A few months ago I reviewed A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag by Gordon Korman, and I’ve decided it’s time I reviewed some of his other many hilarious books. A particular favorite is the Macdonald Hall Series. Macdonald Hall is a boarding school for boys, around middle or high school age–it’s never very specific. Miss Scrimmage’s Finishing School for Young Ladies is directly across the road. With a host of improbable circumstances and wonderfully quirky characters, hilarity constantly ensues.
Korman follows the same pattern he uses in A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag, and gives us one fairly normal main character–Boots (real name Melvin, but don’t call him that). His best friend and roommate is Bruno, who can always be relied upon to have a big, brilliant and probably ill-advised idea, whether it’s a way to earn money for a swimming pool or a new idea for a prank. Bruno and Boots are incorrigible pranksters who are also fiercely loyal to their school, and Korman gets plots out of both qualities.
They’re surrounded by even wilder characters. There’s big Wilbur Hackenschleimer, who thinks only about food, and genius Elmer Drimsdale who has a brilliant scientific mind and limited social skills. I think my favorite is Sidney Rampulsky, who is endlessly klutzy. Playing football, he manages to trip over the 30-yard line. Another time he trips over the headmaster’s chair, while the headmaster is sitting in it. The headmaster is Mr. Sturgeon, popularly known as The Fish–for his name, and for his cold, fishy stare. The Fish is stern but fair, and secretly very fond of his students–but secretly.
Across the road, Miss Scrimmage is an enormous and rather terrifying woman, who will defend her precious, defenseless girls until the end–blissfully unaware that her girls are about as defenseless as a SWAT team. Cathy and Diane are Bruno and Boots’ female counterparts. Cathy is always up for an adventure, and her roommate Diane is generally dragged along.
There are six books in the series; the first is This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall, which Korman wrote and published when he was twelve. He wrote most of the others during high school, which frankly boggles the mind a bit–especially because they’re brilliant. The first one involves Bruno and Boots being split up as roommates because they commit one too many pranks; Bruno, of course, has endless ideas on how they can convince The Fish to put them back together–mostly ideas involving new pranks.
Other books in the series feature Hollywood descending to film a movie on campus; the adventures of a hapless football team (I don’t normally like sports stories, but this one is so funny I enjoy it); and a desperate plot to make Macdonald Hall famous so they won’t be shut down. This one features a scene with Elmer Dynamicdale and the Original Round-Robin Happy-Go-Lucky Heel-Clicking Foot-Stomping Beat-Swinging Scrim-Band performing Science Rock, which essentially consists of Miss Scrimmage’s girls creating a cacophony of noise while Elmer screams scientific facts (you have to kick him to get him started). It never fails to make me laugh out loud. But that happens a lot with these books…
I could probably go on and on just giving funny anecdotes, but where would it end? Just trust me. Read them. They’re hilarious.