When their history teacher disappears, students at the Pennybaker School for the Uniquely Gifted stage their own revolution and solve the mystery.
At this unconventional school, every student has an unusual talent and every class, a slightly off-kilter approach. In Pennybaker School Is Headed for Disaster (2017), new student and aspiring magician Thomas Fallgrout had trouble fitting in. Now his word-loving neighbor and best friend, Chip Mason, is a classmate and seems to be far more successful both academically and socially. Chip gets Thomas into trouble, he’s usurping Thomas’ privileges, and he’s stealing Thomas’ friends. Or, at least, that’s the way Thomas sees it, telling his story in an aggrieved first-person past tense. In school, a costume-loving history teacher has been replaced by a boring substitute who assigns essays. The new gym unit is co-ed dance, and Thomas has a scary partner. At home, his daredevil grandmother has been sneaking out at night through Thomas’ window; he discovers she’s been racing cars. These problems provide the humor, much of it distinctly middle-grade, involving such details as pantyhose and cowpies. But the heart of this account is the strain on the boys’ friendship, often seen in stories about girls but rarely about boys. Kissi’s black-and-white illustrations show Thomas as white and Chip as black.
Light entertainment with some vocabulary enrichment for middle graders of all sorts. (Fiction 8-12)