Sunday, February 20, 2011

The fabled fourth graders of Aesop elementary School by Candace Fleming

A big thank you must go to Mr K (see my sidebar) because when I read his review of this book I knew I would love it and I did!!!! I read this book in one quick gulp and then I re-read it straight away because it is so clever and funny and wise all at the same time.

Mr Jupiter is the new teacher at Aesop Elementary School and this Grade Four class are notorious for their dreadful behavior. In fact it is so bad that all the teachers have refused to take this class, that is until Mr Jupiter arrives. As he explains to Mrs Struggles, the Principal, he has worked as a dog groomer, he led an expedition in search of the Dodo bird, collected mummified cats in Egypt, discovered the lost city of Atlantis and conducted the Timbuktu Philharmonic Orchestra to name just a few of his achievements!

In just 23 chapters you will come to know and love the kids in this fourth grade class and their wonderful teachers – Paige Turner the librarian, Nurse Betadine, Mrs Playwright the drama teacher who works in 64 schools, Mrs Bunz the lunch lady and of course Mr Jupiter himself. The class members include Victoria Sovaine – naturally she is in love with herself, Missy Place – she looses everything especially all her mittens, Ham Samitch the eating machine, and my favourite Stanford Binet the class brain.

Each chapter has a little moral or homily but these are delivered with such humor I found myself looking ahead reading all the morals before reading the whole book.

My favourite character is of course Paige Turner. Early in the story she meets Mr Jupiter. “She found herself looking into the most beautiful pair of brown eyes in the whole world! Instinctively, Miss Turner straightened her cardigan, the one with the apples appliquéd onto its pockets. She tucked back a strand of mouse-brown hair and pushed up her wire-rimmed glasses.”

Paige is in love and so she spends all her time trying to get Mr Jupiter to notice her. She changes her hair colour, her shoes, her clothes and she presents Mr Jupiter with a box of Valentines day chocolates but nothing seems to work until we reach the second last chapter and the end of the school year. Miss Turner has found true love at last!

All the details in this quirky little book are wonderful. Even the class textbooks are intriguing. I can’t wait to put this book into the hands of a keen reader I just loved it! Here is a video interview with the author.

I also found two sets of terrific teaching notes one by the author herself and the other has some good discussion questions.

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