What if one day you were sitting in front of a computer and the impossible happened: it started communicating with you and actually offered to do your homework for you? Just when twelve year-old Pollard Gunning is giving up on almost everythingeighth grade, the Red Sox, his lousy home lifethat's just what happens. And that's only the beginning. Next Pollard is learning how to be a dream batterand how to ask a girl out on a date. Suddenly, Pollard's mixed-up world takes a techno-turn and the "year of weird" also becomes the year a very personal computer comes to the rescue. Justine Rendal has written a fresh, funny, and moving novel about loss and love and unlikely friendships that shows how sometimes even the impossible can be wonderfully possible.
1996 Books for the Teen Age (NY Public Library)
Author Biography: Justine Rendal writes books for both children and adults. This is her first children's book for HarperCollins. She lives in New York, NY.
About the Author
Justine Rendal writes books for both children and adults. This is her first children's book for HarperCollins. She lives in New York, NY.
Read an Excerpt
Weird things happen in life. That's just a fact. And lots of them you can't know about or plan for in advance. I didn't plan to have such a weird name, or to fall in love with Donna Ames, or for my best friend, Paul, to move to Arkansas when we were in the sixth grade. Or for a computer to become my new best friend. Or for The Accident. These are all important things that I never planned that really happened to me. But let me start at the beginning.
Okay. So my name is Pollard Ian Gunning. Weird, right? So sue me. As soon as I hit kindergarten, the problems started. No one could say Pollard, and I wasn't so great with my l's back then either, so when I said it, it sounded like "Powwerd." Go ahead, laugh.
Another thing: my initials. Pollard Ian Gunning. Perfect, huh? How would you like to get a Red Sox jacket on your birthday with a fancy monogram that spells PIG? My dad thought it was a riot. He's a real comedian.
My dad calls me Pollard the Dullard. He says it's 'cause I'm smart but I'm an underachiever. I guess he thinks it's funny. Other than that, I don't have a nickname. There's nothing short for Pollard, unless you want to be called Polly. Which, of course, I don't. Which is probably why Tim Burden and the other cool guys call me that. Tim's not just the coolest-looking kid in class, he's also the one with the best grades, his family is rich, and he's a pretty good athlete. You know the type.
But I am the funniest.
That is, I used to be. "Pollard is the class clown," Mrs. Ackerman wrote on my secondgrade report card. I read it and didn't even know that was something bad. I was proud. Making people laugh feltreally good. Sometimes, of course, I got in trouble for it. But lots of times, if I was in trouble, making someone laugh would get me out.
So being the class clown was okay with me, and even sometimes okay with the teachers. Like there was the time in third grade when we had vocabulary. You had to take your word, say it, spell it out loud, and then use it in a sentence. So boring. My word was defeat. "Defeat, D-E-F-E-A-T. Would you please keep defeat out of the aisles," I said. None of the kids laughed or even lifted their heads from their books, but Mrs. Goldman got hysterical. It felt like a secret between us. It was great.
Then there was the time I trained my dog, Gonzo, to throw a Frisbee. It took me weeks, but Gonzo learned to kind of stand up on his hind legs with the Frisbee in his mouth, turn his head, and let go. Then I'd catch it with my teeth. See, I think that's funny. I brought him to the park one Saturday and Gonzo threw standing up and I fetched on all fours. And some photographer walked by and they had our picture on the front page of the second section of Newsday. My dad said it was only because Gonzo was such a good-looking Great Dane. I cut the page out and put it up in the hallway outside my room. It's the only picture I have of him.
But the best was making my mother laugh. She had the greatest laugh. I can't exactly describe it, except to say it sounded like chocolate. She'd laugh and then she'd say, "Pollard, you're so weird," but she said it in a really nice way. I'd do almost anything to make her laugh. One time ... actually, I really would rather not think about her. Thinking about The Accident or what it was like before The Accident isn't a good idea. Sometimes before I go to sleep I can't help it, and sometimes I dream about it, but any other time I just don't. No matter what Ms. Brandon says. So just forget about it.
Now I'm in the eighth grade at McKinley Memorial, I'm flunking, no girls like me, and of course, I've got Mr. Mead for homeroom. Did you ever notice how the world works like that? Mr. Mead is like the worst teacher in the whole school. A, he's boring. B, he's very boring. C (and this is the worst part), he's one of those boring guys who think they're interesting. You know the type: He's always reading out loud, and changing his voice to be dramatic, but it really doesn't help. It's just embarrassing and boring at the same time. Plus he teaches language arts and history, which are not exactly my best subjects. Worst of all, he's always telling jokes, which I really hate.
You'd think that a clown like me would like jokes, but the funny thing is mostly I don't. It's like jokes are kind of dead -- like frozen food you can take out and say and then put back. Ilike fresh stuff -- funny things that just kind of happen as you're going along, you know, like a wisecrack or a reaction to something. My father is a big joke kind of guy. He sells used cars and he has a joke for every occasion. He's big on those definition jokes. You know, the kind that start out "What do you call a . . ." Even the name of his car lot is some kind of a joke -- he says he calls it Krakatoa Motors because that's Asian and he sells Japanese cars, but also because it's just east of the Cuppa Java Coffee Shop. It's supposed to be funny because there's a volcano in the Pacific called Krakatoa, that's east of Java. Get it? Personally, I don't think it's that big a yuck. Maybe I don't get it, though, because my mother used to laugh. But she was always nice to my father, kind of like he was her son or something.
I don't like to write about her or the rest of it because of The Accident. It happened last year on November 19. 1 stayed home to do a science project. The car skidded off the road. Only my father made it. My mom and Gonzo didn't. Anyway, like I already said, I'm not writing or thinking about it. At all.