Becuase of Mr. Terupt is the first novel by Rob Buyea, and it is a good one. Mr. Terupt is a fifth grade teacher, and the book details the academic year through the eyes of seven very different students in his class. With my daughter being in fifth grade, this book was right up her alley, so we made this the latest book for our family book club. In family book club, we all read the book and make it the topic of discussion at dinner one evening.
Mr. Terupt teacher fifth grade at Snow Hill School and he's a truly incredible teacher who has a way of reaching each of his students despite their very different personalities and circumstances. We learn this from the students themselves, as each of the very short chapters is told by one of seven students: Jessica, the new girl; Alexia, the mean girl; Peter, class jokester; Luke, the smart kid; Danielle, the artistic, overweight student; Anna, the quiet one whose mom is ostracized by the community; and Jeffrey, the one who hates school. Their ever-evolving classroom dynamic changes dramatically after an accident while the class is playing outside.
Each member of my family enjoyed Because of Mr. Terupt , and we all agreed that we would recommend it, though my tween was the most enthusiastic in doing so. It is an easy read that packs a big emotional punch, but for adults, that punch may seem a bit too contrived. The use of seven different narrators was an interesting structure that worked very well, and the book is great fodder for a variety of discussions with a tween.
This book covers issues, including personal responsibility, friendship, forgiveness, bullying, treatment of special needs students, the ability to change, acceptance of differences, moving, loss and grief. While to me it was sometimes overwhelming, fifth graders face are dealing with these and the novel serves as a good reminder to the reader that, as Anna's mother says in the book, "Everyone has a story."
What my tween thought: 4 3/4 stars out of 5 (guess who is into fractions?)
My daughter was a fan, a big fan. "This is in my top 5 favorite books." She really liked and thought that it sucked her in and made her feel a variety of emotions, from anger to elation. She liked that the book revealed the motivation behind some of the characters' actions as the story went along.
The book is somewhat dramatic, and she was worried that a character would die. The uncertainty keeps the book moving, and my tween said she would recommend it because it made her want to read and not doing anything else.
What Mom thought: 4 stars
Because of Mr. Terupt was on a reading list from school, but what struck me is that at a party my tween hosted over winter break, several girls were talking about it. An unprompted book discussion by fifth graders who were excited about what they were reading? Be still my literary heart! In my book, a novel doesn't have to be great literature if it gets them not only reading, but excited about reading.
This is a decent book for parents, too. It offers insight into the complexities of the social structure of the school world in which our kids spend so much time, and that world that can be hard for parents to grasp.
The student narrators talk about their relationships with their parents and the impact their parent have on them. I appreciated that the students had a variety of family structures: single mom, divorcing parents, an extended family living together, a family dealing with the loss of a child. We have a nontraditional family structure, and books like this help my daughter realize that families are all different, and hopefully helps her peers (and their parents) see that our family is not the anomaly they sometimes perceive it to be.
My quibbles were that the number of narrators was a bit much to keep straight, and I found it odd that HIPAA laws apparently do not apply at the hospital where Mr. Terupt ends up.
What my husband thought: 3 1/2 stars
My husband found the endings of the book to be a too pat, or neat. While he appreciated the theme that people can and do change, he noted that a lot of characters in the book change, and many of them in significant ways. He said he does agree that people change, often for the better, but he thinks that the major changes that occur in this book in a short amount of time are not always possible, and such a portrayal could set up unreasonable expectations in our tween.
We both agreed that while this was a good read, and a great discussion starter with our tween, it didn't have the transcendent quality of appeal to all ages found in books like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (which we are currently reading) or even recent Newbery award winner The One and Only Ivan.