Table of Contents
The new guy
On Friday, Mrs. Brisbane announced that Richie would be taking me home for the weekend.
“Yay! Humphrey’s coming to the party, too,” A.J. yelled.
I’d never been to a party outside of Room 26 before. Overjoyed, I jumped on my wheel and spun as fast as I could.
“BOING!” Og croaked.
Oops! I realized that Og had not been invited to the party.
“What about Og?” asked Richie. “Can he come, too?”
Mrs. Brisbane shook her head. “I think you have all you can handle. Besides, I’m taking Og home with me. My husband is working on a surprise for him.”
“Eeek!” I squeaked. It just slipped out. Mr. Brisbane, whom I hadn’t even seen since Christmas, was working on a surprise for the frog? I could feel that green-eyed monster inside me again. I was jealous of a large lump with a ghastly grin and I wasn’t proud of myself.
OTHER BOOKS YOU MAY ENJOY
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The Heroic Adventures of
The Tale of the Swamp Rat
The World According to Humphrey
Melissa Glenn Haber
Betty G. Birney
Published by the Penguin Group
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by G. P. Putnam’s Sons,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2005
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006
Copyright © Betty G. Birney, 2005
eISBN : 978-1-440-68425-8
To Jane Birney de Leeuw,
sister and friend,
and to Humphrey’s BEST-BEST-BEST friend
and editor, Susan Kochan
Mrs. Brisbane and I were headed back to Longfellow School after the long winter holiday. But there were a lot more bumps in the road since the last time I rode in her small blue station wagon.
“Now, Humphrey,” Mrs. Brisbane said. She was interrupted by another BUMP! “Don’t be surprised.” BUMP! “If there are a few changes.” BUMP! “In Room Twenty-six.” BUMP!
My stomach felt slightly queasy as I hung on tightly to my ladder, so I had a hard time understanding what she was telling me. What did she mean by “changes”?
“While you were home with Bert.” BUMP! “I came back to school to get things all set.”
I was home with her husband, Bert, a lot over the holidays, and as much as I like him, I was worn-out from running mazes a couple of times a day. Mr. Brisbane loves to watch me run mazes. At least back in school, I could catch forty winks once in a while. And since I am a classroom hamster, I belong in the classroom.
My stomach calmed down a bit as Mrs. Brisbane pulled her car into a parking space.
“Now, what about these changes?” I asked, but it came out as “Squeak-squeak-squeak,” as usual.
“It’s good to shake things up once in a while, Humphrey,” Mrs. Brisbane assured me as she opened the car door. “You’ll see.”
I was already shaken up from the bumpy ride. Then a blast of icy wind made me shiver and I couldn’t see a thing because Mrs. Brisbane had thrown a wool scarf over my cage. I didn’t mind, as long as I was on the way back to my classroom, where I’d see all my friends again. Just thinking about them gave me a warm feeling. Or maybe it was the heat from the school furnace as we walked in the front door.
“Hi, Sue! Are we on for today?” a familiar voice called out. I couldn’t see Miss Loomis, but I recognized her voice. Miss Loomis taught a class down the hall. She was also Mrs. Brisbane’s friend.
“Sure, Angie. How about after morning recess?”
“See you then,” said Miss Loomis.
Finally, Mrs. Brisbane set my cage down in Room 26 and removed the scarf. When she did, I was in for a shock. Something unsqueakable had happened to my classroom! For one thing, the tables faced the wrong direction. They used to point toward the front of the room. Now they were sideways.
Instead of being arranged in neat rows like before, the tables were clumped together in groups. Mrs. Brisbane’s desk had moved to the corner of the room. Pictures of people I’d never seen before replaced the happy snow-men that had covered the bulletin board in December.
I was so dizzy from all the changes, I didn’t notice the room filling up until Lower-Your-Voice-A.J. yelled, “Hiya, Humphrey!” as he came out of the cloakroom.
Soon, my other friends stopped by to say hello.
“Did you have a good vacation?” asked Miranda Golden. Miranda is an almost perfect human. That’s why I think of her as Golden-Miranda.
“My mother says to tell you hi,” Speak-Up-Sayeh said in her sweet, soft voice.
“Hey, Humphrey-Dumpty,” Garth shouted. That made Gail snicker, but I didn’t mind. She laughed at everything.
At that moment, the bell rang. “Class, look for your names and please take your seats now,” Mrs. Brisbane said.
