Quinn Andrews-Lee feels anything but mighty, and faces a dismal school year. His little sister outshines him athletically and socially, he yearns for a service award his peers disdain, and charismatic bigot Matt Barker's goal in life is to torment Quinn and lure his friends to the dark side. When Quinn reports an act of vandalism, he is accused of injuring Matt. Neally Standwell, a free-spirited new kid in Quinn's class, helps Quinn deduce who hurt Matt, but Matt would probably dieand would definitely liebefore admitting the truth.
Through events comical and poignant Quinn and Neally solve the right mystery just as everything seems to go wrong, thwart a bully without becoming one in turn, and realize that the fabled ability to belch the entire alphabet might very possibly trump any award ever presented at Turner Creek School.
About the Author
Robyn Parnell's country/western-flavored song, "If You Can't Live Without Me Then Why Aren't You Dead?" mercifully remains unpublished and unrecorded; nevertheless, her fiction, essays and poems have appeared in ninety books, magazines, anthologies and journals. Publishing credits include her book of short fiction, This Here and Now, a children's picture book, My Closet Threw a Party, and now the middle-grade novel, The Mighty Quinn.
Parnell is the second of four children and the middle daughter, which means she is destined for either ground-breaking gender role usurpations or middle management in Tupperware® sales. She lives and writes in Hillsboro, Oregon, (city motto: "Yeah, we're not Portland, but at least we're not Oxnard."), sharing her life with one husband, two children, four cats, one bearded dragon, one corn snake, one ball python, one goldfish and innumerable dust bunnies.
Katie and Aaron DeYoe met while studying graphic design at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Though they are both full-time graphic designers, they spend most of their free time drawing, doodling, painting and printing. They also enjoy riding their serendipitously matching red Schwinns around Minneapolis.
Read an Excerpt
BECAUSE SHE CAN
It had been the longest day of infinity. Quinn reminded himself that whatever happened on Friday would be the last whatever to happen before vacation. At nine a.m. Quinn took his last spelling test before vacation. The last morning recess before vacation was followed by the-last-time-Brandon-Morley-needs-a-hall-pass-even-though-he-should-have-gone-to-the-bathroom-at-recess before vacation. Before long Quinn was standing in the last lunch line before vacation.
At lunch recess Quinn decided to play a last game of four square before vacation. Quinn was not the only student who had this idea, and all four courts had long lines of kids waiting to rotate in. Quinn got into the shortest line, behind at least ten other kids, including Tay, Sam and Josh, and the new girl, who was in front of Josh. All of the kids in line seemed to be focused on Neally and not the four square game; a few circled around her, seemingly unconcerned about keeping their place in line.
"You've got great eyes!" The voice was distressingly familiar to Quinn, but Tay blocked Quinn's view. Quinn leaned to the side to get a better view, and groaned. His sister was near the front of the line, standing or rather, squirming with a star-struck admiration between Neally and Matt.
"Ah, foof!" Quinn muttered. He didn't go out of his way to avoid his sister at school, but whenever he did let her join in a game with him and his friends Matt would tell anyone with ears about how Quinn liked to play with whiny, brainless second graders. And here they were, Quinn and his sister, totally, completely, accidentally occupying the same four square line. Quinn briefly considered moving to another court.
No, this will be okay. It'll be the last line-I-wish-I-wasn't-standing-in before vacation.
"Your eyes are so green!" Mickey gushed. "I bet there's no other green like it in this world. It's another galaxy green!"
Quinn cringed to hear his copycat sister. No one else could know that Mickey was repeating his unique observation; still, it felt like she'd stolen his opinion.
"Thank you," Neally said. "Both my parents have green eyes, which is unusual."
"Whooo-wee, green eyes, how unusual," Matt said. "Like two green grapes smashed in your face. Hey, that's not a bad idea.” Matt fumbled through his jacket pocket, as if he had something stashed there. "Where's my lunch leftovers?"
Josh slapped Matt on the back and laughed, which was no surprise, but Tay began to laugh, too. Quinn bit his lip to keep himself from chastising his friend. How could Tay join in on teasing the new girl?
Matt gave a thumbs-up to Tay and raised his hand in the air. "Ducks rule, Beavers drool!” The boys exchanged a high-five.
"Ducks rule, beavers drool?" Neally repeated.
"It's a dumb sports thing," Mickey whispered to Neally.
"I suppose," Neally said thoughtfully, "any sport that involves drooling animals could be considered dumb."
"No, it's not the animals that drool..."
"It's the people who watch them?"
Mickey began to laugh, then clapped her hand over her mouth and leaned closer to Neally. "It's the team's names. Ducks are the team from one college and Beavers are the team from another. If kids' parents went to one school they say that their team rules, and they make fun of the other team..."
"Which drools?" Neally guessed.
