The Boy Who Failed Show and Tell
In a typical school year, every kid has one or two things go wrong. But for Jordan, there's A LOT going wrong ALL THE TIME.
Take this year. Here are some of the thing going wrong:
-- His teacher hates him. Like, really hates him. Like, is totally out to get him even when he's trying to be good, and is willing to fail him on the simplest things, like show and tell.
-- He has a slight breathing problem because of his asthma. And breathing is never really an optional activity.
-- His pet snake has given birth to way, way, way too many baby snakes, all who need a home.
-- He is finding that becoming The World's Best Drummer in no time whatsoever is maybe not the easiest goal.
-- There are bullies ready to stomp him when all he has to defend himself with is a lunchbox.
And all this doesn't even include the freak swing set accident, the fears inside his head, or the funniest class presentation ever.
By keeping his cool (some of the time), banging on the drums (a lot), and keeping his sense of humor (all the time), Jordan's going to try to make it through the year . . . and grow up to write a book about it!
The heartfelt story of a young boy’s struggles through another school year. The events of Jordan’s fourth-grade year are most likely based on the author’s real experiences, and they’re typical of life in a common elementary school. Except for the teacher. The book opens with the nervous uncertainty of meeting a new teacher, and then Jordan’s worst nightmares come true. The author effectively describes the emotional turmoil, as Jordan tries to learn from a teacher who dislikes his uniqueness. His issues are compounded by severe anxiety for his mother’s safety. The story balances the seriousness of Jordan’s problems with the humor arising from being an intelligent, curious fourth-grader. The author’s casual, storytelling style suits the book perfectly, as it feels like you’re experiencing the emotional rollercoaster right along with Jordan.
Jordan’s unique issues make learning difficult. His main problems result from asthma medications that make it hard to stay focused and sit still, but he also has trouble dealing with stress. He’s intelligent, but he doesn’t show it in ways his teacher appreciates. She doesn’t have much patience for “JORR-dan”, and she doesn’t like student behavior that isn’t perfect. Jordan’s character becomes more endearing, as he cares for his pet garter snake named Hector. This story is cuter when Jordan discovers Hector is going to need a different name!
It’s a relief when Jordan’s situation changes later in the book, although the circumstances are disturbing. It’s satisfying to see something good finally happen to a misunderstood, young boy. The author reminds us there are still bumpy roads for him, but hope is allowed to enter the story.
What could have been improved:
The author slowly develops Jordan’s issues by sharing his experiences starting a new school year. Consequently, the conflict isn’t clear right away, so the early chapters feel like isolated experiences. They’re still entertaining and set the foundation for Jordan’s problems.
It would be nice for Jordan to have a close friend to confide in, although that would have changed much of the story. Jordan deals with most of the problems on his own, and his frustrations when things don’t work out create the whole plot. His older sister Lissa provides support when she’s aware of a problem, but that’s not very helpful when he’s in school.
The Final Verdict:
This book tells a powerful story of a young boy’s challenges to become a successful student. Humor and drama are expertly woven together to create a story that stimulates a wide range of emotions. It’s a surefire winner that will make connections with all readers.