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Trading Places with Tank Talbott

Trading Places with Tank Talbott

5.0 3
by Dori Hillestad Butler

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All Jason Pfeiffer wants to do is finish his horror-movie script about his sister, but lately his life is full of horrors! His parents are making him take swimming lessons at the recreation center—and there’s nothing that Jason hates more than taking off his glasses and putting his face in the water. Except maybe having to deal with Tank Talbott. All Tank


All Jason Pfeiffer wants to do is finish his horror-movie script about his sister, but lately his life is full of horrors! His parents are making him take swimming lessons at the recreation center—and there’s nothing that Jason hates more than taking off his glasses and putting his face in the water. Except maybe having to deal with Tank Talbott. All Tank Talbott ever wants to do is beat people up. (At least, that’s what Jason thinks.) But Tank’s at the rec center, too—because his parents are making him take ballroom dance classes! There’s nothing that Tank hates more than dancing with girls—except maybe being mistaken for a dorkface like Jason. But that’s just what gives Jason a brilliant idea—trading places! The mismatched pair makes the switch, and along the way, they learn some surprising things about friendship and courage.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Butler begins with a wacky, kid-pleasing premise and builds it into a cleverly constructed story that contains considerable warmth and wisdom. Although Jason, sensitive and artistic, and Tank, who is athletic and bullying, are as different on the inside as can be, they bear a close enough physical resemblance on the outside that they hit upon the idea of trading places. Jason can attend Tank's scorned ballroom-dancing class at the same time as Tank attends Jason's terrifying swimming lessons. All goes amazingly well until Jason's parents are invited to watch their son pass his final swim test and Tank's parents are invited to watch their son's end-of-class ball. As Jason impersonates Tank in the dancing class, he comes to understand how long it can take for a bad first impression to die: all the girls continue to shun him for Tank's initial misbehavior and his teacher blames him for pranks he didn't do. And as a friendship between the two boys develops, slowly and convincingly, Jason also comes to understand how a kid not really all that different from himself could come to be a bully, or at least to be perceived one by others. A good reminder that people can indeed change—but it may take a long, long time until others recognize it. 2003, Albert Whitman,
— Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Jason is miserable. He's being forced to learn to swim when he'd rather write a horror-film script featuring his sister as the monster. To make matters worse, a staff person at the Rec Center mistakes him for Tank, the neighborhood bully. This gives Jason an idea: he'll take Tank's dance lessons for him, and Tank will take his swimming lessons. What seems simple and fun on the surface is actually a life-changing experience for both boys. Jason learns what it's like to wear Tank's shoes as his reputation gets him in trouble when he's not even there, and the boys end up as reluctant friends. A well-written, up-to-date story, laced with humor and a good sense of adolescent growing pains.-Sharon R. Pearce, Chippewa Elementary School, Bensenville, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
230 KB
Age Range:
8 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt

Trading Places with Tank Talbott

By Dori Hillestad Butler


Copyright © 2003 Dori Hillestad Butler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-7125-2


Swimming Test

Jason Pfeiffer rested his chin against the car door and stared out the open window as the world went by. He tried not to think about where he was going.

Good thoughts, he reminded himself. Think good thoughts. Like The Dagmartian. That was a good thought. The Dagmartian was the movie he was writing about a two-headed beast that bubbled up from the bottom of a swimming pool and attacked people. It was such a cool idea. One day The Dagmartian would earn him an Academy Award for Best Script or Best Director. Maybe even both.

Jason could see it now. His name in lights. People begging for his autograph. Reporters wanting to know how he got the idea for such a scary creature ...

"Hey," Jason's sister, Dagmar, poked his arm. "Roll up your window. The wind's messing up my hair." She flipped her mane of dark brown hair over her shoulder.

Jason gasped at the creature who shared the back seat with him. It was the Dagmartian. In the flesh!

If he rolled up his window, he'd be trapped. The Dagmartian would wrap her tentacles around him and suck the life right out of him.

There was only one thing to do. Jason pulled up his legs, leaned as far into his corner of the car as he could, and screamed bloody murder.

Mom slammed on the brakes and the car screeched to a halt. "What? What's the matter?"

"Nothing," Jason said. "I thought I saw a creature from another planet, but it's okay. It's just Dagmar."

Dagmar rolled her eyes. "All I want is for him to put up his window. Is that so much to ask?"

The car started moving again and Mom glared at Jason in the rearview mirror. "You're eleven years old, Jason. You should know better than to scream when I'm driving."

"Sorry," Jason said, pushing up his glasses.

"Roll up the window," Mom ordered. "And no fighting back there!"

Dagmar put on this look like "Who me? Fight with him?" Yeah, right. From the day Jason was born, Dagmar had done nothing but torture him. She hated him. She told him so all the time.

