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Literature / Macdonald Hall

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A series of novels written by Gordon Korman — the first as a project for his Grade Seven English class.

Bruno Walton and Melvin 'Boots' O'Neal are roommates at a prestigious boys' boarding school called Macdonald Hall,note  overseen by stern Headmaster William Sturgeon (known affectionately as 'The Fish'). The books generally feature the completely irrepressible — not to say irresponsible — Bruno trying to achieve some goal via a series of increasingly crazy plans, often getting the entire student body involved by the time he's done. The equally excitable Cathy Burton and her fellow students across the road at Miss Scrimmage's Finishing School for Young Ladies frequently work themselves into the mix as well. More cautious Boots spends much of his time trying to keep his friends in check, but it rarely has much of an effect.

Hilarity Ensues. Quite a lot of it, actually.

Books written in this series are as follows. The first is the original title (published in the late seventies/early eighties), the second is the republished title (published in the 2000s):

  • This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall/This Can't Be Happening!: The Fish declares that Bruno is a bad influence on Boots and therefore they can't be roommates any more. Cue determined scheming to be allowed to room together again, up to and including framing their new roommates as even worse influences.
  • Go Jump in the Pool!: Bruno is irritated that Macdonald Hall has no pool, unlike its rival York Academy. In fact, Boots' parents are thinking of pulling him from the Hall due to the poor athletic program. Bruno decides to solve all this by raising money to buy a pool.
  • Beware the Fish!: Due to budget problems, Macdonald Hall is in danger of closing down. Bruno's plan is to do something that will gain the Hall publicity.
  • The War With Mr.Wizzle/The Wizzle War: New assistant principal Mr. Wizzle and his cutting-edge computer program take charge at Macdonald Hall, instituting a dress code, forcing the students to write lines for punishment and generally annoying everyone. Even the Headmaster doesn't like the guy. Naturally, Bruno tries to find a way to get rid of him... and as it happens, Miss Scrimmage has just hired a new female advisor that her students are equally desperate to be rid of.
  • The Zucchini Warriors: Macdonald Hall acquires a football stadium as a gift from a local fried zucchini-stick millionaire and duly starts a football team — with a rather unorthodox quarterback.
  • Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood/Lights! Camera! Disaster!: Teen sensation Jordie Jones' latest film is being shot at Macdonald Hall, and Bruno is determined to be in it.
  • Something Fishy at Macdonald Hall/The Joke's on Us: There's a practical joker abroad at Macdonald Hall, but for once it's not Bruno and Boots... too bad the Fish isn't convinced. They must find the real joker before they end up expelled.

Despite the similar sounding name, there's no connection between this and Mac Hall the webcomic.

This series provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • There are quite a few scenes where Mr. Sturgeon lectures or rebukes the boys for some rebellious act but ends up smiling or laughing about it once they're out of sight (especially whenever it causes grief to Ms. Scrimmage, Mr. Wizzle, Headmaster Hartley of York Academy, or another one of his enemies).
    • In The War with Mr. Wizzle, Ms. Peabody's Worthy Opponent dynamics with Cathy cause her to take plenty of amusement from some of Cathy's antics (such as sending Mrs. Peabody a fake job offer asking her to move to Siberia).
  • Arranged Marriage: The solution to The Wizzle War.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: In Something Fishy, Bruno and Boots are on dishwashing duty when the dishwasher overflows because a prankster has overloaded it with detergent. Overwhelmed by the cascade of suds, Bruno yells, "Fire!" and everyone on the kitchen staff rushes in. The irritated chef points out that there is no fire, and Bruno defends himself by saying that nobody would have come if he had yelled "Bubbles!"
  • Being Personal Isn't Professional: What prevents the Fish from revealing his genuine affection for his students, especially Bruno and Boots.
  • Berserk Button: Mr. Wizzle from The Wizzle War seem to be good at pushing these.
    • Don't shorten Wilbur's last name or take away his food.
