For Louie Burger, things are going great in the fifth grade. He has two awesome best friends, Nick and Thermos, he's pretty much conquered his stage fright, and even mean ol' Ryan Rakefield isn't giving him as much flak. Yep, things are going pretty well.
That isuntil his dad has to go away for two weeks for a job and he is stuck with a house full of girls. Suddenly, it's makeup, princess dogs, love notes from your kissy-faced grandma, and heart-shaped pancakes all the time. How can Louie be the man of the house when it is constantly under attack by girlzillas?
Jenny Meyerhoff's funny and sweet novel is packed with boy humor, a great school setting, and over fifty pieces of line art from the talented Jason Week. This is the third book in the series.
About the Author
Jenny Meyerhoff is the author of Class B.U.R.P and The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger. She lives in Riverwoods, Illinois.
Jason Week was born and raised in a smallish central Wisconsin town. He currently lives outside of Chicago with his wife and son.
Read an Excerpt
Attack of the Girlzillas
The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger
By Jenny Meyerhoff
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2015 Jenny Meyerhoff
All rights reserved.
ONCE UPON A TURKEY
The long hand of the clock on Mrs. Adler's classroom wall seems to take forty-two hours to tick from the two to the three. Thanksgiving break starts at 3:20 p.m. That's only five minutes away, or it would be if the minute hand would move at normal speed. I squirm in my seat and try to hide a sigh.
School hasn't been that bad lately. I only did three embarrassing things this week, and it hardly even bothered me when Ryan Rakefield teased me about them. But I'd still rather be on break than at school. I've got big plans for Thanksgiving break. Comedy plans.
"Before you pack up your belongings, I have two notices to pass out." Mrs. Adler sits on the edge of her desk and holds up two sheets of paper, one in each hand. On the left is a piece of football-shaped brown paper. On the right, a sheet of white paper with a picture of a boy and a girl in the corner.
"Your classmate Theodora has generously invited everyone in room 11 to play football on the morning of Thanksgiving — a tradition from her old neighborhood."
At first I don't know who Mrs. Adler is talking about. Then Thermos stands up, and I remember Theodora is her real name. I call her Thermos because she brings soup for lunch every day.
Thermos stands up to pass out her invitations. I force a smile when Thermos hands one to me because I know she's really excited about the Turkey Bowl. That's what she's calling it. The Turkey Bowl is a great name, but I can't feel genuinely excited about it because, well, it's football. I am not, never have been, and never will be a sporty kid.
I just don't get football. A famous comedian once did a great routine about it. He said football is basically like war. Who wants to be in a war? At least in baseball the object is to go home and be safe. I don't like baseball much either, but it's better than throwing bombs and blocking and blitzing. (Actually, I don't know what any of those things mean, but they don't sound good.)
I hope Ryan Rakefield can't come to the Turkey Bowl because he doesn't think football is like war, he thinks football is war.
"Can I be a captain?" Ryan asks Thermos as she hands him his invitation. I cringe.
"My dad is going to pick names out of a helmet to make the teams," Thermos tells him. "No captains."
Ryan scowls. Then he reads the invitation and scowls even deeper. "Flag football?" he whispers to Jamal. Jamal used to be Ryan's sidekick, until Jamal realized he didn't have to be around someone so mean all the time. Now Jamal hangs out with Nick and Thermos and me a lot. But he sits next to Ryan in class because Mrs. Adler is in charge of the seating arrangement.
Jamal takes an invitation from Thermos and says, "I can't wait."
"What if the girls don't want to play?" Hannah studies the invitation and wrinkles her nose. "Can we just watch?"
"I guess." Thermos frowns like she doesn't quite understand the question. "If you want to."
I wish I could just watch. I wish Hannah hadn't only asked about girls.
"While Theodora finishes passing out her invitations, I'll tell you about this." Mrs. Adler holds up the second piece of paper again. "Your parents have already received an e-mail, but this is your official invitation to Growing Up Night."
As soon as she says the words, everyone looks sideways at one another and tries not to laugh. Growing Up Night is this really dumb thing they do in fifth grade where you have to come to school at night and learn about armpits and shaving cream. Dad and I have been joking about it for days.
"Next Thursday, a week after Thanksgiving, you and a special grownup will come to school in the evening to learn some important things about becoming a pre-teenager."
