Radio Fifth Grade

From the book:

Brian Murphy, studio engineer for WGRK Venice, tapped Mr. Morenz on the shoulder.
"Mmmm?" The teacher did not look up from his new book, Astral Burger Meets Celestial Salad.
"We're going to a commercial soon," said Murph. "Your feet are sticking in the tape reel!"
"Sorry," murmured Mr. Lorenz. Without interrupting his reading, he shuffled his feet down the control panel, pivoting on one chair leg.
"Thanks," said Murph sarcastically.
On the air, Arthur Katz was revving up for his weekly commentary. "I just read that some star from a couple of galaxies over exploded into a supernova last week, and that scientists are going bananas with joy at their telescopes, studying it. Aren't they forgetting something? If stars can go blooey, just like that, what's the sun, huh? Chopped liver? Will we here on Earth be ready if the sun explodes?" He slammed his hand down hard on the broadcast desk. "No!"
Benjy, who had been concentrating on the control room, where Ellen-Louise and Mark were bribing Winston Churchill with birdseed, snapped suddenly to attention.
"No!" shouted Arthur again. "We're wasting our time building VCRs and auto focus cameras and Epcot Center. We'd better hurry up and get a huge asbestos fire-retardant tarpaulin that can fit around the whole Earth. It'll take weeks, and cost hundreds of dollars, but without it, we could go from the human race to the barbecue special of the day!"
Benjy squinted at the bundle of orange and green feathers inside the cage. He thought he saw beak movement --; was that eating or talking? He gestured questioningly at Ellen-Louise, but she shook her head.
"But even when we have the tarpaulin, we're not out of the woods yet! I mean, the sun explodes, and it's gone, right? We build a few giant heaters, and add a bunch of extra streetlights, and it's no problem, right? Wrong! The earth revolves around the sun! Without it, we're just hanging there! Sitting ducks! Hey, look out for that comet! Kapow!"
Benjy was on the alert. This was the spot where Arthur usually left dead air. "Thank you very much for --;"
"I'm not finished yet!" Arthur interrupted belligerently. "Now, nobody's going to tell me that this isn't the biggest problem of our time. But how many scientists are working on it? A hundred? Twenty? Two? None! The hole in the doughnut! What are we going to do about it?"
Benjy leaped right in. "We'll all write letters to the government."
Arthur was outraged. "Letters!? We need action! We need --;"
"And now," said Benjy smoothly, "another word from our sponsor."
With a smile, Murph nodded his approval, and put on a taped ad from Our Animal Friends.
Arthur leaped to his feet and glared at Benjy. "You didn't let me finish!"
"I had to cut you off. You were about to leave dead air."
"No, I wasn't," Arthur insisted. "I was just making sure everyone was aware of the danger."
"Well, anyway, you were out of time. I've got to set up for the quiz." He hustled Arthur into the waiting room.
Mark and Murph were hooking up the studio telephone to Benjy's broadcast desk. "As soon as you pick up the receiver, the call is on the air," Murph advised.
"I wrote all the questions on file cards," Mark added, "and on the back I've written what the prizes are." He paused nervously. "I sure hope somebody phones up, or we're going to look pretty stupid --; and we'll also have to do our homework."
"Don't worry," said Benjy confidently. "Ellen's right. People love this kind of stuff."
"I've been worrying about the answers, Benjy," Mark went on. "How will we know if the callers are right?"
"I thought of that, too," said Benjy. "It's simple. People aren't going to call if they don't know the answer, so whoever does is probably right."
Mark looked puzzled. "Run that by me again?"
"No time," said Benjy. "The commercial's almost over." Mark and Murph headed back for the control room door. "And keep working on that parrot," Benjy called. "The Mascot-of-the-Week comes right after this."
The commercial ended, and Benjy leaned over to the in-studio sound effects console and played himself a long drum roll.
"And now, ladies and gentlemen, a new feature on 'Kidsview' --; our trivia quiz. If you have the correct answers to our questions, phone 555-5074 to win win win! Here's our first question: 'What is the longest river in South America?'" He paused, realizing in some alarm that waiting for the telephone to ring would leave dead air. So he repeated the question, and then the phone number. He was so grateful when the phone finally rang, that he pounced on it.
