Monday, March 3, 2008

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming

The upcoming fourth graders at Aesop Elementary are called precocious, high-energy, and robust by their former teachers. Bertha Bunz, the lunchroom monitor, calls them just plain naughty.

On the day before school starts there's still no fourth grade teacher. Those former teachers ask if Mrs. Struggles, the principal, has placed a want ad or called the superintendent or spoken with the school board. Mrs. Bunz, in her infinite lunchroom wisdom, suggests a zookeeper.

As Mrs. Struggles struggles, in walks Mr. Jupiter to inquire about the job. He has teaching experience, including head tetherball coach at Matilda Jane's School for Prim and Proper Girls in Las Vegas as well as swimming instructor at Loch Ness Middle School. He's worked with high-energy students, including a year at the Coochie-Coochie Institute for Misbehaved Monkeys. He gets the job.

On the first day the students throw everything at Mr. Jupiter but the kitchen sink. Humphrey Parrot repeats what Mr. Jupiter says. Lil Ditty recites a potty poem. Jackie Jumpbaugh throws paper balls. Ham Samitch launches a lesson about what dung beetles eat. Ashlee A. and Ashleigh B. cheer, and Ashley Z. teases them.

No response.

So they come up with all sorts of ideas involving tacks on chairs, spitballs, tying shoelaces together, and loosening the screws on his chair. But when it comes to actually doing something, nobody has the guts. MORAL: It is one thing to talk about it, another to do it.

And so it goes. Each chapter has a familiar moral, but all are learned through the exploits of these fabled fourth graders. From the boy who cried, "Lunch Monitor!" to not judging a book by its cover (or judging Paige Turner, the librarian, by her cover). From a fifth grade lion who helps a fourth grade mouse to a poetic tortoise and hare. This new twist on old fables will keep you, me, and Mr. Aesop giggling until the last page.

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