Mickey nodded. "Our parents didn't go to those colleges, so we don't care about silly stuff like that.” She glanced over her shoulder and lowered her voice. "Quinn's teacher went to the college that has the Beaver team, so he says he's a Beaver fan. But he's really not. He just says that 'cause he likes his teacher. Matt's and Josh's and Tay's dads went to the other school, and..."
"Why are you whispering?" Neally asked.
"'Cause kids who like those teams get mad if they think you're making fun of them."
"Oh, powers that be, I am so frightened! I certainly don't want a mad duck in pursuit of me.” Neally wriggled her fingers in front of her mouth and knocked her knees together. "Say, have you ever played doubles in four square? It's way fun. Want to try it when we get in?”
"Really?" Mickey gasped. "You'd be on a team with me?"
"Sure. We can get everyone to double up. If you don't have a partner in mind you can just choose the person standing next to you."
"She's in the second grade, you know," Josh said to Neally.
"Second grade?” Neally scrunched up her nose and thoughtfully stroked her chin. "Let me see, that's the grade between first and third, correct?"
Josh looked confused, as if he'd asked Neally her age and she'd replied, "Canada."
"Mickey, we haven't been formally introduced," Neally said. "My name is..."
"Neally Ray Standwell!" Mickey said. "I heard about you."
Several kids standing in line turned to look at Quinn, who decided it would be a good time to retie his shoelaces.
"Neally Ray Standwell, you have the coolest name ever!” Mickey declared. "And that's ever in the history of all of the names of namehood."
"Yeah, right," Matt snorted. He'd moved up to first in line, but ignored the open spot on the court. "Neally Standwell what kind of name is that?” He hunched his shoulders up around his ears, leaned forward so that his knuckles grazed the ground, furrowed his brow and jutted his chin out, in a passable imitation of the cave man pictured on Ms. Blakeman's classroom anthropology chart. "Me Neally," Matt grunted. "Me stand well. But me sit bad. "
Matt's cave man grumble evolved into a fit of high-pitched laughter, to which Josh and Tay eagerly contributed. Sam looked embarrassed and Quinn merely looked away, while Mickey looked as if someone had thrown mud on her birthday cake.
"Sit bad! Stand well, sit bad!" Josh doubled over and slapped his hands on his thighs. Although the look on Josh's face suggested laughter, the noises he produced were peculiar, clacking whinnies, as if he'd inhaled a Shetland pony.
"Anyone know the Heimlich maneuver?” Neally patted Josh's shoulder. "Don't worry, Josh, we'll go to the office and call 911. I'm certain the paramedics can get that wiener dog or whatever is stuck in your throat out of there in no time."
Three kids on the four square court were waiting for a fourth. "Next in line, c'mon!" the server called out. "Hey, Matt, rotate in."
"Your name is Matt?” Neally asked.
"Indeed," Sam said, flourishing his hand. "You have the honor of speaking with the Right Master Matthew Mark Luke John Barker, son of the Right Reverend..."
"Yeah," Matt shot Sam a withering glance, "it's Matt."
"Hey Mickey, I have a joke for you," Neally said.
"Is it a knock-knock joke?" Mickey asked.
"Even better. What do you call a boy with no arms and legs who's sprawled on your front porch? Matt!"
Quinn couldn't decipher the expression on Matt's face. He was well-acquainted with Mad Matt, Cruel Matt, and Smiley-Face-When-The-Adults-Are-Looking Matt, but he didn't recognize Embarrassed Matt.
Matt glared at Neally, holding his smoldering, silent gaze for a few seconds. He turned his back on her and joined the four square game.
"You're in trouble," Mickey warned Neally. "He's mean."
"So what?” Neally looked down the line, making eye contact with and dipping her chin in acknowledgement to each student who stood in line behind her. "So what, right?"
"So, this is what.” Quinn tapped his watch. "I don't think we'll get to play."
Mickey grinned at Neally. "So what?"
"Sew buttons on your underwear, that's what!" Neally said.
Mickey giggled and tried to tickle Neally, who grabbed Mickey's hands and giggled, "Aha, gotcha!"
"Hey, who made your shirt?" Mickey pulled her hands out of Neally's grasp. "The tag is sewed backwards."
Quinn looked at Neally's shirt, and saw the outline of a clothing tag under the front collar.
"The tag is where it's supposed to be. I'm wearing my shirt backwards."
"Oh, I've done that before, lots of times," Mickey said. "You can fix it in the bathroom; I’ll save your place in line."
"No, thanks, it's intentional. Sometimes I wear my shirts this way."
"Why would you wear your shirts that way?" Tay asked.
"Because I can.” Neally smiled a curious smile, chirped, "See ya around, cutie" to Mickey, and skipped toward the drinking fountain.
"I SHOULDA KNOWN THIS WOULD BE THE SLOWEST LINE!"
"Who's gonna double with Kelsey?" Tay groaned, not bothering to turn around to see who had joined the line.
