Authors: Beverly Cleary
To a third-grade girl who wondered why
no one ever wrote a book to help
third graders read cursive writing
After her first day in the third grade, Maggie Schultzâ¦
The next day, after the third-grade monitors had led theâ¦
Maggie began to enjoy cursive time. She experimented with lettersâ¦
Maggie had grown bored with not writing cursive, but byâ¦
Later that week, Mr. Schultz brought Maggie a present from Ms. Maddenâ¦
One morning, Maggie noticed Mrs. Leeper whispering with other teachers inâ¦
For the next few days Maggie was a busy messageâ¦
On Monday, Maggie looked at the words Mrs. Leeper had writtenâ¦
fter her first day in the third grade, Maggie Schultz jumped off the school bus when it stopped at her corner. “Bye, Jo Ann,” she called to the girl who was her best friend, sometimes. “See you tomorrow.” Maggie was happy to escape from sixth-grade boys who called her a cootie and from fourth-grade boys who insisted the third grade was awful, cursive writing hard, and Mrs. Leeper, the teacher, mean.
Her dog, Kisser, was waiting for her. When Maggie knelt to hug him, Kisser licked her face. He was a young, eager dog the Schultzes had chosen from the S.P.C.A.'s Pick-a-Pet page in the newspaper. “A friendly cockapoo looking for a child to love” was the description under his picture, a description that proved to be right.
“Come on, Kisser.” Maggie ran home with her fair hair flying and her dog springing along beside her.
When Maggie and Kisser burst through the kitchen door, her mother said, “Hi there, Angelface. How did things go today?” She held Kisser away from the refrigerator with her foot while she put away milk cartons and vegetables. Mrs. Schultz was good at standing on one foot because five mornings a week she taught exercise classes to over-weight women.
“Mrs. Leeper is nice, sort of,” began Maggie, “except she didn't make me a monitor and she put Jo Ann at a different table.”
“Too bad,” said Mrs. Schultz.
Maggie continued. “Courtney sits on one side of me and Kelly on the other and that Kirby Jones, who sits across from me, kept pushing the table into my stomach.”
“And what did you do?” Mrs. Schultz was taking eggs out of a carton and setting them in the white plastic egg tray in the refrigerator.
“Pushed it back.” Maggie thought a moment before she said, “Mrs. Leeper said we are going to have a happy third grade.”
“That's nice.” Mrs. Schultz smiled as she closed the refrigerator, but Maggie was doubtful about a teacher who forecast happiness. How did she know? Still, Maggie wanted her teacher to be happy.
“Kisser needs exercise,” Mrs. Schultz said. “Why don't you take him outside and give him a workout?” Maggie's mother thought everyone, dogs included, needed exercise.
Maggie enjoyed chasing Kisser around the backyard, ducking, dodging, and throwing a dirty tennis ball, wet with dog spit, for him until he collapsed, panting, and she was out of breath from running and laughing.
Refreshed and much more cheerful, Maggie was flipping through television channels with the remote control, trying to find funny commercials, when her father came home from work. “Daddy! Daddy!” she cried, running to meet him. He picked her up, kissed her, and asked, “How's my Goldilocks?” When he set her down, he kissed his wife.
“Tired?” Mrs. Schultz asked.
“Traffic gets worse every day,” he answered.
“Was it your turn to make the coffee?” demanded Maggie.
“That's right,” grumped Mr. Schultz, half-pretending.
Other than talking with people who came to see him, Maggie did not really understand what her father did in his office. She did know he made coffee every other day because Ms. Madden, his secretary, said she did not go to work in an office to make coffee. He should take his turn. Ms. Madden was such an excellent secretaryâone who could spell, punctuate, and typeâthat Mr. Schultz put up with his share of coffee-making. Maggie found this so funny that she always asked about the coffee.
“Did Ms. Madden send me a present?” Maggie asked. Her father's secretary often sent Maggie a little present: a tiny bottle of shampoo from a hotel, a free sample of perfume, and once, an eraser shaped like a duck. Maggie felt grown-up when she wrote thank-you notes on their home computer.
“Not today.” Mr. Schultz tousled Maggie's hair and went to change into his jogging clothes.
When dinner was on the table and the family, exercised, happy, and hungry, was seated, Maggie chose the right moment to break her big news. “We start cursive this week,” she said with a gusty sigh that was supposed to impress her parents with the hard work that lay ahead.
Instead, they laughed. Maggie was annoyed. Cursive was
. She tossed her hair, which was perfect for tossing, waving, and curling to her shoulders, the sort of hair that made women say, “What wouldn't you give for hair like that?” or, in sad voices, “I used to have hair that color.”
“Don't look so gloomy,” said Maggie's father. “You'll survive.”
How did he know? Maggie scowled, still hurting from being laughed at, and said, “Cursive is dumb. It's all wrinkled and stuck together, and I can't see why I am supposed to do it.” This was a new thought that popped into her mind that moment.
“Because everyone writes cursive,” said Mrs. Schultz. “Or almost everybody.”
“But I can write print, or I can use the computer,” said Maggie, arguing mostly just to be arguing.
“I'm sure you'll enjoy cursive once you start,” said Mrs. Schultz in that brisk, positive way that always made Maggie feel contrary.
I will not enjoy it, thought Maggie, and she said, “All those loops and squiggles. I don't think I'll do it.”
“Of course you will,” said her father. “That's why you go to school.”
This made Maggie even more contrary. “I'm not going to write cursive, and nobody can make me. So there.”
“Ho-ho,” said her mother so cheerfully that Maggie felt three times as contrary.
Mr. Schultz's smile flattened into a straight line. “Just get busy, do what your teacher says, and learn it.”
The way her father spoke pushed Maggie further into contrariness. She stabbed her fork into her baked potato so the handle stood up straight, then she broke off a piece of her beef patty with her fingers and fed it to Kisser.
,” said her mother. “Your father has had a hard day, and I haven't had such a great day myself.” After teaching her exercise classes in the morning, Mrs. Schultz spent her afternoons running errands for her family: dry cleaner, bank, gas station, market, post office.
Maggie pulled her fork out of her baked potato. Kisser licked his chops and looked up at her with hope in his brown eyes, his tail wagging. “Kisser is lucky,” she said. “He doesn't have to learn cursive.” When her dog heard his name, he stood up and placed his front paws on her lap.
“Now you're being silly, Maggie,” said her father. “Down, Kisser, you old nuisance.”
Maggie was indignant. “Kisser is not a nuisance. Kisser is a loving dog,” she informed her father.
“Don't try to change the subject.” Mr. Schultz, irritated with Maggie, smiled at his wife, who was pouring him a cup of coffee.
“Books are not written in cursive,” Maggie pointed out. “I can read chapter books, and not everyone in my class is good at that.”
Mr. Schultz sipped his coffee. “True,” he admitted, “but many things are written in cursive. Memos, many letters, grocery lists, checks, lots of things.”
“I can write letters in printing, and I never write those other things,” argued Maggie, “so
I am not going to learn cursive
.” She tossed her hair and asked to be excused.
Kisser felt that he, too, was excused. He trotted after Maggie and jumped up on her bed. As she hugged him, Maggie overheard her mother say, “I don't know what gets into Maggie. Most of the time she behaves herself, and then suddenly she doesn't.”
“Contrary kid,” said her father.