Maurice's Room

Maurice's Room


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Maurice's Room by Paula Fox, Ingrid Fetz

Maurice is a collector. It doesn't matter how big or clumsy something is - if he likes it, he'll bring it home and, with the help of his friend Jacob, get it into his room somehow. Maurice's room is his special museum.

Maurice's parents can't stand it. They've tried everything to make him get rid of his collection, from having him take trumpet lessons to giving him brand-new toys. Maurice thinks that he's got them licked. But then, one day, they tell him they've got a surprise...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442416789
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: 07/01/2010
Pages: 64
Sales rank: 855,585
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.20(d)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author


Brooklyn, New York

Date of Birth:

April 22, 1923

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


Attended Columbia University

Read an Excerpt

Maurice's Room

By Paula Fox


Copyright © 1966 Paula Fox
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3744-0



Maurice's room measured six long steps in one direction and five in the other. The distance from the floor to the ceiling was three times higher than Maurice. There was one window through which Maurice could see several other windows as well as a piece of the sky. From the middle of the ceiling dangled a long string, the kind used to tie up packages of laundry. Attached to the end of the string was a dried octopus. It was the newest addition to Maurice's collection. When his mother or father walked into his room — which wasn't often — the octopus swung back and forth a little in the draught.

Maurice had used a ladder to climb up high enough to tack the string to the ceiling. The ladder was still leaning against the wall. Instead of returning it to Mr. Klenk, the janitor of his building, from whom he had borrowed it, Maurice was using the steps for shelves. Even though Maurice's father, Mr. Henry, had put up a dozen shelves around the room for all of Maurice's things, there still weren't enough.

Maurice knew how to walk around his room without stepping on anything, and so did his friend Jacob. But no one else did.

As his mother and father often said to visitors, it was astonishing how much junk a person could find in one city block. His mother said Maurice kept their block clean because he brought up everything from the street to his room. His father said Maurice ought to get a salary from the Department of Sanitation because of all the work he was doing in cleaning up the city. At least once a month Mr. and Mrs. Henry talked about moving to the country. It would be better for Maurice, they said. But then they would decide to wait a little longer.

Some visitors said that collections like Maurice's showed that a child would become a great scientist. Many great scientists had collected junk when they were eight years old. Other visitors said Maurice would outgrow his collection and become interested in other things, such as money or armies. Some suggested to the Henrys that they ought to buy Maurice a dog, or send him to music school so that his time might be spent more usefully.

In his room Maurice had a bottle full of dead beetles, a powdery drift of white moths in a cup without a handle, a squirrel hide tacked to a board, a snakeskin on a wire hanger, a raccoon tail, a glass of shrimp eggs, a plate of mealy worms, a box of turtle food.

There were things with which to make other things, such as nails of different sizes, screws, wire, butterfly bolts, scraps of wood, sockets, filaments from electric-light bulbs, cardboard from grocery boxes, two orange crates, a handsaw and a hammer. On the top of a chest of drawers Maurice kept stones and pebbles, dried tar balls, fragments of brick, pieces of colored bottle glass that had been worn smooth, and gray rocks that glistened with mica.

On his window sill there was a heap of dried moss next to a turtle bowl in which several salamanders lived half hidden by mud and wet grass. On the same sill he kept some plants from the five-and-ten-cent store. They looked dead. Now and then a cactus would put out a new shoot.

In another bowl on a table covered with yellow oilcloth were four painted turtles that were getting quite soft in the shell, and in a corner, in a square fish bowl with a chicken-wire roof, lived a garter snake and a lizard. An old hamster in his cage slept or filled his pouches with dried carrots or ran on his wheel. The wheel, which needed an oiling, screeched all night, the time the hamster preferred for exercise. But the noise didn't keep Maurice awake, only his parents. In a pickle jar, a garden spider sat in a forked twig, her egg sack just below her. Maurice also had a bird. It was a robin, blind in one eye and unable to find food for itself.

