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A Bernie Bolton Book: Bernie Bolton's Book
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A Bernie Bolton Book: Bernie Bolton's Book


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Bernice Blossom Bolton--Bernie--is a nine-and-a-half-year-old force to be reckoned with as she charges head-first into the 21st century. Feisty and fun, liberated and opinionated, she's ready to take on the world. Today's preteen girls will be able to relate to Bernie as she struggles to understand her fast-changing world, deals with changes in her family, comes to terms with the changes in herself.


When Bernie was in third grade, she thought Mr. Soren was the most amazing teacher in the universe. He played games, did wood shop, and every Friday they'd had movies and popcorn. Now that she's in fifth grade, Mr. Soren, the coolest teacher in the Universe, is her teacher once again. But unfathomably, he's now worse than Miss Boggs, all because he's making the class keep a journal of all the things that happen in their lives. What'd Bernie expected to be a wonderful fifth grade year is off to a really revolting start.


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WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 28


I got this book today and I'll explain all about that in a minute, but I have to tell ya' that I think it's really freaky trying to talk to a pencil and a spiral notebook. I didn't even get the color I wanted, which was red. Instead I wound up with white! Can you imagine anything in my house being white and staying that way for three months? I'm a kid and I get dirty hands all the time. And Kirby...if he even passes by my bedroom door he leaves a cloud of dust behind. Besides...white is so BORING!!

I have no idea who or what you are, so you better not think we're going to be buddies or anything. This is for school, PERIOD...end of discussion!!!

Okay...so here's the deal. And it just goes to show ya' that you should never, ever trust your memory from third grade...

I did get Mr. Soren this year for fifth grade, just like I knew I would. The first couple of weeks were fantastic. Well...better than fantastic. It was more like insanely stupendous! 

When I had Mr. Soren in third grade, I thought he was the most amazing teacher in the universe. He used to play games all the time, and do wood shop with us where we'd make these jumpy toys and other cool stuff like KEEP OUT signs for your bedroom door, and every Friday he had what he called Free Friday. What that means is, that if you did good on your spelling and math tests that week, and you behaved yourself, you could take extra recess time and spend the afternoon eating snacks and watching a movie. It's a great "motivational tool". That's what my father said anyway...he, also, told me how to spell "motivational". I personally have no idea what a "motivational tool" is, but I was way into Free Fridays.

Anyway...back to my story. So, this went on for the first two weeks of school, and then WHAM!, Mr. Soren did a Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde act. Ya' know...one minute he's like, the coolest man on the planet, and then the next day he's like, the meanest. Just over night he grew fangs and hairy knuckles, just like in the movie. 

All right...maybe that's sort of an exaggeration, but he came in that day and announced that there would be no more wood shop for a while because we had to start preparing for the State writing tests. And, besides getting passing grades on the math and spelling tests, we would have to get a perfect check-off on your weekly journal entries if we wanted to be part of Free Friday. Otherwise, we'd have to spend that time writing what we should have already done.

That's right...you heard me perfectly. Mr. Soren has decided that in order to prepare us for the writing tests, and to help us "get in touch with our inner-self", we all have to keep a journal for the whole first semester. Personally, I think my inner-self looks a lot like my outer-self...which thinks this whole thing is a stupid idea.

I mean...do you really believe that? Can you think of anything more boring than trying to write down your whole life...after you already did everything? 

It's like in the olden days when my Grammy was a little girl and she kept a diary. She said she wrote in it every night and it had a little key to lock it so that no one could snoop into her private thoughts.

"One day, Bernie," she told me, "when I was just about your age, I got a beautiful diary for my birthday. I loved it so much, I used to lock it up, put it under my pillow at night, and sleep with it. After a few days, I was afraid my sister would find the key under my socks, 'cause she was a real "sneaky Pete". 

I have no idea where Grammy gets her expressions, but "sneaky Pete" is one of her favorites. She especially likes to call my step-brother, Kirby, a "sneaky Pete", because he's always sniffing around and looking for mischief. 

"So what I did, one day," Grammy said, "was I decided to hide the key where no one would find it except me. Well, being just a child and not nearly as smart as you, Bernie, I decided the lamp was the perfect place. I gently took off the lampshade, unscrewed the light bulb, and very carefully dropped the little metal key into the socket where the light bulb had been. Sounds like a swell place, doesn't it? Oh my...let me tell you...the second that little metal key hit the bottom of the socket, sparks began to shoot out of the lamp like fireworks at the Fair, then smoke, and then all of the lights in the whole house went out."  

