Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Gets Slimed!

Illustrated by Preston McDaniels

About The Book

Phineas L. MacGuire—a.k.a. Mac—aims to be the best fourth-grade scientist ever. It’s a tall order, but he’s confident that he can achieve his goal, especially since Aretha has asked him to help her earn a Girl Scout badge by creating the mold that produces penicillin. How many fourth graders can say they’ve reproduced penicillin? None, as far as Mac knows. And who knows more about mold than Mac? But soon Mac is busy managing Ben’s campaign for class president and dealing with his weird new babysitter. How can he focus on mold?

Excerpt

chapter one

My name is Phineas Listerman MacGuire.

Most people call me Mac.

My Sunday-school teacher and my pediatrician call me Phineas.

A few people, mostly my great-uncle Phil and his cockatiel, Sparky, call me Phin.

Nobody calls me Listerman.

Nobody.

I mean not one single person.

Everybody got that?

I am currently in the fourth grade at Woodbrook Elementary School. On the first day of school my teacher, Mrs. Tuttle, asked us to write down our number one, two, and three goals for the year. Here is what I wrote:

  1. To be the best fourth-grade scientist ever

  2. To be the best fourth-grade scientist ever

  3. To be the best fourth-grade scientist ever

So far this has not happened.

For example, I did not win the fourth-grade science fair. Me and my best friend, Ben, got an honorable mention. We made a volcano. It was a pretty good volcano, since I am an expert volcano maker. But these days it takes more than baking soda and vinegar to get a science fair judge excited.

I learned that the hard way.

Today Mrs. Tuttle asked us to take out our goal sheets and review our goals. She says the first week of November is a good time for goal reviewing. She also says most people who don’t meet their goals fail because they forget what their goals were in the first place.

“What is one step you can make this week that will help you meet one of your goals?” Mrs. Tuttle asked. She took a yellow rubber frog from the jar of rubber frogs she keeps on her desk and balanced it on the tip of her finger. “Think of one small thing you can do.”

I put my head down on my desk. After getting an honorable mention in the science fair, the only step I could take was to erase my three goals and start over. Maybe my goal could be to remember to take my gym clothes home on Friday afternoons.

Not that I would ever meet that goal either.

Aretha Timmons, who sits behind me in Mrs. Tuttle’s class and who won second place in the fourth-grade science fair, popped her pencil against the back of my head.

“Why so glum, chum?” she asked. “What goals did you put down, anyway?”

I held up my paper so she could read it. “Hmmm,” she said. “Well, it’s still pretty early in the year. You could do something amazing before Christmas if you put your mind to it.”

Ben, who sits one row over and two seats back from me, leaned toward us. “I’ve got two words for you, Mac: Albert ‘Mr. Genius Scientist’ Einstein.”

“That’s five words,” I said.

Maybe Ben’s goal should be to learn how to count.

“My point is, Albert Einstein, the most famous genius scientist of the world, flunked math about a thousand times. I don’t think he even graduated from high school. He was a complete birdbrain until he was thirty or something.”

“I didn’t flunk math,” I told him. “I just didn’t win first prize at the science fair.”

“See!” Ben shouted gleefully. “You’re even smarter than Albert Einstein.”

Ben is not a famous genius scientist, in case you were wondering.

He’s a pretty good friend, though.

“What you need is a good project,” Aretha said. “For example, if you could figure out a cure to a disease, that would be excellent. I’ve never heard of a fourth grader curing a disease before.”

“Or maybe you could rid the world of mold,” Ben said. “I mean, for a fourth grader, you sure know a lot about moldy junk.”

It’s true. I have always been sort of a genius when it comes to mold. Mold is like science that’s happening all over your house, unless your family is really neat and tidy and cleans out the refrigerator on a regular basis.

This does not describe my family at all.

“Not all mold is bad,” I told Ben, showing off my geniosity. “In fact, one of the most important medicines ever, penicillin, is made from mold.”

“So figure out how to get rid of the bad mold,” Ben said. “My mom would give you twenty bucks if you could get rid of the mold in our shower. That’s all she ever talks about practically.”

Rid the world of bad mold. It sounded like the sort of things a superhero would do in a comic book, if comic books were written by scientists with a special interest in single-celled organisms made out of fungus.

I could be Anti-Mold Man, Destroyer of Slime.

Not bad for a fourth grader.

I raised my hand. “Mrs. Tuttle, is it okay to change our goals, at least a little?”

“Revising your goals is a part of the process,” Mrs. Tuttle said. “Sometimes we make goals that are unrealistic or not what we really want after all.”

“Great!” I took out my pencil and started erasing my number one, two, and three goals. When I was done erasing, I wrote:

  1. To get rid of all unnecessary mold in Woodbrook Elementary School

  2. To teach Ben how to count

  3. To be the best fourth-grade scientist ever

© 2007 FRANCES O’ROARK DOWELL

About The Author

Photograph (c) Clifton Dowell

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award; Where I’d Like to BeThe Secret Language of Girls and its sequels The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far AwayChicken BoyShooting the Moon, which was awarded the Christopher Award; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling In; The Second Life of Abigail Walker, which received three starred reviews; Anybody Shining; Ten Miles Past NormalTrouble the Water; the Sam the Man series; and The Class. She lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina. Connect with Frances online at FrancesDowell.com.

About The Illustrator

Preston McDaniels is the illustrator of the Phineas L. MacGuire series and Cynthia Rylant’s Lighthouse Family series. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska, with his wife and two daughters.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (June 22, 2010)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416997757
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 870

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Awards and Honors

  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year
  • Eleanor Cameron Golden Duck Award

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More books from this author: Frances O'Roark Dowell

More books from this illustrator: Preston McDaniels

More books in this series: From the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire