Thursday, August 04, 2011

Back to the Future: Blast from the Past (Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls) by Meg Cabot

The minute Mrs. Hunter said we were going on a field trip, everyone in room 209 went bananas.

Because Room 209 had never been on a field trip before. At least, not while I had been there.

The girls all squealed with delight. The boys all fist-bumped one another. Patrick Day, who sits on the end of my row, jumped up on top of his desk and played air guitar until Rosemary pulled him down by the belt loops of his jeans. Joey Fields began barking like a dog.

The truth was, however, I was pretty excited myself, due to one simple but embarrassing fact.

I had never been on a field trip before.

Allie Finkle had thought her worst problem was that even though she had been completely responsible and earned $36 to buy her own cell phone, her parents said no. No cell phone until sixth grade. Period.

And then comes the field trip. At first Allie is thrilled. At last she gets to ride on a school bus, a lifelong dream, denied her because of chicken pox. floods in the nature park, and the perfidy of her former friend Mary Kay Shiner, who offered to turn in Allie's permission slip for the trip to the Children's Museum and then conveniently lost it. Finally, Allie will get to climb on one of those mysterious big yellow buses, sing those goofy bus songs, and if she's lucky, get one of those seats over the rear wheels that bounces you up in the air whenever the bus hits a pothole. Even if the trip is just an educational outing to boring old Honeypot Prairie Recreation Village to culminate their Pioneer Life unit, she just knows she and her three best friends are going to have a blast in the past.

But field-trip disaster strikes again. No, the trip isn't cancelled, which would have been preferable! But to conserve funds, Allie's class has to share the bus with Mrs. Myers' fourth grade class from Walnut Knolls Elementary--Allie's "old school" with her worst frenemies, Brittany Hauser and her devoted followers--and Mary Kay Shiner! And to make things even worse, her new class's version of Brittany, Cheyenne O'Malley, shows up in a rented theatrical costume version of pioneer dress in yellow silk, complete with parasol, and Brittany & Co. are decked out in specially made pioneer garb with matching bonnets to boot.

It's Allie's worst nightmare. Cheyenne and Brittany, double trouble, are drawn to each other's glow like moths to the flame, and she, Allie Finkle, is assigned to be trip buddy with none other than Mary Kay Shiner. And Allie thought the only problem on the bus was the de rigueur field trip barfer (Joey Fields-who else?--who takes care of that job right away). But now she has to deal with the augmented clique's barbs and putdowns, including the whole bus's being treated to a revival of the hated nickname Brittany hung on her during her last miserable days at Walnut Knolls--ALLIE STINKLE!

Even Allie's accumulated notebook of Rules for Girls has a hard time covering the contingencies of this new experience. But Allie gets surprising help from an unexpected source--George Washington--when she notices his own set of rules, made up when he was a boy--posted on the one-room school's walls. Allie discovers that George has some of the same rules she does, and she puts most of them to use to get her through the day, in Meg Cabot's sixth entry in her popular series, Allie Finkle's Rules For Girls #6: Blast from the Past (Scholastic, 2010), and this time Allie rises to the occasion when she even volunteers to stay in the first aid cabin with the bee-stung Mary Kay and proves herself the most responsible one in either class.

"It wasn't as fun as the Children's Museum would have been, I said finally. "But I think I learned a lot of new stuff."

"But learning new stuff is actually the point of field trips, Allie," Mom said.

I had never thought about it that way before. I had sort of always thought of field trips as just being about having fun.

"Yeah," I said. "I guess it sort of is."

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