“Class Dismissed” by Allan Woodrow has an irresistible premise. A 5th grade class drives their teacher to distraction and she quits suddenly. But no one in the office realizes it. The students discover they are on their own — and they decide to take advantage of it!
What happens in the end is predictable, but the the ride is very enjoyable, so don’t miss it. The story is told through the eyes of five very different students. Samantha is the pampered daughter of a wealthy family who has believed her whole life that her daddy can buy her anything she wants or needs. Maggie comes from a very competitive African American family, and her ancestors attended Harvard. She is determined to attend Harvard, and even though she’s only in fifth grade, she’s getting prepared.
Kyle is one of the class goof-offs. He is kind of a bully, and very forgetful when helping his mother around the house. Whenever she asks him to help her, he messes up. In school, he is always making rhymes about what is going on. He is also willing to speak up when needed. Eric is the kid who just wants to blend in to the background and not be noticed. He never raises his hand because he doesn’t want to stick out in any way. But when difficult questions are asked and those around him freeze, it’s Eric who is able to say just the right thing. Adam is the kid who is always getting sent to detention. It’s Adam who answers the phone in the principal’s office when Mrs. Bryce, their teacher, calls and quits. Because of a plumbing accident, everyone’s attention was elsewhere, so one else knows Mrs. Bryce quit.
Except her class-full of students. And they aren’t telling.
Teachers will love this story because it brings home to those reading it how difficult the job of a teacher is. At the beginning of the story, the kids think that a teacher’s job is an easy one. They just hand out homework and grade them. That’s all. But when Maggie creates homework for the other students (just so their parents won’t suspect anything), she realizes that creating the homework is much more difficult than doing the homework.
The students learn a lot from their two-week teacher-less time. They become more independent, more confident, and more of a cohesive group. They learn from their mistakes, they learn about their classmates, and they learn — maybe most importantly — the value of a teacher.
The story is filled with humor, but it’s also filled with situations and real feelings that all readers should be able to identify with. From the anxious, stressed-out, good-student Maggie, to Kyle the goof-up, a wide range of children and children’s feelings are included. Woodrow does a magnificent job sharing the message about the importance of cooperation and knowing when to ask for help — without ever being preachy.
This book is a perfect choice for third grade through middle school. Middle school readers would have to be able to get past the fact that the book is about fifth graders.
Please note: This review is based on the advanced reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Scholastic, for review purposes.