A new 4th-grade student has just transferred to P.S. 118---a girl from the countryside named Lila Sawyer. Helga Pataki and the other girls initially assume that Lila's nothing more than a simple-minded country girl, and want her to "see how the cat jumps." But the girls soon realize that they've greatly underestimated Lila: she's as smart as Phoebe, as stylish as Rhonda (Lila had even made her outfit from scratch), and, despite Helga advising her against it, becomes friends with the lunch lady, which gets Lila an extra dessert with her lunch---this makes the girls very jealous of Lila.
Helga and the other girls decide to teach the new girl a lesson by playing mean pranks on her. The first prank, which involves kiwi-flavored Jell-O, backfires and Helga gets beaten up by Big Patty. The second prank, which involves rubbery lunch meat, pickles and a wax apple, also backfires and Helga gets another beating from Patty. The third (and final) prank finally works, and Lila runs home, covered with old spinach, rotten fish and tears, absolutely humiliated.
When Lila doesn't come to school the next day, Helga offers to bring her the homework assignment. After school, Helga and the other girls go to Lila's house together. The girls are surprised to discover that Lila's life apparently isn't as perfect as they initially thought---Lila and her father (who's presumably a widower) live in a rather shabby place, and through eavesdropping on Lila and her father's conversation, they discover that they have a limited food supply until Mr. Sawyer can find a steady, well-paying job. Helga and the girls feel bad about what they did to Lila, and apologize to her for it. Lila accepts their apology, goes to back school and the other girls accept her as a friend.
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