On the floor were coffee cans with things in them; an eggbeater with a missing gear, a pile of dead starfish, cigar boxes, clockworks, hinges, and a very large grater with sharp dents on all four of its sides. The grater was orange with rust, and it stood in the middle of the room beneath the octopus. You would have to use a magnifying glass to see all the other things Maurice had found.

His bed had two blankets and a pillow without a pillowcase. Sometimes a small goose feather pricked its way through the ticking, and Maurice would put it away in an envelope. He had used two pillowcases for his collecting expeditions, and after that his mother wouldn't give him any more.

There was one tidy corner in Maurice's room. It was where he had pushed his Christmas toys. They were a month old now, and the dust covered them evenly. They were like furniture or bathroom fixtures. Maurice felt there wasn't much to be done with them.



It was the end of January, and Maurice had just come home from school. He put his books on his bed and went to see what the snake was doing. It was lying on its rock. The lizard was watching it. The robin was so still it looked stuffed. But it cocked its head when Maurice whistled at it. The hamster was hiding bits of carrot in the sawdust at the bottom of its cage. The salamanders had buried themselves in the mud. Maurice was arranging little piles of food for his animals when he heard his uncle's voice from down the hall.

"Lily," his uncle was saying to his mother, "you ought to dynamite that room!"

"There must be another way," his mother said.

"You'd better give it up," said his uncle. "Maurice will never clean it."

"If we lived in the country, it would be different," said his mother.

"Perhaps," said his uncle.

Maurice took two walnuts from his pocket and cracked them together. His mother came to the door.

"Get everything off the floor," she said in a low, even voice as though she were counting moving freight cars.

"Where will I put things?" asked Maurice.

"I don't care," she said. "But clear the floor! Or else I'll bring in the broom, the dustpan, and a very large box. And that will be that!" The doorbell rang. It was Jacob.

"Jacob can help you," his mother said.

Jacob was seven, but he looked bigger than Maurice. It was because he was wearing so many clothes — scarves, mittens, sweaters, two hats, and several pairs of socks. He began to take off his outer clothing, laying each item in a pile at his feet. Meanwhile Maurice explained the predicament.

"What are we going to do?" asked Jacob.

Maurice looked at the chest of drawers. The pebbles and rocks had been moved to the floor, and the chest was now covered with oatmeal boxes. He looked at the table. He could barely see the yellow oilcloth because it was hidden by sections of a witch doctor's mask he and Jacob had begun to make the week before. The turtles had been moved next to the salamanders on the window sill.

"There are five more floors in this room if you count the walls and ceiling," Maurice said to Jacob. Jacob looked smaller and thinner now that he was down to his shirt and pants.

"I see," said Jacob.

"We'll have to ask Mr. Klenk to help us," said Maurice.

Jacob began to sort out nails. Then he stopped. "But we won't be able to do that with everything! And how can we get it all done in just a day?"

"Mr. Klenk will know," said Maurice.



Mr. Klenk, the janitor, lived in the basement five floors down. The basement smelled like wet mops, damp cement, pipes, and old furniture stuffing. But it was clean. Mr. Klenk had told Maurice that he couldn't relax a second or he would be drowned by the rubbish that poured out of all the apartments. "Overwhelming!" Mr. Klenk often exclaimed.

"It's a race between me and the junk," he would say. "If I let it get an edge on me, I'll get shoved right out of the city." But Mr. Klenk didn't seem to feel the same way about Maurice's collection.

"Well, you're selective, my boy," he had said once, giving Maurice a caramel. "Besides, I suspect you've got something in mind for all that stuff of yours."

The two boys rang the janitor's bell. Mr. Klenk opened his door, blowing out a cloud of cigar smoke.

"I have to get everything off the floor," Maurice said. "Could you help us a little?"

"What do you have in mind?"

"There's plenty of space on the walls," said Maurice.

Mr. Klenk nodded and puffed on his cigar. "I know," he said. "But you didn't bring back my ladder, did you?"

