I can’t believe I’m already half way done celebrating Molly as my historical girl of the year. Here is a cut and edited doll version of Molly Learns a Lesson by Valerie Tripp:
Molly loved being at school, particularly because of her teacher, Miss Campbell. She was beautiful, wearing a bright red sweater and pearl necklace with her hair falling in long waves past her shoulders.
Molly looked at her own hair, sticks, she thought, straight as sticks. Her hair had a lot of work to do if she wanted it to look like Miss Campbell’s.
When the class was finished singing “America the Beautiful” Miss Campbell wrote on the black board “Things to Do Today”.
Some teachers made that writing look like tiresome tasks or a scolding order. But Miss Campbell made it look like a fun challenge. Wake up! Sharpen your pencils! Miss Campbell expected her third graders to treat school like it was their duty to their country.
Howard Munson began waving his hand wildly like he was drowning at sea.
“Yes, Howard?” Miss Campbell asked.
“Miss Campbell, don’t forget, yesterday you said we could have a multiplication bee!”
Molly groaned. Howie said that like it was the greatest treat of the day but Molly absolutely hated multiplication bees. They made her so nervous she ended up forgetting everything, even the easy problems like two times two. Please let her say no.
But Miss Campbell laughed, “You’re right, Howard. We’ll be sure to do it right after I make an announcement.”
Miss Campbell cleared her throat, “Grace, can you tell us the capitol city of England?”
“London!” squeaked Grace Littlefield, proud to know the answer.
“That’s right Grace, and who can tell me why it’s important for us to know about England and London?”
Molly shot her hand up.
“Because of the war. America and England are fighting together in the war against Germany. My father’s in England helping the soldiers who get hurt.”
Miss Campbell smiled at Molly, “That’s right. You must be very proud of your father. The United States and Englad are allies. That means we’re working together to beat Germany. America is cooperating with England because we hope we can get the job of winning the war done faster if we help each other. We are going to help by participating in a school-wide contest called the Lend-a-Hand Contest. Every class will be divided into teams and each team needs to work on a project that will help our soldiers in the war effort. The winning team will receive an award and the project will be sent to our allies in France.”
Howie raised his hand again, “Let’s do boys against girls!”
“Very well, Howie. Start thinking about a project you can do this weekend.”
Alison Hargate raised her hand.
“We could knit socks.”
“I think that’s a fine project for the third grade girls.”
Knit socks! Molly thought, That’s a terrible idea! Molly knew about knitting socks. It was hard. Molly had struggled through knitting lessons with Mrs. Gilford. She had not been able to finish even one sock. They were complicated, sometimes requiring three needles! By the time Mrs. Gilford finished a sock ,it looked as if it had already marched a million miles. The third grade girls would never be able to win if they chose that project.
That Alison, thought Molly It would be her idea. Always trying to get in good with Miss Campbell!
Well, Molly wasn’t going to let Alison tell her what to do. Molly tried to concentrate on finding a different project but the boys were all talking about their project.
Finally Howie decided to make a 5 foot tinfoil ball and then it was time for the multiplication bee.
Everyone rushed to line up. Molly stood at the very end of the girls line. Maybe I could step back into the cloak room and hide. Maybe no one would miss me.
“Nine times six!”
Molly’s stomach felt as if it were full of sloshing water. Maybe I’ll throw up, she thought.
“Seven times seven!”
“Four times eight!”
Hardly anyone waited even a second. Molly wondered how people could slap those answers down so quickly.
Grace Littlefield gave Molly a little shove, “Move up, you’re right after Susan.”
Molly gulped, Susan was next. Maybe we’ll get a fire drill.
“Six times six.”
“Thirty-six,” Susan said smoothly.
Then it was Molly’s turn.
“Eight times seven!”
Molly froze. The eights! Her worst! She hated the eights. Molly closed her eyes. Eight times seven, eight times seven. Probably in the fifties somewhere, she thought.
“Uh…fifty…nine?” Molly offered timidly. She thought she was probably wrong. She was right, all the girls groaned. Howie jumped out of line and said, “Fifty-six, fifty-six! Eight times seven is fifty six!”
