Review Detail

Humor and Presidential Trivia!
(Updated: May 13, 2020)
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
5.0
It's February, which A.J. considers to be the worst month of all. It's hard to spell, teachers want to celebrate the 100th day of school, and worst of all, it was during February that A.J. embarrassed himself during an oral presentation about the presidents the year before. Hey, if Benjamin Franklin was on currency, he must have been a president, right? Sure enough, his current class is also studying presidents, this time in order to compete with other third graders in a trivia contest. The prizes are good; sausages from Porky's, who sponsors the school often, aren't that great, but going to Dizzyland? Excellent. When the school representatives are chosen Spelling Bee style, A.J., whose presidential trivia is limited, does surprisingly well, especially when aided by the charade-style hints offered by one of his friends. Andrea does very well, since she is bound to go to Harvard, and applies herself to all of her studies. When the questions happen to include some that A.J. happens to know, both he and Andrea are sent to face off against Dirk School. The questions are fast and furious, and Andrea does a great job, even if A.J. can't answer any. When the final question is a trick one, will A.J. be able to consult his limited knowledge in order to allow his class to travel to Dizzyland?
Good Points
There are almost 80 books in the My Weird School series, and they are ridiculously addictive to beginning readers.Even my daughter, who just graduated from college, was a great fan of these when she was about 8. There are lots of reasons for this; Gutman has a great feel for the right level of goofiness elementary students appreciate, Jim Palliot's illustrations are giggle worthy all by themselves, and the characters are all interesting.

I particularly like how the adults are portrayed; they might be a little goofy, but they are always respected and do their best to educate the students. For example, when the kids go to the library to study, Ms. Roopy, the librarian, greets them dressed as Ronald Reagan, and presents them with the fun fact that Reagan was an actor in Bedtime for Bonzo. Too often, goofy adults are portrayed as clueless or mean, but Gutman raises the bar.

While presidential trivia isn't my jam, there are a lot of students who pride themselves on knowing not only all of the presidents, in order, but having an array of trivia at their fingertips. These readers will really like to trivia challenge, and will test themselves on the list of facts mentioned. My favorite part of the book is Andrea's epilogue, where she guides readers through how to research presidential facts. The book also includes some puzzles and games and, most importantly, pictures of the covers of the entire series.

Gutman has really impressed me during the pandemic. I've heard that his school visits are phenomenal, so he clearly has a fantastic rapport with young readers. Early on in 2019, he started reading from his books on Facebook live for students who haven't been able to go to school. This can't be easy, and shows an admirable devotion to his fan base. You can check out the details at https://dangutman.com/
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