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Making the Grade

Succeeding in school this year will take more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. You'll also need organization, spirit and -- don't forget -- smarts.

These attributes can't be bought -- you have to work for them. But it never hurts to have some cool gear and great looking clothes to get you charged up about the new school year. The right attitude, and the right stuff, can help mean a year of glowing report cards, winning athletic achievements and a little bit of fun, too.

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So grab a Pop-Tart and settle in -- this year is going to be great.

Style. Stash the sweats this year. Everyone knows a little style goes a long way. This Hudson-striped cotton rugby shirt from L.L. Bean is rugged and comfortable, yet pulled together. No one will ever know that you pulled it off the floor this morning. $24 at www.llbean.com.

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Organization. Forget about ever forgetting your spelling homework again. Stuff your papers into this nylon binder, zip it up, grab the handle and head for home, satisfied in knowing that you've got all of your homework right where you need it. $9.99 at Target.

Spunk. Go ahead, raise your hand and volunteer the answer without waiting to be called on for a change. A little spunk will do you good, and this plaid kilt from Gap will help you feel positively Gidget-esque. What's that -- don't know who Gidget is? Ask your mom. Gap kilt in tomato or blue suede, $29.50 at www.gap.com.

Whimsy. There's no reason for school supplies to be boring. A touch of whimsy will put a curlicue in your handwriting and an extra sparkle in your Spanish notes. The Lego Minifigure Faces pen ($12) lets you shuffle around 18 bead elements into any order you choose. And the sandwich- and Oreo-cookie-shaped, foam-covered Lunchnotes notepads ($5) make scrap paper simply scrumptious. Available at Papers Plus, the Festival at Woodholme, 1809 Reisterstown Road., Pikesville. 410-484-7488.

Confidence. Soak your busy / harried / just plain awful school day away and renew your confidence that tomorrow will be better with Goop, a boldly colored but slimy bubble bath for kids that's filled with all sorts of natural remedies to help fight the bad-day blahs. We especially like Hugs to Go, a sugar-cookie-scented, tangerine-hued melange that contains witch hazel to soothe and Saint-John's-wort to uplift. $12 at www.notsoapradio.com.

A Good Start. How can anyone expect you to concentrate on Greek mythology when your bad hair day is making you look like Medusa's homely sister? Ralph Lauren's Good Hair Day collection of shampoos and conditioners has a bright floral scent and will make your tresses behave as they should. $12.50 (for 8.5 ounces) at www.polo.com, Macy's and Hecht's.

Flair. So what if cell phones aren't allowed in school? Use this bejeweled velvet cell-phone bag to tote your smart-kid glasses around, or stuff it with lunch money. It's feminine, fresh, full of flair and so much cooler than a plain old pocket. $28 at Maribou Home & Gift, 6083 Falls Road, Mount Washington. 410-377-4881.

Smarts. Make the most of your down time as you ride the school bus by plugging into this super slim Apple iPod that can hold up to 7,500 songs and downloads music wicked fast and yet weighs less than 2 CDs. Now that's smart. $299-$499 at www.apple.com or at the Apple Store in Towson Town Center. 410-823-1988.

Time. As evidenced by your last pop quiz, time runs out quickly, so you'd better grab on and catch some when you can. Snag a few extra minutes to review your math homework or English essay before school with this ultrahip alarm clock in a retro triangle shape. What's retro, you ask? Ask your father. $7.99 at Target.

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Spirit. Perhaps your science teacher would prefer that you not paint your face Ravens purple or shout "Touchdown" in class. That's OK. Take a little of that team spirit with you to school with L.L. Bean's purple camouflage backpack. The bag has two main compartments, a front pocket and an organizer panel and is appropriate for kids aged 10 and older. $39.50 at www.llbean.com.


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