Chapter 1 Summary

The teachers and students at Lincoln Elementary do not consider Nick Allen to be a very good or very smart kid, but they would not call him a troublemaker either—at least, not exactly. The main thing about Nick is that he has a lot of ideas, and his ideas always make life interesting.

As a third grader, during a snowy February, Nick turns his classroom into a tropical island. He gets all his classmates to make palm trees out of paper and hang them on their desks. For several days, the kids wear paper flowers and sunglasses to school. Nick turns up the thermostat and spreads sand all over the floor.

Nick’s teacher, Miss Deaver, is happy to play along with his vacation game. She calls his behavior “cute” and “creative.” The school custodian, on the other hand, does not like what Nick is doing. The custodian complains to the principal about the mess of sand kids are tracking all over the school. The principal follows the sand to Miss Deaver’s classroom and puts a stop to Nick’s fun.

The next year, in fourth grade, Nick watches a TV show about red-winged blackbirds. He learns that the blackbird makes a high-pitched call whenever it senses danger. The high-pitched sounds travel through the air in such a way that hawks and other hunter birds cannot tell where they are coming from.

In class the next day, during silent reading, Nick remembers this TV show. He thinks his teacher, Mrs. Avery, looks a little like a hawk, so he lets out a couple of high-pitched “peeps!” to find out what will happen.

Mrs. Avery cannot tell where the sound is coming from. She blames Nick’s friend Janet for making the noise. Janet is surprised to be yelled at this way; she gets so upset she almost cries. Mrs. Avery sees that she has made a mistake, so she tells Janet she is sorry.

At lunch, Nick apologizes to Janet for getting her in trouble. He explains about the blackbirds, and Janet finds the idea interesting. She tries making a couple of high-pitched peeping sounds, and she promises Nick not to tell anyone what she knows.

For the rest of the year, Nick and Janet occasionally make peeping sounds in the middle of class. Miss Avery never knows who is making the noise, and eventually she gives up trying to find out. Nick and Janet agree that the whole thing is pretty fun.