The Ridiculous and Wonderful Rainbow Hat
The Ridiculous and Wonderful Rainbow Hat

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Series: Locker 37 Vol. 3   

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Annotation: "A laugh-out-loud tour de force." --Kirkus, starred review Hidden away at Hopewell Elementary School is a magical locker... more
Catalog Number: #214030
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: 224
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-593-22288-1 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-7859-2
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-593-22288-1 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-7859-6
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
Reading Level: 3.0
Interest Level: 2-5
Chapter One

"You're predictable." 

The words burned in Riley Zimmerman's mind.

Her best friend, Carson Cooper, had said those words to her a week before, and she had been thinking about them constantly. Because they were wrong.

Riley Zimmerman was not predictable. She was sure of it. Because predictable people aren't unique.

And if Riley Zimmerman was one thing, she was unique. Not very unique, or a little unique, because that's not possible. The word unique doesn't play well with adverbs. Unique means one of a kind, and a person can't be very one of a kind or a little one of a kind. They can be unique. Full stop. And that's exactly what Riley was. There was no one else like her.

Which, for Hopewell Elementary, was a good thing. That school wouldn't have lasted a week with more than one Riley roaming its halls. After all, it barely lasted a day when--­

Well, we're getting to that.

First, let's start with Ping-­Pong balls.

Riley had ten thousand of them. And she was going to use them to prove Carson wrong.

She lived within walking distance of the school and arrived early one autumn morning. Before the first bell rang, Riley hurried back and forth from her house to the school, dragging ten bumpy trash bags filled with a thousand Ping-­Pong balls each. She set the bumpy trash bags against the back wall of the school, where there used to be a dumpster, and she waited for the janitor, Reggie Blue, to unlock the rear exit.

This was part of Reggie's morning routine, something Riley knew because she had recently become a member of the Junior Janitor Club. She now had access to secret knowledge.

When she heard the click of the lock, she counted to one hundred so she could be confident the coast was clear. She took a deep breath. Then she smuggled the bags down to the basement of Hopewell Elementary and into the Dungeon.

Chapter Two
Best Friends

Yes, Hopewell Elementary had a Dungeon. It's not what you think. Or maybe it is what you think. If you've heard of Hopewell Elementary, then you've heard of the Dungeon. It was a bathroom that was super old and super gross and full of spiderwebs and creaky sounds, and no one actually used it for standard bathroom purposes. It was mostly a place for fourth-­graders to find privacy, or to talk about Locker 37.

If you've heard of Hopewell Elementary, then you've definitely heard of Locker 37. It was a magical locker that provided solutions to fourth-­graders' problems. It's not an exaggeration to say that Locker 37 was the universe's most wondrous creation.

We're getting to Locker 37, too.

For now, let's focus on the Dungeon: an awful bathroom, but an excellent hiding place. Also, the ideal location to feed Ping-­Pong balls into the school's heating ducts.

That's exactly what Riley was doing on that chilly morning before homeroom. She had opened a vent on a wall in the corner and was pouring the bags of Ping-­Pong balls in.

This was not something Riley did every day, of course. She was a master of mischief, but she had never attempted anything so ambitious. Or risky. If she were caught, it would mean a swift and significant punishment.

But here's the thing: Riley could always think or talk her way out of a jam. Even she would admit she was predictable in one way. She never got caught.

Until . . . 

"What the heck are you doing?" a voice said.

Riley swung around and spilled a bag of Ping-­Pong balls. They bounced around the Dungeon like popcorn in a hot pan.

"Oh, it's only you," she said when she saw it was Carson Cooper. "Do you have a stain on your shirt you need to wash out?"

This was not an unreasonable question. Carson was basically a stain magnet. But not today.

"You sent me a message last night and asked me to meet you here," he said.

"Oh yeah," Riley said. "So here's the deal. Last week, you said I was predictable. And I simply won't accept that."

"You're missing the point," Carson responded with a sigh. "You wanted me to help you with another prank when I had homework to do. You seem to always forget that I can't drop everything to do exactly what you want me to do. So I said you were predictable. It's--­"

"Unpredictable," Riley said with a finger up. "I'm unpredictable. I'm unique, and unique people can't be predictable. Because who else would ever do what I'm doing?"

"What are you doing?"

"I'm filling the heating ducts with ten thousand Ping-­Pong balls. That way, when the heat turns on, all the balls will shoot out into the hallways and classrooms and it will be the greatest prank Hopewell Elementary has ever seen. Now, that's unpredictable."

