just had to take it. Martha couldn't do anything about Rufus. She could do even less about Dr. Klunk.

Copyright © 2005 by the Johnston Family Trust

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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