In book 6 of the Smartboys Club, Monkey finds out Santa won’t be coming to the school Christmas party. In his attempts to contact Santa to convince him to come, Monkey gets himself on the Naughty List. It looks like all he’ll get for Christmas is a bucket of coal. But when a blizzards knocks out the power lines and buries the roads, it’s up to Monkey and the Smartboys to save Christmas for everyone.
All I Got for Christmas
No Santa This Year
Hi, my name’s Monkey. But my parents think it’s Johnny Lovebird. Lovebird. That’s a cruel name to pin on a ten-year-old boy. My dad says he survived elementary school with that name. But he didn’t attend Rainbow Elementary like I do. If it weren’t for my friends in the Smartboys Club, I might go insane. Of course, with all the adventures we’ve had this year, I might already be insane.
Despite that, I was really looking forward to Christmas. I wrote a big list of things I wanted.
Then I wrote another even longer list of books, but my mom wouldn’t let me mail the lists to Santa Claus. She says Christmas isn’t about getting a ton of presents. I folded up the lists and put them in my backpack. I figured I’d give Santa my wish lists at the school Christmas party. Imagine my horror when I overheard Principal Green tell my teacher, Mrs. Red, that Santa would not be coming to our school this year.
“We just can’t fit it in the budget,” Principal Green whispered.
“Shh,” Mrs. Red said. She’d just noticed me frozen in the hall, staring at them in shock.
“Impossible,” I said. “Santa Claus always visits Chrom-El.” Chrom-El is my nickname for the school. Chrom is short for chromatic, which means color, like a rainbow, get it?
“Johnny,” Mrs. Red said, putting her hands on her hips and glaring at me. “You should not eavesdrop on people. Go to class right now.”
“But the bell hasn’t rung,” I complained. My stomach felt like I’d eaten a handful of lead balls for breakfast. What did she mean, no Santa?
“Go!” Mrs. Red jabbed her finger toward the classroom.
I raced away as best I could with my clunky winter books and heavy coat. Snow had fallen for the last three days, which made walking to school a great adventure. I stopped at the coat pegs on the wall outside our room to hang up my coat and change my boots for school shoes. Then I barreled into the classroom.
“Hey guys,” I said, skidding to a stop in front of Bean’s desk.
Bean is my best friend. His real name is Tommy Jones. He and I started the Smartboys Club at the beginning of the year. Then we let Vinny in because she’s brilliant at math and computers. And of course we had to let Art in because no one can draw pictures or shoot a basketball better than he can.
Bean looked up from his science report on the impact of global warming on polar bears. Art stopped drawing a ninja snowman on his desk and came over. Vinny shoved her cell phone in her pocket and stared across the room at us. And Sandra—oh yeah, Sandra’s a musical genius who sits between Bean and me. She’s a member of the club too.
Sandra’s eyes remained glazed over, and I could tell she hadn’t heard me because she was playing some symphony piece in her head.
“What’s wrong, Monkey?” Bean asked. “You look pale.”
“I just heard Principal Green tell Mrs. Red that Santa wouldn’t be coming to our school this year. It can’t be true. That would be like saying the sun won’t rise tomorrow morning.”
Art tapped his pencil against his lips for a moment and then said, “Just because the sun has always come up in the morning before, doesn’t mean it will tomorrow. If it didn’t, that would be cool. We could sleep in.” He flashed us a wide smile.
Bean looked out the corner of his eyes at Art and took a deep breath. “Art, that would be so scientifically unlikely that I can’t even begin to think of a scenario that would make it happen.”
“Aliens,” Art said. He grabbed a piece of paper from my desk and drew a sketch of the earth, the sun, and a giant alien spacecraft shooting laser rays at the sun. “See, while the sun is down, the Aliens blow it out of existence like blowing out a candle.”
I laughed and slapped Art on the back. “Bonus points for creativity there, Art.”
Vinny walked over from the right side of the room. “What are you talking about, no Santa?”
“I heard Principal Green say—” the bell rang, making us all jump.
Mrs. Red walked into the classroom. “Into your seats, students.”
As I sat down, I noticed that Mrs. Red had redecorated the classroom over the weekend. The white board had a red and green Christmas border around it. Paper snowflakes hung from the ceiling. The pin board had a picture of a big Christmas tree on it, with wrapping paper that looked like presents underneath.
“Oh neat,” Bean said. He’d snuck over to the pencil sharpener which had been decorated to look like a reindeer head.
“Tommy, I said get in your seat.” Mrs. Red wrote his name up on the board. That means he’s in trouble for being out of his seat. Again. Mrs. Red glared at him until he sat down. Then she turned her attention back to the class.
“I’m glad to see you all made it here despite the snow.” Mrs. Red glanced out the windows at the flurry of snowflakes that had turned the world outside gray. “This week we are going to do something a little bit fun and different for our social studies lessons. You may have noticed the Christmas tree and presents on the pin board. Each day I’m going to pick a person from this class to open one of the presents.”