My dad told me about his Growing Up Night when he was a kid. He had to practice shaving his future mustache with a Popsicle stick and putting on fake deodorant over his shirt! I look at Nick, sniff my pits, then cross my eyes. He covers his mouth so he won't laugh out loud.
I look at Jamal and stroke my chin as if I have a beard. He strokes his chin, too, with a big grin on his face.
I look at Thermos and flex my biceps, but her cheeks turn pink and she looks away and finishes passing out her invitations.
"I know this seems silly," Mrs. Adler says, "but I think you will learn a lot. We will show a special movie and a nurse will answer questions."
Ryan Rakefield raises his hand and then blurts out his question before Mrs. Adler can call on him. "Who will answer the boys' questions?"
"I should have been more clear. Thank you, Ryan." Mrs. Adler stands up and walks toward the door. "A female nurse will answer questions from the girls and a male nurse will answer questions from the boys. And don't worry, boys and girls will have separate assemblies. The boys will be in the gym and the girls will be in the cafeteria."
Mrs. Adler stands next to the doorway and holds out the stack of papers. "Okay, you may pack up your lockers. Take a Growing Up Night invitation as you leave."
I hear a bunch of groans, so I can tell that everyone thinks this event is as stupid as I do. You don't have to learn how to grow up. It just happens. But it doesn't happen when you are in fifth grade, so I don't know why we have to learn about it now. The only good part about it is I get to go with my dad. I know we'll be cracking up harder than if we were watching Lou Lafferman. My dad told me when he was a boy, he and his friends joked that they would try to grow mushrooms instead of mustaches.
I open my locker and start shoving as many things into my backpack as I can: my gym shoes, which smell like old broccoli; two half-empty water bottles; an old flyer from the school talent show; a Charlie Chaplin hat; and five hundred crumpled pieces of paper shaped like a strange bird's nest. School breaks are pretty much the only time I remember to bring stuff home.
I'm so engrossed in locker archaeology that I don't notice Ryan Rakefield slithering up behind me. That is, I don't notice him until I hear him hiss at Thermos. "Where will you go on Growing Up Night? The gym or the cafeteria? They should have a third room for freaks."
Thermos slams her locker shut, knocks past Ryan, and tears out of the hall without even saying goodbye. We all know that Ryan is a bouncing jerkball and we shouldn't pay attention to anything he says, but sometimes that's easier said than done. I don't blame Thermos for leaving.
Ryan turns to me. I used to be his favorite teasing victim, back when I thought Ryan's opinion actually mattered. Now that I know it doesn't, he can't get as much enjoyment from making my life miserable. But he still tries.
"You probably need the third room, too. You throw like a girl."
I stand up straight and look Ryan right in the eyes. "Thank you for sharing your perspective with me. It's always interesting to see the inner workings of your mind."
Ryan tries to muster up another insult. His eyes roll back in his head and I can practically see his brain trying to think. Ryan opens his mouth just as the bell rings. At first, it looks like the brrrinngg is coming from inside him. I imagine Ryan clamping a hand over his lips wondering how he produced such a strange sound. I can't wait to go home and draw a picture of it in my comedy notebook. Just thinking about it makes me start laughing.
"You are so weird." Ryan shakes his head and walks away.
I shut my locker and take a deep breath of freedom. No more school for four whole days! Nothing can spoil Thanksgiving vacation.CHAPTER 2
THE MAN OF THE HOUSE
I have big plans over break. Sure, I'm going to hang out with my friends, and I'm going to eat a lot of Fluffernutters. Those things go without saying. But I am also going to watch the Lou Lafferman Day-After-Thanksgiving-Be-Thankful-You-Don't-Have-to-Watch-This-Stuff marathon. And I'm going to decorate the garage with new comedy posters — posters for my future comedy shows. And I'm going to write fresh material — so I have something to say at my future comedy shows. And I'm going to prank my sisters and I'm going to, I don't know, do whatever I want for four days. It'll be great.
Oh! I almost forgot. My dad and I are going to film my next viral video. I won't need posters or fresh material if no one's ever heard of me, so my videos are my ticket to a life of comedy. I've already had two videos go viral. The first was a video of me accidentally barfing onstage at my school talent show. The second was a video of me spoofing the Three Stooges using my dad's cool junk-art Halloween decorations. Who knows, maybe my next video will get a million hits.
