Sunday, October 20, 2013

Nostalgic Reads #1: Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar (Chapters 1-10)

Sixth Grade Secrets

Tagline: Laura's sixth grade class is full of secrets: secret messages, secret clubs, and secret crushes.

Book description: When Laura Sibbie starts a secret club at school, she calls it Pig City after the funny hat she always wears. To make sure none of the members tell anyone else about the club, Laura makes them give her something totally embarrassing as "insurance". She promises to keep the insurance secret, unless someone talks about Pig City....

Gabriel, who never tells on anybody, would be a perfect member of Pig City. He wants to join too. But when Laura asks him, something goes terribly wrong!
Now there are two secret clubs in Mr. Doyle's sixth grade class, and guess who's the head of the new club- Gabriel.

Watch out Pig City! Here comes Monkey Town!

Enter, Twisted Sister...

I loved this book as a kid, and still love it as an 19 year old.
(There's gonna be five parts to this review. This book is forty-five chapters long, so if I go by tens, there'll be four 10 chapter parts and one 5 chapter part.)

This book starts off with a list of important characters. it is as follows:

Laura- Our hero. If you forget who she is, then you'll need more than this list to help you.
Tiffany- Ticklish. Has trouble eating spaghetti.
Allison- Always wears clean underwear. (uh..okay?)
Gabriel- Has copied more dictionary pages than anyone else in Mr. Doyle's class.
Mr. Doyle- The best teacher in the school. The worst teacher in the school. Take your pick.
Kristin- Small face, big glasses.
Sheila- Frizzy hair. Hates Laura. (for what reason??????) Sits behind Gabriel.
Debbie- Hangs upside-down before tests.
Howard- Wants everyone to like him. Nobody does.
Karen- Talks all the time. Yolanda's best friend. Nothing bothers her, not even Gabriel.
Yolanda- Very shy. Very pretty. Karen's best friend.
Jonathon- Smartest, fastest, strongest and most handsome boy in Mr. Doyle's class, and he knows it.
Nathan- Talks funny. Likes to watch turkeys play football. (lolwut.)
Aaron- Good singer. His grandmother picks out his clothes for him.
Linzy- Teacher's pet. Has never had to copy a dictionary page.

There are fifteen other kids in Mr. Doyle's class who didn't make this list. I hope they don't feel too bad. I'm sure they are interesting people too, and maybe someday some other author will write a story about them. 

Oh Louis Sachar. Shoving your characters on some other poor author's shoulders.

PART ONE

The Treasures of Pig City

It all started with a hat.
So our three central characters Laura, Allison and Tiffany are at a garage sale. Laura sees an interesting-looking hat. It's red, has a blue brim and silver letters on it that read "Pig City". Pig City??
Either way, Laura likes the hat and asks the man (who is bald and old) how much the hat costs. He says its a dollar but since she's so pretty she can have it for 50 cents. Okay...
Tiffany asks him what Pig City means but he just winks at her. Okay I'm getting creeper vibes from him.
Laura buys the hat, Allison and Tiffany tell her it's cute on her. I'm sure if Laura wasn't scowling on the book cover and about ready to pummel Gabriel in the face, I might say it looks cute on her too.

The girls head back to Laura's house and discuss what they think Pig City is. Tiffany thinks it's a health club where obese people go to lose weight. Allison thinks it's where slobs go to learn manners. Tiffany then suggests that maybe it is a city and only fat slobs with bad manners live there. Laura says it's a beautiful city and the name keeps tourists away. Allison says that it mustn't be polluted since not many people would want to live in a place called Pig City. Tiffany suggests that it's like the Garden of Eden, and everyone only wears fig leaves.

Laura says she's gonna be a pig farmer when she grows up. Allison reminds her about wanting to be president but Laura reminds her that you can only be president for eight years so she could do both. Tiffany tells her if she's gonna be a pig farmer, she has to kill them. Laura says she'd never do that and Tiffany tells her pig farmers just raise them till they're big and fat then slaughter them for bacon. Allison says Laura could milk her pigs like cow farmers milk dairy cows. They proceed to list off different types of pig dairy products.