    • Leave Elmer's science experiments alone if you know what's good for you.
    • It's not a good idea to switch Chris out of his art courses.
    • Mark is the only one that touches the printing press.
    • It's also a bad idea to force Bruno to put on a tie, make him get up before 9am, and insult the school in his hearing. Be cautious about mentioning York Academy, too. And do not make fun of his lucky penny.
    • For a non-Wizzle example: Do not, under ANY circumstances, threaten the students of Miss Scrimmage's on her watch. Among other things, she has a shotgun.
      Miss Scrimmage: What do you mean coming over here in the middle of the night and frightening my sweet, innocent young girls?
      Police Officer: Lady, GODZILLA couldn't frighten these girls!
  • Big Eater: Wilbur Hackenschleimer is most well known for his huge appetite.
  • Bedtime Brainwashing: In The War With Mr. Wizzle, the girl students try to improve Miss Peabody's temper by playing motivational tapes while she sleeps. Unfortunately they just make Peabody even crankier because she's not sleeping properly.
  • Brick Joke: In the first chapter of the first book, Bruno and Boots replace the school's Canadian flag with the flag of Malbonia, which is confiscated by the Fish. Towards the end of the book, the Malbonian ambassador arrives at Macdonald Hall after Bruno and Boots rescue his son from a runaway hot air balloon. He wants to have a ceremony to reward them, but he's forgotten to bring a Malbonian flag. Fortunately, the Headmaster just happens to have one in his desk...
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': At the end of the day, no matter how beneficial their scheming turns out to be, Bruno and Boots usually get in trouble for it.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Myron "The Blabbermouth" Blankenship in The Zucchini Warriors. If he's not revealing embarrassing personal information about his fellow students, he's telling Mr. Sturgeon the details of whatever zany scheme is going on at the time. He eventually promises to stop being a blabbermouth. Then he gets hold of the scoreboard controls at a football game and starts using them to tell more secrets.
    Boots: We made him promise not to blab stuff — but we never said he couldn't spell it out in lights!
  • Cannot Talk to Women: Elmer Drimsdale's throat closes up around girls.
  • Celebrity Star: Played to the hilt with teen idol Jordie Jones in Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood. Bruno gets deeply annoyed by how excited the girls at Scrimmage's are to have Jordie in their midst.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: George Wexford-Smyth III plays an important rule in the first book, but only appears in the second to comment on how 'vulgar' their events are (not knowing what is going on) He manages to invest all the money Bruno and Boots made beforehand into Lorelei Mining, giving them more than enough (around 2 million in the old copy of the book or around 65 thousand in the 2003 version) to build a pool.)
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Boots finds out that his little brother was sneaking into Miss Scrimmage's finishing school for girls to get math tutoring from Elmer's crush. The Reveal also comes with Miss Scrimmage knocking out the power in both schools. As they're cleaning up in the dark, Boots asks why his idiot brother didn't just tell them. They would have asked Elmer to tutor him, since he practically invented math.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: When Bruno and Boots kidnap York Academy's mascot (a large domestic cat) before the first hockey game of the season, it scratches Boots' face. The coach later asks about the scratch, and Boots invokes this trope.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mr. Sturgeon usually turns into one of these when he's forced to deal with the flighty Miss Scrimmage.
  • Dean Bitterman: Mr. Wizzle has shades of this, when faced with the fact that some students are attempting to subvert the micromanaging regimen to which he is subjecting the school. Once Bruno, being the obvious ringleader, has accumulated a certain amount of demerits, Wizzle recommends he be expelled immediately. Here Mr. Sturgeon puts his foot down and vetoes the request.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Miss Peabody. An ex-Marine initially described by Cathy as a cruel and heartless woman, she later warms up a bit when she falls in love with Wizzle.