“Why Molly,” said Miss Campbell, “I think you need a little more practice with the multiplication flash cards. You’d better review your eights until you know them.”
Molly didn’t say anthing. She walked to her desk and sat down, stiff with shame. The multiplication contest went on without her like bees in a hive. Molly wanted to block her ears from all the numbers. Nobody else missed a problem for a long time. Then slowly others took their seats until only Howie and Alison were left. Alison answered first and won. All the girls except Molly ran up and hugged Alison who got a big gold and blue badge on her dress. Alison beamed. Molly looked away. She took out her three ringed notebook and opened it to a blank piece of paper.
In big numbers she wrote 8 X 7 = 56
When school finally let out, everyone talked about the Lend-a-Hand contest as they packed their bags.
Knit socks! she thought, it’s a bad idea. It really is. And that wasn’t just because it was Alison’s idea either. I’ll think up another project that will win the contest.
Molly, Linda and Susan walked together to Molly’s house and went in the clubhouse to talk privately. The clubhouse was really just the room above the garage. They went there because they weren’t very likely to be disturbed.
“Knitting!” Linda groaned, “I”m going to be terrible at this project. I hate knitting.
Everything I ever knitted came out looking like a piece of chewed string.”
“Oh, I think knitting is fun,” said Susan, “and socks are cute.”
“Have you ever knitted a sock?” Molly asked.
“Well no, but I’ve seen people do it.”
“Yeah, well it’s hard. You have to use three needles sometimes and count stitches and turn the heel, and other complicated things. I think we should do another project.”
“We can’t,” said Susan, “All the girls are doing it. Miss Campbell would be mad at us if we didn’t do socks.”
“Listen, those girls are crazy if they think they can knit a pair of socks by Monday. They can’t possibly do it. They’ll be grateful to us if we do another project and Miss Campbell will be proud. It’s up to us to win this contest,” Molly said.
“Well, what other kind of project could we do?” Linda asked, “Build a fighter plane or something?”
Susan giggled, “We could become spies and go on a secret mission to steal top secret information from the enemy.”
“Hey,” said Molly, “we sort of could be secret agents. Nobody else knows we’re doing a different project. Our mission could be our project. And instead of stealing something we could collect something like- ”
“Tops! Bottletops!” interrupted Linda, “Get it? Top Secret. We’ll be Top Secret Agents.”
“Yes!” said Molly, “That’s it! We’ll collect bottletops for scrap metal so the army can make tanks and battleships. We’ll collect at least a hundred and surprise everybody in school and win the contest.”
“Top Secret Agents!” said Susan, “Just like in the movies.”
“We can’t tell anyone what are secret project is,” said Molly, “We have to be sworn to secrecy.”
Molly saw something move out the window out of the corner of her eye. She went over to look.
“Look! It’s Alison! Alison Hargate is knocking on the door!”
“She has an envelope in her hand,” Linda observed.
They saw Mrs. Gilford come to the door. Alison showed her the envelope and Mrs. Gilford pointed to the garage. The girls ducked.
“She’s coming this way!” whispered Linda.
“Quick! Hide!” Molly hissed.
“But- ” Susan said.
“Hurry up!” Molly ordered, “If she sees us it will ruin everything.”
The three girls smooshed themselves under the bench they were sitting on. Molly’s heart was pounding. It was so dusty under the bench it made her want to sneeze.
Just then the door opened.
Molly held her breath.
Alison looked rather afraid to find herself all alone in a dark cold place like the garage so she left the envelope on the seat and hurried out.
“She’s gone,” Linda said getting up to watch her from the window.
“I don’t see why we had to hide,” Susan huffed, “It’s only Alison and she’s our friend.”
“Alison’s our friend, but she’s not a Top Secret Agent. She’d want to know what we were doing here and then we’d have to tell her and it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.”
“Come on, Molly, open the envelope. I’m dying to see what’s inside,” Linda said.
“It’s an invitation,” Molly said.
“Gee, I bet this will be fun,” Susan said, “A knitting bee at Alison’s house.”
“They might have good refreshments,” Linda said.