She pinched him, scratched him, pinned him against a wall until he promised to do whatever disgusting chore she was trying to get out of.

She was three years older than he was. And a whole head taller. Jason was no match for her. His only defense was to put her in his horror movies. He could hardly wait to see his sister's face at the opening of The Dagmartian. Revenge for all those years of abuse.

"Here we are," Mom said cheerfully as she pulled into the driveway in front of the Rec Center. "Are you ready, Jason?"

Jason's heart pounded. The only thing worse than sharing breathing space with his sister was having to go to his swimming lesson. Especially on test day.

"I don't feel so good," Jason moaned.

"Oh, Jason," Mom said. "You always say that."

"But I really don't," Jason insisted. His stomach felt like it had grown a million feet. And all those feet were running and jumping and kicking inside him.

Mom reached over from the front seat and felt his forehead. "I think you're just nervous."

No lie, Jason thought. Every time he went near the pool, he remembered what happened at Grandpa Larson's cabin last August. It was April now, but the memory was just as strong.

Grandpa had taken Jason and Dagmar out fishing on the lake. Jason wasn't sure what happened. Just that one minute he was in the boat, the next he was in the water. Without his life jacket. It all happened so fast.

Water had washed over his head and rushed into his nose and mouth. It tasted like dead fish and rotting weeds. Jason gagged. He tried to cough, but he couldn't. Couldn't get rid of the water.

Desperately, he clawed at the water, struggling to get to the surface. He had to breathe. Had to get air. But he couldn't. He was going down. Down to the bottom of the lake.

It was true what they said about your whole life passing before your eyes when you die.

Except Jason didn't die.

Eventually, Grandpa got his big arm around Jason's middle and fished him out of the water. Then he pounded on Jason's back until Jason threw up all the lake water that he'd swallowed.

When Mom heard what happened, she said, "That's it! You need to learn to swim."

Jason had never taken swimming lessons. He never wanted to. Swimming was Dagmar's thing, not his. Jason preferred writing and acting.

But now Jason had no choice. If he ever wanted more writing or acting classes, he would have to pass tadpole swimming first.

"I know you can do this, Jason," Mom said gently as she waited for him to get out of the car. "I know you can put your fears aside and learn to swim."

Why did grownups always think they knew you could do something when really you couldn't? Like last fall when that jerk Tank Talbott broke Jason's best friend Luke Murphy's nose. Their teacher, Mr. Burns, had actually said, "I know you boys can put your differences aside and learn to get along."

Right. Tank had been hassling Luke since the day his family moved in next door to Luke's. Half the time Luke couldn't even play outside in his own backyard because Tank would come over and beat him up. How was Luke supposed to just "put aside" six years of that? What finally happened was Luke moved to Texas during Christmas vacation.

Too bad Jason couldn't move away from swimming lessons.

"Go on, now." Mom nodded at the door. "I need to go park the car. I'll see you inside."

Jason forced himself to open the door and get out.

"Remember!" Mom stuck her head out her window. "Positive attitude! If you think you can do it, you can."

Right, Jason thought as he trudged up the zillion and one steps that led to the Rec Center. He opened the heavy glass door and headed left toward the pool area. A chlorine smell hung in the air.

Jason's swimming teacher, Mr. Abram, was reading a magazine at the front desk.

"Hello, Jason." Mr. Abram said. He didn't even look up from his magazine.

Jason knew that Mr. Abram only liked kids who got right in the pool, put their faces in the water, and did what they were told to do.

Jason took his glasses off. He was about to leave them at the desk like he always did when suddenly he got an idea.

He cleared his throat to get Mr. Abram's attention. "Um, if you want, you could just give me my green slip now. Go ahead and mark fail on it."

Mr. Abram looked up at Jason. "Don't you at least want to take the test first?"

Jason shrugged. "I've taken it two times already." And failed it both times.

Mr. Abram scratched his head. "This test is very simple. All you have to do is tread water for two minutes, float on your back, and swim the crawl one length of the pool."

Yeah. Real simple. "Do I have to put my face in the water for the crawl?" Jason asked.

"It wouldn't be a crawl stroke if you didn't."

"Then I'll take my green slip now," Jason repeated. There was no point in even getting in the water.

Mr. Abram sighed. "Have it your way." He picked up a tablet of green test forms, wrote Jason's name on the first one and circled the word fail. He tore the top paper off and handed it to Jason. "Here you go," he said.

"Thanks." Jason put his glasses back on. He felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He ran back outside and met his mom and sister coming up the steps.

Jason handed his mother the green slip.

Dagmar peered at the slip over Mom's shoulder. "You flunked?" she asked. "How could you flunk already? All we did was park the car."

"I told Mr. Abram he didn't have to give me the test." Jason explained. "I knew I'd fail."

"How can you know you're going to fail before you ever even take the test?" Mom asked.

