Ethan, Suspended


After getting suspended from school, Ethan Oppenheimer is uprooted from his comfortable suburban life in Pennsylvania and sent to live in Washington, D.C., with grandparents he hardly knows. At Parker Junior High, he stands out as the only white student. Making friends there is difficult; fitting in, impossible. It doesn't help that his overprotective grandparents expect him to live their old-fashioned, frugal...
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After getting suspended from school, Ethan Oppenheimer is uprooted from his comfortable suburban life in Pennsylvania and sent to live in Washington, D.C., with grandparents he hardly knows. At Parker Junior High, he stands out as the only white student. Making friends there is difficult; fitting in, impossible. It doesn't help that his overprotective grandparents expect him to live their old-fashioned, frugal lifestyle.

As he tries to find his way in this new world, Ethan also struggles with issues from the world he left behind — guilt about the events surrounding his suspension, anxiety about his parents' separation, loneliness for the company of his family and friends.

Slowly, Ethan adjusts. He makes a few friends; he joins the jazz band and learns a new instrument; he even gets used to dried-out dinners at 4:30 pm. Along the way he learns a lot about prejudice and acceptance — and about himself and his changing family situation.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
It is so unfair to get suspended for something you did not even really do—not exactly—and the ones who really did it never even get caught! But Ethan soon learns that standing by and letting something bad happen is perhaps as bad as doing it yourself. In the meantime, however, he has been sent into exile—that is, to live with his Jewish grandparents in inner city Washington, D.C., just for awhile until his mother can get things sorted out. But it turns into a longer while because now his parents are separated and may be getting divorced and his sister has gone off to college in California and he is stuck going to Parker Junior High where he will be the ONLY white kid amongst his black and Latino classmates. The only ones who will talk to him are the two black kids who live next door to his grandparents, Felix and Daron, and they tell him to stay away from the Hispanic kids, which he cannot quite do because one of them is his partner on the social studies project about the 1968 riots in D.C. Then there is this cool girl in jazz band who smiles at him, Sharita, and no one back home would ever believe he is frequently tripping over his tongue trying to talk to her. Ethan stumbles into one social land mine after another in this strange new terrain that could not be further from his upscale Philadelphia suburban neighborhood. He learns, too, that discrimination is not just a matter of the law, or of people's attitudes and behavior, but also a consequence of poverty. He and Sharita devise a way to reach out and help poor children through music that makes him, the jazz band teacher, and even his severe grandparents proud. When the time comes to leave, he is reluctant to go, buttakes with him a better understanding of what friendship really means, and a new found appreciation for the meaning of home. This is a good book for middle school boys with some reasonably palatable lessons about personal responsibility and the repercussions of prejudice.
VOYA - Steven Kral
Ethan's family is disintegrating. His parents are separating and his sister is away at college. Deserted by his friends when he is suspended, he is sent by his mother to live with his grandparents in Washington, D.C. Suburban Philadelphia has not prepared Ethan for life in his new inner-city school and neighborhood. Adrift, Ethan must figure out the rules of his new world as well as learn to live with his grandparents and their old-fashioned lifestyle. As he makes his way through his new world, he learns about his parents, his grandparents, determination, tolerance, and how to play the oboe. The novel is told in a breezy, conversational style that lends itself to reading in one or two sittings. Ethan's struggle to fit in is alternatively humorous and bittersweet. Ethan is a likeable protagonist, and his narration effectively draws the reader into the story. Unfortunately some of the other characters do not fare as well. Ethan's grandparents come off as stereotypical elderly people afraid of technology, obsessed about saving money, and remembering how much better things were in the old days. The music teacher exists only to dispense wisdom and encourage Ethan. Although the majority of the book has a light, slightly wry tone, occasionally the tenor shifts into the didactic. When Ethan is confronting a large moral scenario, his narrative voice seems to be replaced by the author's to ensure that the reader gets it.
School Library Journal

Gr 6-8
After he's suspended from his middle school in suburban Philadelphia, Ethan is sent to live with his maternal grandparents in Washington, DC. He learns that he'll attend Parker Junior High-in a uniform from "ValuBuy." The boy feels suspended not only from his old school, but in time, as well. Every aspect of his life is changing radically. His parents have separated and his sister has started college in California. Life with his grandparents starkly contrasts with life in the suburbs. Not only is their city neighborhood a bit seedy, but Ethan is also the only white kid on the block and at school; there are no malls to hang out in and the only technology in his grandparents' home is a rotary phone. But during the fall, Ethan learns about the strength of his family and the turbulent times that helped shape them, begins to accept his parents' divorce, and figures out that assumptions about people can be way off base. In other words, he grows during his time away from Maple Heights. His first-person narration presents a different take on being an outsider. He's white and Jewish, middle class and suburban-raised in a challenged, gritty inner-city area. Details about the nation's capital appear (and more importantly, feel) accurate. Though message-driven with many convenient coincidences (saved by the suburbs-Ethan returns to his comfortable life and his grandparents' neighbors move to a DC suburb), this novel does provide a look at a not-often-seen side of life in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, because of its heavy-handedness, it is not likely to be embraced by the intended audience.
—Maria B. SalvadoreCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802853240
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 3/28/2007
  • Pages: 266
  • Age range: 12 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Pamela Ehrenberg has been an educator for ten years, and she currently serves as a consultant for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education in Washington, D.C. This is her first published novel.
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