Authors: Judy Delton
Mrs. Peters smiled. “I’ll talk to her,” she said.
“Now, even though you can’t take the books home today,” said Mrs. Nelson, “you can feel free to read them here.”
Molly knew that. She came to the library all the time to read. And her mother took books home for her every week. This was turning out to be a baby badge. Mrs. Peters must be short of ideas. She was scraping the bottom of the barrel, as Molly’s grandmother would say. Wasn’t there a book of badges for scout leaders? Wasn’t there a leader of the leaders they could call, like a 911 number for emergency assistance?
Maybe Mrs. Peters should ask the Pee Wees to come up with badge ideas. Molly could think of lots of badges she’d like to earn! A zoo badge for tending animals, an
in-line skating badge, a camping-in-the-wilderness badge, a snowshoe badge, even a video games badge. Those wouldn’t be baby badges.
Molly frowned. Perhaps those badges would be too dangerous. An animal might bite one of the Pee Wees. Someone could fall off their skates and hit their head on the sidewalk. A snake might attack them in the wilderness, or a bear might come into their tent and eat them.
All of a sudden Molly noticed everyone staring at her. She was the only one daydreaming. She was the only one not reading a book. It was her wild imagination at work. When it took over, she lost track of what was happening around her. Sometimes she didn’t even hear people talking to her!
Molly got a book from the shelf.
“I’m taking all short books,” said Sonny. “With big printing.”
Roger was doing that too, Molly noticed. He had a big pile of books that looked as if they were for babies! Some of them had only three words on a page. And some pages had
words, just pictures! Roger had a notebook and pencil, and as soon as he opened a book, he wrote a sentence about it on a sheet of paper. In a few minutes he had ten book reports done. He took the books back to the shelf and got ten more.
“Rat’s knees,” whispered Molly to Mary Beth. “That’s cheating!”
“Well, it’s his loss,” said Mary Beth, who sounded as if she was using her mother’s words. “He misses out on reading good books.”
Molly could not keep her attention on
The Boxcar Children
. For every page she turned, Roger had two more reports written!
Now he was reading board books.
“My baby brother has those,” said Mary Beth. “And he’s only nine months old.” Now she looked alarmed too. “No one else will have a chance,” Mary Beth grumbled.
Tim asked Molly what
was. Then he asked about
All of a sudden Lisa began to giggle at something in her book. Rachel looked over her shoulder, and she began to giggle too. Before long most of the Pee Wees were giggling, and Mrs. Peters had to hold up her hand for silence.
Molly had a hard time concentrating on her book with all the disturbances. She decided it was cozier to read in her little bed with her lamp on after supper.
By the time Mrs. Peters said it was time to go, Roger had almost filled his notebook, and Molly had read only five pages. She would not have a chance at the prize! She gave Roger some dirty looks, but he didn’t seem to notice.
Roger was definitely the thirteenth scout. He was bad luck, no matter what Mrs. Peters said. If he left there would be twelve scouts, and the prize would be won fair and square.
Roger was definitely cheating. They probably couldn’t get rid of him, but Molly could report him. If Molly reported him, would he try to get back at her? Roger liked revenge. He could be mean. But no one should get away with cheating. Especially a Pee Wee Scout!
rs. Peters,” said Rachel on the way home in the van. “Roger is reading baby books with almost no words in them. Is that fair?”
Roger stuck his tongue out at Rachel.
Mrs. Peters frowned. “I can’t tell anyone what books to choose,” she said thoughtfully, “but I think if any of you want to read baby books, perhaps ten of them will count as just one book report.”
Rachel looked happy. “Good,” she said.
Molly was glad that Roger had got caught and that she hadn’t had to tattle on him. Rachel was brave. And ten baby books to one real book seemed fair.
real books, dummy,” said Roger to Rachel when they got out of the van and started walking home.
“Hah,” she replied.
When Molly got home her mother signed the library form. Her dad said, “Do you think you’re ready to have a card of your own? Are you responsible?”
Molly was alarmed at her dad’s words. He knew she was responsible and dependable! When she opened her mouth to tell him so, she noticed that he was smiling. He had been kidding. Mr. Duff was a great kidder.
Molly pretended to punch her dad on the arm.
“You do have to take care of the books,” her dad reminded her. “When the books are on your card, if you lose one, it will be up to you to replace it.”
Molly nodded. That was silly. It would never happen. How could she lose a book when she was so careful with her things?
“Nobody likes getting this badge,” said Molly. “They like to read, but writing reports is too much like school. It’s Roger who’s bringing us bad luck. He’s the thirteenth Pee Wee.”
“How do you know he’s the thirteenth?” asked Mr. Duff.
“Because if he left, there would be twelve,” said Molly.
left, there would be twelve,” said Molly’s mother.
Her mother was right, thought Molly. Still, twelve would be a better number than
thirteen. If it was Roger who left, it would be an
treat. The Pee Wees’ good luck would be guaranteed. Troop 23 would be under full warranty, just like her mom’s new car tires or the family washing machine.
When the phone rang it was for Molly.