"He forgot," said Jacob timidly. Mr. Klenk peered through the cigar smoke. Jacob backed away. The janitor in the building where Jacob lived sat in a big collapsed steamer trunk all day just waiting, Jacob was sure, for boys to wander by so he could pounce on them.

"Can you come now?" asked Maurice.

"Let's go," answered Mr. Klenk.

When they reached Maurice's room, Mr. Klenk stopped at the doorway.

"How am I supposed to get in there?" he asked.

Jacob cleared a path for him. Maurice took all the things off the ladder steps, and in a few minutes Mr. Klenk was at work.

First Maurice chose the starfish. He handed it to Jacob, who held it up to Mr. Klenk on the ladder. Next came the rusty grater. In an hour everything was hanging either from the ceiling or from the walls. The animals paid no attention to the fact that they were suspended above the floor. The hamster went to sleep; his cage swung gently like a hammock in a light breeze.

By six o'clock, the floor boards appeared. It was a good floor, and Maurice and Jacob sat down on it.

"Now we have room for more things," said Maurice.

Maurice's mother and his uncle came to the door.

"Wow!" said Uncle.

Mrs. Henry looked pale. "I didn't have that in mind," she said.

"Well, Lily, they've cleared the floor," said the uncle. He looked at Maurice. "I have a surprise," he said. "I'm going to bring Patsy here to spend a week with you."

Then his uncle winked at Mrs. Henry. "You'll see," he said to her. "Patsy will take his mind off all of this." Maurice's mother looked doubtful.

"Who is Patsy?" asked Jacob.

"Who is Patsy!" repeated the uncle, as though astonished. "Tell him, Maurice."

"A dog," said Maurice. "A dumb fat dog," he added in a whisper to Jacob.

After Maurice's uncle and Mrs. Henry went back to the kitchen, Mr. Klenk picked up his ladder and started to leave. Then he seemed to remember something. He tapped Maurice on the shoulder.

"Would you like a stuffed bear?" he asked.

"I'd like a bear," Maurice said.

"A tenant left it when he moved out," said Mr. Klenk. "Send your man down for it in the near future." He nodded at Jacob.

"We could make a car for it," said Maurice after Mr. Klenk had left.

"There's a busted baby carriage in front of my building," said Jacob.

"Bring the wheels," said Maurice.

Jacob began to put on all his outdoor clothes.

"I never heard of a bear having a car," he said.

"Why not?" asked Maurice.



Maurice and Jacob were unable to begin building a car for the bear the next day because Patsy arrived early in the morning.

Patsy was a large soft dog with beady eyes. She was wearing a plaid wool coat. Maurice and she stared at each other for several minutes. She was nearly as tall as he was. Then she walked straight into Maurice's room. When she came out a minute later, she had an oatmeal box in her mouth.

"Give me that!" demanded Maurice. Patsy lowered herself slowly on her four legs until she was lying on the floor with the box in her teeth.

Maurice looked at his mother. She was smiling and nodding. He looked at his father who was just about to leave for work.

"Nice dog," said his father.

"Give it back," whispered Maurice to Patsy. She stared at him. Then she turned her head suddenly, and Maurice snatched the oatmeal box and ran to his room with it. He closed the door and went back to the kitchen to finish his bacon and cocoa.

When he came out to put on his galoshes before going to school, Patsy was sitting in the living room. She was chewing an ear section of the witch doctor's mask. He ran to her and grabbed it. Patsy stood up and wagged her tail. Maurice could see she was just waiting for him to leave. He pretended to go to the front door, then suddenly turned and tiptoed back to his room. Patsy was already in it, sniffing up at the hamster.

"Please leave my room," said Maurice. Patsy looked at him over her back. He slipped his fingers beneath her collar and pulled. It was difficult to drag such a big dog. His mother came to the door. "Don't bully the dog," she said. "Good Patsy!"

"I don't want her in my room," said Maurice.

"She's so friendly," his mother said. Patsy wagged her tail and sat down on Maurice's foot.