Jason raised an eyebrow. Some things were obvious, weren't they?

"All right," Mom said. "Let's go in and find out when the next session starts." She turned to Dagmar. "Maybe you want to go back to swim team again next session, too? You've had several months off."

"No!" Dagmar cried. "I already told you, I'm not just taking a break here. I don't want to do swim team anymore! I don't want to do swim team ever again!"

"But you love swim team," Mom said. Dagmar had been on the swim team for as long as Jason could remember. Her bedroom overflowed with swimming ribbons, medals, and trophies.

"I used to love it," Dagmar corrected.

"Okay, okay," Mom said. Sometimes, there was no reasoning with Dagmar. "Come on, Jason."

Jason shuffled along behind her. "How come she can quit swimming and I can't?"

"Quitting swim team and quitting swimming lessons are two different things," Mom said.

"Yeah, but it's still not fair. If I promise to stay away from water my whole life, do I still have to take more lessons?"

"You're never going to go near water?" Mom looked doubtful.

"Never," Jason promised, crossing his heart.

"Never go in a boat?"

"Definitely not!" Not after last summer.

"Never film one of your movies near water?"

Jason thought about The Dagmartian. "Well, I won't have to get in the water for that," he said. "My movie director's chair will sort of swivel out over the water."

"What if you fall off your chair?" Dagmar asked.

"I won't."

"I'm sorry, Jason," Mom shook her head. "But you know the deal. Learning how to swim is a matter of life and death. Once you learn enough to pass tadpole swimming, you can quit. But until then, you have to keep taking lessons."

Jason's shoulders slumped. He was going to be taking tadpole swimming lessons for the rest of his life.


Dork Face

Hey, Dork Face!" A mean voice startled Jason when he walked up the Rec Center steps on Thursday afternoon.

Jason turned. Oh, no. What was Tank Talbott doing here?

Tank didn't know it, but he had a small role in Jason's movie, too. He was the Turbo-Tank, a twelve-foot-tall monster with a head like an army tank and a body like a human's. The Turbo-Tank came charging out of the woods in Scene 2, but the Dagmartian ripped him apart with her razor-sharp claws and ate him for a midnight snack. It was an awesome scene. Or it would be once it was on the big screen. Blood and machine parts would be flying everywhere.

"What are you doing here, Dork Face?" Tank asked as he fell into step beside Jason. "Taking dance lessons?"

"No!" Jason replied, his voice cracking.

Jason was the same height as Tank. He had the same build, too. It was possible he could hold his own against Tank. Possible, but not very likely. As far as Jason knew, his only interest was beating people up.

Jason continued up the steps. "I'm just, you know, here to hang out." He hoped he sounded relaxed. Jason figured the best way to deal with a guy like Tank was to pretend you weren't afraid of him.

"Yeah, that's what I'm doing here, too," Tank said. He yanked open the door. "I'm hanging out."

Jason swallowed hard. He hoped Tank wasn't going to hang out at the pool!

When they got inside, Jason saw the sign. Ballroom Dance for Kids. An arrow pointed toward the gym.

Jason and Tank both stopped.

"Well?" Tank said, hands on his hips. "Which way are you going, Dork Face?"

Jason started toward the pool. But he glanced back over his shoulder. Tank was still staring at him.

"Don't even think it!" Tank jabbed a finger at Jason. His eyes narrowed into angry little slits. "I'm here to play basketball, not take dance lessons!"

Jason held up his hands in innocence. "Sure, Tank. Whatever you say." The truth was, Jason didn't care what Tank was doing here. As long as he wasn't taking tadpole swimming class.

* * *

Jason stood shivering at the edge of the pool with the other tadpole swimmers. Was it his imagination, or were the other kids who took tadpole swimming getting shorter? Jason towered over everyone this time.

"I'm Ms. Hall," said a woman who was wearing a dark red one-piece Rec Center swimming suit. Her brown hair bounced on her shoulders as she walked back and forth in front of the group. "I'm going to be your swimming teacher."

Cool, Jason thought. A new teacher. Not like a new teacher was any more likely to get him to swim than Mr. Abram was. But it was still nice to have a fresh start.

"You can't learn to swim by standing around." Ms. Hall blew on her whistle. "Everybody in the pool!"

"Hooray!" several kids shouted.

All around Jason, kids dive-bombed into the pool. Jason stepped back so he wouldn't be splashed. He couldn't help it. Every time he looked into the water, he saw a shapeless monster that wanted to swallow him up and drag him to that dark place at the bottom of the pool where he wouldn't be able to see or hear or breathe.

"I said everybody in the pool," Ms. Hall repeated with a pointed look at Jason.

Jason slowly sat down at the edge of the pool and lowered himself into the water.

Brr! Goosebumps ran up his arms.

