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Literature / Regarding The

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The cover of Regarding the Fountain

The Regarding The... series is a pentalogy of children's books written by Kate Klise and illustrated by her sister, M. Sara Klise. It consists of Regarding the Fountain, Regarding the Sink, Regarding the Trees, Regarding the Bathrooms, and Regarding the Bees. It's told entirely in letters, official documents, transcripts, newspaper clippings, and the like.

The series focuses on the students and staff of Dry Creek (later Geyser Creek) Middle School in Missouri, and their frequent correspondence with famous fountain designer and world traveler Florence Waters. Each book has a similar plot: Florence is contacted to help with something at the school, she undergoes correspondence with the staff as well as the kids of Mr. Sam N.'s class, all while a nefarious plot (that the kids invariably end up uncovering) brews in the background. Side plots include the relationship developing between Sam and school secretary Goldie Fisch, Florence's attempts to get the by-the-book principal Walter Russ to lighten up, and various others that change from book to book.


Regarding the Tropes

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  • Adults Are Useless: Outside of a few exceptions, pretty much every adult in the series is either useless or a villain, leaving it up to the kids in Sam N.'s class to fix everything.
  • Arc Words: Each book has a few of these:
    • Fountain: Springs, creeks, geysers, leaks, water, and fountains.
    • Sink: Mottos, sinks, sinkholes, beans, and basins.
    • Trees: Trees, roots, leaves, limbs, marriage, and rings.
    • Bathrooms: Spas, bathrooms, Latin, moles, and stress.
    • Bees: Bees, honey, wax, spelling, hearing, and dates.
  • Blithe Spirit: Florence Waters; her interactions with Dry/Geyser Creek ultimately make the town a more fun place to live in, and she encourages several people (most notably Principal Russ) to loosen up.
  • Character Development: As the series goes on, Walter Russ learns to loosen up in regards to his school.
  • Cool School: Dry/Geyser Creek Middle School becomes one over the course of the series. It's got a beautiful fountain connected to a natural geyser with its own ecosystem, a cafeteria sink that doubles as an art installation and aquarium, a giant baobab tree in the hallway that's also a warning system, cafe, and apartment, a Roman spa in the basement, and an apiary on the roof. On top of that, the students have constant correspondence with a well-loved celebrity.
  • Cool Teacher: Sam N., who always seems to be able to come up with ideas to make learning fun and wholeheartedly accepts any gifts sent in by Florence.
  • Epistolary Novel: Told through letters, articles, and other documents.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Expect one in each book, usually based around whatever Florence is helping with.
  • Kid Detective: Sam N.'s students are a group of these, uncovering pretty much every scheme seen in the books. Lily and Paddy take this to its logical conclusion in the fourth book, forming a detective agency and solving a smuggling ring case that had Interpol stumped.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Florence is this for the orderly and uptight Walter Russ, given the Ship Tease that abounds between the two.
  • Punny Name: The series rivals the Ace Attorney games in the sheer number of characters with puns for names it has.
  • Scrapbook Story: All the books are composed of letters, newspaper clippings, official documents, transcripts, and the like; the first one notes that they were assembled by Sam N.'s class.
  • Spoiler Cover: All the books in the series have covers that show off whatever improvement was made to Dry/Geyser Creek Middle School at the end.
  • Those Two Guys: Lily and Paddy, two of Sam N.'s students, are almost never seen apart. Pretty much all their letters are written together.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: Zig-zagged with the Dry/Geyser Creek Gazette; it's equally likely to run stories on important elections as it is on an elderly woman moving into a senior citizen’s home.

    Regarding the Fountain 
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's mentioned that town historian Liz Ard lost most of the documents dating back to Dry Creek's days as Spring Creek, and that she's Sally Mander's sister. Whether she "lost" them on purpose to help cover up her sister's crimes is unknown.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Sally Mander and Delbert "Dee" Eel, who are trying to prevent the overhaul of the school fountain because it's covering up the spring/geyser that they're tapping for their respective businesses.
  • Broken Bird: Years of bad business thanks to the lack of free-flowing water have left beautician Pearl one of these. She bounces back once the water returns.
