Grades 3 - 5 / Ages 8 - 10.
While the novels in the "Shooting Star" series are intended for readers in early elementary school, usually grades two to four, Project Disaster will find a slightly older audience. Neil is finding life difficult. His mother is having a baby; his four-year-old sister, Tara, is getting extra attention from his father and visiting grandparents; he has to share his bedroom with Tara; and the adults are always (he thinks) taking his sister's side against him.
For a class project on pets, Neil is trying to train his goldfish to jump out of the water and take food from his hand. His project is ruined when his fish dies because Tara had overfed it and he hadn't cleaned out the bowl immediately. Reading Charlotte's Web gives him the idea of doing a project on spiders instead.
"My pet Charlotte has two jaws, eight eyes and eight legs," I began..." She has poison glands in her two jaws and when she sinks her fangs into her prey, she paralyzes them....Charlotte wraps the silk coming from her spinneret around her prey. Spider webbing is almost as strong as nylon. Here, I'll try to get her to spin some for you."
I took the screen cover off the mouth of Fido's old bowl. Then I stuck my pencil into the bowl. The class was really paying attention. Jenny Sommers' mouth hung open.
I loved it.
Ever so slowly, Charlotte climbed onto my pencil. I lifted the pencil high into the air and gently shook Charlotte off.
Miss Rosonoff picked that second to turn around and check out my pet. I don't know how it happened, but somehow Charlotte landed on Miss Rosonoff's bare arm.
Miss Rosonoff managed not to scream but the girls at the front did it for her. A funny noise came from deep in Miss Rosonoff's throat...
In a flash she shook Charlotte onto the floor and stomped on her. Miss Rosonoff twisted her foot back and forth.
I dropped the fish bowl and it shattered.
"Neil," Miss Rosonoff said in a high funny voice, "You get a broom and clean that up."
For a second or two I just stared at her. There was no sound in the classroom except my breathing. Then I blinked.
"No way," I said quietly. "Clean it up yourself." (Pages 55 and 56)
Things go from bad to worse. Neil runs out of the school and heads for home. As he goes through the park, he sees his grandfather (Opa) and Tara. He calls to his grandfather who does not hear him. Feeling completely neglected and miserable, Neil decides that he will feel better if he goes to sit in Opa's beloved Firebird car. One thing leads to another, and, just as his police officer father arrives home, Neil and the car roll down the driveway, cross the street and hit a school crossing sign.
Project Disaster deals in a humorous, contemporary and Canadian way with the lives of elementary school children. Like many Canadian children, Neil has parents of two different ethnic backgrounds, German and French.
Now retired after 14 years as the teacher-librarian at Westdale Junior High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Irene Gordon serves as co-editor of the Manitoba School Library Association Journal.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
The Manitoba Library Association
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - September 19, 1997.
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