Gr 4-6-A frantically paced tale about a sixth-grade class that's determined to get rid of an unwanted new teacher. The students' obnoxious behavior doesn't seem to faze Goldberg Fred, and for this he earns their grudging respect, but they decide he's the weirdest person they've ever met-so weird, in fact, that he must be from another planet. He challenges them to prove this-an effort that forms the core of this dialogue-driven story. Pinkwater relies too heavily on her flair for witty repartee to carry the plot, and character development suffers greatly as a result. Mr. Fred is intriguing, but the students are considerably less so. Anya, the narrator and class president, is Mr. Fred's chief antagonist, but she dwells so much on him and on school that her own personality is obscured; as the book progresses she becomes increasingly shrill. A dozen other characters parade in and out, their apparent function being to give Anya and Mr. Fred their cues. Toward the end, the plot takes a surprising and ultimately unbelievable turn. It turns out that Mr. Fred really is an alien, and that the FBI is after him, so he departs and is replaced by his sister, another alien with an affinity for sixth graders. This novel doesn't make much sense-unless it's trying to say that only aliens can handle a group of sixth graders. In any case, readers need characters they can care about.-Mary Jo Drungil, Niles Public Library District, IL
Miss Cintron's sixth-graders at My Dear Watson Elementary School are devastated when their teacher heads off to South America for an exchange program. They successfully manage to scare off five weeks' worth of substitutes, but then Mr. Goldberg Fred shows up. He wiggles his ears, reads the kids' minds, and remains two steps ahead of his angry mob of students. But when Mr. Fred institutes a challenge to the sixth-graders--to find out if he's from outer space--the kids become intrigued by learning. For a story so way out, the pace is oddly slow at times, and the outrageousness occasionally seems forced. The dust jacket, featuring a wild new-wave Mr. Fred, will draw readers in, and while they'll be caught up in the premise, they might get bogged down in the middle. For some, there'll be enough funny, wacky, or weird moments to keep them reading until the end.