by Roderick J. Robison
Back Cover: Peter Brantwill is shy. Very shy. He’s the quietest fifth-grader at Birch Ridge Elementary School. Peter just blends into the crowd, never does anything to draw attention. Attention is the last thing he wants.
But when his father becomes the principal of his school, Peter’s whole world is suddenly turned upside down. Students tease him. Kids he doesn’t know stare at him in the hallways. Teachers treat him differently. And then there’s Darren Kalder, the troublemaker who torments Peter. Things turn even worse when Peter and Darren are paired up for a homework assignment—they must prepare a fictitious petition.
They decide on a petition to reinstate recess at their school. And what starts out as a simple homework assignment turns into much more when their classmates ask to sign the petition. It’s up to Peter and Darren to follow through and present the petition to the school committee. But this involves speaking at a televised public meeting. And when Darren backs out at the last minute, Peter must decide whether to back out . . . or make a bold move that will forever change him.
First Sentence: The scene in front of Birch Ridge Elementary School was typical of that at other elementary schools across Berkshire County that morning.
Peter Brantwell was looking forward to a new start on the first day of fifth grade. Last year didn’t turn out the best, having accidentally wet his pants. Jeff Butler made sure every kid noticed or found out. Jeff moved away, so Peter was feeling good about the new school year. Until . . .
Darren Kalder sat next to Peter in class. The boy is trouble, following a long line of trouble (well, at least one other brother). Darren started trouble immediately. Only he could make a positive out of a negative. He plopped his feet up on the principal’s desk and ordered a pizza. A good first day for Darren.
When the superintendent finally brought in a principal, only Peter was unhappy. He thought having dad for his principal would make it hard to enjoy the fifth grade. Peter was right. Teachers expected higher achievement, though some gave Peter a lot of slack. He did not like either nor did the other students. His year reached a breaking point when partnered with Darren on a homework assignment. Peter wrote a petition to reinstate recess—abolished last year—and Dareen presented the petition to the class. This fake petition became popular fast as students and some teachers asking to sign it. Now, they expected Peter and Darren to actually work together to reinstate recess.
I liked The Principal’s Son. Planning to start with the first two chapters, I ended up reading the entire story. There is not a lot of action or adventures. This is simply a well-written story about the uncomfortable position of dad being your principal. If there was a villain, other than Darren, it would be the retired principal. After getting recess abolished—then retiring—she returns to fight against Peter and Darren’s petition. Principal Dad takes a rather neutral position. The boys have lots of work and must figure out how to accomplish their goal without constantly bickering.
Peter and his dad played racquetball every Saturday. Now mad at his father, Peter made excuses to get out of their games. I think that is realistic. Peter walks to the river for long fishing trips by himself. The ante ups for Peter when Darren joins the soccer team, playing goalie—Peter’s position—cutting Peter’s playing time in half. The author is dumping salt onto Peter’s open wound.
I like that Peter is a thinker rather than a boy of rash action. Instead of causing any kind of revolt, he thinks his way around problems. When his salted wounds become too painful, Peter takes action, only to cause a huge uproar. He is sent to the principal for the first time . . . ever! Uh oh.
I liked that the principal—dad—treated Peter as he did other students. I like that Peter, while hoping for special treatment, never really expected to get it. The story is a tad young for middle graders. I would classify The Principal’s Son a chapter book. Not that middle grade kids would not enjoy the story; I believe they would. Well-written stories are generally a pleasure to read regardless of the intended age or the genre. This is one of those books and the second this week (The Rise of the Shadow Stealers). I am pleasantly surprised.
Peter learns the value of friendship, that friends can arrive from the least likely of places, and that things are not always what they seem to be. With the latter, Peter learns to listen and watch before making a judgment that could be wrong. Peter matures as the story progresses, as does his nemesis Darren Kalder. Boys especially will enjoy The Principal’s Son.
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by Roderick J. Robison website blog facebook twitter
Ages: 7 – 10
Copyright © 2013 by Roderick J. Robison.
DONATED TO LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY
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