The Boy Who Failed Show and Tell – Jordan Sonnenblick. Scholastic Press, 2021. 9781338647235
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: memoir, humor
What did you like about the book? Jordan loves snakes and baseball, is learning to play the drums, and has a lot of great friends. He loves making people laugh with his jokes and pranks. He also worries. A lot. He worries about his mother commuting to grad school, about Three Mile Island, about school bullies. His anxiety causes him to pull his hair out, drift off in class, and sometimes behave inappropriately. He wants so badly to do the right thing, but things often go wrong. It doesn’t help that he begins his 4th grade year at P.S. 35 with the draconian Mrs. Fisher as his teacher. Despite his best efforts, Jordan struggles to succeed in her class, and her classroom management style ultimately leads to Jordan’s parents pulling him out and sending him to a new school mid-year.
P.S. 54 proves to be a much better fit; he continues to deal with many of the same challenges with impulse control and anxiety but his new teacher, Miss Tuff, turns out to be that archetypal teacher who changes the main character’s life. Except that this entertaining book is not a work of fiction, but an autobiographical account of the author’s own 4th grade year in 1978-79. Jordan’s first person narration is alternately poignant and uproariously funny; readers will empathize with him as he works his way through grade 4, and no doubt be heartened when they realize that Jordan turned out okay in the end, using his humor and his childhood experiences to his advantage as an author.
Anything you did not like about the book? It took a while for me to realize the autobiographical nature of the book, and the fact that it is set 40 years ago. I worry how young readers will react to Mrs. Fisher’s cruelty and ultimate act of violence without the context.
To whom would you recommend this book? Upper elementary readers who enjoy humorous realistic fiction by Jeff Kinney, Andrew Clements, James Patterson, etc.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction – even though it is autobiographical, I don’t think kids would find it in the biography section.
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: 5/24/2021