" 'Kidsview.' You're on the air."
"Uh --; is Gretchen there, please?" came a confused voice.
Benjy was mortified. "You have the wrong number. This is the weekly trivia quiz. Do you have the answer to question one?"
"Well --; do you think she'll be home soon?"
"Uh --; it's been nice talking to you. Good-bye." Sweating, Benjy hung up. The phone rang immediately. "'Kidsview.' You're on the air."
"The Amazon," came a man's voice.
"What?" In his humiliation over the wrong number, Benjy had completely forgotten the question.
"The longest river in South America," said the man. "It's the Amazon."
"That's right!" cried Benjy, scribbling it down on his homework sheet. In the control room, Mark and Ellen-Louise were doing the same. "Congratulations, Mr. --;?"
"Riley. Ted Riley."
"Well, Mr. Riley, you have just won ..." He flipped the question card, and stared in horror. "... a two pound box of turtle food."
"Turtle food?" repeated the lucky winner. "What am I supposed to do with that?"
"Feed it to your turtle?" Benjy suggested hopefully.
"But I don't have a turtle!"
"Well --; uh --; I think they've got some very beautiful ones down at Our Animal Friends," said Benjy. "So --; uh --; you might want to check them out when you pick up your prize. Congratulations, and thanks for calling. Here's question two. 'Which space mission of the 1970s was struck by lightning on lift-off?'"
Behind the glass, Ellen-Louise was bright red with indignation. "Turtle food! Some prize! I can't believe that terrible Mr. Whitehead! He's giving out things that are no good unless you buy a pet from him! That's awful!"
Mark shrugged. "What are you complaining about? It's free stuff. Hey, the answer to question two --; Apollo 13. Write it down quick."
"And you've just won a bag of multicolored gravel for your fish tank," announced Benjy on the air.
"What fish tank?" came a woman's voice over the monitor. She was definitely annoyed.
"Oh, I get it," Benjy chuckled painfully. "You don't have one. Well, as long as you're going to be at Our Animal Friends anyway, you might as well take a look at --;" There was a click, and a dial tone. "Well, ha ha, on to question three. 'Who was the Roman god of war?'"
"Hey, our listeners are pretty smart," said Mark, pleased. "Next week maybe we should get them to do our math homework, too."
"You're disgusting," said Ellen-Louise. "What are we going to do if the next caller is Ms. Panagopoulos?"
"She's new in town," scoffed Mark. "There's no way she's found 92 1/2 yet. All the good FM stations are way up in the hundreds."
"Yes, Mr. Pfeffer, the answer is Mars," Benjy was crowing. By this point he could barely bring himself to flip the card and learn what horrible prize Mr. Whitehead was donating for question three. "And you've won a super-deluxe flea-and-tick collar."
A roar of laughter came from the monitor. "I don't have fleas or ticks."
"Well --; ha ha --; it's not for you. It's for your dog or cat."
The laughter continued. "Can I trade it in for a trip to Disneyland?"
Benjy flushed. "Sorry," he said seriously. "Prizes as awarded. No substitutions. 'Bye." The phone rang again instantly, and Benjy picked it up. "I'm sorry, but we've already awarded prize number three."
"Is Gretchen home yet?" came the voice on the other end.
Benjy rolled his eyes. "There's no Gretchen here. This is 'Kidsview.' Please check the number you're dialing."
"Could I leave a message for her?"
"No!" Benjy exploded, and hung up.

Copyright © 1988 Gordon Korman, used by permission

There's nothing about school that Benjy enjoys more than working on 'Kidsview,' the school's student radio show, but the other kids he has to work with just don't seem to take the show seriously!

Mark can't seem to do anything right, Ellen-Louise is more interested in the Pets-of-the-Week than the actual radio show, Mr. Morenz, the school advisor, is more interested in seeing how far he can get in reading the exciting sci-fi thriller, the Glass Caves of Nodrog, and Arthur always ends his editorial tirades in the middle of a sentence, leaving dead air, the cardinal sin of radio broadcast.

So when Benjy gets a new teacher who insists on turning their class into 'fifth grade seminar,' laying on the homework like it was going out of style, and complaining about the kind of work Benjy is turning in, it's just too much! He's going to have to find a way to turn 'Kidsview' into a solution to his problems. It won't be easy with an incompetent parrot, an angry sponsor and a rampaging bully all infringing on his time, but he's got to find a way!