School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Seven fifth graders at Snow Hill School in Vermont learn a variety of life lessons, not necessarily from their textbooks, when they start the school year off with their new teacher. Short chapters are actually brief narratives by individual students and sectioned off by each month of the school year, beginning with September. From the students' distinct voices readers come to understand the different personalities and backgrounds that define them. Peter, the prankster; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; and Jessica, the new girl in town who hides behind her favorite books, are just a few of the characters who shape readers' vision of the classroom. As their narrative continues, readers realize that each child has a story that only begins in school; it's the problems and conflicts that make up their home lives that come full circle because of a prank that results in tragedy. Mr. Terupt is that one teacher who really understands them, who always seems to be on their side, and who teaches them a valuable lesson no matter how much some of them try to shut him out. If the school year is a series of events, then Mr. Terupt is the catalyst that starts the chain reaction. The characters are authentic and the short chapters, some less than a page, are skillfully arranged to keep readers moving headlong toward the satisfying conclusion.—Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH
In this skillfully constructed first novel, Buyea conveys the impact that an inspiring new teacher has on his fifth-grade class through the alternating voices of seven complex students, including class clown Peter, thoughtful new student Jessica, relentlessly teased Danielle, and mean-girl Alexia ("Mom told me... ‘Alexia, don't let people push you around like your father did to us. You take charge and fight back.' So there's no way I'm going back to being nice"). For the most part, Mr. Terupt's unconventional teaching style proves capable of reaching even his most difficult students as the year progresses; his gentle guidance leads to some potent lessons about tolerance, self-advocacy, and responsibility. However, some in the community disapprove of his lax disciplinary measures and hands-on educational methods. When an accident during a snowball fight lands Mr. Terupt in the hospital, readers--like students in the class--are left to decide who, if anyone, is to blame. Introducing characters and conflicts that will be familiar to any middle-school student, this powerful and emotional story is likely to spur discussion. Ages 9–12. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"The characters are authentic and the short chapters are skillfully arranged to keep readers moving headlong toward the satisfying conclusion."School Library Journal, Starred
"This powerful and emotional story is likely to spur discussion."Publishers Weekly
"No one is perfect in this feel-good story, but everyone benefits, including sentimentally inclined readers."Kirkus Reviews
"Compelling. . . . Readers will find much to ponder on the power of forgiveness."Booklist
Children's Literature - Shirley Nelson
Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class loves their new teacher because he makes learning fun. Instead of ordinary assignments, he gives them the power to choose tasks and learn to solve problems. But does he go too far by giving them too much choice? Unlike a traditional school novel, Buvea’s story is told from the points of view of seven of the fifth graders over the course of the school year. Peter is the trickster who loves to test the limits at all times. Jessica is the new girl who has trouble fitting in with the others and her narratives are written in the form of a play. Luke loves school and is brilliant at math; he even excels at Mr. Terupt’s extraordinary math problems. Alexia is a snobby, two-faced bully who enjoys causing trouble for other students. Shy Danielle has a very controlling mother and grandmother. Anna is a social outcast because of her mother’s past; the other girls are not allowed to visit her home. Jeffery simply hates school and emotionally barricades himself. A tragic accident brings the seven narrators together in support of their teacher. They all learn valuable lessons in this entertaining yet thought provoking novel that clearly addresses serious issues such as special needs, bullying, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson; Ages 8 to 12.
Children's Literature - Cheryl Williams Chang
Jessica, Alexia, Peter, Luke, Danielle, Anna, and Jeffrey have a new fifth grade teacher at Snow Hill School. Each of these kids think they have figured out how to handle, manipulate, tease, or frustrate Mr. Terupt. Mr. Terupt, however, is clever and patient, kind and interesting...not what the kids expected. This beautifully written and well-crafted story puts the reader into the mind of every student as they navigate the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of their home lives and classmate relationships. School is hard and sometimes boring, and peer pressure can be great, but there is something magical about Mr. Terupt. He helps the kids see past the mean and ugly and opens their eyes to what is true, kind, and beautiful. Then a tragedy occurs. It is up to the kids to work together and remain positive as they struggle together and individually through the hardship they face. This touching story defines the true meaning of family, what it means to love freely, and how to put one's self in someone else's shoes. It is a quick read that would suit a middle school library or social studies class. Reviewer: Cheryl Williams Chang
During a school year in which a gifted teacher who emphasizes personal responsibility among his fifth graders ends up in a coma from a thrown snowball, his students come to terms with their own issues and learn to be forgiving. Told in short chapters organized month-by-month in the voices of seven students, often describing the same incident from different viewpoints, this weaves together a variety of not-uncommon classroom characters and situations: the new kid, the trickster, the social bully, the super-bright and the disaffected; family clashes, divorce and death; an unwed mother whose long-ago actions haven't been forgotten in the small-town setting; class and experiential differences. Mr. Terupt engineers regular visits to the school's special-needs classroom, changing some lives on both sides. A "Dollar Word" activity so appeals to Luke that he sprinkles them throughout his narrative all year. Danielle includes her regular prayers, and Anna never stops her hopeful matchmaking. No one is perfect in this feel-good story, but everyone benefits, including sentimentally inclined readers. (Fiction. 9-12)
Read an Excerpt
It's our bad luck to have teachers in this world, but since we're stuck with them, the best we can do is hope to get a brand-new one instead of a mean old fart. New teachers don't know the rules, so you can get away with things the old-timers would squash you for. That was my theory. So I was feeling pretty excited to start fifth grade, since I was getting a rookie teacher--a guy named Mr. Terupt. Right away, I put him to the test.