The kids on the left side of the room jumped to their feet shouting, “Pick me! Pick me!”
The students on the right side of the room raised their hands.
As for those of us in the back . . . well, Sandra still sat with her eyes glazed over.
I recited the lines from “Twas the Night Before Christmas” in my head.
Bean squinted and put his chin in his hand. “Hey Monkey, do you think if we got a flashlight, we could shine it through the paper to see what Mrs. Red has in each of those presents?”
“No,” I said. “The light would need to shine through the opposite side of the paper for it to work. Otherwise it would just reflect off.”
Bean’s cheeks turned red. “Right. I knew that. Just testing you, Monkey.”
“Bridget,” Mrs. Red said, “Would you please come pick a present off the board and open it for us?”
Bridget got to her feet with a triumphant smile and walked to the board, her blond hair swishing behind her.
I Learn Something New
Bridget peeled a bright red and gold present from the board. She found an envelope taped to the back and reached inside. First she pulled out a picture of a polished wooden cup. Then she pulled out picture of a candle holder with seven candles. Last she found a picture of fruits, nuts, and vegetables.
Mrs. Red took each of the pictures and taped them up on the board. “Does anyone know what these pictures stand for?”
I blinked because my brain came up empty. Strange, I usually know something about everything.
The class sat silent. Bridget hurried back to her seat before Mrs. Red could call on her to answer. The room was so quiet I swear I could hear the snowflakes falling outside.
A boy named Willie cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. That caught Mrs. Red’s attention and she pointed to him. “Willie, will you please enlighten the class.”
Willie glanced around and licked his lips before speaking. “I . . . that is my family and I celebrate a holiday in December called Kwanzaa. It runs from December 26 to January 1 and is a celebration of our African American heritage.”
“Wow, cool,” I blurted out.
Mrs. Red wrote my name up on the board. “Please continue, Willie. Tell the class what the pictures mean.”
“Kwanzaa has seven principles and seven symbols. The cup is the unity cup. Unity is the first principle. We all drink from the cup to honor our African ancestors. The candles represent stalks of corn that branch off to form new stalks like a family is created. The fruits, vegetables, and nuts remind us of the harvests that nourished the peoples of Africa.”
“Thank you,” Mrs. Red said. “Kwanzaa is a December holiday created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. As you can see not everybody celebrates the same holidays in December. Each of the presents under the tree represents a different country or culture. Each day we will open them and learn something new. Now, let’s move on to math.”
I swallowed hard and stared up at all those brightly-wrapped presents on the board. “I wonder what the other ones are,” I whispered. I wanted to know right then, not wait to open one a day.
I got out my math notebook and propped it up to hide my cell phone while I connected up online and started searching for other December holidays. Too bad Mrs. Red caught me, took my cell phone, and sent me to think-time out in the hall. I had to wait clear until after school to get my phone back.
Recess couldn’t come soon enough that morning. I pulled on my boots, grabbed my coat, and rushed outside into the snow. Bean came with me, bringing his little blue weather station along. He set it down on a snow drift while he stuck a ruler down through the snow to see how deep it was. The ruler slipped out of his hand and vanished.
“Shoot,” Bean said.
“No problem.” Art climbed up on a snow drift and let his basketball fly through the closest basketball standard. That wasn’t too hard, since the drift lifted him a good three feet up closer to the hoop. He let out a whoop of joy until the ball came back down and vanished into the snowbank.
“Nice try at measuring the snow, Bean,” I said while Bean dug through the snow looking for his ruler and Art did the same to get his basketball. “But I think it’s pretty obvious we have more than twelve inches here. You’re going to need a yard stick. Or maybe two yard sticks taped together.”
“No kidding.” Bean got the ruler out and slapped it across my back to get the snow off. “They said on the news that this storm is a record snowfall with more still on the way.” He wrote the temperature and air pressure in his weather notebook.
Vinny appeared out of the curtain of falling snow. “Sandra won’t be out. She has a note from her parents and the Symphony conductor, saying she has to stay inside where it’s warm and dry so she can perform.” Sandra plays the cello with the symphony downtown.
“That stinks,” I said. “I figured with this much snow we could make the biggest snow fort of all time.”
A snowball slammed into the side of my head and exploded into a shower of slush. “You’re going to need it,” Eric called as he bent down to grab more snow to chuck at me.
I did the same, but Vinny caught my arm. “Don’t do it, Monkey. You’ve been in enough trouble already today. You know you can get sent home for throwing snowballs.”
I dropped the snow and we retreated around the edge of the school to get away from Eric. He’s not worth getting in trouble for.
“So,” Vinny said, leaning up against the school’s brick wall. “What were you saying about Santa Claus when school started?”
That reminded me about the Santa Claus problem. “Principal Green said that Santa won’t be coming to our school this year.”