  • Caught on Tape: While packing up the gifts Florence sent them, the students find out that one of the tape recorders is missing. They later find the tape recorder, discover that it was on all this time, listen to what it recorded...and hear a conversation between Mander and Eel regarding the spring under the fountain.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The cameras and tape recorders that Florence sends the fifth graders end up helping them uncover how Mander and Eel have been conning the town.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: "Dee" Eel sells water to the citizens of Dry Creek at exorbitant prices and actively controls the water flow so that only he and Sally can tap from the spring/geyser.
  • Dying Town: Dry Creek is one. It used to be a popular tourist destination due to its natural springs and creeks, but then they dried up, leaving the town with no choice but to buy their water and leading to businesses closing or moving to the town next door. The return of natural, free-flowing water ends up saving it in the end.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • It's implied in the book that Sam has a crush on Florence, while later books would hook him up with Goldie Fisch and give Florence plenty of Ship Tease with Mr. Russ.
    • The students have different fonts for their handwriting than they do in later books; most notably, Lily writes in what would eventually become Minnie's handwriting.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: While he's not exactly evil, the school attorney works for a firm called "Sharks, Sharks, and Sharks" and has a phone number ending in "GO4BLOOD".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In one of her letters to the class, Florence mentions how curious it is that the creek dried up the same year the middle school opened. It's not a coincidence; the school was built specifically to stop the spring from flowing.
    • The picture of "Dee" Eel's office that the students take includes a water routing map. Every pipe is capped off except for the ones leading to the company and Mander's pool.
    • When the class is looking up one of the words Florence used in her letters, we see two other words on the same dictionary page: "geyser" and "ghastly". The first word ends up important to the climax; the second handily describes how terrible the villains' plan is.
  • Sequel Hook: The book ends with Principal Russ contacting Florence to see if she does sinks.
  • Slippery Skid: Principal Russ ends up skidding on the puddle formed by the leaking fountain.
  • Title Drop: One of Mander's letters to Eel ends with the line "Would you please keep me updated on where we are? Regarding the fountain, I mean."

    Regarding the Sink 
  • All for Nothing: Sam is fully aware that his class' quest to find Florence could be wasted given that her last letter said she was going aboard the doomed S.S. Sinkiang, but doesn't want to crush their hopes. Fortunately, she's still alive.
  • America Saves the Day: While Ergass and Silkscreen's crimes mostly occur in China, the local government doesn't seem to be interested in investigating; it takes a group of American students to expose them.
    • That said, considering one of the parties involved is a United States Senator, it's entirely possible she and/or Silkscreen bribed Chinese officials to get them out of the way, which could at least partially explain the lack of involvement.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the end, Ergass is charged with violating international laws, assisting Silkscreen in his animal abuse, and fabricating the letters found in her advice column.
  • Ascended Extra: Ima Crabbie only appeared once in the previous book as an unsatisfied customer at the Curl and Twirl, but has a far larger role in this book. It ultimately becomes A Death in the Limelight.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The natural gas that GASP has been advocating for is this. It's an effective fuel source, but it explodes when improperly stored and has a stench so bad it wrecks the environment.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Ergass and Silkscreen's plans involve working cows heavily in a sweatshop, dyeing and air-dropping living carp, and they indirectly killed numerous other fish via the gas they produced.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Senator Sue Ergass and Snedley P. Silkscreen. Sue's been using the supposed endangerment of a fake species to get people to send beans to China so the cows in Snedley's sweatshop can eat them; he, in turn, uses the resultant natural (and dangerous) gas to fuel the AIR-igate planes, netting him more cash, which he then uses to support Sue's campaign.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: A filler ad in the newspaper sections is for Glum Gum, which advertises oddities such as liver and burnt toast-flavored gum.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Senator Ergass has "Because I said so!", which is also the name of her advice column.
    • Principal Russ ends up repeating "no and no" a lot when talking to Sam.
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's mentioned that one of Senator Ergass' defining characteristics is the white gloves she wears everywhere. She's using them to hide the dye stains on her hands.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: As part of her sentencing, Ergass must answer letters in a real advice column and undergo the all-bean diet she forced on schools, while Silkscreen is being held in a converted AIR-igate plane and made to work hard labor on a dairy farm guarded by trained attack cows.