"She was trying to eat the hamster," Maurice said.

"Oh!" exclaimed his mother. "You're exaggerating! She was only looking around. She probably misses your uncle."

Maurice looked at a round hole in his door near the knob where he and Jacob had dug out the lock and the latch months ago.

"Couldn't we put the lock back in?" he asked.

"Not now," said Mrs. Henry. "Now you go to school. You're going to be late!" Right after his arithmetic class, Maurice asked the teacher for permission to go to the principal's office. The secretary said he could use the telephone for two minutes.

"Hello," said Maurice's mother.

"Is she in there?" asked Maurice.

"Who?" asked Mrs. Henry.

"Pull the octopus higher," said Maurice.

"Oh, Maurice," said Mrs. Henry, "as if I didn't have enough to do! Patsy doesn't want your octopus."

Maurice looked up at the clock.

"Can't you tie her to something?" Maurice asked.

"Stop fussing," said Mrs. Henry.

After school, Maurice ran all the way home. He was out of breath when he reached his front door.

Patsy was lying asleep in the living room. Maurice's things were all around her like a fortress. Her head was resting on the raccoon tail.

It took Maurice an hour to put everything back. Patsy watched him from the door.

"Thief!" he said to her. She wagged her tail.

The next day Maurice did not feel very well. His mother said he could stay home provided he kept to his bed. "None of this wandering around in bare feet," she said.

Maurice was happy to stay in his room. He watched Patsy as she paced back and forth outside his door. When she tried to sneak in, he shouted, "No, you don't!" That afternoon he heard his mother speaking with his uncle on the telephone.

"Maurice and Patsy are inseparable," she said. "You were quite right. We must get him a dog of his own."

"A whole week," said Maurice to himself. He began to feel really sick. Suddenly Patsy made a dash for the chest of drawers. She put one paw on a drawer pull.

"Out!" shouted Maurice, standing up in the middle of his bed with the blankets flapping around him. Patsy ran from the room, but she sat down right in front of the door.

The next day Maurice felt poorly again. His mother took his temperature. He had no fever. His throat wasn't red. But his eyes looked strained. The strain came from staring through the dark at Patsy half the night. But the dog had fallen asleep before Maurice had and so she had been unable to steal a single thing from Maurice's room.

"I think you should go to school," said Mrs. Henry.

"No!" said Maurice, kneeling on his bed.

"Mercy! You don't have to kneel," she said. "What is the matter?"

"I can't go to school," Maurice said.

Mrs. Henry called Mr. Henry.

"I think he is developing a school phobia," Maurice heard her say to his father as they stood in the hall outside his room.

At that moment, Patsy raced in, threw herself at the bed, snatched a blanket, and made off with it. Maurice jumped to the floor and ran after her. They both slammed into Maurice's father.

"If you don't stop playing with Patsy, I'll have to send her home!" said Mr. Henry.

After that, it was easy. Maurice played with Patsy every minute he could, and soon his uncle came to get her. He dressed Patsy in her plaid coat, clipped on her leash, put on his hat, and left.

"You see?" said Maurice's father.

Maurice nodded.



One Saturday morning, a few weeks after Patsy had left, Maurice awoke at six o'clock. His window was blurred because it was raining so hard. The hamster stirred in its cage.

"You're up too early," Maurice said. The robin lifted one wing slowly and opened its good eye. Maurice went into the kitchen and made himself a grape-jelly sandwich. It felt good to be eating a sandwich and walking down the hall so early in the morning. No one else was awake. He gave a piece of bread crust to the robin and one to the hamster. Then he got dressed.

Soon there was a soft knock on the front door. It was Jacob, who always arrived early on Saturday mornings and who usually brought something with him. Today he was carrying a paper sack.

"Do you want a jelly sandwich?" asked Maurice. Jacob nodded. Then he showed Maurice what he had brought in the bag.

"What is it?" asked Maurice.


Excerpted from Maurice's Room by Paula Fox. Copyright © 1966 Paula Fox. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.

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