Friday, August 03, 2018


Woodrow, Allan. Unschooled
August 29th 2017 by Scholastic Press
Personal Copy

The fifth grade at Liberty Falls Elementary school is looking forward to the annual, year end Spirit Week, even though Principal Klein is not telling them the prize for the winning two classrooms. Told in the alternate viewpoints of George and Lilly, best friends who end up as team captains on opposing teams, we get to see all of the subterfuge that goes into winning. George is not thrilled to be captain after the previous leader broke her arm, but he knows that a good leader is organized, and he is certainly that. Lilly, on the other hand, has unbridled, awesomesaustatic enthusiasm. The competition starts off easily enough, with twin day. Unfortunately, Lilly trips and spills her breakfast all over George, ruining his twin outfit. This angers Team Blue, George's team, and they decide to play dirty. Things devolve from that point, with Historic Figure Day being sabotaged in a spectacular fashion that causes Mr. Klein to assign detention to all of the fifth graders and declare that Spirit Week is canceled. The students put on a show of cooperation that leads him to reinstate the competition, but it is still fairly mean spirited. As the competition heats up, both George and Lilly realize that they have to convince their teammates to be good sports, or the activity isn't really fun for anyone, and are rewarded for how well the teams work together in the end.
Strengths: A blanketful of potato salad dropped over a stage of children dressed as historical characters. That is the spoonful that makes the lesson about playing fair and being nice go down. There are lots of funny moments, but the angst that George and Lilly feel about being separated and warring against each other is certainly real. I loved that George was willing to wear a panda shirt and sparkly jeans because they were dry! I really think that Woodrow is a perfect successor to Andrew Clements for the school stories.
Weaknesses: I can't envision any educator willingly giving fifth grade students balloons filled with pudding. Young readers won't have the same reaction I did, but that just did not compute. It also was a little unrealistic that that much potato salad would have been hanging about unsupervised as well.
What I really think: I would love to see Woodrow move his demographic a tiny bit, so his characters are in 8th grade. Throw in a little romance, and I think he would produce a spectacular, humorous middle grade novel! While my 6th graders read Class Dismissed, my 8th graders won't touch it. Middle grade readers can be so persnickety!

Ms. Yingling

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