  • Corrupt Politician: Senator Sue Ergass cuts 90% of the school's funds, forcing them to let go of a number of staff members. And that's before we learn about the joint operation she's running with Silkscreen.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Everyone derides Principal Russ' investments into Rainy-Day Rainwear as a waste of money, since AIR-igate, Inc. is essentially rendering the need for raincoats moot. Then AIR-igate ends up closing down due to scandals, and Russ' raincoat shares end up netting him over a hundred thousand dollars.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Ima Crabbie starts off the book with a personality befitting her name, but her interactions with Sam N.'s class help her lighten up.
  • Driving Question: Where did Florence go? Answer: after inhaling the fumes created by AIR-igate, she fell and got trapped in a sinkhole. She spent the following months surviving on aquatic weeds and grasses and writing a book.
  • Endangered Species: Senator Ergass often campaigns to help the Sinkiang Blinking Spotted Suckerfish, a species of fish in China that's going extinct because the people eating them apparently don't have another source of protein (hence all the beans she's sending them). In actuality, the species never existed in the first place; she's just been painting ordinary carps with spots and air-dropping them over China, and all the beans she's gotten are being fed to the cows in Silkscreen's sweatshop.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Several times throughout the book, it's mentioned that, thanks to shortages, milk prices are on the rise. Turns out, this is because Silkscreen's cow sweatshop has been leaving few cows to produce milk.
    • One "Investor's Corner" installment mentions how a dye producer's stocks have been rising. It's because of how much dye Senator Ergass has been using.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Principal Russ. He publicly opposes the class' trip to China and even threatens to fire Sam N. if he goes through with it, but was the one who made the anonymous $100,000 bid on Florence's letter so the class could take it in the first place.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Goldie believes that Sam would never notice her, considering he's got the more "exotic" Florence to talk to. She's wrong.
  • I Have No Son!: Ima flat-out tells Principal Russ that, thanks to him screwing up with investing her savings, he's not allowed to call her "Mom" anymore. She ultimately takes it back before she dies.
  • Interrupted Declaration of Love: Sam tries to send Goldie a love confession while in China, but gets interrupted by the students, who attach a recording of their conversation with Sue Ergass to the message.
  • Irony: Ima Crabbie spends the book berating her son for buying stock in raincoats when the safer (and more profitable) option is AIR-igate. After Silkscreen's arrest, AIR-igate's stock tanks so badly that she dies penniless, while Russ is left over a hundred thousand dollars richer because raincoat stocks bounced back up.
  • MacGuffin: The letter from Florence recovered from the wreckage of the S.S. Sinkiang. It's what may possibly be the last letter Florence wrote to her friends in Geyser Creek, and so the students auction it off to fund their search for her.
  • Painting the Frost on Windows: AIR-igate, Inc. aims to be a more modern take on this, allowing people to "schedule" rain showers so that rain won't interrupt important events. They achieve this by using airplanes fueled with gas created by cows in sweatshops to drop biodegradable balloons filled with water on designated locations.
  • Running Gag: Various characters picking out their mottos and Russ' attempts to get Sam to use BEAN-mail.
  • Sequel Hook: The book ends with Sam and Russ discussing bringing Florence on to another project at the middle school, and introduces two characters who'll become prominent in the next book — Chef Angelo and Justin Case.
  • Shipper on Deck: Florence's "must find precious gold for Sam" note? She meant "gold" as in "Goldie".
  • Stock "Yuck!": The students have a distaste for beans, not helped by them being forced onto the school lunch menu by Senator Ergass' budget-cutting policies.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The first newspaper seen in the book has an article on how the S.S. Sinkiang blew up, and later on the cafeteria sink gets blown off the wall. It turns out this is because the gas created from the beans Ergass has been providing schools and AIR-igate serves as an incendiary.
  • White Man's Burden: Ergass' entire "send beans to China so that the Chinese people will stop eating an endangered species" campaign smacks of this trope. She's actually invoking it — her entire plan hinges on Americans feeling the need to help these poor, backwards non-Americans by sending beans to the drive, allowing her to aid Silkscreen's cow sweatshop business.

    Regarding the Trees 
  • Accidental Proposal: Principal Russ sends a letter to Florence asking for a proposal for the tree project ("I need a proposal from you") and tells her it's fine if she wants to call him about it ("just give me a ring"). Florence, after confirming this isn't a joke, assumes he wants to marry her. Hijinks ensue.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Minnie O. gets the most individual focus out of everyone in Sam N.'s class.
  • Ascended Extra: Angel Fisch officially makes the leap from minor character to major supporting character.
