So What Do You Do?

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Maura Bresnahan
Mr. Adams, a former third-grade teacher, has become an alcoholic and is living in a cardboard box in a San Francisco park. Two of his former students, Charlie and Colleen, are now sixth-graders at a nearby middle school. After Charlie recognizes Mr. Adams and tells Colleen, the two decide to make Mr. Adams's life on the streets a little easier. They bring him food, visit him regularly, and remind him of the important role he played in their lives. Over the course of about six months, Charlie and Colleen notice a great deal of improvement in Mr. Adams's lifestyle, particularly a decrease in his drinking. Events take a sudden twist, however, when during spring break a group of teenagers go on a rampage through the park destroying homeless shelters, including Mr. Adams's. Charlie and Colleen smuggle Mr. Adams into their former third-grade classroom, where with the aid of the school custodian and a police officer who also had Mr. Adams as a teacher, they arrange a party in his honor. As the novel ends, readers are left with the hope that Mr. Adams will be able to build a new life for himself. The author's description of Charlie's believable reaction to the odors and bodily functions of Mr. Adams will strike chords with readers. However, the story's realistic look at homelessness is mixed with some improbable plot twists. The storyline's aim is admirable, but the attempts to show how much people care is a bit of a stretch, especially in the scenes where Mr. Adams is allowed to stay at his old school. Paula Fox's Monkey Island (Orchard, 1991) offers middle schoolers a more credible view of people in similar situations. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8).
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8In this overly optimistic look at homelessness, sixth-grader Charlie Fuller is shocked to discover his beloved third-grade teacher living on the streets of his California town. Though Mr. Adams does not initially acknowledge their past connection, Charlie and his friend Colleen try to improve their former teacher's situation. They take him gifts and food and clean his cardboard house. More importantly, they tell him how he changed their lives. Over the months, the man pulls himself out of the alcoholic haze that has trapped him. When some rampaging teens tear up the homeless encampment, the children take the injured Mr. Adams back to his former classroom and, with the help of the school custodian and a local policeman, care for him. Plans are formed to get their friend an apartment, help him get started on a hoped-for career as a writer, and celebrate his years as a teacher. This is a worthy book, putting a face on a problem that many people try to ignore. By detailing the steps that can lead a successful person to homelessness, Evans creates empathy for the individuals caught in its trap. Most of the homeless people are positively portrayed. While the violence and hardship of the encampment are mentioned, they are seemingly not dangerous enough to intimidate two sheltered, rich children who visit there every day. The inherent question posed throughout is, "So What Do You Do?" when faced with an unsolvable problem. Personal action and commitment may help, but how realistic, not to mention safe, is the action outlined here? Not very.Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Two sixth graders find their third-grade teacher living in a cardboard box in the park and give him a fresh start in this contrived, misguided tale from Evans (The Classroom at the End of the Hall, 1995).

Charlie isn't sure why he follows the filthy, shambling street person into the public library—until he realizes with a shock that it's Joe Adams, his all-time favorite teacher. When Charlie rushes up to talk, he is coldly rebuffed. Enlisting the help of classmate Colleen, another Adams fan, he begins bringing food and clean clothing to the box where Adams keeps his books and opera tapes, lying about his whereabouts to conveniently oblivious parents. As weeks pass, Adams slowly becomes less hostile, and at last explains how the combination of chemotherapy, divorce, and a publicized incident in which he shoved a bullying student destroyed his self-esteem, led him to resign, and eventually drove him to drink. Ultimately, Charlie and Colleen sneak him into his old school classroom for a week (it's spring break), while appreciative former students gather to get him back on his feet with a check, an apartment, and a pep rally. Evans pays warm tribute to the profound effects a teacher can have, and suggests that helping the homeless often requires more than finding them places to live. Still, there are several characters and subplots undeveloped, and in Charlie's example is a potentially dangerous course of action.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781886910201
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1993
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 124
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas Evans is the author of MVP*, Apple Island, and the previous collections of classroom tales: Math Rashes and The Classroom at the End of the Hall. He has a master's degree in education and has taught for fifteen years in settings ranging from a small logging town in Oregon to international schools in Helsinki and London. He currently lives in Berkeley, California.

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