Vick's View

The Book Report


In 1968-69, I was in the 5th grade, and we had just moved to a suburb of Atlanta.

The school year had started rather badly. I had missed the first few weeks of school due to the move, and found myself in the unenviable position of being the “new kid”. It was awful at first. But then I settled into my new surroundings and discovered that I loved my new teacher.

But just weeks later, she let us all know that she was getting married and moving away. I was so sad and felt really bad for the other girls who had known this wonderful teacher longer than I had. They were crying and hugging her, and since they cried…I did, too. I have always been a sucker for that.

Anyway, she introduced her replacement, and it wasn’t long before all hope of a great year almost ended.

Mrs. Ragsdale. I didn’t like her and felt rather certain that she didn’t like me either.

She was mean, autocratic, and stern all the time, and wore giant eye glasses. Her punishment of choice was to refuse to let us out for recess and make us put our heads down.

Nope, I didn’t like her one bit. It didn’t matter to me that we were a class of hooligans either. In my opinion, she needed to be nice.

Well, to make matters worse, she decided to make us do an oral book report every Friday. We had to read a book and then stand up in front of the class and tell about it. By the time she got through the entire roster, we usually only had to give one oral report a month. But still…it was a pain.

And the real pain about the whole thing was that I hated to read. Let me rephrase….I had not yet found anything that I particularly enjoyed reading. My little sister had tried to convince me to read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books that I disdainfully called “Little ‘Outhouse’ on the Prairie”, but I hated them. They just didn’t interest me at all. And I had not yet discovered the joys of Nancy Drew mysteries….that wouldn’t come for another year.

But just as kids are prone to do, I soon completely forgot about the book report, so you can imagine my shock when that rainy Friday Mrs. Ragsdale called me up to the front because it was my turn to give the book report.

Horrors! I had not read anything at all. And I had just received a bad grade on my handwriting, so the last thing I needed was another bad grade.

I decided right then and there that mean old Mrs. Ragsdale deserved everything she got. I was going to trick her.

I slowly made my way to the front of the class, my brain frantically scrambling and trying to think of any story I have ever read in my life.

But I drew a complete blank.

As I turned to face my classmates, I decided to give them a real treat. I was going to tell the best story ever! So I immediately began telling bits and pieces of every horror story and ghost story I had ever heard. I gave a fake title and fake author as well.

That’s when I learned that I was a gifted storyteller.

I had those dumb kids in the palm of my hand. Every single kid in the class was hanging on to my every word. I used facial expressions, ghostly sound effects, and suspenseful pauses. My classmates were literally sitting on the edges of their seats.

Then I dramatically finished with the words, “If you want to know how the story ends, you will have to read the book.”

Hahaha! There was NO book! I made the whole thing up! The joke was on them!

I gleefully and pridefully sauntered back towards my desk having no doubt that everyone in class had loved my story. One by one the kids began to excitedly turn to me and tell me they wanted to read that book as soon as they could and asked if I would I lend it to them.

Now I was in a pickle. I had to come up with an even better lie. So I told them I had left the book at my grandmother’s house and would have to get it from her and bring it to school. I knew full well that knowing kids as I did, they would forget about the book in a matter of days, so I felt relatively safe.

Slowly I glanced over at Mrs. Ragsdale and found her staring at me behind those big glasses with her arms crossed, one eyebrow raised, and her lips pursed in disapproval. I was sure I had been found out.

But before I left class, she handed me my grade and it was an A minus! I was thrilled that I had fooled her and the entire class until I read the bottom of the grading sheet. It said, “You did a great job… for a book that doesn’t exist. Next time, read a real book.”

Doggone, I had not fooled her at all. But she didn’t call me out and let anyone else know. And deep down, I think she was impressed that I could make up such an elaborate story. After that, I had a different opinion of Mrs. Ragsdale. She really wasn’t that bad.