A tyrannical fourth-grade teacher wreaks havoc in a young boy’s life, until a day of reckoning changes everything.
When Tobias Wilcox transfers to the McKegway School for Clever and Gifted Children, the order-and-discipline–obsessed Mrs. Ravenbach becomes his fourth-grade teacher. Outwardly cheery and self-aggrandizing, this proud product of a German education is also reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s evil Miss Trunchbull from Matilda and Professor Umbridge of Harry Potter fame. Akers employs a mix of grade-school ramblings and complex storytelling strategies to explore censorship, honesty, and the uneven power dynamics among teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Mrs. Ravensbach herself narrates events, and Toby’s perspective is folded in via journals, the minutes of the submarine-enthusiasts club over which Toby presides, and school poetry. Judging by the book’s potent “un-dedication,” Akers, a screenwriter and film-studies teacher, is processing frustrations from his own history with this debut novel, the first in the Amazing Escapades of Toby Wilcox series. The over-the-top kid antics will delight readers with similar challenges. However, while the provocative German stereotypes and occasional violent daydreams may have passed as “for kids eyes only” fare in an earlier era, they may not play as well in today’s environment.
An edgy, subversive revenge fantasy in which kids speak truth to power. (Fiction. 9-11)