I don’t remember if I liked this one or not (I think I probably did, although it wasn’t a favorite). However, my real memory’s about how out of place some parts seemed. I remember thinking it was strange that they had Jessi being, like, the star of this comedy show the school’s putting on. She’s cracking jokes right and left, and is a bit of a ham. I know she was always the dancer, but it seemed like all the other talents came out of nowhere. Looking back, I do remember her talking about wanting to be a comedian, so I guess it really wasn’t out of character. But I must not have remembered that detail back then. I also remember thinking that the title was a fake-out, because Jessi doesn't really do anything wrong.
Also, they talk about Klingons, and I had no idea what they meant (other than that they’re from Star Trek, which they say in the book). So, I think later, when I heard Klingons mentioned in other contexts, I thought of this book.
Jessi has a new teacher, Mr. Trout, for her computer programming class. He’s kind of a “dweeb” as Jessi puts it. He’s also a horrible teacher – not just because he doesn’t explain things well, but because he’s a bit of a wimp. And since 11-year-olds can smell fear, they totally take advantage of this. No one pays attention, and they act up in class – passing notes, dropping their books on the floor, stealing a grade book from the desk, etc. They also laugh at him all the time, because he dresses weird, wears a bad toupe, is a bit of a klutz, and always says his Ls as Ws. Jessi feels bad for him, but she laughs along with everyone else, because she can’t help it. The kids even use a fishing hook to remove his toupee in front of the whole class.
Meanwhile, Jessi’s participating in SMS’s “Sixth Grade Follies” – a show that the sixth graders put on every year, spoofing their teachers. I think it’s supposed to be a bit of a junior SNL show. She’s involved with writing it, and ends up as one of the leads. Someone decides to add a joke about Mr. Trout to the show and convinces Jessi to play him. She’s worried about hurting his feelings, but decides to go along with it, since all the other teachers laugh at the show. And of course, Jessi’s a huge hit. But, the Monday after the show, Mr. Trout’s absent. The rumors around school are that he just didn’t show up and skipped town. His replacement’s a pretty decent teacher, but Jessi’s still eaten up with guilt about it. Everyone keeps telling her not to worry, but she can’t help herself. She finally writes a letter to Mr. Trout, who responds that she didn’t do anything wrong, she was always a good student, and that he decided he wasn’t meant for teaching and was applying to grad school.
Becca loves watching Jessi prepare for the follies, and she decides to put on one of her own. She gets together with the Barretts, the Arnolds, Charlotte Johanson, and some of the Pikes, and puts on the “BSC Follies.” The kids all play one of the BSC members, and put on a skit about a BSC meeting. Jessi and the others love it, of course.
- I can’t believe that a guy like Mr. Trout could make it through a day by himself, let alone get a job teaching. He drops everything he touches, gets his tie stuck in a drawer, and loses chalk on a daily basis.
- So, the “prank” that’s supposedly so horrible: The premise of the Follies is that all the teachers are some celebrity type (such as Elvis, Dolly Parton, Pig Pen from Peanuts, etc). When Elvis enters, someone points out that he’s supposed to be dead, and Elvis responds, “No, I was kidnapped by the Klingons.” Then Jessi (as Mr. Trout) walks in with a bald “wig” and says, “Kwingons. Pwease.” I have to admit, I don’t really get the joke, unless it’s just funny to see Jessi in a bald wig? I’ve never been a big Star Trek person, so maybe I’m missing something.
- When talking about the Klingons, Jessi refers to them as “those ugly bald guys” from Star Trek (which, I guess, explains the joke a little). But since I’m still not totally sure what Klingons are, I checked, and it doesn’t seem they are really bald. At least not all of them.
- Jessi claims (to the reader) that she was the “comedy-highlight” of SMS’s production of Peter Pan. If that’s what she needs to believe to get through the day, then I guess she should keep telling herself that.
- Jessi’s nervous about singing in the Follies audition, because she thinks her singing hurt her when auditioning for Peter Pan. I actually like this, because it shows some continuity and character depth. We never really got to hear Jessi’s final reaction to the play in that Super Special.
- Claudia outfit: “She was wearing ‘50s-style cat’s eye glasses frames, a plastic barrette in the shape of an alligator, a tie-dyed T-shirt, and bell bottoms.”
- One of the planning meetings for the Follies is at Jessi’s house. And at 10:00 am, she serves multiple kinds of chips and candy. I know kids that age eat a lot, but at 10:00? My parents wouldn’t have let me eat/serve food like that early in the morning.
- There’s also a Wayne’s World skit….that’s a bit of a flashback.
- Jessi, for all her talk about feeling bad for Mr. Trout, sure laughs hard at all the pranks. Someone being revealed as bald may sound funny, but I would think it would be pretty awkward to actually be in the room. But maybe I’m just getting old.
- Jessi’s kind of a snob about the audition for the Follies, because the dance routine is just too easy for someone of her great talents. She kind of rolls her eyes at all the bad dancers trying out.
- Sixty people show up for auditions, and I’m not sure if that includes the planning teams of twenty people. How many people are in each grade at SMS? It’s never really clear how big the town/school really is.
- The tagline on the cover of the book is, “Some joke AREN’T funny.” But the whole plot of the book suggests that the jokes ARE funny, at least to everyone in the story. Even Jessi, who feels bad for Mr. Trout cracks up at everything that happens to him. And her skit in the Follies pretty much brought down the house.
- The teachers organizing the show tell the cast they’re going to serve ice cream in the cafeteria after the show. Which makes me think it’s a cast party. But Jessi invites her whole family and the BSC to go along. Maybe it’s no big deal and lots of kids brought guests, but it seemed odd.
- Jessi starts a petition for the students to ask Mr. Trout back. If she really feels bad, why bother? Doesn’t she realize that him coming back would just add to the pain?
- Isn’t it kind of strange that while taking computer programming, Jessi’s class never actually uses computers? I know it was the early nineties so schools may not have had as many machines, but still. We had computer labs in my middle school, which was around the same time.
- The BSC really must be pretty loyal, because they all sign Jessi’s petition, when it’s hanging on the school bulletin board.
- Jessi actually goes and tells the principal about all the pranks after Mr. Trout leaves, because she’s feeling guilty. I think it seems a bit pointless for her to do that, since there’s nothing that can be done about it at that point. She’s just being a “tattletale.” AND, the stories shouldn’t really be a surprise for the principal….if stories about the toupee removal stunt (and others) were all over school, he teachers had to have started picking up on them.
- While creating the show, Jessi gets friendly with all these other kids working on it. Yet, we never hear about them again.
- Jessi does acknowledge that Mr. Trout brought the trouble on himself by never using any discipline on the kids. Which is true. I want to know how he ended up teaching in the first place.
- The “BSC Follies” that the kids put on are pretty silly, but accurate. They have “Kristy” screaming everything she says, “Mary Anne” crying all the time, “Claudia” eating a ton of candy and contemplating wearing a clock as a hat. I’m kind of wondering how the kids know the BSC so well. They are never at meetings to see Kristy call them to order. And if Claudia’s junk food is such common knowledge, why haven’t her parents heard?
- The actual message in this book is a bit mixed. They have Jessi feel all guilty because she participated in the skit knowing it would hurt Mr. Trout’s feelings. But, they also have everyone else rightfully pointing out that no other teacher had a problem with the Follies and that Mr. Trout was just not meant for the job.