Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School

Fleming, Candace. 2007. The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School.

I greatly enjoyed The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School. Candace Fleming creates humorous modern-day tales based on the classic fables of Aesop. The main idea of the novel is that there is an out-of-control fourth grade class at Aesop Elementary School. These kids will need to be tamed by an incredible teacher. This teacher who will work his magic and teach the impossible kids? A Mr. Jupiter who makes a Mary Poppins like appearance.

Rubbing her throbbing temples, she sighed, "How I wish a teacher would walk through that door." At that precise moment, a breeze blew through the principal's office. It rustled the papers on her desk, rattled her window blinds, and flung open the door to reveal a tall, dark man wearing a pith helmet and clutching a copy of the morning's want ads. (2-3)

When asked to describe himself to the principal, Mrs. Struggles, he says:

"My first job was as an assistant dog groomer aboard King Bernard's yacht, the SS Pooch, anchored off the Dalmatian coast. After receiving my degree in nanothermal economics from Dummer University, I led an expedition in search of the dodo bird. Later, I conducted the Timbuktu Philharmonic Orchestra, worked as a translator for Bigfoot, became the first man to ski down Mount Everest, collected mummified cats in Egypt, and discovered the lost city of Atlantis." He smiled. "Among other things." (3)

"I was head tetherball coach at Matilda Jane's School for Prim and Proper Girls in Las Vegas, as well as the swimming instructor at Loch Ness Middle School. I also taught Swahili as a second language at Dooglehorn Elementary in Switzerland, hula dancing at Balderdash Academy for Boys in London, and organic geochemistry at Harvard." He smiled again. "Among other places." (4)

Perhaps because of her desperation or perhaps because she finds his strangeness oddly charming, Mr. Jupiter is hired on the spot.

The chapters read more like short stories as these familiar morals are retold in fable-form. Overall, I thought they were nicely done. I had some favorites among them though.

Here is one entitled "March Madness"

March was testing time at Aesop Elementary School. "Everyone take out a number two pencil," directed Mr. Jupiter. Calvin raised his hand. "Are we being given the I.S.B.N.A.C.T.'s?" he asked. "No, no," corrected Bernadette. "These are the Y.M.C.A.G.R.E's." "Actually," said Rose, "they're the H.I.J.K.L.M.N.O.P's." In the back row, Stanford snorted. "Get serious," he said. "We're taking the E.S.B.A.F.C.A.E.F.G.A.E's, otherwise known as the Every State Basic Abilities and Fundamental Cognitive Assessment of Essential Fourth Grade Achievement Evaluation Test." "Whatever," shrugged the others. "I couldn't agree more," said Mr. Jupiter. "Still..." He looked around the room. "Does everyone have a pencil?" The children nodded. "Then I suppose we should get started," he said. And for the rest of the month, the fourth graders did nothing else.

MORAL: Time is often wasted on things of little consequence. (142-143)

The stories are funny and enjoyable. And I think it is a great collection of loosely related stories. (Actually, these stories remind me in an indirect kind of way of the enjoyable Mrs. Piggle Wiggle stories.)

Releasing August 2007.


Erin said...

This sounds fun!

Sarah Miller said...

I just yesterday brought this ARC home to read! So I didn't actually read your review yet, in case of spoilers ;) But you know, 'great minds' and all that...

Karlene said...

This sounds like a good one. I'll put it on my list.

Bella said...

I love this book! I've checked it out of my school library like 100 times and I can't get enough of it! Now I'm reading the sequel, T
the Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School. This book did remind me of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, too!