  • Disqualification Induced Loss: Happens twice to Macdonald Hall due to ineligible players, first with Cathy on the football team, then with Jordie Jones on the hockey team.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Cathy and Diane to Bruno and Boots. Cathy, like Bruno, is the dominant leader who has a penchant for causing trouble. In The War with Mr. Wizzle, they're easily the ones to accumulate the most punishments from their new teachers. Diane and Boots,meanwhile, are the long-suffering betas who despite their best efforts to keep their respective best friends in line, usually just end up caught in their antics.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Bruno inadvertently does this in Beware the Fish!. He thinks he's just amusing himself by using Elmer's transmitter to spout rambling messages about "the Fish" (usually coded references to Mr. Sturgeon). In reality, he's actually broadcasting them on all the televisions in the surrounding town, and causing havoc for affiliates and viewers alike.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Being called by his real first name is something of a Berserk Button for Boots in the first book, but that pretty much disappears in ensuing titles. The last time it comes up is as a throwaway line of dialogue in the last book.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Again, Miss Peabody, ex-Marine Corpsnote  and damn proud of it.
  • Earthquake Machine: Naturally, Elmer has a minor one already built to stick in Wizzle's home to freak him out.
  • Easily Forgiven: Elmer forgives Bruno for the campaign that involves Bruno messing with his personal property, including his projects and even gives him a goldfish as a parting present. Later on, in The Zucchini Warriors, he becomes more firm about not going along with Bruno's hairbrained schemes.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Boots' real name is Melvin.
  • Fictional Country: "Malbonia" in the first book.
  • Get Out!: In The War with Mr. Wizzle, The eponymous Dean Bitterman tries to cure Sidney of his clumsiness by enrolling him in a ballet class at the neighboring finishing school. After he wrecks the gym and injures a few students while trying out a dance step, Ms. Peabody carries him out of the building by the scruff of his pants, throws him into the road (after making sure no cars are nearby), and yells, "Now beat it! And don't come back."
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: In Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood, an American child star sneaks onto the hockey team of the Canadian boarding school during a game and gets hit in the eye with the puck at the very end. As he sits in the hospital, his manager screams, "It had to be my client to get hit with the ball!"
  • Horrible Camping Trip: The students go on the mandatory "Die in the Woods" camping trip in Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood. It really does become a matter of wilderness survival when their supplies end up in the lake.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Sidney and Wilbur don't appear until book 2 (Go Jump in a Pool), but are among the first characters many fans think of decades after the final book.
  • Induced Hypochondria: Boots does this to George in the first book. (Note that George is already a hypochondriac; Boots just takes advantage of it.)
  • Intoxication Ensues: In the first book, Miss Scrimmage accidentally drinks spiked punch at a dance, leading her to drag a horrified Mr. Sturgeon onto the dance floor and do the funky chicken. In Beware The Fish!, Elmer invents a cure for the common cold, Bruno and Boots slip it into Coach Flynn's sports drink... unfortunately, the combination of ingredients has a predictable effect.
    • Miss Peabody and Mr. Wizzle, both non drinkers, polish off at least two bottles of wine at dinner as well as several liqueurs. By the end of the night they're both blackout drunk.
  • Invented Individual - In The War with Mr. Wizzle, the protagonists create a fictitious student named Gavin Gunhold to mess with the school's new administration. Mr. Sturgeon finally puts an end to it when Mr. Wizzle comes to him, and Mr. Sturgeon can't lie. The name becomes a running gag in many of Korman's later books. Gavin Gunhold (sometimes G. Gavin Gunhold) is mentioned, usually in passing, always as an incidental character who never actually appears (unless you count imposters posing as him).
  • Last-Name Basis: It's customary for the Macdonald Hall teachers to address students by their last names.
  • Layman's Terms:
    • As a mild Running Gag, resident genius Elmer is frequently asked to translate what he just said.
      Elmer: (explaining a side effect of his cold cure) There is a reaction rather similar to the ingestion of large quantities of alcoholic beverages.
      Bruno: Elmer, speak English!
      Elmer: Mr. Flynn is drunk.
    • And:
      Elmer: Sir, you have three fractured metatarsals.
      Bruno: Elmer, speak English!