“I don’t know,” Molly said, “It sounds awfully boring to just sit and knit all day. I think we’ll have more fun collecting bottle caps.”
“Well, I’m cold I want to go home,” Susan said.
“Yeah, I should go home too,” said Linda.
“Okay, but meet me here at nine tomorrow so we can get a head start.”
Molly looked at the invitation and crumpled it up.
Molly glared outside her window the next day, Oh, no, what a day to be outside, going door to door collecting bottlecaps. It was pouring outside and the clouds were thick and gray and looked they could never be moved from the sky.
All the girls looked very disgruntled when they met in front of Molly’s house at nine o’clock.
“My mother made me wear two sweaters under my raincoat,” Susan complained, “I’m so hot.”
“My mother forgot to do laundry yesterday so I’m freezing just wearing my thin school shirt,” Linda said.
“And my mother made me wear Ricky’s boots which are too big for me because mine don’t fit,” Molly said, “Oh, well, let’s get started.”
“Can’t we take a break?” asked Susan, “I’m so hot.”
“I’m so cold,” said Linda.
“We can’t take a break. We haven’t even started yet. Come on. Real secret agents work in the rain all the time.”
There were seven houses on Molly’s block. At the first house, Mrs. Silvano only had newspapers.
Billy Ruckstein answered the door at the next house. He was only four and although he said they had a bottletop, he came back with the top still on the brand new bottle.
Finally, Mrs. Keller gave them six bottletops and Mrs. Leaming gave them four.
By the time they had gone to all seven houses they had cold hands, wet legs, tired feet, and ten bottletops in Molly’s school bag.
“Let’s count them,” said Susan.
“What for?” said Linda, “We know perfectly well there are only ten.”
“I know, but I want to see them.” She dug her hand in Molly’s school bag and counted as they clinked back in.
“I didn’t think it would be so hard to get a hundred.”
“We’ll just have to keep trying,” said Molly.
But bottle caps were hard to get at the next block too. By the time they had gotten to the end of that block they only had sixteen bottlecaps.
“I’m hungry. It’s lunchtime,” said Linda.
“I’m tired,” said Susan, “I can’t go any longer.”
“Some secret agents you two make,” said Molly, “Come on, just one more block, then we’ll take a break for lunch.
“Hey, you know who lives on this block?” Linda asked, “Alison Hargate.”
“I know, we just won’t ask her for any bottletops,” said Molly.
“I bet Alison has lots of bottle tops,” said Susan.
The girls stopped in front of Alison’s house.
“I know what! Let’s go peek in the window at the knitting bee,” said Linda, “It’ll be fun! Just like real secret agents.”
“Yes! Let’s spy on them!” said Susan.
Molly hesitated, “What if someone sees us?”
But Linda and Susan were already over at the window.
Linda and Susan were on tiptoe, holding on to the window ledge, peering inside. Molly looked too.
Oh, it was so cozy inside! They were looking into Alison’s living room, where a cheery fire blazed and all the other girls in their class were sitting Indian-style in a circle knitting away.
“Look at the tray of sandwiches!” said Linda, “and cocoa and cookies too.”
“It looks like fun,” Susan said wistfully, “the yarn is pretty.”
“I don’t see any socks,” said Molly.
“Look, Grace Littlefield can’t even hold her needles right,” giggled Linda.
“WELL! What have we here?” boomed a voice very close by. It was Mrs. Hargate, Alison’s mother! She was standing right behind them.
“You girls are late for the knitting bee,” said Mrs. Hargate, “but that doesn’t matter. Come along! Alison was so worried when you didn’t get here at nine with all the other gals. She was afraid you weren’t coming at all. But I told her that you’d never be so rude. You’d never miss out on all the fun and not help on the project. I was sure you’d turn up and I was right. Here you are.”
Mrs. Hargate kept talking as she herded them inside like captured criminals.
Linda, Molly, and Susan didn’t have time to say anything. Molly didn’t know what to say anyway.
“Look who I found,” Mrs. Hargate called to Alison in a loud voice, “Darling Linda, Susan, and Molly were waiting outside. Go on in and enjoy the party. I’ll be in the den if you need me.”