Ruby and I say goodbye to Nick and Henry in front of our house, then they go to their house and Ruby and I go inside to put away our backpacks on the hooks by the door. Then we head out to the garage to find my dad. Most families park cars in their garage, but in the Burger family, the garage is one-half junk-art studio (that's my dad's half) and one-half comedy club (that's my half). The name of my club is the Laff Shack.
Since there are three girls in my family (one mom and two sisters), the garage is the only place with nothing girly. My dad calls it our man cave. My dad is on the art studio side and he's packing all of his art supplies into big plastic bins.
"Good idea," I tell him. "If we clear everything out of here it will be the perfect studio for my next video. I've been thinking, maybe we should make one connected to Growing Up Night. We could call it Male-Bonding Time and you could teach me how to shave my mushroom. We could attach mushrooms to my face and I could pretend to shave them off with a spatula. Then you could show me how to use them in an omelet."
I really like my idea, but Dad scrunches up one side of his face.
"What? You don't like it?"
"I like it," he says. "But I'm clearing the garage for another reason."
"You're not quitting, are you?" When my dad first started being a junk artist, after he lost his job as a businessman, he almost quit. Being a junk artist is really hard, especially since no one pays you.
Dad lifts a coffee can full of paintbrushes into a box and wags his eyebrows. "I'm not quitting, I'm working."
He stops packing, picks Ruby up, and spins her around in the air. "Hee-hee!" he shouts. "I'm working!"
"Yay!" Ruby spreads her arms out wide. "I'm a flying unicorn!"
"What do you mean 'working'?" I ask.
My dad puts Ruby back down on the floor. She wobbles a little bit, then falls into the table. "The garage is dizzy."
Dad helps Ruby sit down on the floor, then he turns to me and grins. "I mean, I've been commissioned. Someone hired me to create a one-of-a-kind sculpture. They are going to pay me to create a one-of-a-kind sculpture. And it's all thanks to you and the video you posted of my Halloween decorations."
A warm wave crashes over my chest and I feel the corner of my mouth tugging up in a half smile. "It is?"
"You bet." My dad throws his arm around my shoulders and pulls me close to his chest. He smells like a mix of Lever 2000 and paint thinner, so I wriggle away and butt my head against his stomach.
When my dad first started being an artist, no galleries would buy his work and he got pretty sad. My parents fought about money a lot because my dad's salary was zero. But if people are going to start hiring my dad to do art — and if that's because of my video — then, basically, I fixed everything. My comedy saved my family. I puff out my chest. I'm like a hero. Barftastic.
Barftastic is my catchphrase, by the way, and it probably doesn't mean what you think it means. In my book barftastic is as good as it gets!
I smile at my dad. "Who knows what my next viral video will do. Maybe it will get you a hundred more jobs. Maybe you'll become a millionaire. We better get started."
Dad steps behind his worktable and loads his soldering iron into the big plastic bin. "The thing is, Louie —"
"If you get a million dollars, can I get the new Magical Mystery Unicorn Mountain Hideout for a Thanksgiving present?" Ruby is now lying on the floor with her eyes closed.
I nudge her with my toe. "There's no such thing as a Thanksgiving present, Ruby." I roll my eyes.
"Then I will get it for a present when Daddy comes back from his vacation."
Now I twirl my finger in the air next to my ear, the universal sign for when someone is cuckoo. "Dad isn't going on vacation. We are on Thanksgiving break from school, but that doesn't mean we're going anywhere. It's the opposite. We're staying home and doing cool things like making my next viral video."
Ruby sits up and opens her eyes. She points at the big box on the table. "Then why is Daddy packing?"
I look at the box, then I look at my dad, who has a funny expression on his face. "Dad?"
He puts the hammer he was about to pack onto the table, then runs his hands through his hair. "The important thing is that I will be here to celebrate Thanksgiving and we can make a video when I come back."
"Come back from what?" I step away from the art studio and sit in one of the folding chairs in my comedy club.
"From making the sculpture. The job. The people who hired me are with a public library in Pennsylvania. I have to go there to make it. Library visitors will get to watch me work, and then when I'm done, the library will keep what I make." Dad tries to smile when he says this, like it's still the same happy thing we thought it was a minute ago, but a minute ago he was creating art at home. Now, he's leaving.
