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Frederick Frederickson has a food-chain theory about life. There are lions, like the school bully. Gazelles, like the bullied kids. There are meerkats, and the fleas that live on the butts of meerkats. Frederick's a flea.
Fifth grade is off to a terrible start when Frederick is sent to a disciplinary camp for troublesome boys. His fellow troop matesNosebleed, Specs, The Professor, and little-yet-lethal Ant Biteare terrifying. But in between trust-building exercises and midnight escape attempts, a tenuous friendship grows between them. Which is lucky, because a Category 5 hurricane is coming and everyone will have to work togetherlions and fleas aliketo survive!
Kate Beasley outdoes herself in this hilarious, whip-smart tale of brotherhood, survival, and what it really means to be a friend.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|Product dimensions:||5.65(w) x 8.54(h) x 1.14(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
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The Lion, Gazelle, Meerkat-Butt Theory of Life
Frederick Frederickson was thinking about strawberry daiquiris when the dodgeball slammed into his face.
The pale pink frost, too thick to come up the straw. The toothpick umbrella. The maraschino cherries, speared on a tiny plastic saber.
The delicate cartilage in Frederick's nose crunched, and his knees hit the ground.
"Ahhh!" he wailed. The vision of the daiquiri vanished, and water sprang into his eyes.
Frederick was ten. He did not cry, but if a dodgeball hit you directly in the nose, your eyes automatically released water. So, when Devin Goodyear came to stand over him, Frederick wasn't crying. His eyes were automatically releasing water.
"Jeez, Frederickson." Frederick could tell from the tone of Devin's voice that the other boy was shaking his head.
"You better not tell anyone we were playing dodgeball," Devin warned.
"I wobe," Frederick said. He was trying to say I won't, but between the automatic release of eye water and the blood pouring out of his nostrils, he sounded like he had a head cold. "I wobe tell."
Frederick was kneeling behind a set of bleachers that blocked him from view of the recess monitors. The students weren't allowed to play dodgeball. Every year the teachers told them the story of how one time, a group of kids had been playing dodgeball, and how Candace Licky had gotten hit in the head so hard that she was knocked unconscious and she fell on the ground, hitting her head a second time, and she didn't die, but she could've died, and if any of the students died, the teachers would be in big trouble and lose their jobs. And that was why the kids weren't allowed to play dodgeball.
"Because only a total loser would tell." Devin didn't sound angry. He wasn't trying to bully Frederick. He was just being informative. Frederick appreciated that.
Devin sighed then and walked away, leaving Frederick's friends, Joel Mincey and Raj Pal, to hook their arms around his elbows and haul him to his feet.
"I'b fine," Frederick said in a thick voice, trying to wave them away.
"You're bleeding," Raj said. He dropped Frederick's arm and stepped back, wrinkling his nose.
"Come on," Joel said to Raj. "He's got to go to the nurse, and I'm not taking him by myself." He looked over his shoulder, checking to see if anyone was watching them. "Hurry up," he muttered to Frederick. "We look like idiots."
Frederick didn't know why they thought they had to take him to the nurse. "I'b fine!" he insisted, wiping at the blood that had dripped on his T-shirt.
* * *
By lunchtime, Frederick's nose had swollen until it looked like an ugly, overripe plum hanging off his face. The nurse had given him a Ziploc bag full of ice to hold on it. During the morning lessons, the ice had turned into a bag of water that had sweat all over his worksheets, making them soggy and translucent. The bag now sloshed at the edge of Frederick's lunch tray.
"Why'd you agree to play dodgeball with Devin Goodyear in the first place?" Joel asked as they waited in the lunch line with their trays.
Devin and his friends almost always had a secret dodgeball game going, but Frederick, Raj, and Joel didn't hang out with them. Today, though, Frederick had walked right over and joined in.
"You were playing, too," Frederick pointed out in a low voice. He didn't want any of the teachers to overhear them talking about dodgeball.
"Because you were," Joel said, rolling his eyes. "I was trying to keep you from getting killed."
Frederick would've snorted, but his nose wasn't up to it. Joel was the least athletic of the three of them, but he always talked big. The way he talked, you would think he had three Super Bowl rings and a medal for saving people from a burning building.
