Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Because of Mr. Terupt

I picked up Because of Mr. Terupt at my daughter's elementary school library when a teacher recommended it to me.  It is Rob Buyea's first novel, and after reading it, I am anxiously looking forward to reading more from him.  Because of Mr. Terupt has won all kinds of awards, including State Book Award nominations in 14 states and being a Cybiles finalist.

Because of Mr. Terupt is the story of a fifth grade teacher and his students.  The story is narrated in alternating chapters by seven different students.  Jessica, Alexia, Peter, Luke, Danielle, Anna, and Jeffrey all have very different personalities and struggles.  Some of them have problems at home; some of them worry about academics.  All of them are looking for friendship, trying to discover who they are, and searching for understanding and acceptance.

Mr. Terupt is unlike any teacher they've ever had before.  His lessons are creative and engaging, and his lessons extend from math to life.  He is unendingly patient and never gets angry with them--even when they deserve it.  He cares deeply about each of his students and, without them realizing it at first, gives each child exactly what they need.  But then, an accident occurs, and the students are lft to wonder who carries the blame for harming the teacher they all love.

As a teacher, this book pulled strongly at my heartstrings.  Mr. Terupt has the kind of relationship with his students that all good teachers dream of.  He engages them intellectually, and he impacts each of them deeply.  Yet is not painted as "pefect;" both the students and the adults in their lives acknowledge Mr. Terupt's weaknessess while still loving him and honoring his strengths.

But while the book is named after Mr. Terupt, the real story here belongs to the students.  As they enter adolescence, each has his or her own individual struggles.  While Mr. Terupt starts each of them along the path to facing their problems, they are then left to navigate hard choices on their own.  Mr. Terupt is the mentor that all kids should have, but the story rings very true to life, in that ultimately, each child is responsible for their own choices and their own growth.

The story is beautifully written, and Buyea develops unique, lovable, and believable voices for each of the seven students.  I would highly recommend this book for any teacher who dreams of impacting their students, for any adolescent facing the pressures and confusion of growing up, or for any parent who needs a refresher on what their kids are facing.  This poignant story is sure to engage and inspire.

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