October 21, 2014
SVT #19, The Bully: Dennis the Menace
Summary: Seventh-grader Dennis Cookman has been menacing sixth-graders, and they decide they’ve had enough. They inform a teacher, Dennis is punished and starts receiving counseling, and everyone calls a truce. The end. Oh, wait, that doesn’t happen. Instead, some of the sixth-graders – including Ken, Aaron Dallas, and some scrawny kid named Jimmy Underwood – call a “summit conference” and invite Elizabeth to help them with their problem. Dennis is so intimidating that even Lila can’t bring herself to stand up to him – when he asks her for money, she just hands it over.
The summiteers meet at a place called Larson’s lot, which is near something everyone calls Dean Man’s Cave. The kids decide that instead of telling a teacher about Dennis’ bullying, they’ll just get revenge on him. Steven wanders by and tells them they’re dumb and they should tell an adult what’s going on. Jimmy hates this idea, since it’ll just get him in more trouble with Dennis, but the other kids decide to talk to Mr. Bowman.
Elizabeth and her cronies talk to the English teacher, who promises to handle Dennis. Elizabeth thinks that’ll be the end of it. Of course, it’s not. Dennis corners the summiteers after school, starts a fight with Aaron and Ken, and threatens to come after everyone else. The summiteers decide Operation Tell a Teacher was a bust, and they should try revenge next.
Their plan is to tell Dennis they’re going to spend the night in Dead Man’s Cave to peer-pressure him into doing the same. Aaron and Ken know there’s a rain pipe in the cave that they can use to get to the woods and head home. Dennis will sleep in the cave when his turn comes, not realizing that no one else spent the night. The summiteers put their plan in motion, making sure Dennis overhears Amy daring Aaron to spend the night in Dead Man’s Cave.
Meanwhile, Grace Oliver (who I remember from a later book but didn’t realize was in the series this early on) wants to join the Unicorns. To make sure she’s special enough for this super-exclusive group of girls who like shopping and own purple clothing, Jessica, Lila, and Ellen decide to put her through a series of initiation rituals. First she has to recite a poem in the middle of class. Then she has to get a bunch of kids’ homework. (I’m not sure what that’s about. Why would they give her their homework? Is she just pretending she needs to borrow it?)
For Grace’s last initiation task, Jessica comes up with the idea to make Grace ask Dennis to each lunch with her. Even Lila and Ellen are like, “Whoa, slow down, Regina George.” But Jessica is, for some reason, set on making Grace do her bidding. Grace tries to summon the courage to ask Dennis to eat lunch with her but fails so badly that she thinks that’s it for her chances with the Unicorns. Later, she happens to find Dennis’ baseball mitt, so she takes it to his house. He’s kind of surprised that someone’s doing something nice for him.
That night, Aaron completes his part of the revenge plan, pretending to sleep in Dead Man’s Cave. Ken agrees to go next, but Dennis is skeptical about the legitimacy of the situation and wants to stay outside the cave overnight so he can’t leave. Jimmy gets roped into staying with him. Once Ken’s part is complete, Jimmy takes his turn, which means Dennis really has no excuse not to do it as well.
Grace tries again to ask Dennis to have lunch with her, not realizing that Jessica (having been yelled at by Elizabeth for making Grace do something so difficult) has decided to let her off the hook. But at lunch, Dennis asks if he can sit with Grace. They talk about how he has no friends, and she points out that, you know, he’s mean to everyone. Dennis is all, “They’re mean to me, too! They make fun of me because I’m huge!” Grace is like, “Well, then clearly you’re allowed to be mean back and be surprised that no one likes you.”
Dennis really doesn’t want to spend the night in Dead Man’s Cave, so he tries to pretend he’s sick. No one’s going to let him off the hook, especially after Jimmy supposedly went through with it. When the big night comes, there’s a storm a-brewin’, which means lots of rain in the rain pipe. Aaron realizes that if it gets too blocked, Dennis could drown. The kids head into the cave and rescue Dennis, who realizes that he should probably start treating them differently. He and Jimmy seem to become friends, while Grace gets to be a Unicorn. So the lesson here is that if you have a bully, you just have to save his life and everything will be okay.
Thoughts: They had to have named him Dennis just so people could make Dennis the Menace references, right?
“Steven Wakefield was fourteen going on obnoxious.” Hee.
Amy gets Dennis away from Jimmy by sending him after another group of kids. Well, that’s a bad idea.
“Jessica had just finished dyeing most of her white socks purple to add to her Unicorn wardrobe. If Grace managed to get Dennis to eat lunch with her, maybe Jessica would even give her a pair as an initiation gift.” Ooh, used socks! Go for it, Grace!