"How many of you know how to blow bubbles?" Ms. Hall asked once everyone was lined up.

Jason glanced down the line. Even without his glasses, he could see that everyone else raised a hand, so he slowly raised his hand, too. Besides, he knew how to blow bubbles. He just couldn't do it.

When everyone else put their faces in the water, Jason touched his chin to the water. When everyone else ducked down under the water, Jason went down as far as his shoulders.

He glanced down the line of tadpole swimmers again. Usually there were one or two other kids like him. Kids who couldn't put their faces in the water. But this time every head but his was wet. This wasn't good.

Keeping both feet planted firmly on the pool floor, Jason crouched down, squeezed his eyes shut, plugged his nose and dipped the back of his head into the water. When he stood back up, water ran down his shoulders. There. His head was wet.

Ms. Hall blew her whistle. "We have ten minutes left. I want you all to do five jellyfish, five starfish, and five torpedoes."

Ms. Hall started down the line of swimmers. Jason tried to hide behind the kid next to him, but it was hard to hide behind someone who was shorter than he was.

Ms. Hall stopped in front of Jason. "I haven't seen your face go in the water."

"Really?" Jason let out a nervous laugh. "Gee, I don't know how you could've missed it." He scratched his head, hoping she'd notice how wet it was.

"What's your name?" Ms. Hall asked.


"Well, Jason, let's see your jellyfish."

Jason's heart thumped. A jellyfish was when you put your face in the water and held your legs up under you.

Jason couldn't do a jellyfish. But Ms. Hall was waiting, so he had to do something. He took a deep breath, pinched his nose shut, and stuck his face in the water for about half a second.

"There," he said as water dripped from his face. He rubbed his eyes. "How was that?"

"It's a start." Ms. Hall smiled. "By the end of the session, we'll have you putting your face in the water without plugging your nose."

Dream on, Jason thought.

When it was time to leave, Jason was the first one out of the pool. He ran to the boys' locker room and got dressed in record time. Then he headed out to the lobby to pick up his glasses and wait for his mom to pick him up.

"Hey, Jason!" Ms. Hall called from the desk. "You forgot your glasses!" Jason squinted. Ms. Hall wasn't talking to him. She was talking to Tank Talbott.

Wow, Jason had never realized how much he and Tank looked sort of alike from the back.

Tank swung his gym bag back and forth next to the door.

Ms. Hall came around the desk and brought Jason's glasses over to Tank.

No! Jason hurried across the lobby. Knowing Tank, he'd probably toss the glasses on the floor and stomp on them.

But all Tank did was look at the glasses like they were some kind of fungus. "Those aren't mine," he said. "They're his." Tank pointed at Jason.

Ms. Hall turned. "Oh!" she said with surprise. She looked from Jason to Tank and back at Jason. "Well, you two look so much alike."

"No, we don't!" Tank curled his upper lip in disgust.

"Well, not up close," Ms. Hall agreed. "I'm sorry for the confusion. Here are your glasses, Jason."

"Thanks," Jason said, putting them on.

Tank raised his eyes to the ceiling. "Could my day possibly get any worse?" he asked. "Someone actually thought I was Jason Pfeiffer."

Before Jason could respond, a short, grandmotherly lady came from the gym. She wore a blue sweater that somehow sort of matched her hair. She looked at the boys and smiled. "We had some problems today, Tank," she said, her smile fading just a little. "But next time will be better."

Jason was surprised that a lady that old was teaching basketball.

"Remember what I said about that side step. Use the inside of your foot to make a smooth transition from one foot to another."

Smooth transition? Jason looked at Tank.

"Side-together, side-together, side-together," the lady said as she sidestepped a semicircle around them.

Tank's face turned red.

Jason scratched his chin. This was the most interesting "basketball" move he'd ever seen.


Excerpted from Trading Places with Tank Talbott by Dori Hillestad Butler. Copyright © 2003 Dori Hillestad Butler. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Dori Hillestad Butler is owned by a big black dog named Mouse. He’s a registered therapy dog who enjoys reading with children in Coralville, Iowa, where he lives with Dori and her family. To learn more about Dori, her dog, and her other books for children, visit her website: www.kidswriter.com.  
Dori Hillestad Butler is owned by a big black dog named Mouse. He’s a registered therapy dog who enjoys reading with children in Coralville, Iowa, where he lives with Dori and her family. To learn more about Dori, her dog, and her other books for children, visit her website: www.kidswriter.com.

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Trading Places with Tank Talbott 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is way more than some readers bargain for. Jason was a really nice and caring person. He's working on a movie script called 'The Dag Martian'. It was funny how Jason's sister, Dagmar, picked on him a lot. We like how Jason made up the movie script. We didn't like Tank's attitude because he was too mean but we would have liked more details about how he treated other people. We would recommend this book to other people because it was a funny book.