If the bathroom pass is free, all you have to do is take it and go. This year, the bathrooms were right across the hall. It's always been an easy way to get out of doing work. I can be really sneaky like that. I take the pass all the time and the teachers never notice. And like I said, Mr. Terupt was a rookie, so I knew he wasn't going to catch me.
Once you're in the bathroom, it's mess-around time. All the other teachers on our floor were women, so you didn't have to worry about them barging in on you. Grab the bars to the stalls and swing. Try to touch your feet to the ceiling. Swing hard. If someone's in the stall, it's really funny to swing and kick his door in, especially if he's a younger kid. If you scare him bad enough, he might pee on himself a little. That's funny. Or if your buddy's using the urinal, you can push him from behind and flush it at the same time. Then he might get a little wet. That's pretty funny, too. Some kids like to plug the toilets with big wads of toilet paper, but I don't suggest you try doing that. You can get in big trouble. My older brother told me his friend got caught and he had to scrub the toilets with a toothbrush. He said the principal made him brush his teeth with that toothbrush afterward, too. Mrs. Williams is pretty tough, but I don't think she'd give out that kind of punishment. I don't want to find out, either.
When I came back into the classroom after my fourth or fifth trip, Mr. Terupt looked at me and said, "Boy, Peter, I'm gonna have to call you Mr. Peebody, or better yet, Peter the Pee-er. You do more peein' than a dog walking by a mile of fire hydrants."
Everybody laughed. I was wrong. He had noticed. I sat down. Then Mr. Terupt came over and whispered in my ear, "My grandpa used to tell me to tie a knot in it."
I didn't know what to do. My eyes got real big when he said that. I couldn't believe it. But that didn't matter. Mr. Terupt just went back to the front board and the math problem he was going over. I sat there with my big eyes. Soon a smile, too.
"What did he say?" Marty asked. Marty's desk was right next to mine.
"Nothing," I said.
Ben and Wendy leaned across their desks to hear. They sat right across from us. Our four desks made up table number three. Mr. Terupt called us by tables sometimes.
"Nothing," I said again. It would be my secret.
How cool was Mr. Terupt? His reaction was better than being yelled at like the old farts would have done. Some kids in my class would have cried, but not me. And somehow, I think Mr. Terupt knew I wouldn't. It was his way of letting me know he knew what was going on without making a huge stink about it. I liked that about Mr. Terupt. He sure could be funny. And I'm a funny guy. This year, for the first time in my life, I started thinking school could be fun.
Act 1, Scene 1
The first day of school. I was nervous. Somewhat. The sweaty-palms-and-dry-mouth syndrome struck. This wasn't surprising--after all, I was coming to a brand-new place. My mom and I had just moved all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, over here in Connecticut. So it was my first, first day in Snow Hill School. My mom came to help me get settled.
We walked through the glass doors and beautiful entryway and stopped in the main office to ask for directions. A red-haired woman who proved to be exceptional at multitasking greeted us with a smile and a slight nod. She did this while the phone rested between her ear and shoulder, allowing her hands to scribble notes from a conversation she was having in her free ear with the brown-haired lady standing next to her. We waited. My fingers dug into the hard cover of my book.
"Hi. I'm Mrs. Williams, the principal." This was the brown-haired lady speaking. She looked serious, all decked out in her business suit. "Welcome to Snow Hill School. Can I help you with anything?"
"We're looking for Mr. Terupt's room," Mom said. "I'm Julie Writeman and this is my daughter, Jessica. We're new in town."
"Ah, yes. It's a pleasure to meet you both. Let me show you the way."
Mrs. Williams led us out of the office. I glanced at the secretary one more time. She'd be a great character in one of Dad's plays, I thought. My dad directs small plays in California, where I still wanted to be.
"How are you today, Jessica?" Mrs. Williams asked.
"Fine," I said, although that wasn't really true.
We followed Mrs. Williams across the lobby and upstairs in search of my new fifth-grade classroom. The halls smelled stuffy but clean, like they'd just been disinfected. I wondered if the custodians had done that on purpose, to make a show of how clean their school was. I followed Mom down the blue-speckled carpet and past the rows of red lockers, where some kids were already unloading new supplies. I could feel all their eyes studying the new girl in town. After the stares came the whispers. My face burned.
"Here you are," Mrs. Williams said. "This is your floor. There are four classrooms up here, all fifth grade, two on each side of the hall with the bathrooms right in the middle." Mrs. Williams pointed as she spoke. "That's your classroom." She pointed again. "Room two-oh-two. Have a good first day."
"Thank you," Mom said. I just nodded.
Act 1, Scene 2
We walked into the classroom. The teacher looked up from his desk and smiled at us. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered as if I were on a Tilt-A-Whirl.
"Good morning. I'm Mr. Terupt," the teacher said as Mom and I walked in. He came right over to greet us.
"Good morning," Mom said back. "I'm Julie Writeman, and this is Jessica. I think she's a little nervous being a new student."
My tongue felt so swollen that I couldn't talk. I settled on returning Mr. Terupt's smile. It was a friendly one.
"Well, this is my first day, too. So I guess we'll try to figure things out together," he said.
My smile grew.
"Your seat is right over there at table two. You're with Natalie, Tommy, and Ryan. Being near the windows should give you some good reading light. That's a great book you have there, Jessica."
I looked down at my book, A Wrinkle in Time. I rubbed my hand over the cover.
"I really like happy endings," I said.
"Me too," Mr. Terupt said. "I'll do my best to give you a happy ending this year."
I smiled again. I couldn't believe it. My teacher was new, too. And he liked what I was reading. I don't know why, but somehow he made my butterflies disappear and my tongue shrink. Things were going to be okay.