(WARNING! Don't try this at home...unless you want to be punished for the rest of your entire life!!)

Okay...back to my Grammy story...So, I started to laugh and Grammy laughed with me until we both had tears rolling down our cheeks.

"That's right, sweetie, I blew out every single fuse in the house and afterward, I had to apologize to the firemen who came out, sirens and all, 'cause a neighbor had called the fire department when they saw smoke coming from my bedroom window. I spent the whole weekend in my room as a punishment for scaring my mother half to death. I had plenty to write about that week."

So you get the picture, right? Mr. Soren is making us keep a journal...a diary...a book, of our own private stuff, and he is going to check it on Fridays to make sure we have at least two entries written every week. Like kids have nothing better to do than write down private thoughts, which I have none of, and I have no idea where to get them. But, no weekly entries...no Free Friday! He promised not to read our thoughts, just grade on spelling, and neatness. I wonder how he can do that without "reading" anything. Hmmmmm!

My wonderful fifth grade year, which I waited for all summer, is off to a really revolting start.

signed,

Bernie Bolton




MONDAY OCTOBER 3


Dear Book, or journal, or diary or whatever you are,

My handwriting has gotten much better this year because of Miss Boggs from last year. She was a real nag about nice handwriting...and grammar (don't get me started on Miss Boggs and grammar) (insert HUGE scream here). 

Miss Boggs said that a lot of kids never learn to write nice and we weren't going to be like those kids. So she made us practice every day, and while it was sort of a pain, at least now I have good handwriting and my spelling is pretty good, too. Mr. Soren said we could print this journal thing, if we wanted to, in fact, he said he preferred it because it would be easier for him to read, since some kids still had pretty messy handwriting. I actually like to write better, because I think printing is kind of baby, like for first and second grades... But if he wants printing, who am I to argue? Whatever! (insert HUGE sigh here)

So, because I'm pretty good at grammar and spelling, this journal thing will probably be pretty easy...even if it is hugely boring. 

I also like to use adjectives and adverbs a lot. This used to get me in trouble with Miss Boggs all the time, because she says adjectives and adverbs are a waste of paper and that certainly more than one at a time was the act of a cluttered mind and a poor writer. I totally disagree. I think adjectives and adverbs are a very creative way of expressing yourself...sort of like saying that Miss Boggs is a very oppressive, harsh, domineering, tyrannical, and unfair teacher. Adjectives and adverbs also get you to use the thesaurus a lot. It's like a dictionary, only not.

I have nothing else to say...

But if I don't write something, then Mr. Soren will mark my book with an X and I won't get to watch the movie tomorrow, which is something called ROMEO and JULIET and it was written by some famous dead guy named Shakespeare. He (Mr. Soren, not Shakespeare) said it might be a little hard to understand at first, but it was good for us to be exposed a little before we started reading some poems by this same guy. My father says he thinks fifth grade is too young for Shakespeare, but that Mr. Soren must know what he's doing.

Before I go any further, maybe I should tell you who I am. After all, if we're going to be spending almost a three months together, I guess we should know something about each other. Right?

Okay...I know your name is Diary, or do you prefer Journal? I think I'll just call you 'Book', for short. I can see you're flat and fairly thin with white pages and blue lines. You have a lovely (not) white, shiny cover and a silver spiral thing down one side. Other than that, you're pretty ordinary. No offense...because so am I.

My name is Bernie Bolton, but my whole name is Bernice Blossom Bolton, after my two grandmothers. It's your job not to ever tell anyone that unless I tell you it's okay...which I never will! 

I'm about average height, and average weight, and I have average red hair and average freckles, and I wear average eyeglasses...when I don't forget them. The only thing that's not average about me is that I'm pretty smart, I get good grades, and I love to sing and act. That's why I'm going to try out for the Annual Spring Play again this year. Oh, and one more thing...it just seems to me that growing up is tremendous inconvenience. I'm perfectly happy with the way things are. 

So now that we're introduced, all I need to do is teach you to write in yourself and I'd be off the hook. Just kidding! (NOT!)

Nothing happened this week!

Well, maybe I'll just tell about the first day of school this year; but I'll tell about Kirby first. That's always good for laughs. I'll save my day for another time. 