Then the book goes into this random segue where we learn the origins of Laura's waist length brown hair.
It was her first day of kindergarten and she was throwing a temper tantrum because she didn't want to get her hair cut. She cried and stomped around the house, kicked a table that had a lamp on it, and the lamp fell  and broke. hey father ran in and asked her what happened and she said she was just standing there and the lamp suddenly broke. Yeah sure kid, I'm pretty sure your father heard you crying and screaming and kicking stuff. Her father then tells her about George Washington and the cherry tree. If you don't know the story: http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/presidents-day/george-washington/short-stories/the-cherry-tree.html

Laura looked in her father's eyes and said "I cannot tell a lie, I broke the lamp."
So Laura's parents then said she'd never have to get a haircut again as long as she never told another lie. So now her hair is long, thick and dark brown. She hasn't told a lie yet.

Into the next chapter, Laura has worn the hat for a week. Everyone is used to it now and she'd look strange without it.

"We'll be in the Dog House!" Laura tells her mom. The Dog House? Isn't that a bit small for three pre-teen girls- oh, it's a clubhouse that looks like a dog house from the outside. So it's probably big enough for Clifford the Big Red Dog.
That's a big ass dog.

The girls go inside and Laura puts her fist on her nose. Tiffany and Allison to the same. It was the secret Pig City salute. Okay, now we're starting to get to the interesting parts.

The book explains that Pig City is a secret club and has to be kept secret because clubs aren't allowed at Laura's school anymore. This is due to a parent complaining that her son (Howard) couldn't join any clubs. Why? Because no one likes Howard.
After the girls salute, Laura says Allison's first. First for what?

Allison blushes and puts a picture down on the coffee table in the middle of the Dog House. The picture is of her when she was three years old, naked in the bathtub. Laura and Tiffany laugh and Allison complains that her parents show this picture to all of their friends.

Laura picks up her jewelry box that looks like a pirate's treasure chest and puts the picture facedown inside of it. I guess this is where the title "The Treasures of Pig City" comes from.
Tiffany goes next and places down a faux news paper article proclaiming:

TIFFANY'S TICKLISH!
Tiffany, the world-famous spaghetti eater, is ticklish. That's right, ticklish! It has been conclusively established by our team of expert ticklers that she is ticklish all over.
A finger under her chin will cause her to giggle for hours. Squeeze her sides and she will jump six feet in the air. Touch a feather to her toes and watch her writhe on the floor in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Tickle her armpits at your own risk!
Caution: Do not tickle her while she's eating spaghetti or she will dump her plate on your head.

Well. That was... interesting?

Laura gets up and pulls a peacock feather out of a vase on her desk and holds in over Tiffany, who just happens to be conveniently trapped in the bean bag chair.
Tiffany giggles and squeals. Allison squeezes her side and Tiffany jumps out of the chair. Laura puts the feather back in the vase and Tiffany's article goes into the treasure chest.

Now it's Laura's turn to be embarrassed. She pulls a folded up piece of notebook paper out of her jeans pocket and places it on the coffee table. Allison unfolds it, reads it and hands it to Tiffany.

Declaration of Love
I, Laura Sibbie, declare, now and forever, that I'm in love with my teacher, Mr. Doyle.
 I dream about him all the time, and if I was older, I'd like to marry him.
With all my heart,
Laura Sibbie

Tiffany gasps. Allison says she has to be kidding and Laura (as she does many times in this book) points out that she never lies. Tiffany says he's alright for a teacher, and Laura puts her declaration in the treasure chest.
The girls salute again, and Laura says "If any one of us ever tells anybody anything about Pig City, the other two will show her secret to the whole school!"

Hmm... lets check on the back cover again, shall we?

"To make sure none of the members tell anyone else about the club, Laura makes them give her something totally embarrassing as "insurance". She promises to keep the insurance secret, unless someone talks about Pig City...."

So, to keep the club secret, all the members, including Laura herself have blackmail to deal with. Okay then.

It's the next chapter and Laura's sneaking into the classroom before school. Her school used to be known as an 'open school', with no walls separating the classrooms. Now large wooden bookcases separated the rooms. Mr. Doyle's 'door' was a yellow curtain hung between two metal closets.

Laura enters the classroom cautiously, checking to make sure that Mr. Doyle isn't in there. He's not, so she picks up a piece of chalk and glances at the word "Dictionary" and shivers. Mr. Doyle's form of punishment was to have the kids rip out a page from an old dictionary he kept in the closet and copy in down, front and back, word for word.