      Elmer: Mr. Flynn has a broken foot.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: When it comes to Miss Scrimmage vs. Miss Peabody, Cathy and Diane prefer the former. So do the rest of the girls at the finishing school. The worst that Miss Scrimmage will do is wave her shotgun around in defense of the girls. Miss Peabody makes them do military exercises in the rain. When their pranks and schemes fail, Cathy and Bruno agree there is one solution: pair up Mr. Wizzle and Miss Peabody.
  • Logical Latecomer: Mr. Wizzle as a man with a computer and ideas on how to change Macdonald Hall. Only problem? All of his ideas make everyone miserable since he doesn't take their feelings into account.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • After Cathy is discovered moonlighting on the football team in The Zucchini Warriors, they attempt to argue that there's no rule saying girls can't play. The referee points out that there is a rule saying that all the players in the school team have to be students at the school.
    • In The War with Mr. Wizzle Mr. Sturgeon tells Bruno and Boots that they can't form the Committee, a tiny resistance group within the Hall, since they're sabotaging Mr. Wizzle. So they form the Coalition, with Cathy and Diane, to help them get rid of Miss Peabody. Mr. Sturgeon does call them out, however, since without the girls you just have the Committee.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Miss Scrimmage will come after you with her shotgun in hand if you endanger her students.
    • Mrs. Sturgeon has her moments too. When her husband goes too far with punishing the boys she tears him a new one.
  • Meaningful Name: Miss Scrimmage. Comes in particularly handy in The Zucchini Warriors, when the cheerleaders use the name "The Line of Scrimmage".
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: In The Zucchini Warriors, Calvin Fizhgart (who has given himself the nickname The Beast) gets a bruised elbow in the first play of the first game. He then insists that it's actually a compound fracture and walks around with his arm in a sling for nine weeks.
  • Mistaken Identity: Bruno and Boots try to force this by pretending to be George Wexford-Smyth III and Elmer Drimsdale in order to frame them for a panty-raid at Scrimmage's in This Can't Be Happening! The Fish is not fooled. Later played completely straight in Go Jump In the Pool when Wilbur sells Miss Scrimmage's shotgun at the garage sale, and she gets arrested for armed robbery later that night.
  • Not a Morning Person: Bruno. His usual routine is to sleep in as long as possible and then make a frantic effort to get to class on time.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Mr. Wizzle decides to send Sidney Rampulsky to take ballet lessons at Miss Scrimmage's in the hope that this will make him less clumsy. Sidney tries to argue with Mr. Wizzle about this, but given that he falls out of his chair and bumps into a desk during the conversation...
  • Not Me This Time: The premise for Something Fishy- there's a prankster loose on campus, and it's obvious to everyone that it's Bruno and Boots again. Except it's not them.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Bruno when Cathy claims to be Elmer to play on the football field. Also when he finds out that his fish rants have been broadcasting all over town.
    • Mr. Sturgeon when he realizes his wife has a hat with owl feathers identical to the prankster's.
  • One-Gender School: Macdonald Hall is an all-boys school, Miss Scrimmage's is an all-girls school.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Boots's real name is Melvin, but nobody calls him that — except for George, who insists that "nicknames are vulgar".
  • Only Sane Man: Boots is a level-headed student who is always trying to keep Bruno on the leash.
  • Opposites Attract: There's never any explanation to how Bruno and Boots became such good friends amid all the driving each other crazy. Also makes them a classic, albeit mild, example of Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Panty Thief: Bruno and Boots try to frame Elmer and George for a panty raid.
  • Parental Substitute: The students of Macdonald Hall treat Mr. Sturgeon and his wife like this. When Mr. Sturgeon gets surgery on an ingrown toenail, Bruno and his friends sneak out to see him in the hospital because they thought the surgery was serious and they wouldn't get to see him again. The Fish is annoyed but also touched by the gesture.
  • Planet of Hats: Miss Scrimmage's girls are an army of uncontrolled hellions, with Cathy Burton being the worst of the bunch.
