Chapter 2 Summary

Now Nick Allen is starting fifth grade. At Lincoln Elementary, fifth grade is much more difficult than the other grades are. The teachers know that the kids have to get ready for middle school, so they make everyone work harder. The hardest teacher of all is Mrs. Granger.

Mrs. Granger has worked a Lincoln elementary forever, and she has never missed a day of school. She wears the same, strict-looking skirt-and-jacket suits every day. She is very small, shorter even than some fifth graders, but she seems huge to the kids. Her eyes are full of a power that can make anyone feel small.

Kids say Mrs. Granger has X-ray vision. She is famous for catching and punishing kids chewing gum—even the ones who are not in fifth grade yet. More importantly, her language arts classes are grueling. She makes kids take all kinds of spelling tests and reading tests and vocabulary tests, and she is an extremely hard grader.

Mrs. Granger loves the dictionary. Every week, she makes her class learn thirty-five vocabulary words. She writes a Word of the Day on the board every day, and if a kid forgets to learn the definition, she always finds out. She has thirty-five student dictionaries in her classroom, one for each student in the class. Plus she has a huge dictionary so big it takes two kids to carry it, which she keeps on a kind of pedestal at the front of the classroom. “Look it up!” Mrs. Granger loves to say. “That’s why we have the dictionary.”

Over summer vacation, even before Nick begins fifth grade, his parents get a letter from Mrs. Granger. She explains that “clear thinking requires a command of the English language” and gives parents a list of dictionaries his parents can buy for Nick to study at home. Nick’s mother thinks it is wonderful that his new teacher is so serious about her work, but Nick is not so happy.

Nick does not like dictionaries. He likes words but he prefers to learn them by reading or asking his dad. He knows he will not get to learn that way in school this year. He remembers seeing last year’s fifth graders always in the library, always stressed out, always forced to look up another enormous list of words to satisfy Mrs. Granger. Nick worries that fifth grade will be terrible.