Malcolm Under the Stars

Malcolm Under the Stars


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544392670
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 610L (what's this?)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

W. H. Beck  is both an author of children's books and a librarian. She lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with her husband, two sons, and a big black dog.
Brian Lies  is the author/illustrator of the New York Times bestsellers Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, and Bats at the Ballgame. He lives in Duxbury, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
A Sneeze

It began with a sneeze. Malcolm didn’t mean to sneeze, but when you’re a small rat stuffed into a fifth-grader’s jeans pocket, these things happen. Especially if the pocket is, for some unknown reason, filled with pencil shavings.
Skylar, the owner of the pocket, jiggled at the sneeze, and Malcolm scrambled to stay upright. Crumb! This was no good. Back in Room 11, when Skylar had held out his hand, Malcolm had jumped at the chance to go with him to the class’s rehearsal of the fifth grade program.1 After all, Malcolm had never been to McKenna Elementary School’s auditorium before, and it was his duty—as a member of the school’s secret society of classroom pets, Midnight Academy—to seize these opportunities when they presented themselves. Besides, Skylar carried Cheezy Bits Snack Crackers in his pocket. It is hard for anyone to think around Cheezy Bits Snack Crackers.
But so far this afternoon, all Malcolm had seen was the inside of Skylar’s pocket. The other one. The one filled with pencil shavings. Malcolm was beginning to think Amelia had been right to shake her head at Skylar’s invitation.
Nevertheless, he was here, so he might as well use his eyes, ears, nose, and whiskers to report something back to the Midnight Academy. He fought his way up to the edge of the pocket and stuck his nose out. Ah—already this was better: fresh air.
He scanned the view. Skylar and the rest of the fifth-graders (or “nutters,” as the Midnight Academy liked to call kids; “lankies” were grownups) swayed to the refrain of “Rocky Top.” Kiera, decked out in pink sequins, warbled in the spotlight with a much-coveted solo.
Mrs. Findlay paused her piano playing, and the song creaked to a halt. “Kiera, this is not American Idol. Please, just sing. No need to stalk about the stage.” The rest of the students—including the two classes waiting in the audience—twittered. Mrs. Findlay wasn’t done, though. She snapped her fingers at the back row on the risers. “You—singers in the back. You’ve got to stand still. The audience can see every little move.” She turned and shaded her eyes. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Binney?”
You sat up from your seat in the front row, Mr. Binney, and frowned. “Yes. What’s going on back there? Skylar, do you need to use the restroom?”
Skylar wiggled his jeans around his hips, knocking Malcolm back down into the pencil shavings. “Um, what?”
The classes in the audience snickered again.
Tianna, Kiera’s best friend, who happened to be standing next to Skylar on the stage, elbowed him. “Stand still!” she muttered under her breath. “You’re making us look bad.”
Jovahn leaned over from the other side of Skylar. “It’s only the fifth grade program, Tianna. Not American Idol, remember? And it’s a rehearsal.”
“It’s Malcolm,” Skylar said, pushing Malcolm down inside his pocket again. “He keeps poking his head out.”
At the sound of Malcolm’s name, another fifth-grader twisted around from the row in front of Skylar, her long black hair swinging back. “Is he okay? I told you not to bring him!” Amelia Vang whispered.
Jovahn held out his hand. “Dude, here. Give him to me.”
Yes, this was a good idea. Jovahn Grayson probably also had strange things in his pockets, but he was definitely more predictable than Skylar. Malcolm crept out, climbing up to Skylar’s shoulder. He was poised to make the leap to Jovahn, when, from high up above—a rustle. Then a low thunk. Malcolm’s ears pricked up, and he tilted his head. In the rafters, a shadow shifted. A small shower of dust sprinkled down, and Malcolm’s nose twitched. Dirt?
And then, with another thunk, the lights winked out, and the auditorium was plunged into darkness.
The nutters—onstage and otherwise—shrieked and hooted. In the dark, someone knocked into Skylar, and Malcolm somersaulted off his shoulder. He landed, hunched, on the risers as they rumbled with the feet of thirty panicked fifth-graders. Shoelaces whizzed by Malcolm’s whiskers, and he latched on. Better to be on than under this foot.
“FREEZE!” Your voice boomed through the darkness, Mr. Binney, and the foot under Malcolm came to a standstill. Malcolm peered in your direction and saw a flashlight beam bobbing in the audience. “Nobody move. The lights will come on again. They always do. It’s not like this hasn’t happened lately—so SETTLE DOWN.”
And like you commanded it, the power clicked back on.