"That's . . . irresponsible."

"Only if I don't do it right," Riley said. "So now that I've let you in on my greatest, most brilliant prank, all I need you to do is remove the screws on a bunch of the school's heating vents."

Carson stood there for a moment, staring at Riley with a look of either wonder or disgust--­it was 
hard to tell which. Then he turned around and left the Dungeon.

"Does that mean you won't help me?" Riley called out.

But she already knew the answer.

She'd have to find someone else.

Chapter Three

"Listen," Riley whispered to Bryce Dodd in homeroom. "All I need you to do is loosen a few screws." 

Bryce nodded and said, "You always tell me that I have a few screws loose, don't you?"

Riley handed him a screwdriver. "When I say that about you, it's a compliment. Means you're . . . unpredictable. Like me."

Bryce handed the screwdriver back. "I predict that this will get me in trouble, so I have to say sorry, but I can't do it. Why don't you ask Keisha?"

Riley laughed out loud, which caught the attention of her homeroom teacher, Mrs. Shen.

"I'd ask you to share your joke with the class, but I might end up regretting it," Mrs. Shen said.

"I'm sorry," Riley said. "It was Bryce. He said the most absurd thing in the universe. That's all."

Bryce shrugged innocently.

Meanwhile, Keisha James, who was sprinkling fish food into the bowl of the class goldfish, said, "I don't think it's possible to say the most absurd thing in the universe. You'd need a planet of supercomputers to calculate even a fraction of that absurdity."

Riley considered this and then replied, "What if I said that you, Keisha James, would be sent to Vice Principal Meehan's office today for breaking the rules?"

Keisha didn't have to even consider this. She was, after all, the fourth grade's biggest perfectionist. She simply said, "Okay, that is the most absurd thing in the universe. Carry on."

Riley turned back to Bryce and said, "And there you have it."

Mrs. Shen walked to the front of the room and turned on the whiteboard. "I don't have a clue what any of you are talking about . . . but I do have a clue to share," she said as she pointed to a picture on the whiteboard of three colorful circles. "There will be no science class today."

Cheers erupted from the class.

"But that doesn't mean we won't be learning something," she went on. "We are having an assembly. Can you guess what it's about?"

There were more cheers, but there were also a few worried whispers. Assemblies were sometimes fun, but sometimes they were a bit weird. Like the time a professional pig caller did a demonstration, and proceeded to scream "Soooey!" into a microphone for a good ten minutes. Or--­

"It's not another author coming to tell us about some boring book he wrote, is it?" Hunter Barnes said.

Hunter was not a fan of authors, or reading, or education in general, unless that education involved learning ways to insult and annoy his classmates. He was the school's most ruthless bully.

"And why do these circles make you think of an author?" Mrs. Shen asked.

"I don't know," Hunter said. "Circles are boring and authors are boring."

Mrs. Shen glared at Hunter for a moment and then turned to the class. "Any other guesses?"

"I'm not getting an award, am I?" Keisha asked. "Do the circles represent three first-place medals?"

"Interesting theory . . . ," Mrs. Shen said. "But no."

That's when Sarah Abramson jumped to her feet. She had an eraser, her watch, and a hat in her hands. She began to juggle them because, well, Sarah Abramson was an amazing juggler and loved juggling. She had also discovered the right answer.

"Bingo!" Mrs. Shen said. "We have a troupe of jugglers that will entertain us as a reward for everyone's hard work."

Now the cheers were deafening, because the kids assumed there was nothing educational about juggling.

But Riley didn't cheer. Instead, she whispered to herself, "Holy fusilli. This changes things."

It meant her prank would now be infinitely better. Completely, entirely, utterly unpredictable. Something Carson couldn't possibly ignore. The problem was, it also meant her prank would now be infinitely harder, especially since no one was willing to be her accomplice.

There was only one place to turn.

Locker 37.

Chapter Four
Locker 37

Okay, back to Locker 37.

Locker 37 was awesome. Amazing. Incredible. And perhaps it had a few screws loose, too, because it was also unpredictable.

Actually, there was at least one thing about it you could predict. If you were a fourth-­grader at Hopewell Elementary and you had a problem, you could open Locker 37 and it would provide a solution.

Locker 37 had been performing this essential service for the school's fourth-­graders for more than fifty years, and only fourth-­graders knew about it. No one told the younger kids, and everyone older forgot about Locker 37 as soon as they moved on to fifth grade. That was all part of the locker's magic. But the most important part of its magic was that it gave out magical objects.

