I picked this book up for several reasons: 1) I needed a quick read-something that wasn’t gloomy and depressing, no major dystopian wars, no oppressive government that needed overthrowing-something I could pick up on a summer morning and finish easily by the afternoon. 2) It has a similar set-up to Wonder in that every chapter is written from a different character’s perspective. 3) It is a book about the power of a good teacher. What teacher doesn’t like to read a story that highlights the idea that their career really does matter?
The premise of the story is simple, but leaves room for great impact. There are six children telling the story. They are all students in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class and have distinctive personalities and storytelling styles from the beginning. The story follows the students for the duration of the school year, but there are months that are glossed over a bit and the chapters are short. This makes for a quick, easy read and even with the lapses in time, the reader does not feel like they have missed out on anything.
The plot is fairly predictable-in fact, there is a mention of an accident on the cover of the book-but the storytelling style is delightful. Many upper elementary students could probably find one of the storytellers to relate to, and seeing the same event through different eyes may be fascinating to them. Seeing a student misbehave through the eyes of the culprit in one chapter, then seeing the same event through the eyes of the mean girl or shy new kid the next is a nice twist on the typical classroom-based novel.
Parents should be aware that there is a major plot point around a girl and her mother who are ostracized for the fact that the mother was 16 when her daughter was born. Eventually, people learn that they really are kind people and that her “mistake” when she was a teenager should not define how they see her (and her daughter) now. Additionally, the accident is caused by a student and there is a significant amount of time spent on hospital visits and tension over whether or not Mr. Terupt will survive. However, the revelations by students in the hospital are touching and help break down walls between the social groups in the classroom.
I would recommend this as a good novel for upper elementary/lower middle school. It is a fast read due to the chapter lengths and switching perspectives. I intend to pick up the follow-up novel soon and will review as soon as possible.