"I don't even like dodgeball," Raj said pensively. "But I didn't know what I would do if the two of you played and I didn't, so I played. I think that means I gave in to peer pressure. That's something I need to work on." Raj was interested in self-improvement. Before his baseball games, all the other players packed their cheeks with gum and went out on the field, looking cool tossing balls in the air. Raj stayed in the dugout, reading statistics about the opposing team and doing alternate nostril breathing.
The three of them slid their trays down the counter. The lunch lady pinched a single barbecued chicken wing with her tongs and dropped it onto Frederick's tray. The wing was so tiny that Frederick thought it must've come off a miniature chicken. Frederick looked from the wing on his tray to the heaping-full serving dish on the other side of the Plexiglas sneeze guard. He raised his eyes up to the lunch lady. The elastic of her hairnet dug a purple line in her forehead. Frederick tried to smile a winning smile at her, but all he managed was a grimace of pain.
"Please, may I have a little more?" He lifted his tray hopefully, tilting it toward her. The melted ice pack sloshed sadly.
Her eyes narrowed. She didn't seem to move a muscle, but the tongs in her hand began to click menacingly. Frederick suddenly had the impression that he was standing across from a giant, angry lobster in a hairnet. He swallowed and moved down the line.
"Today's my birthday," Joel told the lady.
She dropped a single wing on his tray, too, splattering the tray and Joel with specks of barbecue sauce.
"Vegetarian," Raj mumbled, even though he wasn't, and he hurried past her without making eye contact.
They sat at their usual table.
"I wanted to play dodgeball with Devin," Frederick said, getting back to their conversation, "because I want to get better at sports and stuff." He paused. "I want to beat him at something." He said this sentence carefully, in one quick rush of breath, like he was removing a Jenga block from a tower. This was something he'd been thinking about for a while, but he'd never admitted it out loud to Joel or Raj before. He waited now to see how they would react.
Joel snorted through his perfectly working nose.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Frederick asked in annoyance. "I could beat him."
Frederick had never won anything that he could remember. He'd never been that guy. That guy who scored goals and won the recess games ... that guy who got laughs in class and walked through the school like he owned the place. In fact, Frederick was the opposite of that guy. He was the one who missed the shot and lost the game for everyone else, the one who got laughed at, the one who walked through the school and stepped in spilled Kool-Aid that dried sticky to the bottom of his shoe so that every time he took a step he had to peel his foot off the floor with an embarrassing sque-e-e-e-lcha.
Frederick had always been okay with the fact that he was a loser because he'd believed that one day, he would become the kind of person everybody wanted to hang out with. Like how the Ugly Duckling became a swan. Or how Harry Potter became a wizard.
But then he had started fifth grade a week ago, and he was still the same old Frederick, and he'd begun to worry. What if he wasn't going to transform into his true awesome self? What if there was some secret to it? Frederick didn't know what the secret was. But he couldn't just sit around waiting anymore. He had to help things along, and he'd decided that the best way to become cool was to beat Devin Goodyear, the coolest guy on Earth.
"You're never going to beat Devin at dodgeball," Joel said, like he was reading Frederick's mind.
"I could win," Frederick argued. "It's a definite possibility."
Joel looked at him for a moment and saw that he was serious. "Oh, brother," he drawled.
"Don't 'Oh, brother' me," Frederick said, and he would've said it in a nasty way, but using any intense tones of voice hurt his nose, so he had to say everything in neutral.
"Look," said Joel, jabbing the straw into his juice box, "it's like this. There are people who are lions, right? Devin's a lion. He's big. He gets all the meat. He can do whatever he wants. Then there are people who are gazelles." He slurped his juice, making his cheeks deflate.
"Are you saying I'm a gazelle?" Frederick tried to think of an animal that was even lower than a gazelle so that he could tell Joel, Oh, I'm a gazelle, huh? Well then, you're a ...
"I'd say you and I are more like meerkats," Raj said as he pulled the soft middle out of a roll. "No." He looked up and frowned into the distance. "We're more like fleas. We're the fleas that are biting the butt of a meerkat."
Frederick opened his mouth to answer, but —
"Joel's not as low down as a flea," Raj continued, lost in his thoughts. "He's something like a hyena. But he's the hyena that none of the other hyenas like."
"There's no shame in being the flea," Joel said to Frederick.
"I'm not the flea," Frederick snapped.
