What’s it all about?:
“Joseph climbed on his desk and began jumping up and down, wild with excitement, screaming at the top of his voice, ‘We’re the greatest! We’re kings of the world! We’re the greatest…!”
Ever since Mrs Lloyd left to have a baby, Class 4L has been impossible! Teacher after teacher has left in tears as Sean and his gang have got rowdier and rowdier. Gillian becomes worried because her twin Joseph has joined the gang and she’s sure he’s in trouble. But when her plan to rescue the situation ends in disaster, it seems nothing can save Class 4L.
Then Joseph goes missing….
What did I think?:
I’m afraid I might not be able to give a completely unbiased review of this book as it’s one of my childhood favourites and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve read and enjoyed it. This story holds so many happy memories for Chrissi and myself and I remember it being one of the books I read to her at night before she went to sleep. Ah yes, even then I was nurturing the little bookworm inside my sister! Of course, there’s always a worry that re-reading a book you loved so much as an adult will ruin some of the magic but I’m happy to report that this was not the case with this story and it was a beautiful trip down memory lane. The author, Ruth Thomas, wrote books that drew on her own experiences as a primary school teacher in London and she wrote convincing and credible characters that children can still relate to today.
As mentioned in the synopsis, this book follows the children from Class 4L, a lively bunch of ten year olds who have recently lost their beloved teacher Mrs Lloyd as she leaves to have a baby. It seems that Mrs Lloyd was the only teacher who had any influence or indeed managed to control the class. The children take out their frustrations at losing her on teacher after teacher as the class spirals into bouts of bad behaviour, led by resident bad boy and “king,” of the class, Sean Adams. One of our main characters, Gillian Rundell is terribly worried about her twin Joseph, the class clown, who has become indoctrinated into Sean’s gang and is getting into trouble both in and out of the classroom.
Joseph is easily influenced and peer pressure plays a huge role which leads to things getting increasingly nasty with little hope of a resolution, despite the efforts of Gillian and her friend Grace to save her vulnerable brother and turn around the behaviour of Class 4L in general. It turns out even a Good Club may not be enough to change things for the class and when Joseph goes missing, Gillian, her family and the headmistress Mrs White are at their wits end about what to do. Come back Mrs Lloyd!
This book was just as magical for me as it was during my childhood and it was so much fun re-discovering passages I had completely forgotten. Who could forget Dippy Dora, the poor old mad woman who lived near the school and provided so much fuel for the children’s teasing? Then there are the specific “bad things,” that Joseph gets involved in that I was surprised to still be shocked by as an adult! It’s such an exciting story that is profoundly moral without ever preaching and I was so pleased to remember the diverse cultural cast of children that really represent Great Britain today which I must applaud the author for, especially as it was written in the late 1980’s. I’m sure I will be reading this book again at some point as it has so many important messages that are still relevant today and it’s a perfect book to read to children. A worthy addition to our kid-lit shelves, it’s reminded me that the author, Ruth Thomas won The Guardian Children’s Fiction Award for her first novel, The Runaways in 1988. Hmm, a potential contender for Kid-Lit 2016 Chrissi?
For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
Ruth Thomas 1927-2011
Image from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/sep/23/ruth-thomas