Malcolm Under the Stars
Malcolm Under the Stars

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Annotation: When a rare coin and a strange code are uncovered in McKenna School, Malcolm and the other classroom pets of the Midnight Academy take on their most challenging assignment yet and, through their investigations, they just might save the school from closing.
Catalog Number: #97477
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition Date: 2015
Illustrator: Lies, Brian,
Pages: 257 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-544-39267-1 Perma-Bound: 0-605-85945-0
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-544-39267-0 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-85945-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2014037484
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Malcolm, the fifth grade's resident rat, discovers a wider world when his beloved but run-down school is threatened with closure. Following the plumbing disaster that climaxed Malcolm at Midnight (2012), a string of power failures, and other much-needed building repairs, it looks like curtains for McKenna Elementary. "Crumb!" Can the students, aided by Malcolm and the other mascots that make up the nocturnal Midnight Academy, find a way to save the day? Only, as it turns out, by seeking help Outside d also by following hints of hidden treasure in school legends. The former tests the limits not only of Malcolm's courage but also his compassion as he is required to make peace with an old, mad, hated feline adversary. The "treasure" that finally convinces the school board to keep McKenna open turns out to be the school's own history: "There's never enough money," Malcolm rightly sees. "What never runs out is story." Lies' naturalistic illustrations enhance the general air of realism in a tale featuring unusually rich thematic underpinnings and a small protagonist with both "hero brain" and "hero heart."
School Library Journal
Gr 3&11;6&12; Malcolm the Rat and his animal pals in the Midnight Academy are back, trying to save McKenna Elementary School from closure due to its deteriorating physical condition. This seemingly insurmountable task takes Malcolm and his friends on a sprawling quest to discover secrets left by the school's founder, Walton McKenna&12;secrets that may be the key to keeping the school open. Malcolm is courageous and resourceful, weaving in and out of the school to find and connect the many puzzle pieces of its complex past. Fortunately, Malcolm is able to read English as well as communicate with the young human "nutters" at McKenna, skills that are essential in order for the valiant rat to be an effective hero. He has a particularly special relationship with a nutter named Amelia, and their bond helps Malcolm accomplish more than he'd be able to by himself. Twists and turns abound, including a forgotten time capsule, buried treasure, secret codes, and hidden identities. The conclusion is satisfying and illustrates that the world can't always be divided into black and white. Soft grayscale pencil drawings by Lies breathe life into the motley cast of animal characters. VERDICT For middle grade readers who enjoy animal adventure tales with many twists and turns.&12; Amy Holland, Irondequoit Public Library, NY
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
ALA Booklist
School Library Journal (8/1/15)
Word Count: 50,661
Reading Level: 4.3
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.3 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 175238 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.4 / points:14.0 / quiz:Q67062
Lexile: 610L
Guided Reading Level: Y
Chapter 1
A Sneeze