“But the school Christmas party won’t be the same without him,” I said. Every year each class in the school gets a piece of the gym to decorate and set up a booth with Christmas games, songs, or food. Then we have a big party and visit all the booths. Santa always shows up to see what we want for Christmas and hand out candy canes. “Besides, I need to tell him to bring me a dachshund. My mom wouldn’t let me mail him my wish lists.”
“A dachshund, what’s that?” Art said while trying to dribble his basketball. The basketball just sunk through the snow and stuck.
“Dachshund is the correct name for a wiener dog,” Bean explained. “Monkey plans to name him Weasel.”
Art burst out laughing. “A wiener named Weasel. Here Wiennie Weasel. Here Wiennie.” Art laughed until he choked. “He’ll have to use a litter box, because if you let him out in this snow, you’ll never find him again.”
“Very funny, Art,” I said. “But you’re getting off track. The point is, we’ve got to find some way to get Santa to come to the school.”
Vinny frowned and tried to brush the snow off her shoulders. More just replaced it. “Monkey, I hate to break this to you, but I don’t think Santa Claus is really real. I mean—”
“Stop,” I said. “Santa is real. He’s a cultural icon that has gained a life of his own in the US social consciousness through literature and other media. Saying Santa isn’t real is like saying Sherlock Holmes isn’t real. But Holmes is a real character. Almost everyone knows his name and that he’s a detective. How much more real can you get than that?”
“Actually, scientifically speaking,” Bean said. But I interrupted him too.
“Leave science out of this, Bean. Santa Claus isn’t a man of science; he’s a man of literature and tradition.”
Bean closed his eyes and tipped his head back so snowflakes fell on his face for a moment. Then he straightened, shook the snow off, and stamped his feet. “Okay, Monkey. I’ll go along with you on this. But then how do you plan to get Santa to come to the school Christmas party?”
Santa Doesn’t Sell Snow Cones
When I got home from school, I pulled all my Christmas books off the shelf and put them on my desk. I find that when I need to come up with a plan, the best thing to do is a bit of research. That usually sparks my brain power.
I read through all my favorite books, and the more I read, the more I felt I just had to get Santa to come to our school somehow. The students of Chrom-El couldn’t abandon that school Christmas tradition even if it didn’t fit in the budget.
What’s a budget? It’s a thing where you calculate all the money you get in, also known as income, and all the expenses you have to pay. To do it right, you shouldn’t have more expenses than you have income. Only I guess it’s a lot harder than it sounds, because I’ve watched my mom try to do it, and she goes nuts at the end of every month because somehow our family always spends more than we get. Mom blames it on the bad example of the federal government.
But I couldn’t understand what the school budget had to do with Santa. None of my Christmas books said anything about Santa costing money. I had to think long and hard about that, but I finally figured it out.
It occurred to me that Santa might need money to buy the supplies for his elves to make all the toys he gives out for Christmas. But how is some guy, living at the North Pole going to make money? Surely not selling snow cones to polar bears.
I figured that people must pay Santa to show up at the mall and parades and schools and stuff. To be in so many malls and schools at once, he must use the same time-distortion device he uses to deliver the presents around the world on Christmas Eve. Also I think he has some helpers that stand in for him and donate the money for supplies.
Okay, so Santa couldn’t come to Chrom-El because Principal Green didn’t have the money to pay him. The Smartboys might be able to fix that if we came up with a fund-raiser.
I called Vinny and asked her to look around online and find out how much money it would cost to pay Santa to come to the school. Then I put my brain to thinking of ways we could earn some money.
A thought came to me and I raced downstairs to the kitchen where my mom was making dinner.
“Mom, Mom,” I said. “Can my friends and I make Christmas cookies to sell to the neighbors to earn money? The neighbors always say how much they like our family’s Christmas cookies.”
“Johnny.” My mom’s forehead wrinkled. She pulled a roast out of the oven and set the hot pads down on the counter. “We don’t sell our Christmas cookies. We always give the neighbors plates of cookies as presents. Trying to sell them would be flat wrong.”
“But I need to raise some money.” I leaned against the counter and stole a carrot from the vegetable tray.
Mom slapped at my fingers. “What do you need money for?”
“Principal Green said there isn’t enough money to pay Santa to come to our school party. I thought we could help her out with that.”
“Now, Johnny. I’m sure the school party will be just as fun without Santa Claus. You know he doesn’t have anything to do with the real meaning of Christmas anyway.”
“But, Mom, if Santa doesn’t come, I won’t be able to talk to him about getting a dachshund for Christmas.”
Mom nearly spilled the red Jello she was pulling from the fridge. “Johnny, I told you we are NOT getting a dog. No. No dog. Talking to Santa won’t change that.”
I hung my head and backed away. “What about a little brother?” I asked in a small voice.
That did it. Mom dropped the Jello for real. The bowl landed on the floor, and the Jello rebounded, splattering all over my mom, the fridge, and clear up to the ceiling.
I lit out of there before she could blame the mess on me.