Mr. Terupt Falls Again is billed as a "companion" to Rob Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt. I suppose this is because Buyea wrapped things up pretty thoroughly in Because of Mr. Terupt. You don't need to read this as a sequel in the sense of having to find out how things play out. However, for all practical purposes, Mr. Terupt Falls Again looks like a sequel to me. It features the same teacher and the same kids, albeit in a physically different classroom. Yes, the seven kids from Because of Mr. Terupt are back with their teacher, Mr. Terupt, as sixth graders (and yes, just knowing that is a spoiler for the first book - it can't be helped). If you haven't read Because of Mr. Terupt, and you like realistic fiction set in and around schools, you'll want to rectify the situation immediately.
Like it's predecessor, Mr. Terupt Falls Again centers on a subset of the kids in a classroom, a classroom led by a risk-taking, energetic teacher. The perspective shifts from kid to kid, from chapter to chapter. All of the chapters are quite short, helping to move things along quickly. The book is divided into months across the school year.
As in the first book, Buyea's understanding of kids, and of classroom dynamics, is evident on every page. This kids are as real as it gets. The problems that they face as sixth graders reflect their growing up. There are plotlines dealing with a girl trying to grow up too quickly (stuffing her bra, hanging out with older kids), a girl getting her first period (and not knowing what to do), and a boy resisting going off to boarding school next year. There are also the first inklings of boys and girls "liking" each other, though in a completely PG way.
There's a scene that takes place with the kids at a town carnival, forming into tentative couples, with the boys trying to win prizes for the girls. This SO took me back to the Fourth of July weekend carnivals in my own home town (though I didn't personally have any boys trying to win me prizes when I was in sixth grade). Buyea gets the feel of the carnival, and mix of the excited and insecure thoughts of the various kids, just right. I could practically smell the fried dough.
There is a bit of suspense in Mr. Terupt Falls Again. Observant Luke notices that Mr. Terupt (who suffered a brain injury in the first book) is displaying some physical weakness. We don't know while reading along (and I won't say), what the "falls again" of the title refers to. There's also an abandoned baby, discovered by Jeffrey, lending pathos more than suspense, I suppose. As an adult reader, I worried the potential consequences of Lexie getting in with the wrong crowd. But I also appreciate very much the way that Buyea, in a non-didactic way, opens up paths by which parents and/or teachers can initiate discussions with kids.
Some of the resolutions in Mr. Terupt Falls Again may be a tiny bit idealized, but I personally don't think that there's anything wrong with showing the upsides of:
- Talking openly with your parents;
- Being loyal to your friends;
- Finding the right sport or hobby; and
- Trusting your teacher
Rob Buyea is the real deal, creating authentic kids, and throwing realistic and age-appropriate problems at them. The Mr. Terupt books belong on the shelves of school and classroom libraries everywhere that fourth to seventh graders are to be found. While the "getting your period" and "stuffing your bra" plotline in Mr. Terupt Falls Again may make boys uncomfortable (even Mr. Terupt is a little uncomfortable), there is so much else here that will resonate with boys that I hope they'll read it, and talk about it, anyway. Highly recommended for kids, and their parents. Mr. Terupt Falls Again is a satisfying conclusion to this short series. I hope to see other books from Rob Buyea in the future.
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: October 9, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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