Written by Barbara Park, better known nowadays as the author of Junie B. Jones.
Maxie, Rosie and Earl are each the least popular kids in their respective classes. Maxie is the smartest kid in his fifth grade and is bullied for getting perfect grades. Earl is the opposite, awkward and clumsy, and is laughed at by his fifth grade class, which is in a different room. And Rosie is simply avoided by the other kids in her fourth grade class, for being a supreme tattletale.
One day, each of the three kids is sent to the principal's office for something they each did, something each of them didn't see as being "wrong". Through some luck, they discover that it's possible for them to ditch school and not get caught. Or is it? After hiding in the dumpster during a fire drill (Maxie's idea), then sneaking out of school once it's over, the kids then find they have another problem: they might have been seen! They try to work out what to do about this problem, and through doing so, grow to tolerate and like each other and become friends in the end.
Essentially a Slice of Life story with barely any actual plot to speak of, this book thrives on its humor and character interactions. Maxie, Rosie and Earl half argue, and half get along, their quirks making for some very fun interactions. And then there's the way they deal with other kids, like a kindergartner who may have seen them skip school...
Spawned a few spinoffs, resulting in The Geek Chronicles, none of which are as popular as the original. Originally was a standalone book.
This book contains examples of:
- All of the Other Reindeer: Maxie and Earl's problems.
- Butt-Monkey: Earl. Even the other two nerds laugh at him for some of the things he does, but stop when they see that it hurts his feelings. (He does get his chance to shine)
- Character Development: Surprisingly for such a short book, Rosie experiences this.
- Child Hater: The tattooed janitor who may have spotted the kids. He winks at them later, implying he knows they ditched school, but didn't tell.
- Fire-Forged Friends: The kids don't know each other at first, argue a lot for a while, but end up friends at the end.
- Genki Girl: The kindergartner who may have spotted the kids. She can skip! And she wants you to know about it!
- Knight Templar: Played for laughs. Rosie will tell on ANYONE for ANYTHING they do wrong, including her friends. I mean, her former friends. She also is about to tell on Maxie and Earl, but ends up joining them. She drops the tattling habit.
- Malaproper: The kindergartener who may have seen the kids ditch school. She's threatened later that the bogeyman will get her if she tells. She's entirely unfazed by the threat that the "Cookie Man" will get her.
- Odd Friendship: Intelligent nerd, awkward fat new kid, and tattletale.
- Slice of Life: The book is really more this than it is a detailed plot.
- Zany Scheme: What kickstarts it all, and makes the kids become friends.