“See? There.” Mrs. Findlay laughed nervously from the piano. “That won’t happen during our program tonight, right, Mark?” she asked you. She turned to the class, clapping her hands for attention. “Now—again. From the top.”
“Actually, Mrs. Findlay”—you were leaping up the stage steps two at a time—“I think that’s enough for today. The bell’s about to ring.” You whispered to her, “Tonight will be better. I promise.”
As the class thundered off the risers, Amelia looked around. “Where’s Malcolm?” she called to Skylar. He patted his pockets, panic blooming on his face.
“Relax—I got him,” Jovahn said, hopping on one foot so he could untangle Malcolm from his shoelaces on the other.
“Oh, good. I was afraid—”
A hand clamped down on Jovahn’s shoulder. More specifically, your hand, Mr. Binney.
“That’s not a certain rat from our classroom, is it, Jovahn?”
“Uh—well . . . ”
Just then, Amelia bumped her way over. To anyone else, she looked to be on her way out the door, but in one smooth motion, she grabbed Malcolm, adjusted the hood on her sweatshirt, and tucked him safely there.
Jovahn grinned. He held out his empty hands. “Ah—no, in fact!”
You nodded. “I see.” Then you raised your voice to your best stage level. “Well, I sure hope he gets back to his cage and doesn’t find his way out for a long, LONG time.”
Amelia flinched but kept moving.
Whew. For the first time since Skylar had scooped him out of the cage to go to the auditorium, Malcolm took a deep breath and relaxed. It wasn’t simply that he was safe in Amelia’s hood. It was more than that. It was Amelia. It might partly be the therapeutic qualities of her strawberry shampoo, but mostly Malcolm Knew—knew with a capital K—that if there was anywhere in the world that he belonged, it was with Amelia. He’d do anything for her, and she would do the same for him.
As the rest of the class bottlenecked at the side stage door, Ms. Brumble, the night custodian (and your fiancée, Mr. Binney), joined you. “Whoa,” she said, trying to hide a smile.
“Laugh all you want,” you answered, rubbing your hair until it stuck up in spikes. “We have a long way to go before this bunch is ready to leave McKenna for middle school.”
Deep in Amelia’s hood, Malcolm twitched. Leave? Huh? He pushed his nose out.
He watched then as you gestured toward the lights. “What’s going on, anyway? Sound system blow a fuse?”
Ms. Brumble shook her head. “Unfortunately not. That would be easier to fix. No, this is something bigger. I wish we could figure out what’s going on. We had to submit a report to the Building and Grounds department. It’s going before the school board tonight.”
At that, Malcolm remembered. The shadow! The dust falling down! He glanced up toward the back corner rafters where he had heard the rustle and the thunk.
Then the last bell rang. Amelia merged into the bustling after-school crowd, and Malcolm had to snuggle down into her hood out of sight. He pulled a whisker into his mouth and nibbled as he considered. Had that shadow really moved? It was almost as if something—someone . . . some critter—had been up there. A shiver rattled down Malcolm’s spine, all the way to the tip of his tail. Like . . . a cat? Malcolm had only known one cat in his life, but when you’re a small rat, one is more than you ever want to know.
But it couldn’t have been her. That cat—Snip—was gone. It wouldn’t be the first time Malcolm had imagined her. Her scratchy voice, overlong claws, and spider breath haunted even Malcolm’s best dreams of peanut butter–dipped pretzels. No, it had to have been something else.
But if not her, then what? And did it matter?
Maybe he did have something to share with the Midnight Academy after all. Maybe before the meeting on Thursday, he could sniff around a little, find out more.
Because, really, you meant for him to stay in his cage during the school day, right, Mr. Binney?

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Malcolm Under the Stars 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
This is the second book in the series Malcolm at Midnight. I did not read the first book and I think it would have been better if I did. There were many references to occurrences from the first book. That being said, I was still able to follow the story. Malcolm is a classroom rat living at McKenna School. The animals that live at McKenna all travel around the school at night and are part of the Midnight Academy. In this story, they have found out that the school may be closed and they are worried that their Nutters (children) and Lankies (adults) will all be sent to different schools and they will not be together. They set out to find a hidden stash that has been referred to in stories. The premise is good, but I found the story long and drawn out and it took a long time to read as I kept setting it aside. The story is geared to middle school students and the idea of animals solving the mystery of the hidden stash will be interesting but I am not sure if they will stick to the book. Lots of facts about animals are given in footnotes which is also a good idea. I did love the illustrations in this book and hope that the next one in the series is a little more concise. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.