Tripping Over the Lunch Lady
and Other School Stories
Middle Grade Anthology
Edited by Nancy Mercado
Featuring The Desk” by Lee Wardlaw


The first thing Craig and Tabby noticed about their 6th grade classroom that morning was the smell.  An out-of-place smell coming from The Desk.  No need to ask which desk.  There was only one they’d wondered about, whispered about, during the last week. It belonged to A & W, the new kid with the strange smile and unpronounceable last name.  Who was this mysterious boy? What was his secret?  And what strange things had he hidden inside . . . The Desk?

Hardcover, Dial Books for Young Readers
Softcover, Puffin/Penguin
Short Story Anthology, ages 8-13

Read Aloud America Recommended Book List 2006
IRA/CBC Children’s Choice Book 2005
Pennsylvania School Librarians Association
 “Top Forty” List 2005
PW, Honorable Mention, Best Story Anthology 2004

Contributing Authors:  Avi, Angela Johnson, David Lubar, James Proimos, David Rice, Susan Shreve, Terry Trueman, Rachel Vail, Lee Wardlaw and Sarah Weeks.

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Click here for Discussion Questions & Classroom Activities for
Lee Wardlaw’s “The Desk”

Click here for Lee’s School Report


School Library Journal:  “This amusing anthology of 10 short stories . . . will resonate with students everywhere . . . Lee Wardlaw's "The Desk" centers on the mystery and magic arising from the seat of an itinerant circus student . . .a skillfully written and engaging collection that's sure to be popular.”

ALA/Booklist:“ . . . In these first-person narratives, sharply defined details and keenly observed nuances of school life often set the stage for moments of wit, surprise, realization, and tenderness.  Readers looking for humor will find plenty of it as the stories unfold. An entertaining roundup.” – Booklist

Publishers Weekly:  “. . . capture[s] the action, the politics, the memories, and the heartache of life in grade school. Tackling topics such as unfortunate nicknames, illiteracy, and improbable friendships, the stories entertain as well as enlighten. Smart children, conniving children, and amusing children populate the pages of this collection, but mostly they are children who seem familiar and real.  [The] authors . . . have managed to capture the magic as well as the pain of the elementary years. Grade school never looked so good.”                                                       

Kirkus:  “Students will likely see themselves in these 10 appetizing stories about the ups and many downs of school life . . .  Unlike school cafeteria fare, this inviting buffet has something for everyone.”

San Diego Union Tribune:  “Lee Wardlaw wins for most original. In "The Desk," two students learn about missed opportunities when they allow the world's most mysterious student to slip out of their grip. Funny and true-to-life, this collection of school stories for the middle-grade reader is fantastic. (And adults will like them too.)”  “. . . this book is a winner. The stories – every one of them – are laugh-out-louders . . . There’s a delicious mystery (Lee Wardlaw’s “The Desk”) . . . [and] each story is followed by a “School Report,” in which readers discover the author’s favorite and least favorite classes, the best pranks he or she ever played, and the “worst smell at school,” among other things. This is a perfect back-to-school (or anytime) gift.”  

Detroit Free Press:  “ . . . deserves an A . . . “

ALAN Review:“In this collection of hilarious short stories, we get a double-dose of laughter, along with a side of goulash, served up by top-flight writers . . . “


First Grade

Second Grade

Fourth Grade

Sixth Grade

Lee’s School Report

Nickname in Elementary School: Lee-Pee

Favorite Subject:  The Three R’s:  Reading, ‘Riting & Recess!

Least Favorite Subject:  Math.  The first book I ever published for kids was called Me + Math = Headache!

Best Teacher Ever:  Mr. Cook. He took our sixth-grade class camping, let us decorate the classroom bulletin boards any way we wanted, and played Bill Cosby comedy records while we did seat work.

Favorite Cafeteria Meal:  My elementary school didn’t have a cafeteria, so everyday, for five years, I brought a sack lunch from home containing a bologna-and-mustard sandwich on white bread, an apple, a bag of barbecue potato chips, and a Hostess cupcake.  (I can’t stand bologna now!)

Worst Smell at School:  It’s a toss-up between my desk (which was a rat’s nest of old clay, dried-up Magic Markers, bologna sandwiches I never ate, and math tests with F’s on them) and the garbage cans on the playground oozing sour milk at the end of a hot day.

Meanest Thing Someone Ever Did to Me:  In fourth grade, I liked a boy named John Thomas. Not just liked liked.  LIKED like.  He found out, and to torture me he spent one entire recess chasing my best friend around the playground.  Back in those days, if a boy chased and teased a girl, it meant he liked her, so I was very jealous and very hurt.

Best Prank Ever Played:  Me?  Play a prank?  No, sorry.  I was a NICE girl. Then I grew up and wrote a book called 101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher.

The best time in gym was when:  “Best time in gym.” Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Best Field Trip Ever Taken:  To the McConnell’s ice cream factory. And yes, we got free samples!

Most Embarrassing Thing that Ever Happened to Me in School:  I’m too embarrassed to tell you!

Best Memory:  Singing with the girls in my rock ‘n’ roll group, The Shooting Stars, at the end-if-the-year school festival in sixth grade.