Sometimes those objects provided obvious solutions to problems.

Like once, when a kid scraped his knee on the playground, Locker 37 gave him a tube of cream that would heal any wound, no matter how big or oozy.

There was a Hula-­Hoop waiting in Locker 37 for another kid. It made the kid fly when she spun it around her body, which helped her retrieve her field trip permission slip that had blown up into a tree.

And Locker 37 even gave one kid a little wallet with a check inside that paid off all overdue balances on his friends' lunch accounts.

But remember, Locker 37 was unpredictable. The solutions it provided weren't always obvious ones. The previous year's fourth-­graders explained this in a note about Locker 37 that they left for Carson, Riley, and their friends.

It won't always be the solution you want, or expect, but it is guaranteed to work.

Riley's problem wasn't as gross, or as simple, or as noble as other problems kids had had in the past. She wanted to show her best friend, and the world, that she was unpredictable by pulling off the greatest prank in the history of Hopewell Elementary. But she didn't have anyone who was willing to help her.

So, what object did Riley find when she opened Locker 37?

What object was supposed to provide the solution to that problem?

A hat, of course.

Chapter Five

A Hat Both Ridiculous and Wonderful

The hat was a ridiculous hat. It was also wonderful. But you already knew that because you read the book's title. And the chapter title. So let's get more specific.

It was a rainbow-­colored hat. It had a brim and pom-­poms and a bunch of feathers and ribbons. It had stripes and polka dots. It was a combination of mesh and wool and denim. It was an absolute mess of a hat, the type of thing anyone would be embarrassed to wear. Except maybe Riley.

"Well, hello, greatest hat ever!" Riley said as she opened Locker 37 and saw it sitting inside the locker's orange glow.

The words "Wear Me" were stitched on the brim, but she hardly needed the encouragement. She immediately put it on her head, and when she did, she heard a voice behind her.

"Well, hello, greatest person ever," the voice said.

Riley swung around and saw . . . Riley.

She was looking at herself. Not a mirror image, because the Riley she was looking at wasn't mirroring her movements. The original Riley was standing perfectly still and staring at this new Riley, who was jumping up and down. 

"So cool!" the new Riley cheered. "There are two of me!"

This was true. The new Riley was an exact replica of the original Riley, except for one difference: the ridiculous and wonderful hat. The new Riley wore the same style hat, but hers wasn't rainbow colored. It was entirely green.

The original Riley broke out of her daze and tore off the rainbow hat.

The new Riley froze in place.

Her eyes were half blinking; her mouth was half-­open. It was like she was a robot and someone had pressed the pause button on her.

"Holy linguine, I made a clone," Riley said to herself. And to her frozen self.

Then she put the hat back on. And the Riley clone started moving again. But that wasn't all.

"Hey there, you two," said a voice from behind them.

The original Riley swung around, and the Riley with the green hat swung around, and they both found another Riley standing in the hallway. This newest Riley was exactly the same as the others, only she was wearing a blue hat.

If you're keeping track, that's three Rileys in total: the original (rainbow hat) and two clones (green hat and blue hat).

"Holy linguine with clam sauce, I'm cloning up a storm," Riley said. "I better pace myself."

The eyebrows of both clones went up, then they each put a hand in front of their mouths to hide their devious smiles.

"First things first," the original Riley said as she let a smile slip out, too. "To avoid confusion, I'm going to call you Green Me and Blue Me. Everyone okay with that?"

The clones looked at each other and shrugged. Green Riley said, "Call us anything you want."

Blue Riley followed that up by saying, "As long as you've got some mischief for us to do."

"Oh, that . . . can be arranged," Original Riley told them.

Excerpted from The Ridiculous and Wonderful Rainbow Hat #3 by Aaron Starmer
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

"A laugh-out-loud tour de force." --Kirkus, starred review

Hidden away at Hopewell Elementary School is a magical locker that always delivers a solution to your problems--just not quite in the way you might expect.

Locker 37 at Hopewell Elementary has been helping fourth graders solve their problems for as long as anyone can remember. So when Riley Zimmerman needs help pulling off the most ridiculous and wonderful prank the school has ever seen, the magical Locker 37 provides her with an equally ridiculous and wonderful rainbow hat that can clone anything that wears it. But will a group of clones, an untrustworthy bully, and 10,000 Ping-Pong balls be enough to help Riley pull off the most legendary prank in Hopewell's history?

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