There was a lot of thumping and bumping as my classmates located their new seats. Now I had a better view of some of the students who used to sit on the opposite side of the room, like Don’t-Complain-Mandy Payne, Sit-Still-Seth Stevenson and I-Heard-That-Kirk Chen. Maybe it is good to shake things up once in a while.
Then I noticed something odd. There was a stranger in Room 26, sitting near Sayeh, Gail and Kirk.
“Mrs. Brisbane, she doesn’t belong here!” I squeaked out loud. “She’s in the wrong room!”
Maybe Mrs. Brisbane didn’t hear me.
“Class, as you can see, we’re making some changes this year. And one of our changes is our brand-new pupil,” the teacher announced. “Come here, Tabitha.”
The new girl seemed SCARED-SCARED-SCARED as she got up and stood next to Mrs. Brisbane. “This is Tabitha Clark and I want you all to welcome her. Tabitha, why don’t you tell us something about yourself?” The new girl looked down and shook her head. Mrs. Brisbane quickly turned back to the class. “We’ll do that later. Now, who would like to be in charge of showing Tabitha around today?”
“Me!” a voice called out. Of course, it was Raise-Your-Hand-Heidi Hopper, who always forgets to raise her hand.
“Hands, please, Heidi. I think Mandy had her hand up first. Mandy, you will be Tabitha’s buddy. I expect each of you to introduce yourself to Tabitha and include her in your activities.” She turned to the girl. “I know you’ll make a lot of good friends in Room Twenty-six. You may sit down now.”
The girl kept staring down at the floor as she returned to her seat. She looked as if she needed a friend. I was so busy watching her, I only half listened to what Mrs. Brisbane was saying. Was she really talking about “poultry”?
“After all, this is Longfellow School,” she said. “And as I hope you know, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a famous American poet.”
! Nothing to do with chickens or turkeys, thank goodness. I have to admit, I’m a little scared of things with feathers, ever since my early days at Pet-O-Rama. I still have nightmares about the day a large green parrot escaped and flung himself at my cage, screeching, “Yum, yum! Time to eat! Bawk!” He was still shrieking as Carl, the store clerk, carried him away.
That unpleasant memory was interrupted when someone blurted, “I’m a poet and I don’t know it. My feet show it—they’re
“I-Heard-That-Kirk,” said Mrs. Brisbane. “Now, as I was saying, much of this term will be spent reading and writing poetry.”
The groans were loud. I guess some people are afraid of poetry, even without feathers.
Seth squirmed in his seat and pretended to pound his head on the table. “Poetry,” he moaned.
“Sit-Still-Seth,” said Mrs. Brisbane.
Sitting still wasn’t easy for Seth. Now that he was practically right in front of me, I could see him wiggling and jiggling in his chair, which made Gail Morgenstern laugh.
“Stop-Giggling-Gail!” Mrs. Brisbane warned.
Gail stopped giggling and started hiccuping.
“Please, go get a drink of water,” Mrs. Brisbane told her. She turned to the new girl. “Tabitha, please put that toy away.”
Everybody stared at Tabitha, including me. She was cradling a scruffy stuffed bear in her arms. The gray bear had cotton coming out of his ears and wore washed-out blue overalls with a button missing. Even his smile seemed a little faded.
“Now, please,” said Mrs. Brisbane.
It was quiet in the room, thank goodness. I’m afraid if Gail had been there, we would have heard peals of laughter and heaps of hiccups!
Tabitha slid the shabby bear into the slot in her table without a word.
Right about then, Principal Morales marched through the door.
“Sorry for interrupting, Mrs. Brisbane. I just want to personally welcome you all back to school!”
The principal looked spiffy with a tie that had little pencils all over it. He always wore a tie because he was the Most Important Person at Longfellow School.
“Thank you, Mr. Morales,” said Mrs. Brisbane. “We have a new student, Tabitha Clark, and a whole new setup for our class, as you can see.”
“Welcome, Tabitha,” said the principal. “I’m sure you’ll love it here in Room Twenty-six. I’m glad to see that our friend Humphrey is back as well.”
He walked all the way across the classroom to my cage.
“GLAD TO SEE YOU!” I squeaked in my loudest squeak.
“Hi, old pal,” he greeted me. He turned back to the rest of the class. “You can all learn a lot from Humphrey. And I wish you a very successful semester.”
After he left, I turned my attention back to Tabitha. She was still staring straight down. I couldn’t see her face clearly, but it was almost as red as her copper-colored hair. I guess I watched her a long time, because suddenly, the recess bell rang.