Charlie, Jeffrey and Sidney are in the seventh grade, and are spending too much time in the principal's office. Charlie talks non-stop, Jeffrey is too frightened to talk at all, and Sidney would much rather let his fists hold up his end of the conversation. Realizing that detention is not solving the continued problems, Mr. Duncan enrolls them in karate lessons. What begins as punishment slowly becomes bearable and then a pleasure for the three...
Charlie, Jeffrey and Sidney are in the seventh grade, and are spending too much time in the principal's office. Charlie talks non-stop, Jeffrey is too frightened to talk at all, and Sidney would much rather let his fists hold up his end of the conversation. Realizing that detention is not solving the continued problems, Mr. Duncan enrolls them in karate lessons.
What begins as punishment slowly becomes bearable and then a pleasure for the three boys, as they all begin to learn about themselves and how to get along with others.
In his hilarious first novel for younger readers, best-selling teen novelist Don Trembath is at the top of his comic form with this look at some of the misfits in a small-town school.
We begin this quick read in a principal's office with three highly unlikely candidates for martial arts classes. But when the principal decides to enroll them in a karate class, in lieu of detention, things begin to happen for Charlie, Sidney and Jeffrey. Slowly, the three begin to understand how karate might hold some meanings for the real world. This is a terrific scenario, but unfortunately the rest of the story doesn't quite live up to it. Tremblath's humor is likeable, but his narrator's voice is patchy. Point of view shifts erratically and unevenly, and the ambience of a karate do jang seems contrived. 2001, Orca, . Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
Chatterbox Charlie, meek Jeffrey, and feisty Sidney end up in Principal Duncan's office at the same time one day but not for the same reason. Called Frog Face behind his back, Mr. Duncan decides to put all three in a karate class because he does not feel that detention will change their problems. Although there are several adjustments to be made and some resistance on the part of the boys, they also see challenges in the class. Macho Sidney gets decked by a high kicking girl; almost-mute Jeffrey learns to speak up; and Charlie, who never overextends himself, actually steps in to break up a fight. Best of all, the boys all want to continue taking the class. Trembath's simple plot is enlivened by the dialogue, especially that of Charlie, who tries to mislead, cajole, distract, or just plain lie without ever realizing how transparent and funny he is. Each boy also advances his relationship with and understanding of his mother, whereas fathers are frequently uninvolved in their lives or missing entirely. A basic karate vocabulary is explained through the instruction of the karate teacher, or sensai, during the early classes. Although predictable, this first book in the Black Belt series will be enjoyed by students looking for pleasure reading. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Orca, 157p,
— Pam Spencer Holley
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Three 12-year-olds are spending entirely too much time in the principal's office. Charlie depends on his "storytelling" skills to get out of any physical activity and never stops talking, Jeffrey is so shy that any thought of talking to another person paralyzes him, and Sydney would rather speak with his fists. Mr. Duncan knows that further detentions will not solve their behavioral problems, and comes up with an alternative-he enrolls the boys in a karate class run by his son. The youngsters are horrified when their usual coping strategies don't work in class: Charlie can't lie his way out of participating, Jeffrey has to fight back, and Sydney is knocked down on successive nights-by a girl. Over time they begin to realize that there are alternative ways of doing things and slowly begin to enjoy the classes. In his first book for younger readers, Trembath has produced a satisfying and humorous tale. As in his books for young adults, the characters have definite and entertaining personalities. This story will appeal to a wide age range, from children ready for something more than a beginning chapter book to older readers who appreciate a comical, fast-paced, and entertaining read.-Betsy Fraser, Calgary Public Library, Canada Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Don Trembath began writing for keeps when he was 13 years old. He wrote horror stories at night and read them to his little brother as he tried to fall asleep.
"Every morning I'd ask him if he'd had a nightmare and he'd say, 'No. Was I supposed to?' I soon abandoned horror stories and moved on to comedy. I read those stories to him and would ask him in the morning. 'Did you laugh?' One day he said, 'No, but I had a nightmare.'"
Don was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on May 22, 1963--the third youngest of four boys. In the winter he played hockey and in the summer football, baseball, and soccer. Between games, he went to school. At the age of 14, Don moved with his family to Alberta. He graduated from Paul Kane High School in St. Albert and went to the University of Alberta to study English. He has written for weekly and daily newspapers, local and national magazines, and a host of trade publications.
Don's first book, The Tuesday Cafe, was published in 1996. Since then he has written nine others, with two more, Daydream Believer and Hypnotized published in 2007. Don also teaches writing at MacEwan College in Edmonton, and regularly visit schools and libraries across the country.
Don currently lives in the town of Morinville, Alberta with his wife, Lisa, their three kids, three laid back cats, and their neighbor's big dog.
The three boys sat in silence for several more minutes, then the short, round figure and bulging eyes of Mr. Duncan, the principal, blew in through the door. To many people in the school system, Mr. Duncan looked like a frog, and today, he looked like a frog on a mission. An exciting mission.