Monday, October 26, 2015

Class Dismissed by Allan Woodrow, 2015

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Class 507 is the worst class Ms. Bryce has ever taught. And she would know — she’s been teaching forever. They are so terrible that when a science experiment goes disastrously wrong (again), Ms. Bryce has had it and quits in the middle of the lesson. But through a mix-up, the school office never finds out.
Which means ... Class 507 is teacher-free!
The class figures if they don’t tell anyone, it’ll be one big holiday. Kyle and his friends can play games all day. Samantha decides she’ll read magazines and give everyone (much needed) fashion advice. Adam can doodle everywhere without getting in trouble. Eric will be able to write stories with no one bothering him. And Maggie ... well, as the smartest kid in the class she has an ambitious plan for this epic opportunity.
But can Class 507 keep the principal, the rest of the students, and their parents from finding out ... or will the greatest school year ever turn into the worst disaster in school history?

(272 pages)

I saw this on Edelweiss, and I knew I had to get my hands on it because I am a huge sucker for MG books about kids interacting in and around school (books like Rob Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt, Dan Gutman's The Homework Machine, etc.), and I always jump at the opportunity to read them. With Class Dismissed I especially loved the idea of a class without a teacher, and I couldn't wait to see how the kids dealt with all the responsibilities that came with keeping a classroom running.

I'll start with the negatives, just to get them out of the way: this is one of those books where I really wish all of the kids were just a little bit older. Because the kids are ten years old, and they act like they're fifteen. And I love reading books about fifteen-year-olds, so it wasn't a massive issue, but I just had to suspend belief a few times while reading about the boy and girl who were "in love" with each other, and the girl so obsessed with the future that she thought her fifth-grade track record could ruin her chances for getting into Harvard, and the super-shallow girl with the father made of money and the fixation on reading fashion magazines. Because ten-year-olds don't fall in love with each other (heck, I'm sixteen and I've never been on a date), nothing you do in fifth grade affects your ability to get into a top-tier school (unless you, like, killed someone in cold blood or something), and I find it very hard to swallow that a girl with super-rich parents and a penthouse suite would go to public school alongside someone like, say, Kyle - the boy living in a cramped apartment with his single mother and pack of younger siblings - and there never once be mention of any reason her parents aren't sending her to some posh private school.

Believability issues aside, though, I really loved Class Dismissed. It's got a great variety of characters, and Woodrow does a great job balancing the POVs so it never begins to feel overwhelming. Each of the narrating kids has their own distinct voice that makes them easy to pick out of the crowd, and I enjoyed reading about each of their personal problems, as well as the overarching issue of trying to keep their big class secret. My favorite main character was Kyle, because he was such a fascinating mixed bag: he wanted desperately to be the mature, helpful, successful boy who did well in school and helped his single mom take care of the kids, but he just kept getting distracted and messing things up. Watching his internal struggle as he tries to decide what sort of person he really is was very compelling. The play at the end was also fabulous, and I loved reading all of the really goofy stuff the kids kept adding and subtracting from the script. When I was reading Class Dismissed, I kept grabbing people and reading particularly hilarious quotes out loud. Luckily, they didn't get annoyed - my siblings thought they were just as funny as I did!

Class Dismissed reminds me a lot of Gordon Korman's books (fans of No More Dead Dogs, take note!), or of the Terupt books (but maybe for a slightly younger audience). It was a great read, and I highly recommend it to any kid looking for a book about school, friendship, responsibility, and history.

Actually, scratch that last part. I don't think any elementary-school-aged kids should read this until they know exactly how large a part George Washington's wooden teeth really had in the Revolutionary War (spoiler: even less than you think).

Disclaimer: This is an Amazon affiliate link, and I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Scholastic in exchange for an honest review.

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