"How long will you be gone?" I ask. The question pulls me down like wet clothes. "Can we make the video before you go?"
My dad squints one eye, wrinkles the side of his mouth, and shakes his head. "I'm estimating it'll take at least two weeks. And I don't think I'll have time to work on your video before I go. The drive takes fifteen hours. I'm leaving Friday since I'm going to split the driving over two days."
Two weeks? I know it's not really that long, but for some reason the words make my chest feel hollow.
My dad used to work in an office. He was gone all day and I only saw him at dinnertime and on weekends, but he never went on vacation without us. And lately it's been my mom who goes to work during the day and my dad who's always home. I've gotten used to having him around.
If he gets more jobs, then he'll be gone even more. He might wind up traveling all the time. We'll only see him once a month or so. It'll be like he doesn't even live with us anymore.
"Is Mom going to stay home from work for two weeks?" I wonder if she's allowed to do that. I've never had a substitute for that long unless my teacher had a baby. "Is Ari going to babysit us every morning, because that is totally unfair. I'm too old for her to be my babysitter."
"I think Ari is a good babysitter, but Louie is even bester because he plays Magical Mystery Unicorns." Ruby finds the box of unicorns my dad keeps in the garage. She lines them up in a spiky parade.
Dad walks around the table and sits in the folding chair next to mine. "You really need a haircut," he says, ruffling my hair with his fingers.
"I like it long. It's distinctive."
Dad looks doubtful, but he says, "Grandma and Grandpa are coming for Thanksgiving, and when I leave, Grandpa will fly home, but Grandma will stay and help take care of you and your sisters until I get back."
"Grandma? But she's always getting lipstick kisses on me, and talking in funny voices and trying to make me sing and dance with her. What about male-bonding time? What if I need you for something?"
"Your mom and Grandma will help you with anything you need, and you and I can bond on the computer. The whole thing is going to go by much faster than you think."
"We can bond on the computer?" I ask, and when my dad nods his head, the tight ball of my stomach loosens a little bit. But then I think of one more thing. "Growing Up Night! Who's going to take me? Grandpa?"
Dad wrinkles his forehead and presses two fingers against his chin. "I forgot about that. Hmmm. Grandpa will be gone, so he can't take you. Maybe Mom can take you."
I exhale hot air through my nostrils. "Mom?"
"Or maybe someone else. Don't worry. We'll figure something out."
Whenever grownups say "we'll figure something out," it means something bad is going to happen, but they'd rather tell you about it later. Growing Up Night is already weird and uncomfortable and dumb, but at least Dad and I could have laughed about it. Growing Up Night without my dad is a torture sandwich with extra-sour pickles.
"I know it won't be easy, but this could be fun for you, Louie. You are going to be the man of the house when I'm gone. Your mom will need lots of help. Volleyball tryouts start on Monday and then practices start up right after. Mom will get home a lot later than usual. I'm counting on you to take charge and take care of everyone. Think you can do it?"
I consider my dad's words. Part of me thinks being the man of the house sounds kind of cool. Especially if I get to boss Ari around. Another part of me isn't too sure. Why does everything have to be about growing up all of a sudden?
"If I can't do it, will you stay home?" And never get more jobs like this.
My dad smiles sadly and shakes his head. "I know you can do it, Louie."
"I guess I don't have much choice," I say. I know my dad thinks I can do it, but I don't think I can at all. Dad helps me with a million things every day. How am I supposed to go for two weeks without him?
Excerpted from Attack of the Girlzillas by Jenny Meyerhoff. Copyright © 2015 Jenny Meyerhoff. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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.
Table of Contents
Once upon a Turkey,
The Man of the House,
Pumpkin Pie Stadium,
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow,
Love, Health, and Football,
See Ya Later,
What Guys Do,
The Problem with Grandmas,
More Disgusting Than Stepping in Snot,
The Even Bigger Problem with Grandmas,
International Boy Day,
Almost International Boys Are Stupid Day,
Growing, Growing, Groan,
Major. Brain. Freeze.,
International Boys Are Stupid Day,
Man of the House,
The Great Escape,
Grandpas Are Okay,
My Friend Thermos,
About the Author,
Also by Jenny Meyerhoff,