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Holling's introduction to Shakespeare comes right after the Great Chalk Dust Cream Puff Caper, in other words, right after Holling's inadvertent destruction of three trays of newly baked cream puffs. Mrs. Baker was trying in vain to find a productive use for Wednesday afternoons during which she and Holling's are marooned together since half the classes goes to Catholic and the other half to Hebrew lessons. Holling is the only Presbyterian and left in the care of Mrs. Baker.
"Hoodhood," she said quietly. She thought for a moment. Does your family attend Temple Beth-El?" she said. ... "Saint Adelbert's, then?" She asked this kind of hopefully. ... "[On] Wednesday afternoon your attend neither Hebrew School noe Catechism. ... You are here with me." ... Mrs Baker looked hard at me. I think she rolled her eyes.
One of her efforts at occupying Wednesday afternoon came in the form of chalk eraser cleaning. This ill-fated plan was unhappily inaugurated on the same day that Mrs. Bigio handed over dozens of fresh cream puffs to Mrs. Baker for transport to the Wives of Vietnam Soldiers (WVS) meeting. Chalk dust, liberated from the erasers, wafted up the levels of the school building, lingered outside the one set of open windows--left open with a noble purpose related to keeping cream puffs from getting soggy--then wafted in at the window and, obeying gravity, settled decoratively across all the dozens of cream puffs. The women of the WVS were unhappy with their cream puffs that night.
The cloud of dust had drifted in, and then gravity had taken over. The chalk had fallen gently upon each of the cream puffs.
Following this, Mrs. Baker decides to take a different tack, one with less physicality and danger attached to it: She and Holling will begin reading Shakespeare on Wednesday afternoons. This all works out well for Holling as he discovers that Shakespeare is full of witches, murders, drunkenness, wizards and spirits--who could resist? You'll find where Mrs. Baker unveils her great idea on pages 39 and 40 in the Sandpiper, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2007 hardcover edition. You'll find where she pulls out two musty books from her desk drawer, dusts them off, leaves the dusty musty smell behind, and hands one to Holling while keeping the other for herself, commencing their Shakespearean readings together to be sure Holling is "following the dialogue," on page 46.
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