of the Center for
|The Bulletin Dozen is a monthly theme-based list of titles available only on-line. Since we're awfully fond of bakers here at the Bulletin, we thought we'd adopt their philosophy of generosity and throw in an extra one or two when we have them to offer--so don't expect an even dozen. Please feel free to copy, download, or link to these lists. We ask only that you cite the source. See the archive for lists from previous months.|
Back to School selected by Janice Del Negro
September is back-to-school month, and this is a back-to-school list of titles with enough laughs to jolly along even the most unwilling pupils. Oh, and for those readers who don't see anything funny about school? We've included two creepy titles about--shall we say, unusual?--students.
Janice M. Del Negro, editor
- Conford, Ellen. Crush. HarperCollins, 1998.
"In a series of interconnected tales, Conford describes the trials and tribulations of a bunch of high-schoolers getting ready for the Valentine's Day Dance. . . . [a] chuckle inducing parody of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi ("The Gift of the Mangy") is followed by eight more tales of teenage love triumphant-well, mostly. . . . a nerd gets a makeover and a new girlfriend, a Russian exchange student parlays his (apparent) lack of English into a romantic date, and a student breaks an ankle and finds a boyfriend in candy stripes at the local hospital." (Gr. 6-9, BCCB 3/98)
- Dexter, Catherine. Alien Game. Morrow, 1995.
"Zoe knows there's something funny about the glamorous new girl Christina. . . . [and it's not just that] Christina has this alarming habit of turning into a swarm of little lights. . . . It has more to do with the fact that an annual school ritual keepaway game turns into a horror when it becomes apparent that Christina is playing for keeps: she taps you on the shoulder and you're hers. Yikes." (Gr. 5-8, BCCB 3/95)
- Gauthier, Gail. A Year with Butch and Spike. Putnam, 1998.
"When Jasper finds himself seated between the Coutier cousins (the 'Cootches') Butch and Spike on the first day of sixth grade, he knows he is doomed. . . . Given the choice between sixth-grade teacher Mrs. McNulty (whose mission in life is to break the spirit of her pupils) and Butch and Spike, the almost always perfect Jasper is surprised to find himself coming down on the side of anarchy. . . . Gauthier has a light touch with comic dilaogue, and Jasper's transformation from "a joy to have in class" to the mastermind of the plot to ensure Spike's graduation from sixth grade is credible and admirable." (Gr. 4-6, BCCB 6/98)
- Hurwitz, Joanna. Ever-Clever Elisa. Morrow, 1997.
"Elisa, star of Elisa in the Middle (BCCB 10/95) and little sister of the famous Russell, is six and one-half years old and a full-fledged first grader. . . . Hurwitz is particularly good at balancing the seeming completeness of a first grader's world with the awareness of things not yet known. . . . Whether read alone or read aloud, the account of Elisa's struggles will evoke sympthy from youngsters. Hoban's large, friendly pencil illustrations have a slightly geeky real-world charm." (Gr. 2-4, BCCB 2/98)
- Johnston, Tony. Sparky and Eddie: The First Day of School. Scholastic, 1997.
"Next-door neighbors and inseparable companions Sparky and Eddie enjoy a glorious summer and eagerly anticipate the first day of school--until they're assigned different teachers. . . . Ryan's watercolors have a textured, pastel flavor in their soft edges, but there's energy aplenty in the dynamic duo. . . . Quite a few novice educatees will recognize both the trepidation about and the rewards of the new world of school." (Gr 1-3, BCCB 11/97)
- Klass, Sheila Solomon. The Uncivil War. Holiday House, 1997.
"Asa (named for a medeival Scandinavian queen) was a sickly child, but now she's a hearty sixth-grader, and her mother doesn't seem to recognize that overprotectiveness and overfeeding aren't useful anymore. When the cute new boy in class, Robert Lee, starts giving her a hard time about her weight and her name, Asa decides she has had enough and takes drastic measures--a hunger strike--to gain her mother's understanding. . . . The battle with Robert Lee is only a small part of the funny and credible story of Asa's maturation." (Gr. 5-7, BCCB 2/98)
- Myers, Walter Dean. Darnell Rock Reporting. Delacorte, 1994.
