A rowdy group of students and their eccentric teacher star in Fleming's (Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! ) collection of determinedly loopy vignettes, each of which ends with an Aesop-like moral. On the day before school opens, the frantic principal still has not found a teacher for the notoriously unruly fourth graders. In walks Mr. Jupiter, whose credentials include working as a translator for Bigfoot, discovering the lost city of Atlantis and studying at the Coochie-Coochie Institute for Misbehaved Monkeys; he is hired on the spot. When he refuses to react to his students' misbehavior, they think up pranks guaranteed to rile him, but no one dares to pull them off (moral: "It is one thing to talk about it, another to do it"). In another tale, a boy who is struggling with math wishes he were back in kindergarten, where tasks were easier, but then is forced to participate in humiliating activities when he goes to help out with the younger class ("Be careful what you wish for--it might come true"). Packed with puns of varying cleverness, the fables range from pithy to protracted, the morals from spot-on to strained. Even with the inconsistencies, there's plenty to laugh at and even to ponder. Ages 7-11. (Aug.)[Page 67]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 3-5-- A series of vignettes covers the school year of the infamous fourth graders at Aesop Elementary and the only teacher willing to take them on, Mr. Jupiter. Each story purports to be a modern-day Aesop's fable illustrating a moral (stated at the end). Melvin Moody learns that liars aren't believed even when they tell the truth in "The Boy Who Cried Lunch Monitor." Ashley Z. helps the school bully out of a jam and the bully then stops other kids from teasing Ashley about his feminine name, showing: "One good turn deserves another." Even the teachers are not above learning a thing or two: the librarian, Paige Turner, realizes that appearances aren't everything and the gym teacher, Mrs. Gluteal, should practice what she preaches about healthy eating. "March Madness," a not-so-subtle dig at standardized testing, claims: "Time is often wasted on things of little consequence." Not all of the stories illustrate their morals as effectively as these examples, but overall the collection is entertaining and would make for interesting comparisons with the well-known animal fables. The humor and occasionally bizarre situations the students find themselves in may appeal to fans of Louis Sachar's "Wayside School" books (HarperCollins).--Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL[Page 114]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.