REVIEW: The War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids by Stanley Kiesel

REVIEW: The War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids by Stanley KieselThe War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids by Stanley Kiesel
Published: Avon Books (1982), Paperback, 207pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Magical Realism, Sci-fi

Shark-infested rice pudding didn't work. Eating Mrs. Jerome didn't work. Even stealing Mr. Snockadocka's beloved Grammar Charts didn't work. There was only one choice left. And that was war!

And what a war it was! The kids had Skinny Malinky, the worst kid of them all--but the teachers had Mr. Foreclosure. The kids had Big Alice, but the teachers had the Rococo Knight. The kids had Honor, Truth, Justice, and Freedom on their side. The teachers had...The Status Quo Solidifier!

The Staus Quo Solidifier, the insidious plan of scheming Mr. Foreclosure, would turn the kids into Perfect Young People before they knew it. But Skinny Malinky knew it, and he vowed revenge!

But first things first: It all started at a school called Scratchland, where there was a rule for every exception--and an exception to every rule! (from Goodreads)

This is one of my favorite books ever and it’s basically completely unknown nowadays, despite having won [award] and having lots of favorable reviews when it was first published. The author, a teacher, basically drilled out the essential bits about being a kid and being a teacher(/adult) and took it to the nth degree. And then he stuck it all in a story about freedom and personhood and friendship and family, and it’s amazing and weird and amazingly weird.

For example! There are kid gangs, only they’ve got “themes”– like chewing a lot of bubblegum. The teachers are the WORST TEACHERS EVER, not because they’re necessarily cruel, but because they’re more obsessed with, say, diagramming sentences than actually teaching kids about English. It’s a little like looking at our reality through a slightly warped lens; everything’s just slightly tilted from real life, which makes it super fun.

The tone is nothing like it, but for some reason it reminds me of the Wayside School series. Maybe it’s the relationship between the teachers and the students? And the weirdness, and the adventures. They’re in the same family of stories, anyway. Despite the weirdness, though, there’s still some balance between good and bad adults, and good and bad kids. Not every adult is terrible (just most of them), and the kids have problems of their own– like ganging up on each other at the end. The more I read this book, the more I notice the intricacy of the story and the characters. Woohoo!

The very best thing, is (of course) the Bookworms. They’re kids who run away from home/school to live in the sewers and read all day. When I first read this book as a kid, I thought that was the BEST IDEA EVER! I mean, ew, sewers, but reading all day with nobody bugging you? So cool! And they even worked out a system to get new books– and that system is what saves everyone in the end. The bookworms save the day! Huzzah!

It’s a good thing there’s a sequel, though, because that ending is NOT a happy one. It’s more of a bittersweet ending, very unusual in kids books nowadays it seems, but pretty normal for the time this one was published. Anyway, the sequel sort of “fixes” the ending of this one; it’s also got more Bookworms!

Read: August 18, 2013

Do you have a favorite book that’s basically disappeared from wider readership?

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