  • Pom-Pom Girl:
    • The students at the neighboring finishing school act as spirited cheerleaders for the football and hockey teams (although they go on strike over an argument with the boys in the fifth book) and provide their friends with plenty of help with Zany Schemes outside of games.
    • In The Zucchini Warriors, a group of cheerleaders from an opposing team are Graceful Losers and have pizza with the opposing team.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: As part of a campaign to be so annoying he'll get kicked out of his new room, Boots deliberately uses three of George's mint 1886 Queen Victoria Canadian stamps to mail a letter to his mother.
  • Pride Before a Fall: Another Running Gag. Bruno confidently assures Boots that they won't get caught sneaking out of school, or that the Fish has no idea what mischief they've been up to. This practically guarantees that in the next few pages, Bruno and Boots will be caught sneaking out of school, or the Fish will summon them to his office because he knows exactly what mischief they've been up to.
  • Pushover Parents: Miss Scrimmage is a non-biological example of this. Whenever there's a riot or some other kind of disturbance involving students from both schools, she always insists (despite all evidence to the contrary) that her girls are totally blameless and that the boys have been "terrorizing" them.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr. Sturgeon, despite the stern and unforgiving image he wants to impart to his students. It's shown best in The War With Mr. Wizzle where he doesn't intervene in the students' plots to shoo away the title character unless it's absolutely necessary or they've been caught. Case in point, he and the teachers know that Gavin Gunhold isn't real, but he doesn't tell Mr. Wizzle until the latter asks him, and then points out neither of them can't expel the students that maintained the lie because it would practically be the whole school body. Then he summons Bruno and Boots, gives them a lecture, and assigns them an essay each as punishment.
  • Recurring Extra: A few Macdonald Hall students like Rob Adams, Marvin Trimble, Gary Potts, and Mortimer Day recur throughout the second and third books and get occasional mentions elsewhere, but are never fleshed out much and mainly appear for quick Butt-Monkey moments of misfortune.
  • Rich Bitch: George Wexford-Smyth is a male version of this, occasionally developing more depth and then going back to being mostly a jerk.
  • Rousing Speech: Bruno has a knack for these ("Our world is crumbling around us!") However, people who have known Bruno for a long time aren't particularly roused by his speeches because they're so predictable. At the beginning of The War With Mr. Wizzle, Boots and a few other students imagine how Bruno will react when he hears about the school's new dress code. Wilbur thinks he'll rant about how their world is crumbling around them, and Larry thinks he'll complain about the sanctity of Macdonald Hall being threatened. Sure enough, Bruno says both of these things when he finds out about the dress code.
  • Save Our Team: Subverted: Coach Hank doesn't work miracles on a bunch of sports-apathetic Canadian boys, the girl from the school next door does. Arguably, Kevin Klapper plays this trope straight.
  • School for Scheming: Local law enforcement suspects Macdonald Hall of being this in Beware The Fish.
  • Serious Business: As per Miss Peabody's hard-line attitude, the war games she organizes at Miss Scrimmage's in The Wizzle War end up involving fortresses, traps, (water) guns, and (water) balloons. Even pouring rain and fog don't hold them back.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: Bruno's determination to get on-camera constantly interferes with the filming of Academy Blues in Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood. His attempts to befriend Jordie Jones to the same purpose also lead to trouble.
  • Signs of Disrepair: In This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, Miss Scrimmage accidentally shoots her "Miss Scrimmage's Finishing School for Young Ladies" sign, changing the word "Finishing" to "Fishing". Mr. Sturgeon acridly tells her that she should start teaching her students fishing because they certainly aren't learning any manners.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: Miss Scrimmage and her shotgun.
  • Straw Critic: The last few pages of Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood feature a film critic who hasn't liked a single thing he's ever seen in his whole life... until he happens to watch the video tape Mark made that randomly captured all of the crazy events that took place during the class wilderness campout. Which, of course, the critic immediately declares to be brilliant.