Laura regains focus on her mission and writes in in big letters on the middle of the board:

PIGS RULE!
She puts the chalk down walks outside, making sure no one saw her. But someone did see her. It was Gabriel! And what does he have to say about it?
"Oink oink." Laura forces a smile on her face. Gabriel had begun saying "Oink oink." to her whenever he saw her.

Gabriel has copied more dictionary pages than anyone in Mr. Doyle's class. Why? While he never tattles on anyone, everyone tattles on him.

Gabriel oinks at her again and she walks away from him, with her hair nearly hitting him in the face. There's a few other times where Laura's hair either does hit or almost hit someone in the face.

Laura meets up with Tiffany and Allison and they try to decide who else they want in Pig City. They decide on Kristin because she's smart. They go to class, and everyone laughs at 'Pigs Rule'. Laura does too, otherwise, Mr. Doyle would know it was her. I'm pretty sure your teacher is smart enough to figure out that the girl who's hat says 'Pig City' on it is writing pig-related messages on the chalkboard.

Of course Mr. Doyle calls her up to his desk and asks if she knows anything about it. Laura feigns innocence and asks what about it. He says to tell him, Laura asks how she would know, he smiles and tells her it's written on her hat. Laura, being the little smartass that she is, tells him her hat says 'Pig City', not 'Pigs Rule'.

Mr. Doyle then asks if she knows who wrote it and she says a pig couldn't have written it and he says that sixth grade girls can.
"I know. We learned how to print in the first grade." she says and goes to sit back down. Any teacher nowadays would yell at her until she told the truth.

After class, the citizens of Pig City find Kristin at lunch and Tiffany yells at her, causing her to choke on the water she was drinking. Kristin wears big red glasses that cover almost half of her face. Everyone thinks she'd be cuter without them, but it's really the glasses that make her look so cute. Everyone also thinks that she's really smart, but it's the glasses that make her look so smart.

They tell Kristin they have a question to ask her but she has to answer yes to find out what it is. They ask Kristin 'yes or no' and she at first says 'I don't know' which to them means no, but then she says yes, so Laura tells her to come to her house after school and to bring some extra panties with her. Damn Laura, I didn't know you were that kinky!

So Laura, Tiffany and Allison, walk past the library discussing Kristin being in Pig City. Gabriel is in the library and can see them and hear everything they're saying. They all salute and so does he.

In class, Mr. Doyle is teaching the difference between adjectives and adverbs. Gabriel usually understands things the first time they're explained, so he's bored. He starts staring at Laura, who is staring intently at Mr. Doyle. Gabriel has a crush on Laura, and wishes she'd pay that much attention to him.

He decides to write her a note to try to trick her into explaining everything about Pig City.

Dear Laura,
I know all about Pig City. 
Don't worry, I promise not to tell anybody. 
You have very pretty hair.
Love, Gabriel

Gabriel scraps this immediately since it sounds too much like a love note. He then changes it to this.

Hey Laura,
I know all about Pig City.
 Don't worry, I promise not to tell anybody. 
You have a lot of hair.
Your humble servant, Gabriel

Gabriel folds the note up and puts it in Laura's desk.

Then we're introduced to our main antagonist Sheila. Sheila hates Laura because she thinks she's conceited.  I don't really see how Laura's conceited. yeah, she's kind of a bitch later on, and a smartass, but I don't really see conceited. I think Sheila's a bit jealous because she has frizzy hair and Laura has straight hair. Or maybe she has a crush on Gabriel. Or maybe she's just a bitch.

Yeah, Sheila's just a bitch.

So Sheila sits behind Gabriel in class and watched him write the note. After he leaves, she takes the note out of Laura's desk and reads it. She gets really mad and almost tears up the note, then decides to mess with them, and changes the lines 'Don't worry, I promise not to tell anybody.' to 'If you don't kiss me, I will tell the whole school.'  and 'You have a lot of hair.' to 'You have ugly hair.'

Satisfied, Sheila folds the note back up and breaks Laura's pencil.

At Laura's house, Tiffany and Allison discuss Kristin getting contact lenses. Laura is silent because she bit too much off of her root beet Popsicle and is waiting for the chunk to melt enough to swallow. Kristin arrives on her blue ten-speed bicycle, out of breath. Laura swallows the last of the popsicle chunk and asks Kristin if she brought them. Kristin nods and says it's in her backpack. Tiffany goes through her bag and asks why she has so many books. Allison says its because she's always reading, but Kristin hates reading, and used the books to cover up her panties.

