jayellebee's Blog

March 8, 2010

Nick-o-man and the Prehistoric Snoodly

Filed under: Middle Grade Manuscripts — Joanne @ 8:48 pm

When Mrs. Snoodly turns out to be the oldest, grayest teacher in the school, free-spirited Nicholas — aka Nick-o-man — must learn to work around her rigid, tried-and-true teaching style or risk spending the whole year benched and bored.  Nick-o-man and the Prehistoric Snoodly is the story of Nicky, the youngest of three brothers, who has been standing up for himself since before he could stand.

During the school’s Cultural Awareness Week, students are encouraged to share the customs and celebrations enjoyed by their families. Nick-o-man waits for everyone else to take their turn before his grandfather comes to school to help him teach the class about one of their family’s unique traditions. 

(Note:  This photo is of my youngest son, Michael, the day he “shared” Gramps with his kindergarten class.  Those are glazed donuts they’re holding.  You’ll be able to guess what went on after you read this scene from Nick-o-man and the Prehistoric Snoodly.)


      “Our family has a special celebration,” I said.  “In the summer, when we go on vacation together, Gramps and Dad get up early and buy fresh donuts.  After we finish breakfast, we celebrate that we have donuts.  Gramps taught me and my brothers how to remove the donut holes.  He collects them on an invisible chain he wears around his neck.  That way, if he gets hungry during the day, he can take one of the holes off the chain and eat it.”

     The class stared at Gramps like he was Santa Claus.

     “What’s in the boxes?” Stinky asked.

      “What do you think?” Gramps said.

     “Donuts?” a bunch of kids said.  Their voices said they were hoping for donuts.

     “That’s right,” Gramps said, “glazed donuts fresh from the bakery.  And just because you’re so special, Nicky and I are going to teach you the traditional Milani family way to remove a donut hole without breaking it.”

     “Mr. Milani,” Mrs. Snoodly said, standing up, “did you not understand that Nicholas was supposed to be sharing something to do with his cultural heritage today?”

     Uh oh.  Would Mrs. Snoodly put Gramps’ name on the board?  Trouble City.

     “Nick-o told me,” Gramps looked Mrs. Snoodly right in the eye, “that he wanted to share a unique family tradition.  To my way of thinking, donut hole extraction is probably as unique as a tradition can get.”

     Mrs. Snoodly plopped back down at her desk, making the spoon in her empty coffee cup clatter.  Gramps followed me around the room.  We started with Ashley.  Let her go first for something good for a change.  I put a napkin on her desk, and Gramps put a donut on the napkin.

     “Thank you, Gramps,” Ashley said.

     “You’re welcome, young lady,” Gramps said.  “I like your pretty pink blouse.”

     Stinky reached around her like he was gonna steal her donut.  She pretended he wasn’t there.  Stinky stopped reaching like his hand ran into a brick wall.  Ashley smiled at me.  I skipped Stinky, so Gramps did, too.

     “Hey,” Stinky said, “what about me?”

     “We’ll come back to you later,” I said, “if you behave.”

     The class laughed.  Stinky got his donut, but he was dead last.  Even after Mrs. Snoodly.  Gramps handed her a donut on a napkin.

     “No, thank you, Mr. Milani,” she said.  “I’m on a diet.”

     He put it on her desk anyway.

     “Just in case you change your mind, Ma’am,” Gramps said.  “You’re much too lovely to worry about dieting.”

     He met me at the front of the room.  We took the last two donuts from the box.

     “OK,” Gramps said, “is everyone ready?”

     Heads nodded.  Gramps didn’t have to tell anyone to pay attention.  The room was so quiet I heard the second hand clicking around the clock.

     “Pick up your donut with your right hand.”

     A few guys still got confused about right and left.  We straightened them out.

    “You must be very careful,” Gramps said, “not to bite all the way through your donut into the hole.  Take little nibbles all the way around the outside.”

     Lips smacked and fingers got licked.  The kids liked my sharing Gramps way better than they liked hearing about French people eating snails.  Or Swedish girls dancing.

     “Now, here’s the tricky part,” Gramps said.  “Hold your donut in front of you, using your thumb and middle finger.  Carefully stick the little finger of your other hand into the center of the hole.  Not too far, but just far enough.”  Gramps looked around the room to make sure everyone was following his directions.  “Good.  Now, bend the tip of your little finger, and with a quick jerk,” he showed them what he meant, “extract the hole from the donut.”

     Pinky fingers stuck straight up in the air to keep the speared donut holes from slipping off.  Gramps pulled his invisible chain over his head.  He went around the room collecting holes.  Every donut hole had to be moved from the kid’s pinky to Gramps’ pinky, then added to his chain.  Sometimes he pretended to cry because a hole got cracked or dropped.

     “Are you sure you’ve never de-holed a donut before?” Gramps asked Ashley.

     She giggled and shook her head.  Gramps held Ashley’s donut hole up by the window and whistled.

     “I’ve never seen anyone do such an excellent job their very first time.” 

     Gramps finished stringing the last hole on his chain right when the bell rang.  Mrs. Snoodly hadn’t touched her donut.  She dismissed the class for recess, telling us to be sure to wash our hands.  Kids crowded around Gramps.  Some wanted to see his invisible chain.  Others asked how long the chain was.  Did he wear it to bed?  Where did he get it?  Did the donut holes ever get stale?

     “Come on kids,” Gramps said.  “We’re outta here.”

     We went to the playground.  Mrs. Snoodly closed the classroom door behind us.  She carried her donut wrapped in the napkin, and her empty coffee cup.  Bet she showed the other teachers how to de-hole a donut.

     “Thanks, Gramps,” I said, hugging him around the waist.

     “Are we in trouble with your teacher?” he asked.

     “Nah.  The principal says being different is a good thing.”

     “Then we must be very good,” Gramps said.  “Exceptional, even.”

     I waved through the fence when Gramps drove by.  He honked the horn and waved back.

     “Thanks, Nick-o.”  Ashley stood next to me.  I hadn’t seen her come.

     “What for?”

     “Stinky.  Your idea to get him to stop bothering me worked.”



  1. This is a terrific story, Joanne! Very imaginative….I’m going to practice retrieving a donut hole with my graandchildren! Maybe I’ll start a necklace.


    Comment by Ann Damaschino — March 8, 2010 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

  2. Joanne, I loved seeing the picture of your dad, just as I remember him! And I really enjoyed reading the story, picturing your dad pulling it off. Did you guys used to do the donut thing at Clear Lake?

    I’m enjoying your stories tremendously!


    Comment by Jean Hall — January 11, 2011 @ 4:24 pm | Reply

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