by Rob Buyea
First sentence: "It's our bad luck to have teachers in this world, but since we're stuck with them, the best we can do is hope to get a brand-new one instead of a mean old fart."
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Ever have your life and perceptions completely changed by the influecne of one person?
Ever have a teacher that made school amazing, that you will always remember as completely wonderful, no matter what? (Hopefully, the answer is yes.)
Mr. Terupt, a fifth grade teacher, is one of those people. New at teaching, he is not only enthusiastic, but wise and inspiring. Told through the eyes of seven of his students -- Jessica, Alexia, Peter, Luke, Danielle, Anna and Jeffrey --this is the story of the year they had with Mr. Terupt, and how his subtle influence changed their lives for the better.
It's a quiet book, the life-changing accident notwithstanding. The impact is local, the challenges small. What really impresses about this book was that Buyea juggled seven different narrators, giving each one a unique voice and role in this story. I'm sure this particular story could have been told another way, but it wouldn't have been nearly so effective. Because it's a small story, it's essential that the characters pull their weight, and Buyea makes sure that happens. It's not anything major or flashy; the beauty lies in the simplicity of the tale. It's accessible to kids, and yet packs a powerful punch for those older than fifth grade. There are things to think about, to talk about, to ponder on. But, perhaps best of all, it does all this without being preachy.
It's an excellent book, and Buyea is definitely an author to keep an eye out for.
(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I've been asked to make sure y'all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)