Tiffany whips them out of her bag and Kristin blushes. Laura leads them to the Dog House and tells Kristin the question: "Do you want to join Pig City?" 

They teach Kristin the secret salute and tell her that her panties are her 'insurance' and if she ever tells anyone about Pig City, they'll show them to all the boys. Kristin promises to never tell, and Laura puts her panties into the treasure chest. Allison adds Kristin's name to the Pig City roster.

PIG CITY
Laura-- President
Tiffany-- Vice- President
Allison-- Secretary
Kristin-- underpants

Laura, Allison and Tiffany don't tell Kristin about their insurance for good reasons. If she ever broke her vow of secrecy and the girls show her panties to everyone, Kristin might use their insurance as revenge.

The girls salute and Laura welcomes Kristin to Pig City.

The next day, the four girls meet up in front of the monkey bars. Debbie is hanging upside down because they have a math test and she says having all the blood in her head makes her think better.

Tiffany asks "Yes or no?" Debbie replies "Yes." and they tell her to meet them at Laura's after school.

Kristin mentions that they forgot to tell her to bring a pair of panties with her, and Laura tells her everyone has to have different insurance. Kristin asks what Debbie's will be, and Tiffany tells her she's not allowed to know. They walk in to class and are greeted by another message.

PIGS ARE BEST!
Laura had snuck in early again.

Mr. Doyle erases the message and draws a rectangle under the word DICTIONARY and next to the rectangle, writes the number 2 next to it. He says when he finds out who's been writing on the board, he'll write his or her name in the rectangle and they'll have to copy two dictionary pages. Laura smiles smugly and thinks to herself that he'll have to change that number to 3 because there'll be another one tomorrow.

Mr. Doyle tells them to get out a piece of paper so they can begin their math test. Linzy starts handing out the tests and Laura opens up her desk to find the note. She smiles, since she loves notes, but then stops smiling after reading what it now says.
Hey Laura,
I know all about Pig City.
 If you don't kiss me, I will tell the whole school.
 You     have     ugly    hair.
Your humble servant,
Gabriel
Yes, the 'you have ugly hair' part is spaced out like that in the book.
Of course, now Laura is freaked out and when she turns to look at Gabriel, he's smiling that dopey "I'm-in-love-with-you" smile he always has around her, and puts his fist to his nose. However, thanks to Sheila's shenanigans, Laura thinks that's a "You'd-better-kiss-me-if-you-want-to-save-Pig-City" smile. 

Linzy places the test in front of Laura and now she's in full panic mode. She notices her broken pencil, and can't ask someone to borrow one so she tries to concentrate on her math test. She gets a lot of the answers wrong, which is noticeable even to me, and I suck at math. 
After the test, she's walking with Tiffany and Allison and they're discussing Debbie's insurance, which is, she has to call up a boy and tell him she loves him, and the girls will tape it on Laura's tape recorder.

"Passionately," Tiffany said with great emotion. "She'll have to say she loves him passionately."

Okay bitch, keep your underaged panties on.
They go back to class and Laura writes a note back to Gabriel.
Hey Gabriel,
I think you're uglier than a two-headed frog. 
I'll kiss you, but only to save Pig City, not because I like you.
Yours truly, 
Laura
P.S. I'd rather kiss a rattlesnake!
She then writes on the outside:
For Gabriel. Anyone who reads this is a worm-nosed snail-eater.
Does that make me and everyone who's read this book worm-nosed snail-eaters?

Laura passes the note to the girl who sits next to her, who passes it to the boy that sits next to her, who decides to be a dick and throws it at Gabriel. Predictably, Mr. Doyle sees such shenanigans.
Gabriel is forced to give the note to Mr. Doyle and write his name under the word DICTIONARY.
Mr. Doyle reads the outside of the note, which makes the whole class giggle, except for Laura.

Laura begs him to not to read the note, and he agrees...but she has to read it instead. Laura promptly becomes blanched. Mr. Doyle insists on her reading the note and Laura insists on keeping her mouth shut. Finally, he tells her to throw it away and to write her name on the board, which she gratefully does.

After school, Laura spends the entire time seething about how much she hates Gabriel, and is angry that he finishes his page before she does. When she finishes hers, she writes a message on the board.
PIGS FLY HIGH!
Hah. I wish.
That's the end for now. See you in the next part.

Exit Twisted Sister