Molly, Linda and Susan bumped into one anther, each trying to e the last one to enter the living room. Alison jumped up from the circle and said, “Hi.”
“Hi,” the girls mumbled.
“We were afraid you weren’t coming,” said Alison, “Where are your needles and yarn?”
“We don’t have any,” said Linda.
“Oh, well it doesn’t matter, I have lots of extras.”
The girls sat awkwardly on the couch. They looked like three crows on a branch.
“How come you’re so late?” Alison asked as she handed them yarn and needles.
Molly looked at Linda. Linda looked at Susan. Susan twisted a strand of yarn around her finger.
“Well,” she said, “We’re not doing knitting. I mean, we have another project. We’re -”
Molly jabbed Susan with her elbow and Susan stopped talking.
Alison looked puzzled, “you’re not making socks? You have another Lend-a-Hand project?”
Molly took a deep breath, “We’re sort of just visiting you. We’re doing a different project.”
“What is it?” asked ALison.
“It’s a secret.”
Alison went back to knitting. Molly, Linda, and Susan just watched. The other girls knitted silently.
Molly noticed that none of the knitters had gotten very far. Most of the girls had knitted only the top part of one sock. They were just getting to the hard part, the heel, where they needed to use three needles. What they had knitted didn’t look at all like socks. They had knitted squares about the size of a doll’s blanket.
A blanket! Molly sat up. That’s what they should knit, not socks! They could sew the knitted squares together to make a blanket. They practically had enough squares already. It was such a good idea. But Molly didn’t dare say anything. After all, it wasn’t her project.
Suddenly, Grace Littlefied threw down her needles. She looked like she was going to cry.
“I can’t do this,” she wailed, “I just can’t! It was hard enough with the two needles, but three is impossible. Every stitch I make comes undone. I’ll never be able to do this!”
Molly felt sorry for Grace. She slid off the couch and stood next to her, “Socks are hard, Grace. But you know, you have a nice square here. If we- I mean, if you- all put your squares together, you could make a really nice blanket.”
“But we’re making socks,” Alison stated firmly.
“Wait a minute,” said Linda, “Maybe Molly has a good idea. You all have squares already and if we just make one or two more it would be enough for a blanket.”
“Oh, let’s try it,” said Grace, “A blanket is a good idea.”
Molly jumped up, “We should have an assembly line. The best knitters keep knitting, Grace can collect the squares and Linda and I will sew them together.”
All of a sudden everyone was talking at once and slowly, the knitted blanket grew until Molly had to drape it over the couch.
Finally all the needles were still.
“Look what we did,” Molly admired, “It’s so soft and beautiful.”
“But do you think a blanket can win the Lend-a-Hand Contest?” Alison asked.
“Oh, yes,” said Molly. Her fingers were sore from sticking herself with the needle and her feet were stiff from sitting for so long,” Just this week I got a letter from my dad saying blankets were really needed in England in the hospitals. It’s getting really cold there.”
“Just think! This blanket may help some poor, wounded soldier stay warm. It may even save his life,” Alison said.
“I’m sure it will win the prize,” Molly said.
Alison turned to Molly, “A blanket was a good idea, Molly and we couldn’t have done it without you. Are you sure… I mean, what about your other project? Do you need any help with that?”
Molly looked down, “It was a dumb project anyway.”
“What was it?” Grace asked.
“Oh it was terrible,” Susan answered, “we were collecting bottlecaps and we only got sixteen. It was so hard.”
“We wanted to collect a hundred,” Linda said.
“You know what?” said Grace, “I live in an apartment where there are twenty families living in the same building. We could go door to door and ask them without getting wet. I bet we could get a hundred easily.”
With a flurry of bucking and zipping, the girls got their coats on and raced to Grace’s apartment. They splashed through the street laughing and talking. Molly decided that some secrets are a lot more fun when you give them away than when you keep them.
Molly played herself.
Miss Campbell…………………………………Megan Ryder
Alison Hargate…………………………….Caroline Abbott
Mrs. Hargate……………………………….Jessica Gotz
Grace Littlefield…………………………..Eleanor-Grace Thomas
Howard Munson…………………………..Jonathan Fletcher