Joel pointed his chicken wing at Frederick. "You need to accept the fact that life is going to be horrible for you. You're not going to win at dodgeball. You're not going to get extra chicken. You're never going to be as cool as Devin Goodyear."
"That's not true," Frederick said. "You don't know the future. Maybe I'll win the lottery. Maybe I'll be president one day."
Raj blinked at him. "That's very unlikely."
"I know it's unlikely," Frederick said. "But my point is that anything could happen."
"But it's not likely to happen," Raj insisted, as if Frederick was being stupid.
"I just said that!" Frederick said. "I just said that I knew it wasn't likely, so why are you telling me again?" "The chances of you winning the lottery are one in a million." Raj patted his paper napkin against the corner of his mouth. "Or maybe a hundred million. Actually, I'm just making those numbers up. It's probably not an even number like that. It's probably something like one in three hundred forty-two million three hundred and two."
"That's still an even number," Joel said. "Because it ends with a two."
"Please, will you stop it?" Frederick said moodily. He poked the wobbly Ziploc bag of water that had been an ice pack.
"Hey, Dev!" Joel called.
Frederick looked up sharply.
Devin was walking past them toward his own table, but he slowed and came over. Devin was Frederick's height, which was average, but while Frederick was very skinny, Devin was stocky and strong. He had red hair, and he always wore a crooked smile, like he had a great secret and he wasn't letting anyone in on it.
Although, thought Frederick, maybe it wasn't such a secret. Maybe he was smiling now because his tray was loaded with barbecued chicken. Barbecued chicken stuck out over the sides of the tray. About fifteen barbecued chickens were stacked on it.
"I was just explaining the theory of life to Frederick," Joel said, eyeing the chicken.
"Shut up, Joel," Frederick muttered, looking down at his own puny lunch, but Joel was already going on.
"How there are people who are lions and people who are gazelles and people who are fleas on meerkat butts." Joel paused, waiting for Devin to give some sign that he was following along.
Frederick glanced up from his green beans.
Devin's easy smile didn't falter. "I'm the lion," he said.
"Exactly." Joel snapped his fingers and pointed at Devin.
Devin shifted his tray so that he was holding it with one hand. Probably he was just showing off that he was able to hold the heavy tray with one hand — there was no other reason not to hold it with two hands. "Who's the flea?" he asked. He looked at Frederick. "Are you the flea?" "I'm not the flea." Frederick put as much conviction in his voice as he could.
"There's nothing wrong with being the flea," Devin said. "Every animal plays its part."
"I'm not the flea!" It stung, hearing Joel and Raj and Devin say he was a flea. Frederick had always felt like he was a loser, and he had sometimes worried that everyone else thought he was one, too. But he'd hoped that maybe it was just something he knew and that no one else thought of him that way.
"Okay, you're not the flea." Devin shrugged in a suit yourself way.
Frederick sighed. "Thank you."
"But if you were ...," Devin said, "it wouldn't make you any less important." He winked at Frederick.
"Hey, Dev!" a boy's voice called. It was Lucas Washington, one of Devin's friends, sitting at their lunch table. He was twisted in his chair, turned around to see where Devin was and what was taking him so long. Lucas beckoned with his arm. "Come on, Dev!" he called.
"Gotta go," Devin said, giving Frederick, Raj, and Joel another shrug.
Then he prowled away to his own table and the boys who waited there and the entire flock of dead barbecued chickens they were gnawing on. Frederick watched them a moment longer.
It sounded embarrassing and stupid, even in Frederick's head, but what he really wanted — what he'd always wanted — was for someone to wave him over like Lucas had just waved Devin over. He wanted a friend who liked him so much that they wanted to hang out with him. A friend who, when they realized he wasn't around, would find him and beckon him over. Come on, Frederick.
Raj and Joel were okay friends, and Frederick knew he should be happy that he had friends at all. Beggars couldn't be choosers. But Raj was way more interested in baseball and his grades than he was in being Frederick's friend. And Joel only cared about himself. If Frederick was slow getting to his lunch table, Raj and Joel wouldn't wave him over. They would just keep eating and forget all about him. But if he could beat Devin at dodgeball, then maybe they'd treat him better.
That was what it really meant to be the lion, to be Devin, to be that guy.
Frederick turned his attention back to his own table and found that Joel was watching him with a smirk, like he guessed the pathetic things Frederick was thinking.
