Have you ever read a book that makes you laugh out loud every time you read it, even if you know all the jokes that are coming? A book that you so thoroughly enjoy that you keep it, even though it’s falling apart, just because you know there’s no way you could ever replace it? A book where the characters are so much fun, you want to read more about them, just because they exist?
This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, by Gordon Korman, is a book like that.
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Bruno and Boots have an unbeatable partnership. They’ve been best friends ever since they met, that first day at one of the most prestigious boarding schools for boys in all of Canada. They’ve been roommates since their first semester, sharing jokes and moral support in a slightly messy, always comfortable room, perfect for plotting. Why plotting? Because between them, Boots and Bruno are the most infamous troublemakers ever to walk the halls in the history of Macdonald Hall.
When there are unexplained events at the school, like the flag of Maldonia flying overhead, or a kidnapped mascot from a rival sports team, to some, er, inappropriate music playing over the PA system, everyone knows it’s Bruno and Boots at work. Unfortunately for them, that “everyone” includes Mr. Sturgeon, the headmaster. When the accumulation of pranks goes just a bit too far, The Fish (the school nickname for Mr. Sturgeon, started (of course!) by Bruno and Boots) calls both boys into his office. There, he separates them for good. No talking, no sports or lunch together, they’ll have to sit on opposite sides of the room if they’re in the same classroom. To top it all off, he changes their room assignment, sending Bruno to live with Elmer Drimsdale, the weirdest kid in the school, and Boots to live with George Wexford-Smyth III, the most obnoxious.
At first, Bruno and Boots are stunned…but when that wears off (and they see what living with Elmer and George is going to be like) they realize how much they depend on being together. It may be difficult to communicate, but the boys will not let it end there! This is WAR!
With a lot of midnight meetings, some help from sympathetic classmates (and a little blackmail for the unsympathetic ones), a bit of assistance from the girls across the road at Miss Scrimmage’s Academy for Young Ladies, and some really creative ideas (the skunk is only the beginning!) Boots and Bruno start their campaign to get things back to normal. Of course, normal, at Macdonald Hall, is a little different than it is anywhere else.
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I loved this series when it came out, and I still have the (now very battered) paperback copies. They still make me laugh, even though I know what’s coming. The characters are goofy, but believable. There are puns and jokes that run throughout, and Bruno and Boots are definitely kids I’d love to know. (I’m not sure, though, that I’d want them hanging out at the library very often!) 🙂
Gordon Korman wrote This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall! in 1977 as a writing assignment for his seventh grade language arts class. He sent the manuscript to Scholastic, and it was published the following year. That book was followed by six other Macdonald Hall titles, most written while he was still in high school. No wonder he’s made his career as an author, writing well-known trilogies and series for kids, as well as critically acclaimed books for teens and kids! In the Minuteman Catalog alone, his name brings up 174 items. That’s a lot of writing.
This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall! has been unavailable for several years, but Scholastic has just reissued it this spring. We can only hope that the other Macdonald Hall titles– Go Jump in the Pool! Beware the Fish! The War with Mr. Wizzle, The Zucchini Warriors, Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood, and Something Fishy at Macdonald Hall –will follow. Since the This Can’t be Happening! has been optioned as a movie, it’s looking quite likely that the rest of the books will be available eventually.
If you like funny books, or would like to see what a talented seventh grader can write, check out This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall! And if you can find the other titles (at the Weston Library, we still have the last three) read them. You’ll be laughing so hard, you’ll forget to thank me!