  • Butt-Monkey: Justin Case, whose emergency phone tree plans are being constantly derailed by the town's feud and eventually canned altogether due to overuse.
  • Exact Words: When asked to use the phone tree to call each other, Sam and Goldie say they won't call each other. It's assumed this is because of the feud the town's caught up in, but it turns out they're worried about tying up the phone lines with their flirting.
  • Feud Episode: Pretty much everyone in town is feuding, and it's all centered around the rivalry between Angel and Angelo.
  • Foreshadowing: Sam trying to get his class to work together despite the gender feud is an early indicator that he (and consequently, Goldie) aren't all that invested in it.
  • Girls vs. Boys Plot: The cafe vs. caffe feud is largely divided by the gender lines, with the women supporting Angel and the men supporting Angelo.
  • Happily Adopted: It's revealed that Minnie O. was adopted when she was a baby.
  • Hypocrite: Despite actively participating in the gender feud Geyser Creek is embroiled in, Sam tries to get the kids to cooperate with each other and not fight based on that. Tad is quick to call him out on it. It's an early sign that he isn't really invested in the feud.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Sam N.'s class decides to pull an April Fool's Day prank on him and Goldie, hoping that it will end with them having a happy date together. However, they forget to decide where they should have them go, with "Sam" asking Goldie to go to Angel's cafe and "Goldie" asking Sam to go to Angelo's. The result? They each think the other stood them up, a fight ensues (or so we're led to believe), and it merges with the feud between Angel and Angelo, which in turn causes the entire town to feud. Whoops.
  • No Antagonist: The closest thing there is to an antagonist in the book is Leif Blite, who's just doing his job — otherwise, the plot is largely focused on the conflicts between Geyser Creek's residents.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Mild, but Minnie wishes she could learn more about her biological family. Her research into the Maids of May ends up accidentally uncovering her family history.
  • Puppy Love: Gil and Shelly end up falling for each other, though the town feud complicates things.
  • Secret Legacy: Minnie's family tree is heavily connected to Geyser Creek's history — most notably, the Maids of May.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end, Principal Russ is selected to host the annual Society of Principals and Administrators (SPA) conference and told to ask Florence for help, setting up the plot of Regarding the Bathrooms.
  • Shout-Out: One of the letters Goldie sends Florence has a stamp with a picture of Sadie Hawkins on it.
  • Soapbox Sadie: After learning the history of Geyser Creek's trees, Minnie starts doing her best to protect them — especially the willow tree Principal Russ wants to chop down.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: After Russ and Florence call off their wedding, Sam and Goldie take the opportunity to get married, as do Angel and Angelo.
  • You No Take Candle: Angelo's letters and speech have shades of this, as English isn't his first language.

    Regarding the Bathrooms 
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's revealed that Liz Ard did hide some important documents during her sister's time conning the town, though whether or not she "lost" the Spring Creek documents mentioned in the first book goes unmentioned.
  • Ascended Extra: Town historian Liz Ard and police officer Sting Ray were only briefly mentioned in the first book; here, their roles are expanded on heavily.
  • Awful Wedded Life: A combination of Angel not being used to co-running a cafe and the disastrous reception of Cafe Florence has led to her and Angelo's wedded life becoming this. When Angelo finally manages to salvage the cafe's reputation, their marriage is fixed.
  • Big Bad: Sting Ray frees Mander and Eel and makes them help with his antiquities smuggling ring, all while planning to frame Florence for the crime.
  • Black Market: The main villain is smuggling various Roman antiques he found in Geyser Creek through the black market.
  • The Bus Came Back: Sally Mander and Dee Eel become prominent again after a mention in the second book and being absent from the third.
  • Chekhov's Gag: A recurring annoyance for Sam N. throughout the book is the fact that moles keep digging up his garden and eating his vegetables. It's not moles — it was Mander and Eel, who'd been using the garden to keep themselves fed while hiding from the law.
  • Dead Sparks: Sam fears this is happening with his and Goldie's relationship; she seems to get sick around him more often than she used to. Turns out the sickness is just because she's pregnant.
  • Demoted to Dragon: Mander and Eel, the Big Bad Duumvirate of the first book, are demoted to assisting Sting Ray in his schemes.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Sheriff Rell has a fondness for Angel Fisch's glazed donuts.
  • Foreshadowing: Eagle-eyed readers will quickly notice that the capital "S" in the signature on the letter Mander supposedly wrote and the capital "S" in Sting Ray's signature look exactly the same.
