New York Herald Tribune
Ellen and her troubles are both funny and touching; we meet her trying to hide her long underwear at dancing school, and playing a substitute rat in `The Pied Piper.' All is told with a downright realism, and the school scenes are choice.
A rowdy group of students and their eccentric teacher star in Fleming's (Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!) collection of determinedly loopy vignettes, each of which ends with an Aesop-like moral. On the day before school opens, the frantic principal still has not found a teacher for the notoriously unruly fourth graders. In walks Mr. Jupiter, whose credentials include working as a translator for Bigfoot, discovering the lost city of Atlantis and studying at the Coochie-Coochie Institute for Misbehaved Monkeys; he is hired on the spot. When he refuses to react to his students' misbehavior, they think up pranks guaranteed to rile him, but no one dares to pull them off (moral: "It is one thing to talk about it, another to do it"). In another tale, a boy who is struggling with math wishes he were back in kindergarten, where tasks were easier, but then is forced to participate in humiliating activities when he goes to help out with the younger class ("Be careful what you wish for-it might come true"). Packed with puns of varying cleverness, the fables range from pithy to protracted, the morals from spot-on to strained. Even with the inconsistencies, there's plenty to laugh at and even to ponder. Ages 7-11. (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Beverly Cleary's delightful peek into a young girl's life (Morrow, 1951) will capture a new audience in audiobook format. Listeners will giggle at third-grader Ellen's trials with both woolen underwear and her nemesis, Otis Spofford. They will sympathize with Ellen's desire to clap erasers, and her travails in acquiring a giant beet. Then there's the whole concept of being a "substitute rat." Through it all, Ellen's friendship with Austine, and their quarrel and eventual reconciliation provide the thread that ties all the events together. You can't listen to this production without laughing out loud. Andrea Martin reads Cleary's text with expression and good humor, creating unique voices for each character. She brings Ellen and her friends to life and makes them shine. Listeners will enjoy the small joys, horrors, and triumphs that make Ellen's life so like their own.-Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
No teacher wants to teach this year's fourth-grade class at Aesop Elementary. Just as Mrs. Struggles, the principal, is about to give up, Mr. Jupiter appears with a flawlessly huge resume. The class tests him, but he wins them over as the year progresses through these 23 stories. As the title and school's name hint, there's an Aesop connection. Each of the stories has a moral straight out of a fable. Calvin's troubles with math lead him to wish he was back in unproblematic kindergarten. He becomes the class helper in a class of Stepford kids to the tune of "be careful what you wish for." In another, librarian-wait for it-Ms. Paige Turner uses the lure of International Geographic to teach Lenny and Bruce the Dewey Decimal System: "necessity is the mother. . . . " Here's Sideways Stories from Wayside School married to Aesop. Despite a Dewey error and some humor over the head of the target audience, this is a winner, and the final story seems to promise a fifth-grade sequel. (Fiction. 7-11)
Read an Excerpt
THE PRINCIPAL STRUGGLES
The soon-to-be fourth graders at Aesop Elementary School had a reputation for being
"Precocious," said their former first-grade teacher, Ms. Bucky. She ground her teeth.
"High-energy," added their second-grade teacher, Mrs. Chen. The muscle beneath her jaw twitched.
"Robust," agreed their third-grade teacher, Mr. Frost. He patted his now all-white hair.
"Humph!" snorted Bertha Bunz, the lunchroom monitor. "Those kids are just plain naughty." Because she wasn't a teacher, Mrs. Bunz felt free to speak the truth.
Mrs. Bunz was right. So special were the incoming fourth graders that no teacher dared set foot in what would soon be their classroom.
"Not for love or money," shivered Ms. Bucky.
"Not for all the tea in China," shuddered Mrs. Chen.
"Ye gods, no!" yelped Mr. Frost.
It was the last day of summer vacation, and Mrs. Struggles, Aesop Elementary's principal, was at her wits' end. "School starts tomorrow, and I still don't have a fourth-grade teacher," she moaned. "What am I going to do?"
"Have you placed a want ad?" suggested Ms. Bucky.
"Spoken with the superintendent?" suggested Mrs. Chen.
"Talked with the school board?" suggested Mr. Frost.
"Humph!" Mrs. Bunz snorted again. "Call a zookeeper!"
