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Authors: Judy Blume


BOOK: Blubber
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Published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books a division of Random House, Inc., New York

Text copyright © 1974 by Judy Blume

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eISBN: 978-0-307-81766-2


For Randy and Larry,
my experts on fifth grade, loose teeth
The Guinness Book of World Records,
stamp collecting and school bus action

“It’s very foolish to laugh
if you don’t know what’s funny
in the first place.”

My best friend, Tracy Wu, says I’m really tough on people. She says she wonders sometimes how I can like her. But we both know that’s a big joke. Tracy’s the best friend I’ll ever have. I just wish we were in the same fifth-grade class.

My teacher is Mrs. Minish. I’m not crazy about her. She hardly ever opens the windows in our room because she’s afraid of getting a stiff neck. I never heard anything so dumb. Somedays our room gets hot and stuffy and it smells—like this afternoon. We’d been listening to individual reports on The Mammal for almost an hour. Donna Davidson was standing at the front of the room reading hers. It was on the horse. Donna has this
about horses.

I tried hard not to fall asleep but it wasn’t
easy. For a while I watched Michael and Irwin as they passed a
National Geographic
back and forth. It was open to a page full of naked people. Wendy and Caroline played Tic Tac Toe behind Wendy’s notebook. Wendy won three games in a row. I wasn’t surprised. Wendy is a very clever person. Besides being class president, she is also group science leader, recess captain and head of the goldfish committee.

Did Mrs. Minish notice anything that was going on or was she just concentrating on Donna’s boring report? I couldn’t tell from looking at her. She had a kind of half-smile on her face and sometimes she kept her eyes closed for longer than a blink.

To make the time go faster I thought about Halloween. It’s just two days away. I love to dress up and go Trick-or-Treating, but I’m definitely not going to be a dumb old witch again this year. Donna will probably be a horse. She dresses up like one every Halloween. Last year she said when she grows up she is going to marry a horse. She has him all picked out and everything. His name is San Salvador. Most of the time Donna smells like a horse but I wouldn’t tell her that because she might think it’s a compliment.

I yawned and wiggled around in my chair.

“In closing,” Donna said, “I would like you
to remember that even though some people say horses are stupid that is a big lie! I personally happen to know some very smart horses. And that’s the end of my report.”

The whole class clapped, not because Donna’s report was great, but because it was finally over. Mrs. Minish opened her eyes and said, “Very nice, Donna.”

Earlier, when I had finished my report on the lion, Mrs. Minish said the same thing to me.
Very nice
. Just like that. Now I couldn’t be sure if she really meant it. My report wasn’t as dull as Donna’s but it wasn’t as long either. Maybe the longer you talk the better grade you get. That wouldn’t be fair though. Either way, I’m glad Mrs. Minish calls on us alphabetically and that my last name is Brenner. I come right after Bruce Bonaventura.

Mrs. Minish cleared her throat. “Linda Fischer will give the last report for today,” she said. “We’ll hear five more tomorrow and by the middle of next week everyone will have had a turn.”

I didn’t think I’d be able to live through another report.

“Are you ready, Linda?” Mrs. Minish asked.

“Yes,” Linda said, as she walked to the front of the room. “My report is uh … on the whale.”

Caroline and Wendy started another game of
Tic Tac Toe while Bruce went to work on his nose. He has a very interesting way of picking it. First he works one nostril and then the other and whatever he gets out he sticks on a piece of yellow paper inside his desk.

The hand on the wall clock jumped. Only ten minutes till the bell. I took a piece of paper out of my desk to keep a record of how many times Linda said
And uh
 … while she gave her report. So far I’d counted seven. Linda’s head is shaped like a potato and sits right on her shoulders, as if she hasn’t got any neck. She’s also the pudgiest girl in our class, but not in our grade. Ruthellen Stark and Elizabeth Ryan are about ten times fatter than Linda, but even they can’t compare to Bruce. If we had a school fat contest he would definitely win. He’s a regular butterball.

“Blubber is a thick layer of fat that lies under the skin and over the muscles of whales,” Linda said. “And uh … it protects them and keeps them warm even in cold water. Blubber is very important. Removing the blubber from a whale is a job done by men called flensers. They peel off the blubber with long knives and uh … cut it into strips.” Linda held up a picture. “This is what blubber looks like,” she said.

Wendy passed a note to Caroline. Caroline
read it, then turned around in her seat and passed it to me. I unfolded it. It said:
Blubber is a good name for her!
I smiled, not because I thought the note was funny, but because Wendy was watching me. When she turned away I crumpled it up and left it in the corner of my desk. The next thing I knew, Robby Winters, who sits next to me, reached out and grabbed it.

Linda kept talking. “And uh … whale oil is obtained by heating the blubber of the whale. European margarine companies are the chief users of whale oil and uh … it also goes into glycerine and some laundry soaps and has other minor uses. Sometimes Eskimos and Japanese eat blubber …”

When Linda said that Wendy laughed out loud and once she started she couldn’t stop. Probably the reason she got the hiccups was she laughed too hard. They were very loud hiccups. The kind you can’t do anything about.

Pretty soon Robby Winters was laughing too. He doesn’t laugh like an ordinary person—that is, no noise comes out. But his whole body shakes and tears run out of his eyes and just watching him is enough to make anybody start in, so the next minute we were all roaring—all except Linda and Mrs. Minish. She clapped her hands and said, “Exactly what is going on here?”

Wendy let out a loud hiccup.

Mrs. Minish said, “Wendy, you are excused. Go and get a drink of water.”

Wendy stood up and ran out of the room.

By then Wendy’s note about Blubber had travelled halfway around the class and I couldn’t stop laughing, even when Mrs. Minish looked right at me and said, “Jill Brenner, will you please explain the joke.”

I didn’t say anything.

“Well, Jill … I’m waiting …”

“I don’t know the joke,” I finally said, finding it hard to talk at all.

“You don’t know why you’re laughing?” Mrs. Minish asked.

I shook my head.

“It’s very foolish to laugh if you don’t know what’s funny in the first place.”

I nodded.

“If you can’t control yourself you can march straight to Mr. Nichols’ office and explain the situation to him.”

I nodded again.

“I’m waiting for your answer, Jill.”

“I forgot the question, Mrs. Minish.”

“The question is, can you control yourself?”

“Oh … yes, Mrs. Minish … I can.”

“I hope so. Linda, you may continue,” Mrs. Minish said.

“I’m done,” Linda told her.

“Well … that was a very nice report.”

BOOK: Blubber
13.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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