And just for the record...I hate this writing stuff. I have way better things to do, if you must know.

O.K.

So...the best thing I can remember about that day is that Kirby went to school for the first time, and you'd have thought there was a second landing on the Moon...or maybe Mars for all the fuss made about a little kid getting on a school bus. Funny...I got on the same bus at the same time and not a soul noticed...except Teddy Barrett. But I'll tell you about Teddy Barrett another time, too...except that his nose is always running. 

Anyway, there was my step-mother, Priscilla, big as a medicine ball 'cause she's gonna have a baby next month, and she's just crying her eyes out. 

Daddy is taking pictures from every angle except from the top of the bus. Grammy and Papa are standing on the porch waving, and Grammy is crying almost as much as Priscilla. Kirby...well, he's just grinning big as ya' please because he thinks he's all grown up now. What a scene!! The only thing missing was the CNN news crew.

My Grammy, Bernice, lives a few minutes away with my Papa. I love them a lot. 

My Grandma Blossom lives in Arizona. My Grandpa Harry died when I was just a little kid, about four or six, and I didn't know him all that well. Grandma Blossom is very nice but she has big, blonde hair and she always sleeps on satin pillowcases so she won't mess it up. She also hates crumbs. It doesn't matter how small they are, she always sees them. Therefore...it's not a whole lot of fun to go to her house. Of course, now that she lives in Arizona, I won't get to see her too often anyway. She just moved there last year and I haven't been to visit her yet. 

My father said it's kind of bare out there. No regular trees, just cactus plants, and palm trees, and lots and lots of sand and rocks. He said people have lawns made out of rocks. How is that possible? Do you think they paint the rocks green or something? He also said there are snakes and tarantulas out there, which makes it pretty certain I'm never going to visit.

Now you know most of the stuff about my family, except for my new grandparents. I have them because my father married Priscilla. They're very nice, but I'm still not sure what to call them since Grammy, and Papa, and Grandma are already taken. I'm thinking about Nana and Gramps, but I still haven't made up my mind. That Grandmother's name is Beatrice. It's a good thing I didn't know her when I was born 'cause my name could have been Bernice Blossom Beatrice Bolton... Now that's a mouthful for ya'.

They came to visit last summer, and they told me all about the place they live in Fort Lauderdale. That's in Florida, in case you didn't know. They're all retired now, which means they don't have to go to work anymore. The ladies just sit around the pool all day and talk, and my Gramps (I guess I like that name good enough) says all they ever talk about is their doctors, how much their condos are worth, and where you can get the best early-bird, because all the old people love them. I told him I know all about canary birds and parrot birds, but I never saw an early bird. 

He laughed and said, "It's not a real bird, Bernie.  It's when we all go to the restaurants at 5 o'clock sharp for dinner because it's cheaper to go early. And we usually only eat half our dinner, and then take the other half home in a box for dinner the next day."

I got this picture of all these cute, little, old people walking out of the restaurant single file, all carrying little, white, doggy bags.

I forgot to tell you about my sister, Lizzy. She got married to Sam on my ninth birthday and everyone forgot that my birthday was that day too. I was pretty sad and mad about that, but it all worked out 'cause they were very sorry when they figured it all out. 

Lizzy is pregnant too, only she's going to have twins. I can't imagine anything worse than having three new babies and they're all going to be boys...because you know what that means. It means that very quickly they will all get big enough to drive me crazy. It's bad enough with just Kirby, but three more?

Lizzy and Priscilla are supposed to have their babies around Halloween...how perfect! And I guess that will make me a sister and an aunt at the same time.

In case you weren't sure, Lizzy is way older than me. My mother used to say I was her little surprise package 'cause I was born when they figured they were all through with little kids. 

I think I was special to my mother! She died, ya' know. When I was just seven, she got real sick. I miss her all the time. Even if Priscilla is a great step-mother...it's not the same, but that's all I want to talk about that.

Okay...that's enough, and I mean it!! My fingers are all cramped.

Over and out,

Signed,

Bernie Bolton 


P.S. In case you weren't sure, this writing thing is not my cup o' tea. I have way better things to do than talk to a piece of paper, and my hand is killing me. If I decide to do this again, I'll let you know, because as of right now, I'm pretty sure I hate this. I think I'll need to have a little chat with Mr. Soren.


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