“Let’s take our forms back to the library tomorrow, instead of waiting for the meeting,” Mary Beth said. “Then we can take piles of books out and get a head start.”
“Okay,” said Molly.
But when they got to the library in the morning, there was a long line of Pee Wees ahead of them. Everyone was turning in signed forms and waiting for cards.
“Rat’s knees,” said Molly. “Those guys will get the best books now.”
“There are lots and lots of books,” said Mrs. Nelson, who had overheard Molly.
But when it was finally Molly’s turn and she got her card, only books about health and vitamins and tooth care were left.
“Psst!” whispered Mary Beth from behind the stacks three aisles down. “Come on over here. These are books for older kids.”
Molly joined her where the books for sixth- and seventh-graders were.
“These will take longer to read,” said Molly.
“But they’re better books,” said Mary Beth. “Some of them are even about dating. And kissing. They aren’t full of simple stuff.”
All of a sudden their own books seemed silly. Mary Beth was right. The books for older kids were much better.
“Maybe they won’t let us take these out,” said Molly.
“Pooh,” said her friend. “They can’t keep
us from reading what we want. We have our own cards now.”
Molly took a chapter book that looked good off the shelf. It began in a church where someone’s sister was getting married. It had no pictures. It was solid words.
The girls read the first sentence in lots of books, and finally they each had a pile to check out.
Molly was nervous when she took the books to the checkout desk. What if Mrs. Nelson said, “Oh, Molly, you aren’t old enough to read these!” She would be embarrassed. She would have to put them all back!
But that didn’t happen. Mrs. Nelson was busy showing a library helper how to arrange books on a cart. All she said when she checked out the books was, “Have a good day, Molly.”
The girls ran to Mary Beth’s front porch and climbed into the big wicker chairs to read. Her mother brought them a plate of hot cookies and some lemonade.
Molly munched away and started the book about the haunted house. There were a lot of words on the first page. Big words.
mean?” Molly spelled.
Mary Beth frowned. “I’ll get our dictionary,” she said.
It took a long time to find the word. Finally they did.
“It’s an adverb, it says. It means ‘with emphasis,’ ” said Mary Beth.
?” asked Molly.
Mary Beth slid her finger down the row of words.
“It says, ‘prominence, stress,’ ” she announced.
“Rat’s knees!” said Molly. “What good is a dictionary if the words that tell you what a
word means are so big you can’t understand them?”
“I think stress is when you worry a lot,” said Mary Beth. “My mom says my dad’s job is full of stress.”
Molly looked at the word in her book. “It doesn’t make sense,” she said.
The girls closed the dictionary. Molly curled up with her new book again. Before long she came to another long word. This was not going well. It was all Roger’s fault!
Molly put down her book and opened the dictionary again. This time the word wasn’t there!
“What do we do when the word isn’t even in the dictionary?” said Molly.
Mary Beth shrugged. “I’ll ask my mom. There are three words in my book I don’t know either.”
Mary Beth took Molly’s book and her
own and went to look for her mother. But her mother was talking to the next-door neighbor. Mary Beth asked her sister the words, but she didn’t know.
“It’s going to take us forever to read one book at this rate!” said Mary Beth.
“We’ll never get the prize if we have to look up every word, or ask someone,” said Molly.
“Let’s skip the words we don’t know,” said Mary Beth.
What a good idea, thought Molly, and settled down again.
But skipping so many words was not working, she soon found.
“I don’t know what’s happening in this book!” said Molly.
“Neither do I,” said Mary Beth. “Maybe we should take these books back.”
The girls put their books in their book
bags and trudged back to the library. When they got there, Tim was sitting on the steps. He looked as if he was going to cry.
“Look!” he said, holding up a book with black-and-white pictures in it.
The problem was that the pictures were not all black and white. Someone had taken red, blue, and green crayons and colored some of them in.
“My baby brother did it!” said Tim. “And I don’t have any money to pay for the book! Neither does my mom! Will I have to go to jail?”
Poor Tim, thought Molly. He couldn’t write! He couldn’t spell! And now the police were after him! It just wasn’t fair.
he girls forgot all about their books with the big words. Their problem was a small one. If Tim couldn’t pay for the ruined book, he might be locked up! A Pee Wee Scout in jail! At least Molly and Mary Beth couldn’t be locked up for not knowing the big words.
Instead of going to the library on Tuesdays, would Troop 23 be going to visit Tim in jail? Would they be baking cookies and cakes to take to him? Maybe Mrs. Peters
would have meetings in jail, instead of in her basement.
“Come with us,” said Mary Beth to Tim. “Let’s go to my house and think about how to save you.”
The girls took their books in and returned them. Molly checked out some others that did not look very exciting but did have words that she could read. On the way back to the Kellys’, she dropped them off at her house. She put the books on the hall floor and called to her mom that she was going to Mary Beth’s again.
Tim was crying all the way, and tears rolled down his cheeks and onto the sidewalk. “I don’t want to go to jail!” he said.
“It’s your first offense,” said Molly. “It might be like not wearing your seat belt. You’ll just get a warning.”
Mary Beth shook her head. “The book is ruined,” she said. “And it’s city property.”