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2000-2001 Georgia's Picture Storybook Award & Georgia's Children's Book Award Masterlist
Author Biography: Elizabeth Levy loves to tell stories that combine serious issues with humor. She has proven it with her award-winning books for young readers, including My Life As A Fifth-Grade Comedian, Keep Ms. Sugarman In The Fourth Grade, and other best-selling books in the Sam and Robert series, including Frankenstein Moved In On The Fourth Floor and Dracula Is A Pain In The Neck. She lives in New York City.
Although Bobby's father thinks that he might be expelled just like his older brother, with the encouragement of a new fifth-grade teacher, Bobby tries to channel his penchant for humor into a learning experience.
Bobby's constant class clowning has driven his principal, Dr. Deal, to the limits; his father has given up on him, expecting—and getting—only the worst; his brother, Jimmy, eggs him on. Only his teacher, Mr. Matous, is on his side, and Bobby's not making that easy. Then he is given one last chance—the job of organizing a school-wide comedy competition. In this misleadingly titled book, the jokes fall flat (many simply because they appear in the chapter headings before they come up naturally in the text), but the drama soars. Tensions run high as Bobby struggles to channel his comedic energy and drive into the productive efforts suggested by his understanding teacher, while also dealing with pressures from his brother and nay-saying father. Things may work out a little too well in the end, but scenes of Bobby's home life and his relationship with his friends and relatives make the book hard to put down.
Why was Christopher Columbus a crook?
Because he double-crossed the Atlantic.
"Yuck!" shouted Mr. Matous. The doorknob rattled as he tried to turn it. The class cracked up. They say that laughter is the best medicine. If that's so, then call me the doctor. I was the one who had put Vaseline on the outside doorknob. My brother, Jimmy, taught me that Vaseline was a practical joker's best friend. I don't even want to tell you what Jimmy taught me about Vaseline and a toilet seat.
"Mrs. Harris, could you get me a paper towel? Quickly!" We could hear Mr. Matous yelling to the other fifth-grade teacher from outside the door.
"What did you do?" Janeen asked. Janeen is my best friend. She looked worried. But that wasn't unusual for her.
"Relax," I said. "He'll never be able to prove it was me. Vaseline tells no tales."
"Bobby!" shouted Mr. Matous, still on the other side of the door.
Janeen giggled. "Can't prove it was you, huh? Who else would it be? Yesterday you put green food dye in the science experiment. I think he'll have a clue."
Mr. Matous came into the classroom, wiping his hand. "Bobby," he said, shaking his head.
"Me? What did I do?" I put on my most innocent face. My brother, Jimmy, taught me another thing: Never confess. If you don't confess, adults will always wonder if maybe they're wrong. Of course, this tactic didn't help when they kicked Jimmy out of high school. He was running a gambling ring -- real gambling, not just penny poker. He used the high school computers to set up his very own Web page so that customers could place bets. Adults aren't concerned with your not confessing whenthey have proof of your guilt.
Janeen raised her hand and tried to defend me. "Mr. Matous, it didn't have to be Bobby. There weren't fingerprints on the Vaseline or anything."
Mr. Matous threw the paper towel into the wastepaper basket. "Janeen, there's such a thing as circumstantial evidence. Anyhow, Bobby, let's try for a clean slate -- or at least a clean doorknob."
Mr. Matous can be pretty funny. He likes to laugh. Some teachers don't, but when you get one who does, you're golden. It's Mr. Matous's first year of teaching. He's the kind of teacher who thinks all kids are worth saving. Everybody in the class knows that I am the type of kid who is too much for Mr. Matous to handle. It's made for an interesting year. "Hand your homework assignments up to the front," said Mr. Matous. My classmates were smirking. I could tell they were just waiting for what I would do next. I wouldn't disappoint them. I always come up with something. One by one, my classmates gave their homework to Mr. Matous -- everyone except me. "Bobby," said Mr. Matous. He sounded tired. "Did you do your homework?"
"No," I admitted. "I did some other kid's homework."
The class tittered. "Bobby, that joke is so old, it has mold on it," said Mr. Matous.
The class laughed hysterically. That's what I love about Mr. Matous. He's as funny as I am. "Quiet!" he shouted. "It wasn't that funny. Bobby, this is the third time in a row that you haven't done your homework. What's the problem?"
"It's not a good time in my life for homework right now." The class cracked up again.
"Now what exactly does that mean?" asked Mr. Matous.
"I mean, there's a lot going on at home right now. I don't have time for homework."
Mr. Matous looked confused. I tend to have that effect on teachers. "Class, open your history books and review the chapter on Columbus's first encounters with Native Americans," he said. He came down the aisle and stood in front of my desk with a concerned look on his face. "What's happening at home that's keeping you from doing your homework?" he asked softly. "If there's really a problem, you know that you can come to me."
I thought about it. First-year teachers are such suckers for hard-luck stories. I could tell him about Jimmy's fight with my parents after he got kicked out of school. I looked out the window. It was a cold March day. I was supposed to meet Jimmy after school. Jimmy's almost eighteen -- eight years older than me. He's staying with a friend. I miss him. Home is not exactly a barrel of laughs without Jimmy. He left home, and my parents won't ask him back. They call it tough love, but it seems like tough luck to me. I can just imagine what will happen to me when I step out of line. The wind was blowing. A gust of wind hit a piece of newspaper and sent it tumbling up into the air -- as if the laws of gravity had been turned upside down.
"What problems?" repeated Mr. Matous.
"Uh, seriously, Mr. Matous," I said in a loud voice so the other kids could hear, "I would have done my homework, but there was a problem in my house. They cut off the gravity. Dad forgot to pay the bill. He's very absentminded."
I could hear some of my classmates giggling. It was a sound I loved.
"Cut off the gravity," repeated Mr. Matous. Most adults would ask, "Is that supposed to be a joke?" Not Mr. Matous. He was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
"Yeah, things are pretty up in the air right now." I love it when jokes come to me. I'd have to add this one to my notebook. I write down the best jokes that I've heard or made up. I've got a whole shelf full of books on how to be a comic, and they all say the same thing -- keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down ideas. But this idea was more than just a joke. I wished something like that could really happen -- gravity cutting off. All my problems would float up and away. Unfortunately, Mr. Matous had just about had it with my sense of humor.My Life as a Fifth-Grade Comedian. Copyright © by Elizabeth Levy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted January 21, 2008
Posted July 8, 2006
Posted November 4, 2003
It stinks. The story was offle and the jokes aren't funny. I think since it's written from the point of view of a trouble maker it makes Bobby's serios situation look silly. I hated the bookWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 4, 2000
Elizabeth Levy's book is enjoyable to read. Especially those who are difficult to engage in schoolwork. My son loved the jokes that headed each chapter and anticipated the use of the joke in the chapter. If your child resists reading, try this book. He actually spent his twenty minutes of required reading looking at the book instead of the clock!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.