It began with a sneeze. Malcolm didn't mean to sneeze, but when you're a small rat stuffed into a fifth-grader's jeans pocket, these things happen. Especially if the pocket is, for some unknown reason, filled with pencil shavings.
Skylar, the owner of the pocket, jiggled at the sneeze, and Malcolm scrambled to stay upright. Crumb! This was no good. Back in Room 11, when Skylar had held out his hand, Malcolm had jumped at the chance to go with him to the class's rehearsal of the fifth grade program.1 After all, Malcolm had never been to McKenna Elementary School's auditorium before, and it was his duty--as a member of the school's secret society of classroom pets, Midnight Academy--to seize these opportunities when they presented themselves. Besides, Skylar carried Cheezy Bits Snack Crackers in his pocket. It is hard for anyone to think around Cheezy Bits Snack Crackers.
But so far this afternoon, all Malcolm had seen was the inside of Skylar's pocket. The other one. The one filled with pencil shavings. Malcolm was beginning to think Amelia had been right to shake her head at Skylar's invitation.
Nevertheless, he was here, so he might as well use his eyes, ears, nose, and whiskers to report something back to the Midnight Academy. He fought his way up to the edge of the pocket and stuck his nose out. Ah--already this was better: fresh air.
He scanned the view. Skylar and the rest of the fifth-graders (or "nutters," as the Midnight Academy liked to call kids; "lankies" were grownups) swayed to the refrain of "Rocky Top." Kiera, decked out in pink sequins, warbled in the spotlight with a much-coveted solo.
Mrs. Findlay paused her piano playing, and the song creaked to a halt. "Kiera, this is not American Idol. Please, just sing. No need to stalk about the stage." The rest of the students--including the two classes waiting in the audience--twittered. Mrs. Findlay wasn't done, though. She snapped her fingers at the back row on the risers. "You--singers in the back. You've got to stand still. The audience can see every little move." She turned and shaded her eyes. "Isn't that right, Mr. Binney?"
You sat up from your seat in the front row, Mr. Binney, and frowned. "Yes. What's going on back there? Skylar, do you need to use the restroom?"
Skylar wiggled his jeans around his hips, knocking Malcolm back down into the pencil shavings. "Um, what?"
The classes in the audience snickered again.
Tianna, Kiera's best friend, who happened to be standing next to Skylar on the stage, elbowed him. "Stand still!" she muttered under her breath. "You're making us look bad."
Jovahn leaned over from the other side of Skylar. "It's only the fifth grade program, Tianna. Not American Idol, remember? And it's a rehearsal."
"It's Malcolm," Skylar said, pushing Malcolm down inside his pocket again. "He keeps poking his head out."
At the sound of Malcolm's name, another fifth-grader twisted around from the row in front of Skylar, her long black hair swinging back. "Is he okay? I told you not to bring him!" Amelia Vang whispered.
Jovahn held out his hand. "Dude, here. Give him to me."
Yes, this was a good idea. Jovahn Grayson probably also had strange things in his pockets, but he was definitely more predictable than Skylar. Malcolm crept out, climbing up to Skylar's shoulder. He was poised to make the leap to Jovahn, when, from high up above--a rustle. Then a low thunk. Malcolm's ears pricked up, and he tilted his head. In the rafters, a shadow shifted. A small shower of dust sprinkled down, and Malcolm's nose twitched. Dirt?
And then, with another thunk, the lights winked out, and the auditorium was plunged into darkness.
The nutters--onstage and otherwise--shrieked and hooted. In the dark, someone knocked into Skylar, and Malcolm somersaulted off his shoulder. He landed, hunched, on the risers as they rumbled with the feet of thirty panicked fifth-graders. Shoelaces whizzed by Malcolm's whiskers, and he latched on. Better to be on than under this foot.
"FREEZE!" Your voice boomed through the darkness, Mr. Binney, and the foot under Malcolm came to a standstill. Malcolm peered in your direction and saw a flashlight beam bobbing in the audience. "Nobody move. The lights will come on again. They always do. It's not like this hasn't happened lately--so SETTLE DOWN."
And like you commanded it, the power clicked back on.
"See? There." Mrs. Findlay laughed nervously from the piano. "That won't happen during our program tonight, right, Mark?" she asked you. She turned to the class, clapping her hands for attention. "Now--again. From the top."
"Actually, Mrs. Findlay"--you were leaping up the stage steps two at a time--"I think that's enough for today. The bell's about to ring." You whispered to her, "Tonight will be better. I promise."
As the class thundered off the risers, Amelia looked around. "Where's Malcolm?" she called to Skylar. He patted his pockets, panic blooming on his face.
"Relax--I got him," Jovahn said, hopping on one foot so he could untangle Malcolm from his shoelaces on the other.
"Oh, good. I was afraid--"
A hand clamped down on Jovahn's shoulder. More specifically, your hand, Mr. Binney.
"That's not a certain rat from our classroom, is it, Jovahn?"
"Uh--well . . . "
Just then, Amelia bumped her way over. To anyone else, she looked to be on her way out the door, but in one smooth motion, she grabbed Malcolm, adjusted the hood on her sweatshirt, and tucked him safely there.
Jovahn grinned. He held out his empty hands. "Ah--no, in fact!"
You nodded. "I see." Then you raised your voice to your best stage level. "Well, I sure hope he gets back to his cage and doesn't find his way out for a long, LONG time."
Amelia flinched but kept moving.
Whew. For the first time since Skylar had scooped him out of the cage to go to the auditorium, Malcolm took a deep breath and relaxed. It wasn't simply that he was safe in Amelia's hood. It was more than that. It was Amelia. It might partly be the therapeutic qualities of her strawberry shampoo, but mostly Malcolm Knew--knew with a capital K--that if there was anywhere in the world that he belonged, it was with Amelia. He'd do anything for her, and she would do the same for him.
As the rest of the class bottlenecked at the side stage door, Ms. Brumble, the night custodian (and your fiancée, Mr. Binney), joined you. "Whoa," she said, trying to hide a smile.
"Laugh all you want," you answered, rubbing your hair until it stuck up in spikes. "We have a long way to go before this bunch is ready to leave McKenna for middle school."
Deep in Amelia's hood, Malcolm twitched. Leave? Huh? He pushed his nose out.
He watched then as you gestured toward the lights. "What's going on, anyway? Sound system blow a fuse?"
Ms. Brumble shook her head. "Unfortunately not. That would be easier to fix. No, this is something bigger. I wish we could figure out what's going on. We had to submit a report to the Building and Grounds department. It's going before the school board tonight."
At that, Malcolm remembered. The shadow! The dust falling down! He glanced up toward the back corner rafters where he had heard the rustle and the thunk.
Then the last bell rang. Amelia merged into the bustling after-school crowd, and Malcolm had to snuggle down into her hood out of sight. He pulled a whisker into his mouth and nibbled as he considered. Had that shadow really moved? It was almost as if something--someone . . . some critter--had been up there. A shiver rattled down Malcolm's spine, all the way to the tip of his tail. Like . . . a cat? Malcolm had only known one cat in his life, but when you're a small rat, one is more than you ever want to know.
But it couldn't have been her. That cat--Snip--was gone. It wouldn't be the first time Malcolm had imagined her. Her scratchy voice, overlong claws, and spider breath haunted even Malcolm's best dreams of peanut butter-dipped pretzels. No, it had to have been something else.
But if not her, then what? And did it matter?
Maybe he did have something to share with the Midnight Academy after all. Maybe before the meeting on Thursday, he could sniff around a little, find out more.
Because, really, you meant for him to stay in his cage during the school day, right, Mr. Binney?

Excerpted from Malcolm under the Stars by W. H. Beck
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.

Now that Snip the cat is gone (but hardly forgotten), the classroom animals of the Midnight Academy are ready for things to get back to normal at the McKenna School. After all, protecting nutters (students) and lankies (teachers) is an around-the-clock job! When a rare coin and a strange code are uncovered in the school, Malcolm and the Academy have another mystery on their paws. To find answers, Malcolm ventures into the dangerous outside world full of shady characters, new friends, and old enemies. Can Malcolm solve the mystery and save the school before it's too late? Join Malcolm and company as they take on their most challenging assignment yet. Illustrated with black-and-white line drawings by Brian Lies, author and illustrator of the New York Times bestsellers Bats at the Beach , Bats at the Library, and Bats at the Ballgame, this engaging novel will have readers rooting for Malcolm as they try to solve the mystery alongside him.

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