  • Fountain of Youth: One allegedly exists in Geyser Creek, which is why Ard, Mander, and Eel went there in the first place. Pearl O. Ster also refers to her salon as a metaphorical one.
  • Frame-Up: Sting Ray both implies that Sheriff Rell could be helping Mander and Eel out and accuses Florence of smuggling antiquities. He’s the guilty party on both counts.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Tad becomes this under Annette Trap's guidance.
  • Just a Kid: Sheriff Rell refuses to let Lily and Paddy help locate Mander and Eel on this basis, despite the fact that they're two of the kids who got the criminals locked away in the first place. Hugh Dunnit also dismisses them from the antiquities case once he learns their ages on this basis. Naturally, Lily and Paddy are the ones who figure out the scheme in the end, humbling everyone involved.
  • Lethal Chef: He isn't normally this, but Chef Angelo's attempts at making meals using the ingredients he accidentally ordered end in failure. The earthquake caused by the Jawlseedat Mountain erupting ended up helping him finally find a way to make something edible — namely, chicken mole.
  • Meaningful Name: The Jawlseedat mountain. "Jawlseedat" is pronounced like "y'all see that?", a statement that reflects everyone's surprise when it erupts.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: While his teacher is having marriage woes, Tad spots Goldie walking with a muscular man and having the time of her life. It’s never stated who the man is, but given the book's ending, it's likely that Goldie wasn't cheating on Sam.
  • The Mole: Discussed; Lily and Paddy wonder if Sheriff Rell's incompetency is a front and he's helping Mander and Eel. An interview with Tad confirms that he isn't. It's later discovered that Sting Ray is.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: At one point, it's thought that Mander and Eel had died after escaping jail when a few random bones are dug up. A DNA test is able to prove that the bones belonged to someone else, and it's later revealed they’re alive and well.
  • Retcon: In the first book, Mander and Eel's motives for conning Geyser Creek weren't expanded beyond petty greed. Here, it's revealed that they had another motive — searching for the Fountain of Youth after Mander's sister revealed it might be there.
  • Running Gag: Latin words getting mentioned and then defined.
  • Sequel Hook: Sam N. is made acting principal when Russ leaves to share his new management philosophies with other principals, and Sam asks Florence to act as a substitute teacher for his class, setting up the events of Regarding The Bees.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • Russ' handwriting is deliberately sloppy, a sign of how badly his diarrhea is affecting him.
    • Many of the newspaper articles this time around are being written by Tad; as such, he makes plenty of beginner's mistakes, and the editor adds footnotes to correct him. It hits its peak with the third to last newspaper — with Trap out of town and a number of major reveals hitting Geyser Creek, Tad has to scrap the mock-up paper she left him and write and edit a new one entirely from scratch. The results are sloppy, to say the least.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Angel and Angelo spent the entirety of the last book feuding with each other before getting married. Naturally, they still have a number of bumps to traverse before they can even have a stable relationship; their subplot in this book is focused on this.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: After escaping, Mander (actually Ray) leaves a note stating that her sister Liz Ard had nothing to do with it.
  • Tempting Fate: Early on, Florence tells Russ that he shouldn't worry so much — after all, nothing bad ever happens in Geyser Creek. The next page shows a police bulletin revealing that Sally Mander and Dee Eel have just escaped from jail.
  • Toilet Humor: Naturally, most of the puns in this book are based around bathrooms and bathroom-related things, and a side plot involves Principal Russ suffering a stress-induced bout of diarrhea.

    Regarding the Bees 
  • Achievement Test of Destiny: The BEEs. They're tough, they follow you to college, the teachers can't help you with them, and starting with the current school year, any seventh grader who fails them will be sent back to fifth grade.
  • Afraid of Needles: Sam admits to Florence that he's afraid of doctors and needles.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Lily and Paddy take an interest in the boys at Springfield Middle School, even though they've been generally unpleasant towards Sam N.'s class.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Honey the bee, who can spell out words with her flight patterns.
  • Babies Ever After: Goldie and Sam's daughter, May Bea Fisch-N., is born six weeks early at the book's end.
  • Big Bad: Polly Nader, who wants to keep her title as the top teacher in the district by any means necessary.