Frederick's ears got hot. "What about my vacation?" he said, trying to distract Joel. "What about that?" Joel and Raj exchanged a look.
"That's why I got hit with the ball," Frederick said. "I could've won, but I wasn't paying attention. I was thinking about my vacation."
Every fall, the week of Labor Day, Frederick's family went on a cruise. It was the best week of Frederick's year, and today ... today was the Friday before Labor Day weekend. It was the one undeniably cool thing about Frederick. He had been on six cruises in his life. Most kids his age hadn't even been on one.
"How can I be a flea," Frederick went on, "when I'm about to spend seven days on a cruise ship with strawberry daiquiris whenever I want them?"
"You know they're not real daiquiris, right?" Joel said.
"And a midnight buffet," Frederick went on, "with a —"
"Chocolate fountain," Raj and Joel said together in resigned voices.
"Exactly," Frederick said, picking up his chicken wing and biting it, talking with his mouth full. "And world-class —" "Entertainment," Joel said.
"And fresh —"
"Ocean air," Raj finished for him.
"Please stop it."
"I'm not going to stop it," Frederick said, "because clearly you've both forgotten that I'm leaving tonight to catch my boat to go on my vacation."
"The vacation that you're missing my birthday party for," Joel said with a frown.
"Exactly," Frederick said, glad that he had the chance to get one on Joel after Joel had called Frederick a flea. "That vacation. I'm just saying, your theory of life is wrong because sometimes things do go my way." Frederick tried to take another bite of his chicken wing, but his teeth closed on clean bone. The meat was gone.
"Things never go your way," Joel said.
"They will for the next seven days," Frederick said, trying to get the last word in.
Joel leaned over the table toward him. "Wanna bet?"CHAPTER 2
"I've never even heard of Hurricane Hernando," Frederick said later that afternoon.
"That's because you don't watch the news," Sarah Anne said. "Because you're so self-involved that you don't care about the world around you."
Sarah Anne was Frederick's big sister. She was thirteen, and she was self-righteous. The two of them stood in the living room. The Weather Channel was on full blast, and Sarah Anne was explaining why their parents had decided to cancel the vacation at the last minute. Apparently, it had something to do with a storm spiraling in the Atlantic.
"Hurricane Hernando?" Frederick repeated, putting his hands on top of his head and gazing at the TV in dismay. "But we're supposed to have our vacation. I need my vacation." He'd been looking forward to his vacation for weeks. It was like there was a strawberry daiquiri sitting on a table in the middle of the desert. And he'd been crawling toward it, dehydrated, and he'd just made it to the table only to realize it was a mirage.
"Oh, yes, that's obviously the important thing here," Sarah Anne said, her voice rising. "I'm sure the people who are evacuating their homes and hoping they don't die are worried about Frederick Frederickson missing his vacation."
"Are you being funny?" Frederick said, lowering his arms and turning to look at her.
Sarah Anne perched on the edge of the coffee table and crossed her legs. "Obviously," she said.
"Because your face makes it hard to tell," Frederick said.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Lions and Liars"
Copyright © 2018 Kate Beasley.
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
1 The Lion, Gazelle, Meerkat-Butt Theory of Life,
2 Hurricane Hernando,
3 And Then It Came Unattached,
4 Are You There, God? It's Me, Frederick,
5 Dashiell Blackwood,
6 Nosebleed, the Professor, Specs, and Ant Bite,
7 For Whom the Bell Tolls,
9 The Dead Zone,
10 A Little Horse's Toothbrush,
11 The Constellation Fleaus Tinyus,
12 A Failure to Communicate,
13 Dodgeball, Again,
14 Frederick, Victorious,
15 The Real Dash Blackwood,
16 The Rock,
17 The Kudu,
18 The Letter,
19 Tim Howard,
20 The Water Is Lava,
21 Teeth of the Storm,
22 The Stupid Ending,
23 Four Months Later,
Also by Kate Beasley,
About the Author and Illustrator,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I wasn't sure what to expect from this one when I first started to read it. Frederick was a bit of an annoying character and I didn't think I would want to keep reading about him...but then he got on a boat and was lost on the river and took on a new identity at a random camp for boys and I stayed up until 5 am reading! I cannot wait to introduce my 3rd and 4th graders to Lions and Liars! It is a must-read book about discovering who you really are and how to be a friend.