Disclaimer: I don't own Arthur or The Simpsons.

"Children," said Mr. Ratburn, "we have a new student joining us today."

All the third-graders stared lazily at the rather short girl with pointy blond hair, a red dress, and a pearl necklace.

"Uh, my name is Lisa Simpson," said the new girl. "I just moved here from Springfield."

"Tell them what you like to do, Lisa," Mr. Ratburn prompted her.

"Er, I like to play my saxophone, and collect Malibu Stacy dolls, and do homework, and fight for social causes."

"Thank you, Lisa," said Mr. Ratburn. "Are there any questions?"

Binky raised his hand. "Did you say you like to fight?"

"For social causes," Lisa told him. "Like equality for women, and the liberation of Tibet."

Buster put his hand up. "Are you an alien?"

Lisa gave the rabbit boy a blank look.

"You must be an alien," Buster went on. "You don't look like any kind of animal I've ever seen."

"I'm not an animal," said Lisa.

"But everyone's some kind of animal," Arthur chimed in. "Buster's a rabbit, Binky's a bulldog, and I'm an aardvark."

Lisa gaped at him in surprise. "An aardvark? I was about to guess camel."

The class burst into laughter. "Quiet, please," said Mr. Ratburn.

Francine raised her hand. "You're a little short for a third-grader," she remarked.

"That's because I skipped a grade," Lisa explained.

In the back of the classroom, Muffy leaned over to the rabbit girl in the striped shirt. "Her dress looks like she stuck it in a wood chipper," she commented. "And I'll bet the pearls are fake."

Lisa seated herself at a desk next to George, who bashfully looked away. While she pulled several books from her bag, Mr. Ratburn commenced drawing on the blackboard. When he had written the letters H-O-M-O, Binky snickered. Glancing indignantly over his shoulder, Mr. Ratburn proceeded to write the letters N-Y-M-S. "Today's lesson is on homonyms," he announced. "Who can tell me what homonyms are?"

Lisa and Brain quickly raised their hands. "Lisa?" said Mr. Ratburn.

"Homonyms are words that sound the same, but don't mean the same," said Lisa confidently.

"Thank you," said Mr. Ratburn. "Now, Brain, can you give me an example of a homonym?"

"Duck," said Brain. "A duck is an aquatic fowl. To duck means to crouch down in order to avoid hitting your head against something."

"Very good, Brain," said the teacher.

The class dragged on, and Lisa could occasionally hear the other children muttering to each other while furtively peering at her. Finally the bell rang, and first period was over.

Lisa stepped over to Brain's desk as the boy was putting his books away. "You're pretty bright," she complimented him. "No wonder everyone calls you Brain."

"My real name's Alan," Brain told her. "I can't help what others call me."

"At least they don't call you Poindexter," said Lisa with a giggle.

"Let me guess," said Brain. "At your old school, you were the smart kid with no friends."

"Not quite," said Lisa. "I had a friend named Janey, but she didn't talk much."

"You'll have plenty of friends here," Brain assured her.

"You think so?" said Lisa in a worried tone. "Even though I'm the only one who's not an anthropomorphic animal?"

Brain gestured toward the cat girl standing next to him. "This is Sue Ellen. She likes some of the same things you do—playing the sax, fighting for social causes. If not for her, our favorite hangout spot would have been turned into a fast food joint."

Sue Ellen smiled and handed Lisa a photograph of a little boy. "Who's this?" asked Lisa.

"It's Tenzin, her Tibetan pen pal," Brain told her.

"That's so cool," said Lisa. "I hope he grows up in a free and independent nation instead of being oppressed by the Chinese communist regime. Do you have any other foreign pen pals?"

"She has thirty-four," said Brain.

"Why do you keep answering my questions for her?" said Lisa. "Why don't you let her talk?"

"Don't ask me," said Brain. "Ask the writers." Sue Ellen simply shrugged.

During morning recess, Lisa was scribbling in her notebook when Francine and Muffy approached her. "Whatcha doing, Lisa?" asked Francine.

"I'm writing a play," Lisa replied. "It's called Six Angry Men and Six Angry Women."

"Whatever," said Muffy.

"Do you have a minute?" asked Francine. "Whenever a new student joins our class, I write an article about him or her in my newspaper, the Frensky Star."

"And I give him or her useful tips on fashion and poise," said Muffy.

"Make it quick," said Lisa, looking into the distance. "Here comes my brother."

"You have a brother?" said Muffy in astonishment. "No one else in the class has a brother."

"Has…brother," said Francine, jotting down notes on a pad of paper.

"Hey, Lis," said Bart casually as he approached the playground bench.

"Hi, Bart," said Lisa cheerfully.

Bart gave Francine and Muffy a bemused look. "If only Darwin were alive to see this," he said, shaking his head in wonder.

"What's he talking about?" Francine wondered.

"Charles Darwin," said Lisa. "19th-century British naturalist who wrote The Origin of Species, putting forth the hypothesis that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor."

"I've seen the movie," said Bart. "First they become intelligent, then they make us their slaves."

"What movie?" asked Muffy.

"Planet of the Apes," said Lisa. "A depiction of a dystopian future where humans have abandoned civilization and descended into savagery, to the point that simians have established dominion over them."

Francine looked at Muffy quizzically. "Simians? Dystopian? Do you know what she's talking about?"

"Nope," Muffy responded. "She's, like, some kind of word nerd. Let's shun her."

Lisa watched the two girls walk away, then turned and glared at her brother. "Nice going, Bart. You embarrassed me in front of my classmates."

"Who wants monkeys for friends?" said Bart callously.

"You're a monkey," said Lisa peevishly.

"No, you are!" Bart retorted.

"No, you are!"

"I know you are, but what am I?"

"Children, children!" Mr. Haney interrupted them. "Whatever it is, I'm sure it isn't worth arguing over."

"Who the hell are you, man?" Bart asked him.

"I'm the principal," said Mr. Haney, extending his hand. "Here, have a lollipop."

Instead of taking the treat that was offered him, Bart burst into derisive laughter.

"If this is a joke, I'm afraid I don't get it," said Mr. Haney sheepishly.

"You look like a big teddy bear with glasses," said Bart mockingly.

"Hmph!" said Mr. Haney, pulling back his hand. "No lollipop for you, young man."

As the principal walked away in a huff, Bart turned to his sister and grinned. "If I'd called Principal Skinner a big teddy bear with glasses, he would've given my mutilated corpse two months' detention," he said gleefully. "I'm gonna love this school."

to be continued