Mrs. Struggles ignored the remark. Defeated, she shuffled into her office and flopped into her chair. If Aesop Elementary were bigger, she thought, I would have separated the troublemakers long ago. But the school was smallonly one classroom per grade levelso the kids had to stay together. Rubbing her throbbing temples, she sighed, "How I wish a teacher would walk through that door."
At that precise moment, a breeze blew through the principal's office. It rustled the papers on her desk, rattled her window blinds, and flung open the door to reveal a tall, dark man wearing a pith helmet and clutching a copy of the morning's want ads.
"I am Mr. Jupiter," he said. "I have come about the teaching job."
Mrs. Struggles rubbed her eyes. Was this a dream? she wondered.
But no, Mr. Jupiter was still there.
"You are looking for a fourth-grader teacher, aren't you?" he asked.
Mrs. Struggles nodded, her spirits suddenly soaring. Waving Mr. Jupiter into a seat, she said, "Tell me a bit about yourself."
"Where to begin?" he replied. "My first job was as an assistant dog groomer aboard King Bernard's yacht, the SS Pooch, anchored off the Dalmatian coast. After receiving my degree in nanothermal economics from Dummer University, I led an expedition in search of the dodo bird. Later, I conducted the Timbuktu Philharmonic Orchestra, worked as a translator for Bigfoot, became the first man to ski down Mount Everest, collected mummified cats in Egypt, and discovered the lost city of Atlantis." He smiled. "Among other things."
Mrs. Struggles tapped her desk with a pencil. He certainly sounded interesting.
"Do you have any teaching experience?" she asked.
"Some," replied Mr. Jupiter. "I was head tetherball coach at Matilda Jane's School for Prim and Proper Girls in Las Vegas, as well as the swimming instructor at Loch Ness Middle School. I also taught Swahili as a second language at Dooglehorn Elementary in Switzerland, hula dancing at Balderdash Academy for Boys in London, and organic geochemistry at Harvard." He smiled again. "Among other places."
Mrs. Struggles tapped her desk some more. He sounded experienced, but . . .
"Have you worked with high-energy students?"
"I studied for a year at the Coochie-Coochie Institute for Misbehaved Monkeys," said Mr. Jupiter. He smiled a third time. "Among other schools."
Mrs. Struggles kept tapping.
"Is there anything else you'd like to add?" she finally asked.
Mr. Jupiter shook his head. "Nothing important," he said, "although you might be interested to know I attended fifth grade at this very school."
Mrs. Struggles stopped tapping. "You did?" she exclaimed. "Really? Who was your teacher?"
Her question caused Mr. Jupiter to turn as white as his whale tooth necklace.
But Mrs. Struggles didn't notice. Leaping to her feet, she cried, "Why didn't you tell me this earlier?" She extended her hand. "You're hired! Welcome back to Aesop Elementary, Mr. Jupiter."
MR. JUPITER GOES FOURTH
On the first day of school, Mr. Jupiter wrote his name on the blackboard.
"Welcome to fourth grade," he said to his nineteen new students. "I am your teacher, Mr. Jupiter."
"Jupiter?" repeated Humphrey Parrot. "Jupiter? That's a funny name."
"It's not as funny as Pluto," said Bruce Vanderbanter.
"Or Uranus," added Lenny Wittier.
The boys high-fived. "Mr. Uranus! Mr. Uranus! Mr. Uranus!"
They glanced at the new teacher, waiting for a reaction.
But Mr. Jupiter just smiled. "I'm glad to know my students have a sense of humor," he said.
In the back of the room, Bernadette Braggadoccio peeled a glob of pink bubble gum off her nose and shoved it back into her mouth. She chomped, smacked, and pulled long, sticky strings from her mouth. Then she huffed . . . and puffed . . . and peered over the top of her bubble at the new teacher.
She waited for a reaction.
But Mr. Jupiter was still smiling. "Chewing gum is known to help children concentrate," he said.
"Down by the banks of the Hanky Panky,
Where the bullfrogs hop from banky to banky,
The momma frogs get so cranky cranky That they give their tadpoles a spanky spanky."
On the other side of the room, Missy Place and Rose Clutterdorf SMACK-SLAP-CLAPPED their hands to the rhythm of their words.
But their eyes were on the new teacher, waiting for a reaction.
Mr. Jupiter was still smiling. "What a wonderful exercise for improving eye-hand coordination," he said.
"I know a poem," shouted Lillian DittyLil, for short. "Want to hear it?" And she waxed poetic:
"Oh, homework! Oh, homework!
Here's the true scoop.
It takes so much time That I can't even"