"Seventh-grader Darnell Rock isn't really sure how he fits into the world: he's not as verbally quick as his twin sister, Tamika, he's not terrific in school, and he hangs around with some other aimless kids (dubbed the Corner Crew by the school librarian). Things change when Darnell joins the school paper and decides to find out more about the homeless people he's encountered. . . . This is an energetic read, unintimidating but thoughtful, that many Darnell-age kids in search of self will find rewarding." (Gr. 5-8, BCCB 10/94)
- Paulsen, Gary. The Schernoff Discoveries. Delacorte, 1997.
"Fourteen-year-old Harold Schernoff is brilliant, but geeky. The narrator (presumably Gary Paulsen, as this novel is unabashedly autobiographical) is his only friend. Actually, each is the other's only friend, and this book is a series of chapters on how they survived high school without getting beat up, electrocuted, or hit on the head with a bowling pin. . . . The tone is breezy, funny, and sometimes touching (but not too mushy) and bound to keep even the most reluctant reader chuckling." (Gr. 6-9, BCCB 2/97)
- Pinkwater, Daniel. The Education of Robert Nifkin. Farrar, 1998.
"In a story that smacks of thinly veiled autoboigraphy, Robert Nifkin tells of his high school experiences in 1950s Chicago. Robert is initially inflicted with attendance at Riverview High School, where the conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites, and nutcases who comprise the faculty teach the studetns by making them silently copy large chunks of arcane material off of the blackboards and into their notebooks. Eventually, however, a connection with a girl he met at a diner leads him to the Wheaton School, a before-its-time alternative school where education is optional but at least possible. . . . Pinkwater's sardonic evocation of the incomprehensible world of high school will strike a chord with contemporary inmates of the institution." (Gr. 7 up, BCCB 7/98)
- Pinkwater, Jill. Mister Fred. Dutton, 1994.
Anya Murray and her sixth grade class ("unteachable, undisciplined, and just plain incorrigible") are intent on driving away yet another substitute, but "eventually grow so fond of Mr. Fred, the alien teacher who made them think, that they are quite distressed when he returns to his own planet. . . . Anya's narration, particularly of the class' outlaw antics, will provoke giggles from young readers; the extraterrestrial teacher concept will have them disappointed by their own all-too-mundane substitutes." (Gr. 5-7, BCCB 1/95)
- Skinner, David. The Wrecker. Simon, 1995.
"Michael is the new kid, the 'Stupid New Kid Who Didn't Know Where to Go' at Sherman Junior High, and he's unnerved when weird little Theo asks him to be his 'ally' if not his friend: 'I don't need a friend. I can be your friend if you want. Lots of people seem to need friends. Normal people. I'm not normal.' No, Theo isn't--he's a nightmare-genius, the geek most everyone steers clear of. . . . The events are spooky, the school setting authentic, the writing deceptively plain: 'Once upon a time there were two boys and a bully. The boys got together and struck the bully down.'" (Gr. 5-8, BCCB 9/95)
- Voight, Cynthia. Bad Girls. Scholastic, 1996.
"Between them [Mikey and Margalo] make Mrs. Chemsky's fifth grade classroom something akin to a war zone, with Margalo the general and Mikey the troops. [Voight] gives her bad girls exactly what they want: attention. Where most books vanquish the bully and send her to the sidelines, these girls stay at the center, unrepentant." And that's just where middle-school readers will want them. (Gr. 4-6, BCCB 4/96)
- Warner, Sally. Dog Years. Knopf, 1995.
"With his father in prison for robbery, sixth-grader Case feels like he's trapped in a dog year, where one year seems like seven. . . . when his English class starts a newspaper, he takes his insight about dog years and turns it into a cartoon starring Spotty the dog, which addresses many of the anxiety-provoking problems middle-schoolers face. . . . Because Warner writes with such a light touch, she is able to deal with complex and ethical issues without ever seeming depressing or moralistic, and she sketches her vivid characters with a remarkable economy of words." (Gr. 4-7, BCCB 5/95)
- Willner-Pardo, Gina. Daphne Eloise Slater, Who's Tall for Her Age. Clarion, 1997.
"Daphne Eloise Slater is tall for her age, and rotten Leonard DiMaggio won't let her forget it. . . . This is easy fiction with heart and plot, centered around a likable heroine in a comfortably recognizable class of third graders. . . . Coalson's watercolor and pencil illustrations strike just the right note of casual classroom comaraderie, and are certain to allay the fears of chapter-book-phobic youngsters." (Gr. 2-4, BCCB 11/97)
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This page was last updated on September 1, 1998.