Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by LouAnne Johnson

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-07638-X
Publisher: St. Martin's

 Another funny, alarming look at a city school from a dedicated, unconventional teacher. When former Navy and Marine servicewoman Johnson (Making Waves, 1986) took over the pseudonymous ``Parkmont High'' classroom of a teacher who'd had a breakdown, she found herself surrounded by unruly, unmotivated students partial to Atom Bomb cologne and thunderbolt hair styles. At first, they tried the usual tricks, and Johnson, like others before her, nearly despaired (``I shook my head, and bit my lower lip, trying not to cry''). But she persisted, using an original mix of boot-camp tactics and genuine warmth, and, one by one, the students responded--like Danny, ``an advanced thinker caught in the body of a remedial student,'' who, inspired by Johnson's parakeet, turned from marginal to remarkable; or Curtis, who'd had a blank journal all year until The Merchant of Venice seized his imagination (``I never had anything to say before''). Along the way, Johnson learns a few lessons of her own, from simple management skills (``outshouting kids is like trying to teach a pig to sing'') to, most reluctantly, the hard facts of life (``You can't save a kid who doesn't want to be saved''). We've been up this down staircase before, especially in the late 1960's when an armful of books (by Kozol, Kohl, Herndon) first dramatized great inequities in school systems and the sad shuffle awaiting those least able to speak up for themselves. Johnson shows the importance of basic respect, constant encouragement, and unorthodox teaching strategies for a generation (another generation) of disenfranchised students.