Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why I hate school by Michael Fatarsky by Kris Stanhope

No matter what we as Teacher-Librarians might say, the cover of a book is so very important particularly for young readers and most especially for boys. That is why I picked up this book as it lay on our covering shelves ready to go out into the library. Why I hate school, there are 243 reasons and some of the funny ones are handwritten on the cover such as “I hate ordering lunch because the pies are always cold”, I have singing in music so I just mouth the words and pretend”, “I hate the toilet paper in our school because it feels like sandpaper”.

This terrific book is the winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award, a New Zealand prize awarded for a first novel. When I looked in the back I can see we have 3 or 4 past winners of this award in our school library and on the strength of my enjoyment of Why I hate school I think I will seek these out too. You can read more about these winners at

Why I hate school could so easily have been just another funny school story replete with jokes about teachers, principals and kids but it is so much more. The first hint that there is more to this story comes at the end of the first chapter when it says “Michael didn’t like to remember some things.” In Chapter two Kris Stanhope opens the first layer showing us a hint of the tragedy underneath. Michael's mum now has no relationship with her son and Michael's father is deliberately absent. In chapter 5 we meet Sharon and a astute reader will recognize these two kids need each other and their relationship will lead to the healing both desperately seek.

I laughed and I cried – I love books that give me an emotional experience. This simple looking little book is a winner with me!!! Don’t miss the last 40 pages where you can read all 243 reasons why I hate school.

If you enjoy this book you should also look for books by Steven Herrick especially Tom Jones Saves the World read more at, Swashbuckler by James Maloney, I Nigel Dorking by Mary Ann Fahey and even books by Morris Glietzman who sometimes (not always in my opinion) successfully combines a very poignant story into a humorous plot.

One final point I am not sure why our hero is called Fatarsky – I was expecting some teasing or jokes about this name but none were forthcoming. Why give Michael such an awkward surname?

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