  • Book Dumb: All of Nader's students are terrible at spelling, which makes the kids wonder how they won the spelling bee (she cheated). There's hints that they're not just dumb when it comes to school; they assume that the "speaking of which" referring to Florence in the letter they got means that she's an actual witch.
  • Book Ends: The book begins and ends with a letter from Principal Russ to Sam N.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Gil finds a book of Shakespeare's works and takes an interest in reading Hamlet. The only question on the BEEs turns out to be Hamlet-related.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Early on, we're introduced to Geyser Creek Middle's new custodian, the deaf Sugar Kube. Her being deaf is what inspires the class to learn sign language, which leads to them finding out how Nader’s been cheating during the spelling bee.
  • Exact Words: Nader claims she never says a word to her students on the day of the BEEs. She uses sign language instead.
  • Held Back in School: The fate that awaits Sam N.'s class if they fail the BEEs: they'll immediately get sent back to fifth grade. They pass with flying colors; their rivals aren't as lucky.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: While Lily and Paddy let her out, Honey willingly chooses to sting Nader to reveal her cheating to everyone present and ends up dying shortly after. She spells out a final "good-bye" to the students before she does.
  • High-School Dance: Well, middle school dance, but one of the subplots involves the class worrying over the upcoming New Year's Eve Dance.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Goldie ends up rushed to the hospital in critical condition seven months into her pregnancy.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Sam becomes this more and more as he starts to lose his hearing, not noticing when others are trying to give him friendly greetings or talk to him.
  • Irony: Sam N. declares that he wants to focus on improving the school's communication as acting principal, but his inability to tell anyone about his hearing loss (and the misunderstandings that ensue) cause a lot of problems for him.
  • Literal-Minded: How the Geyser Creek students win the spelling bee; after being told they'll win if they spell the next word correctly, Shelly quickly spells out "the next word correctly".
  • Love Triangle: Gil and Shelly were "dating" for a while, but Shelly is more interested in Tad now and Gil doesn't feel like he's ready for dating yet. Minnie has a crush on Gil, but thinks Shelly will hate her if she makes a move. Tad thinks all the girls are interested in Gil. Each one is miserable because they think one or more of the others hate them. Lily and Paddy are largely left out of the drama, but they're on their own quest to find boyfriends. Ultimately, Shelly asks Tad out to the dance, Gil and Minnie decide to be Just Friends, and Florence reassures Lily and Paddy that they don't need boyfriends.
  • Plot Allergy: It's mentioned early on that Nader is allergic to bees. When Honey stings her, she goes into anaphylactic shock.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The kids' inability to discuss how they feel about each other leads to rifts between them; meanwhile, Sam's inability to tell anyone about his hearing loss (and subsequent failure to talk to anyone) leads to a strain in his marriage with Goldie. In a more comedic example, Angel and Angelo both hate the dates Angelo's aunt sent them, but think the other loves them and can't bring themselves to say they actually hate them.
  • Put on a Bus: Russ spends the majority of the book away for a series of conferences teaching his new philosophy.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Melissa Spelt, the executive director of the Board of Education, who — while forbidding Honey the bee from competing in the spelling bee — shoots down all of Nader's attempts to get Florence fired (until Florence gets accused of witchcraft).
  • Running Gag: Angelo adding dates to several recipes at Cafe Florence.
  • Sadist Teacher: Polly Nader, who reprimands her students for thinking learning could ever be fun, forces them to write positive letters about her, and does anything in her power to crush the competition for the HIVE prize (while promising her students a ten percent cut if they follow her demands).
  • Shout-Out: One of the proposed names for the class' spelling bee team is "The Bee Gees".
  • Spelling Bee: The Show-Me Spelling Bee, an invitation-only event hosted by the previous year's winners, is another major event in the book. The Geyser Creek kids try to enter Honey as a competitor (but fail), and Nader's cheating is exposed there.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Sam spends most of the book agonizing over his hearing loss. Near the end, Florence suggests it might be because of excessive wax buildup in his ears. It turns out she's right.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Florence repeatedly chews out Sam for not telling anyone (especially Goldie) about his hearing loss.
  • Witch Hunt: After several unsuccessful attempts to get Florence fired, Nader tries accusing her of witchcraft. This ends up working.
  • Witch with a Capital "B": After Nader is fired, one of her students calls her a witch. It also provides an Ironic Echo, given how she tried to accuse Florence of witchcraft.