THAT teacher with THAT class
Mr. Kermit is entering his 30th year of teaching, and he's already put in for early retirement. He started his career full of grand ideals and enthusiasm, but a testing scandal over 25 years ago sucked the life out of him, and he spends his days handing out worksheets and doing the crossword while drinking coffee from a huge cup called "the toilet bowl". In order to push him to quit even earlier, the evil superintendent assigns him to a special class with a handful of students who are "unteachable". These include Elaine and Aldo, who both have anger management issues, Parker, who has severe dyslexia, and Rahim, who is artistically inclined but often sleeps in school because his father has band practice in the garage until late. Enter Kiana, who is staying with her father and his new family while her mother works on a movie, and who blunders into the class by accident and stays because she is intrigued. Next door, a perky new teacher, Emma Fountain, alarms Mr. Kermit because she is the daughter of his former fiancé, and she is filled with all sorts of warm and fuzzy classroom plans. She brings in Jake Terranova, who started the cheating scandal but who is now a successful car salesman. He invites the class to visit his dealership and repair shop, and the class starts to take off and actually learn things. Some of Mr. Kermit's old fire returns, but when the superintendent makes the numbers look like he is ineffective, his job is on the line. The students try to rally and enter a project for the science fair hoping to save their now beloved teacher, but they are not successful. Will something happen to save the day?
Korman is a master of the funny scene. There are just enough to encourage the reader to look forward to them, and laugh hysterically when they are delivered, but not so many that the book takes on a slap stick feel that distracts from the serious issues. This is a balance that middle grade authors should really work to achieve! It's not easy to do, but Korman pops the scenes in so casually that it looks easy.
The Unteachables is a solid, funny novel with deeper issues and the true meaning of intelligence that will appeal to fans of Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt, Palacio's Wonder and Hunt's Fish in a Tree.