A YEAR WITH BUTCH AND SPIKE by Gail Gauthier

A YEAR WITH BUTCH AND SPIKE

Age Range: 10 - 13

KIRKUS REVIEW

A sixth-grade overachiever discovers that there are worse things than being forced to sit between two underachievers in this wickedly barbed tale of a teacher gone bad. Perennial teacher’s pet Jasper Gordon has a ringside seat, between cousins Spike and Butch Couture, the banes of Theodore Ervin Elementary for five years, as they square off against tough, feared Mrs. McNulty. At first, the two sides are nearly equal, but after the Coutures are caught skinny-dipping on a field trip, McNulty stops playing fair, discarding the boys’ contributions to the student literary magazine out of hand, then formally recommending that Spike be left back and Butch be enrolled in remedial classes when he reaches junior high. Meanwhile, she keeps the rest of the class under her thumb with threats, intimidation, and belittlement. Fair-minded Jasper appeals to the sympathetic but powerless principal, then helps Spike and Butch put together a science project, sabotaging his own to give them a better chance of winning. When she finds out, McNulty cracks, attacking Jasper before a crowd of parents and engineering her own downfall. The characters are all slightly larger than life: McNulty is just plausible enough to be scary, the Coutures are driven not so much by malice as by a free-spirited rejection of the idea of structured learning, and Jasper—his performance anxiety well established—makes a meaningful sacrifice. That’s two- for-two for Gauthier (My Life Among the Aliens, 1996); Spike and Butch are the most hilariously annoying classroom cut-ups since Barbara Robinson’s Herdmans in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (1972) and The Best School Year Ever (1994). (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 13th, 1998
ISBN: 0-399-23216-8
Page count: 217pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998




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