  • Students Playing Matchmaker: In The War With Mr. Wizzle, the new assistant principal Mr. Wizzle is making life hell for the students with his ruthless computerized efficiency. On learning the neighbouring girls school Scrimmage's Finishing School for Young Ladies also has a new assistant principal, Miss Peabody, who is a Drill Sergeant Nasty who is running the school like a boot camp, the two student bodies join forces in an attempt to get rid of the two annoying assistants by getting them married off to each other.
  • Sudden School Uniform: Not a true uniform, but a dress code mandating shirts and ties, is only the first change introduced by assistant headmaster Mr. Wizzle in The War With Mr. Wizzle; by the end of the novel, when he - and Miss Peabody at Miss Scrimmage's - have left the school mid-school year due to the students' combined efforts, the dress code has been cancelled, or at any rate is no longer being enforced, together with all of Mr. Wizzle's other changes. Played with in The Wizzle War (the film version): Macdonald Hall already has uniforms to begin with, such as are typical at an elite private school. What Mr. Wizzle (portrayed in this version as a utilitarian minimalist) introduces are uniform overall suits, such as would be worn in an industrial facility - or a jail.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver:
    • Cathy does this in order to join the football team in The Zucchini Warriors.
    • Elmer later poses as a cheerleader, and as a terrible one because he's not wearing his glasses.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: As noted above, Myron Blankenship is constantly spreading gossip about his fellow students, such as who has dandruff and who writes love poems to a teacher at Miss Scrimmage's. Bruno gets revenge by announcing over the PA system that Myron sleeps with a stuffed hyena named Arnold.
  • Teen Genius: Elmer Drimsdale
  • The Teetotaler: Coach Flynn, when Elmer's not dosing him at least.
  • Terrified of Germs: George Wexford-Smyth III. He sterilizes his dorm room with rubbing alcohol every other day and he keeps a huge supply of medicines in the bathroom. In the first book, he puts up a quarantine screen and sprays disinfectant everywhere just because Boots sneezed a few times when he woke up.
  • This Is My Side: After Bruno and Boots have a huge fight in The War With Mr. Wizzle, Bruno divvies up the room and refuses to talk to Boots. (He does permit him to use the bathroom, though.)
    Boots: "How come the bathroom and the closet are in your half? Not to mention the door."
    Bruno: "First come, first served. You can use all three. Especially the door."
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Mr. Sturgeon doesn't like Mr. Wizzle, but he can't condone the students rising up against Mr. Wizzle. Instead he just steps back and doesn't stop the students unless Mr. Wizzle comes to him directly, forcing him to exercise his authority.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Cathy's not evil, but she's definitely the most amoral of the main characters, often causing trouble for personal amusement, and she even screws the boys over on occasion.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Zucchini sticks in The Zucchini Warriors, but only for the Manchurian bush hamsters. Everyone else, including Hank the guy who owns the zucchini stick company, hates to eat them.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: The York Academy swim team at the beginning of Go Jump In The Pool! They win the tournament by a wide margin and then refuse to shake hands with the Macdonald Hall team as sports etiquette dictates they should.
  • Work Off the Debt: Happens to Bruno and Boots when their schemes to be reunited in This Can't be Happening! start costing the school money. It also happens many times in the subsequent novels. In Something Fishy at Macdonald Hall, a kitchen employee says that he loves when Bruno and Boots get dish-washing duty because they're highly skilled at it thanks to all their experience.
  • Writing Lines: Mr Wizzle introduces lines as a standardized universal punishment. The students retaliate by picking a handful to write everybody's lines for them, giving the other students time to sabotage Wizzle's computer, make an Invented Individual, and so on. By contrast, Mr. Sturgeon, whose power the students respect, disapproves of lines and prefers to impose lengthy essays as punishment.
  • You Are Grounded!: Happens to Bruno and Boots a lot. It's not a terribly effective form of discipline, though; Bruno and Boots usually manage to sneak out of school while they're grounded.

Alternative Title(s): Bruno And Boots