May 2011, Scholastic Paperbacks (First published 1978)
Bruno and Boots are roommates at a Canadian boarding school, and are always in trouble with the headmaster, Mr. Sturgeon, aka The Fish, for one thing or another. They replace the Canadian flag outside their dorm right before a big hockey game, steal the other team's mascot, and generally cause a ruckus wherever they go. Even though they are fairly good at covering their tracks, Mr. Sturgeon decides they have to be punished for their latest transgressions, and assigns the boys new roommates. Bruno ends up with science geek Elmer and his collections of ants, fish, and plants, and Boots ends up with the wealthy hypochondriac George. The two are not supposed to contact each other, but of course continue to meet when they can't be seen. They concoct various plans to bedevil their poor roommates, and continue their bad behavior in other areas as well. Eventually, they plan a huge scheme to frame Elmer and Bruno for a pantie raid at the neighboring girls' school, Miss Scrimmage's, but Mr. Sturgeon is wise to their tricks. How will Boot and Bruno manage to stay out of trouble so that they aren't kicked out of school, at least until all seven of the Macdonald Hall books are over?
Strengths: Clearly, Korman is a naturally gifted writer. This is well-paced, funny, and full of the weird, slapstick humor that middle school students adore. Parents are absent but not dead, and the supportive adults are not as stupid as they would seem, which shows an unusual maturity, since Korman wrote this at the age of 13. Impressive debut.
Weaknesses: Some dated references seem to have been removed and replaced with sentences in a completely different font! Since this holds up curiously well (there was one reference to writing parents once a week), this wasn't necessary and is a bit jarring. There are also some disciplinary issues that are handled in a completely unrealistic way... just like Rylander's The Fourth Stall!
What I really think: I want the entire series, but the books are out of print. Sigh.