Niagara Falls, Or Does It? #1

Niagara Falls, Or Does It? #1

4.4 62
by Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver, Tim Heitz

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For Hank, fourth grade does not start out on the right foot. First of all, he gets called to the principal's office on the very first day of school. Then the first assignment his teacher gives him is to write five paragraphs on "What You Did This Summer." Hank is terrified-writing one good sentence is hard for him, so how in the world is he going to write five whole…  See more details below


For Hank, fourth grade does not start out on the right foot. First of all, he gets called to the principal's office on the very first day of school. Then the first assignment his teacher gives him is to write five paragraphs on "What You Did This Summer." Hank is terrified-writing one good sentence is hard for him, so how in the world is he going to write five whole paragraphs? Hank comes up with a plan: instead of writing what he did on vacation, he'll show what he did. But when Hank's "living essay" becomes a living disaster, he finds himself in detention. Strangely enough, however, detention ends up becoming a turning point in his life.

Editorial Reviews
Actor Henry Winkler and producer Lin Oliver team up for a laugh-out-loud and thoughtful series about a fourth-grader dealing with school life, family, and his own "learning differences."

When Hank Zipzer's teacher assigns an essay on summer vacation, Hank begins sweating bullets -- although he doesn't "have a problem remembering interesting facts," he "just can't do a lot with them." Frustrated by his writing troubles, Hank decides to skip the essay and instead create a working replica of Niagara Falls. But when his masterpiece leads to classroom chaos, Hank lands in two weeks of detention and out of the Magik 3 show. Fortunately, though, Hank's detention monitor is a cool music teacher who spots the trouble and suggests he get tested for learning challenges, and after he talks with Mr. and Mrs. Zipzer, Hank has no trouble getting back into the show.

With a comical character and several hilarious scenes, this first Hank Zipzer installment will surely hook readers while enlightening them about people who learn differently. Winkler and Oliver smartly remember to focus on fun without getting too heavy-handed with the message, and audiences will come away anxious for more. This "world's best underachiever" should have no trouble hitting the heights of success.

Publishers Weekly
A new series-Hank Zipzer: The Mostly True Confessions of the World's Best Underachiever-starts off with a bang, thanks to these two misadventures of a fourth-grader with "learning challenges." Hank addresses readers directly with a deadpan voice. He lives in New York City with his crossword puzzle-addicted father, a mother who produces such dubious treats as vegetarian bologna at her deli ("Unfortunately for me, my lunch is her laboratory," says Hank), and his sister ("Emily the Perfect") and her pet iguana. When his teacher, Ms. Adolf, assigns a five-paragraph essay on what they did over the summer, Hank feels stymied until he decides to "build" his essay instead-a working model of Niagara Falls-and the plan backfires spectacularly. In the second book, Hank's report card (straight D's) winds up in the grinder for the soy salami that his mother hopes will attract the attention of the city's biggest supermarket chain. It's up to Hank to remedy the disaster. Both tales deftly blend comedy and pathos, and the exploration of Hank's academic struggles is never heavy-handed. The characters are well-drawn, from the endearingly hapless but determined Hank himself to a solid supporting cast that includes Hank's pals, his sympathetic grandfather and his arch-enemy, Nick McKelty (a bully with a head "the size of Rhode Island"). With snappy timing, pitch-perfect dialogue and a wise-cracking delivery, these two tales should attract an enthusiastic readership-not limited to, but certainly including, reluctant readers. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
For a kid with Hank's "learning challenges," it is not easy to come up with a five-paragraph essay on what he did over summer vacation, so he substitutes an impressive—but disastrous—working model of Niagara Falls instead. But grounded by his parents for two weeks afterward, how is he going to participate in the magic show he and his two best friends are staging at Papa Pete's bowling alley, and triumph over the neighborhood bully? Winkler and Oliver try a bit too hard to cover all bases, with their carefully constructed interracial cast of friends and over-the-top slapstick humor in the Niagara Falls scene climaxed by "muddy, mushy Niagara Falls" landing "with a splat all over [the principal's' face." Not to mention the overly positive message that "learning challenges" just reflect brain differences that, like pickles in Papa Pete's pickle barrel, "are all different and all delicious to someone." But laugh-out-loud humor is abundant and absolutely on target for its intended audience, as when Hank wonders why his grim teacher would bother to pick a piece of lint off her skirt: "It's not like she looks that good anyway," with her "gray skirt and a gray blouse, which match her gray hair and gray glasses, not to mention her gray face"—and especially when her gray skirt already has chalk marks shaped like donkey ears "on her butt." Newcomer Winkler and veteran Oliver have produced a likeable, funny book. 2003, Grosset & Dunlap,
— Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-On the first day of fourth grade, Hank's teacher assigns a five-paragraph essay, "What I did on my summer vacation," and he knows he's in trouble. It has always been difficult for him to read, write, and spell so he decides to "build" his assignment instead-to "-bring Niagara Falls into the classroom, water and all." With the help of his friends, he creates a working model, complete with water pump, Saran-wrapped tubing, and a papier-m ch mountain. Predictably, his "living essay" comes to an unfortunate end when a leak leads to a flood and chaos in the classroom. Hank's creativity is rewarded with two weeks' detention and grounding, but his friends are counting on his help for their upcoming magic show. Just when the boy's self-esteem is at its lowest, the new music teacher suspects that he has "learning differences" and suggests that he be tested. Eventually, the misunderstood protagonist convinces his parents to let him perform in the show, which is a big hit, largely thanks to Hank's ingenuity. Less dysfunctional and outrageous than Joey Pigza, Hank Zipzer is the kid next door. Humor, magic, a school bully, a pet dachshund named Cheerio, and a pet iguana that slurps soup at dinner add up to a fun novel with something for everyone.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A clunky but well-meant series kickoff featuring, as the subtitle has it, "The World’s Best Underachiever." Already in hot water for being tardy on his first day, Hank digs himself a deeper hole by presenting his "summer vacation" report not as a written essay (writing being torture for him), but a model of Niagara Falls--which proceeds to flood the classroom. He gets zero slack from teacher, Principal, or even his parents--until the music teacher with whom he spends his lengthy detention suggests that he be tested for "learning differences." Aha! Strongly assured that doesn’t mean he’s stupid, Hank shows his creative flair again at the end, by helping his multiethnic circle of friends put on a magic show for seniors. Thoroughly typecast characters, plus Hank’s tendency to overexplain, make the earnestness outshine the plot. There’s no actual note to parents, but there might as well be, as this is plainly meant to be a consciousness-raiser about learning disabilities for both children and adults. The celebrity co-author may draw some of the former. (Fiction. 9-11)

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Hank Zipzer , #1
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
610L (what's this?)
File size:
561 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Henry Winkler is an acomplished actor, producer and director.  In 2003, Henry added author to his list of acheivements as he co-authored a series of children's books.  Inspired by the true life experiences of Henry Winkler, whose undiagnosed dyslexia made him a classic childhood underachiever, the Hank Zipzer series is about the high-spirited and funny adventures of a boy with learning differences.

Henry is married to Stacey Weitzman and they have three children.

Lin Oliver is a writer and producer of movies, books, and television series for children and families. She has created over one hundred episodes of television, four movies, and seven books. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alan. They have three sons named Theo, Ollie, and Cole, one fluffy dog named Annie, and no iguanas.

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