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THE BOY WHO FAILED SHOW AND TELL

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 7 months, 1 week ago

15 February 2021 THE BOY WHO FAILED SHOW AND TELL by Jordan Sonnenbick, Scholastic Press, February 2021, 224p., ISBN: 978-1-338-64723-5

 

“Schooldays were the happiest days

Though at the time they filled me with dismay”

-- The Kinks (1975)

 

“I am confused. Sometimes, it’s really hard to figure out when having fun is just fun, and when it is the same as being bad.”

 

THE BOY WHO FAILED SHOW AND TELL is a fun and funny episodic memoir that’s perfect for elementary readers. It focuses on Jordan Sonnenblick’s fourth grade year in the late 1970s. If you’re already a fan of the author, you’ll recognize incidents here that have served as inspiration for his popular tween chapter books. 

 

Many of these episodes are laugh-out-loud hysterical. There’s the Thanksgiving dinner that is interrupted when a girl from the neighborhood gets her head stuck in Jordan’s backyard swing set. The waterskiing lessons. The melting crayons on the classroom radiator. The garter snake wedding. The paper airplanes at Yankee Stadium armed with ketchup bombs.

 

Jordan also faces challenges over the course of the school year that many kids will relate to: his short stature; his big sister; the teacher who hates him; his allergies and asthma; the difficulty of learning to catch fly balls; the challenge of understanding when and when not to take literally what your mother says; and the fears that result from the nearby accident that year at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. 

 

Then there are the bullies:

 

“This is ridiculous! It’s just my luck that in my second day at a new school, I run into the only fourth grader in the world who has his own henchmen. I start to say, ‘I’m sorry I took your seat. I really didn’t know it was yours.’ But all I get to say is, ‘I’m--’ before Albert steps toward me, puts both his hands on my chest, and shoves. I go flying backward, and the only thing that stops me from falling on my butt is that I reach back to catch myself, which makes me land on my metal lunchbox instead.

Sadly, metal is harder than my butt. The edge of the lunch box smashes into my spine and I can’t stop myself from letting out a weak little ‘Ow!’

All right then. Now there’s no way I can stop a fight from happening. (Or really, continuing.) But Albert is twice my size, and it's three against one. Thinking fast, I show him my lunch box. ‘Okay,’ I say. ‘Here’s how this is gonna go. Either you let me pass, or I am going to hit you in the face with this lunch box.’

He sneers. ‘You’re not serious.’

‘Try me.’

‘Fine, I will,’ he says, but this time his voice doesn’t sound so brave.

‘Excellent,’ I say as cheerfully as I can. I look down at the lunch box and pretend to study all the slightly raised NFL team helmet emblems on it. Then I add, ‘You’re going to look great with a Pittsburgh Steelers flag-shaped dent in your forehead. Or you can step aside.’

Albert’s two sidekicks look at the lunch box, then at their leader. For a second, I think there is a chance of him backing down, but I realize he isn’t going to let himself look bad in front of these guys.

Well, if I wait any longer for the action to start, either we are going to get in trouble with a teacher or--even worse--my mother is going to pull up beside us and see me misbehaving at my new school. And Dad always says you should never let your opponent take the first shot. I cock my right fist down low around the handle of the lunchbox and step forward. Albert raises his fists and starts to swing at me.

I swing as hard as I can. BONG! goes the lunch box. BONG goes Albert’s face. He stumbles backward, holding his nose.

‘You hid me wig a lutch box!’ he says, looking at me with hurt in his eyes. Like this had been some kind of surprise move on my part.

‘Yup.’ I say, trying to sound like my heart isn’t going a million miles an hour. ‘And tomorrow, I’m bringing my big lunch box!’ I step around Albert,wondering whether his sidekicks are going to step in and block my path.

They move aside, and I don’t blame them. They’re probably concerned I might also be packing a thermos.”

 

THE BOY WHO FAILED SHOW AND TELL is a lot of fun. Young readers will come away knowing much more about drums, snakes, and attending to head-in-the-swing-set emergencies. They’ll also get a good sense of what it was like to survive in the days before today’s ubiquitous personal electronic devices. 

 

Richie Partington, MLIS

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