Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Weird School Daze-A Series by Dan Gutman

My Weird School Daze #4: Coach Hyatt Is a Riot!

Written by: Dan Gutman
Illustrated by: Jim Paillot
Recommended Ages: 7-10

Over the years, parents have often asked me for good book recommendations for reluctant readers. Typically they are looking for books for kids (it's usually boys) in the second, third or fourth grades. When my kids were young it was the Magic Treehouse series that ultimately turned the reading light on for my two sons. I think if Dan Gutman's My Weird School Daze series had been around 15 years ago, we would have owned every copy.

There are a total of 32 books in the series. The first eleven books are when the kids are in second grade. Then they move up to third grade, and there are an additional 21 books (so far). Each book features AJ (a boy who's not wild about school) and Andrea, his nemesis, who loves school. They also introduce a new, fairly wacky adult into their lives.

Last night I read Coach Hyatt is a Riot, and actually found myself giggling in a few different places. It begins with AJ talking about how much he dislikes school and Andrea, an annoying girl with curly brown hair. He goes on to say how much he loves PeeWee football, even though his team never wins. We then meet his new football coach--Coach Hyatt, who also happens to be a woman (!). Coach Hyatt is hilarious. She calls them ragamuffins and teaches them important football skills such as learning to do an end zone dance. She builds teamwork by having them surround her mini-Cooper and pick it up. When they actually do it she says to them: "Look at that. You ragamuffins picked up a car. That's teamwork! My motto is if you can pick up a car, you'll go far."

Yes, it is silly. And yes there are places in the book that made me cringe as a mom. (In the beginning of the book, there are third grade girls coming out as cheerleaders to cheer the peewee football players on, which really pushed my buttons. But the good news is that Andrea ends up being recruited to play on the football team and is the star.) Gutman knows his audience, and his audience loves this kind of book.

So if you have a child who doesn't naturally gravitate towards books, try picking up one of Dan Gutman's Weird School Series books. The reading level is appropriate for emerging readers, the stories are funny and the characters are believable, in a quirky kind of way.

Here's a list of the books (taken straight from Dan Gutman's website):
  1. Miss Daisy is Crazy!
  2. Mr. Klutz is Nuts!
  3. Mrs. Roopy is Loopy!
  4. Ms. Hannah is Bananas!
  5. Miss Small is Off the Wall!
  6. Mr. Hynde is Out of His Mind!
  7. Mrs. Cooney is Loony!
  8. Ms. LaGrange is Strange!
  9. Miss Lazar is Bizarre!
  10. Mr. Docker is Off His Rocker!
  11. Mrs. Kormel is Not Normal!
  12. Ms. Todd is Odd!
  13. Mrs. Patty is Batty!
  14. Miss Holly is Too Jolly!
  15. Mr. Macky is Wacky!
  16. Ms. Coco is Loco!
  17. Miss Suki is Kooky!
  18. Mrs. Yonkers is Bonkers!
  19. Dr. Carbles is Losing His Marbles!
  20. Mr. Louie is Screwy!
  21. Ms. Krup Cracks Me Up!
  22. Mrs. Dole is Out of Control!
  23. Mr. Sunny is Funny!
  24. Mr. Granite is from Another Planet!
  25. Coach Hyatt is a Riot!
  26. Officer Spence Makes No Sense!
  27. Mrs. Jafee is Daffy!
  28. Dr. Brad Has Gone Mad!
  29. Miss Laney is Zany!
  30. Mrs. Lizzy is Dizzy!
  31. Miss Mary is Scary!
  32. Mr. Tony is Full of Baloney!

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