So janitorial and custodial work doesn’t sound especially glamorous, especially when you’re comparing it to the supposedly glamorous life of secret agents, à la James Bond. So you can maybe imagine my surprise at running across two books this year where custodians and janitors live wild secret lives. Who knew, right?
In Benjamin Franklinstein Lives! by Matthew McElligott, Victor discovers that the recently-deceased school custodian who lived in the basement apartment was also a custodian of a secret order. Custodians in the Modern Order of Prometheus, or M.O.P., have charge of scientists from the past who have been put into a suspended state until the future needs them. Unfortunately, no one took over after this particular custodian’s death, and Benjamin Franklin is awakened by a lightning strike. Where does the Franklinstein bit come from? From the bolts in Ben’s neck (very Frankenstein’s monster) as well as the fact that Ben becomes a bit of a monster when he takes in too much electricity. Looks like Victor is going to be a custodian of the more glamorous type! Sequels so far include Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers and Benjamin Franklinstein Meets Thomas Deadison. Aren’t those titles great? They make me want to make an evil mad scientist laugh every time I see them! Besides having great titles, these clever books mix history, science, secret codes, and humor.
The second book I encountered was Tyler Whitesides’ Janitors. The cover art makes it quite clear that these janitors are far from ordinary. In fact, it would appear that they are involved in something quite magical. And indeed they are! Apparently elementary school janitors all over the United States work for the Bureau of Educational Maintenance, an organization dedicated to ridding schools of the magical creatures known as Toxites. These creatures feed off of students’ desires to learn and cause such effects as inability to concentrate, sleepiness, and confusion. Fortunately, the janitors are there to protect the students and save their brains and education! While the book requires the reader to suspend belief, it is an entertaining read. Though I’ve not yet had a chance to read it, the sequel, Secrets of New Forest Academy, came out in September.
Janitors made me think about how many elementary school janitors are highly liked by their students. The two janitors at the elementary school I attended for 4th & 5th grades were Mr. John and Mr. Tom. We always used the Mister along with their first names – it’s a Southern thing. We loved them. The school cats who prowled the halls, the classrooms, and the courtyard (yes we had school cats, weren’t we cool?) were named after the janitors, though I don’t recall whether they had the Mr. as part of their names. (I think they did, but it’s been a few years, so I can’t guarantee it.) The custodian at the elementary school where I worked was also loved by the students, and she was always very happy. So my conclusion is that it takes a special person to be a school janitor or custodian. And who knows, maybe all of them are living secret lives?