"Matt and Josh are playing easies, so no one else can get in," Quinn informed Kelsey. "This could go on forever, and we've only got a few minutes of recess left. Let's play wall-ball."
"It's too cold for wall-ball.” Tay pulled his jacket tighter. "Let's go to the swings."
"Uh, Tay," Quinn said, "it'll be even colder swinging on the..."
"Four square is boring to infinity.” Matt snuck up behind Tay and bounced the four square ball off his head. "Wall-ball in the gym! Last one inside plays on a team by himself!"
The four square line disintegrated before Quinn's eyes as all of the kids, Tay and Sam included, followed Matt to the gym. Only Mickey remained behind. She picked up the ball and looked at her brother, her eyes widening with hope and sympathy.
"It's all right, Quinn."
Quinn didn't know what felt worse: being deserted by your so-called friends, or having your little sister try to make you feel better because she'd seen your so-called friends desert you.
"Let's ask Mom if she'll take us to the pool," Mickey suggested. "There's nothing like a swim after a hard day at school, except for...well, except for a swim after a hard day at school. Okay-dokey?"
The buzzer rang out, signaling the end of lunch recess.
"That's getting to be soooo loud!"
"Mickey, you say that every time the lunch buzzer rings. It's the same buzzer as always."
Mickey tilted her head, touching her ear to her shoulder. She did that, Quinn thought, whenever a new idea was trying to enter her head and the old ones didn't want to make room.
"Really? It still sounds louder.” Mickey headed for the wall where the second-graders lined up. She turned around and called back to her brother. "Say, do you ever wonder if someone counted to six thousand hundred thousand, and they were still alive?"
Quinn knew she didn't expect an answer. Whenever Mickey wore that quizzical face at home, Quinn and his mom would play a game. His mom would say, "Mickey's thinking out loud,” and Quinn would circle his finger by his ear and say, "Thinking; that's what you call it."
For just one microscopic moment Quinn wished he was back in the second grade. Although he rarely missed an opportunity to tease her, Quinn sometimes felt envious of Mickey, in ways he didn't understand. His father said that Quinn admired Mickey's positive attitude, but, it was more than that, Quinn thought. Or, it was different than that.
Matt Barker's distinctive yelp bounced off the walls, ricocheted off the roof of the playground cover and down to the blacktop, and Quinn had his last figuring-something-out-moment before vacation: It's not that Mickey is "positive," or that nothing bothers her it's that nothing bothers her for longer than two minutes. That characteristic seems to make her happy, Quinn grudgingly admitted to himself, but he knew that not letting something bother you means you aren't fully paying attention.
Quinn Andrews-Lee had figured something out long before any vacation: if you pay the least bit of attention in life, things will bother you for a lot longer than a couple of lousy minutes.
Table of Contents
1 Don't Make Me Use This
2 Listen Up
3 The Worms Go In, The Worms Go Out
4 Mickey Gets Anty
5 Because She Can
6 Quinn Pays Attention
7 Famous Carrot Diver
8 A Regular Volunteer
9 The First Time I Cracked My Head Open
10 The Best Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Sandwich Ever
11 Howdy, Neighbor
12 I Knew There Was a Reason I Liked Her
13 Muffins of Infinity
14 The Hamster Patch Quilt
15 The Muffin Fairy
16 With Liberty and Justice For All
17 Could She Belch the Entire Pledge of Allegiance?
18 Click on One of These
19 It's a Grownup Thing
21 Very Small Gum Wrappers Could Be Hiding
22 The Three Trashketeers
23 Brandon Knows How to Spell
24 I Have Many Secrets
25 The Law of Proportionality
26 What Life Smells Like
27 Smoke Ring Weather
28 The Orange Chair
29 Neally Looks It Up
30 But Not Anymore
31 Cheesy Poodle Sandwiches
32 My New Dead Friend
33 See The Day
34 Oh, Yeah
35 The Most Awesome Cloud You'll Ever See
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Mighty Quinn by Robyn Parmele is a delightful story of life in the fifth grade. This story is filled with the daily happenings at school from making new friends to dealing with tough relationships that have haunted you for years. In this story the main character Quinn learns to deal with difficulties that come with being the target of a bully as well as the excitement of making a new friend. Twists and turns lead us through many circumstances and lead Quinn to grow and mature much as he deals with each situation. Overall a delightful story filled with great questions at the end to help facilitate discussion of some very relevant topics for fifth graders to think about and talk over. I was a little concerned with the handling of religion and the fact that the boy with the biggest problems was the son of a family that was religious. This could potentially open up lots of questions that should be primarily handled by parents and I trust that the children reading this book would indeed take those questions to their parents. The book was a fun read and the characters were well developed and believable. I really liked the way Community service was woven into the fabric of the story and how that Quinn was so excited to take part in such activities. I loved the illustrations. They added to the atmosphere my mind created as I read the story. (rev. C.Delorge) DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Scarletta Junior Readers for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.