Reading Measurement Programs:
Claudia Mills, Ph.D. (Children's Literature)
Thirteen-year-old Gregory has always hated school. Even worse is the torture of homework: "If my mother helps me, she always ends up crying. If it's my father, I always end up crying." Held back a grade twice, expelled from one school only to be failing at another, Gregory's only solace is the hours he spends working with his hands, side by side with his beloved Grandpa Leon. Although Gavalda's Gregory is French, his misery at school transcends national boundaries, and his directness in confessing it connects him easily with American readers: "I know plenty of people who don't like school. You, for example. If I ask, 'Do you like school?' you'll shake your head and tell me no, of course not." But the story takes a turn for the sappy and supernatural when Grandpa Leon, fallen into a coma, appears as a voice in Gregory's head to coach him through the entrance exam for a wonderful vocational boarding school, giving him detailed instructions on identifying parts of speech: "'Hey you! What's your name?' 'Participial phrase, sir.' 'So, you're a participle with a complement and a modifier?'" Gregory returns the favor by telepathically sending Grandpa Leon a surge of strength and willpower, which leads to his miraculous recovery. It's hard to imagine the reader, young or otherwise, willing to suspend disbelief this far. 2003 (orig. 2002), Viking, $14.99. Ages 10 up.
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2003 (Vol. 71, No. 18))
French Gregory Dubosc, 13, hates school and has since his first day. He can build anything with his hands, but after kindergarten none of his classes makes use of that skill. His parents don't get along. His grandfather, who is his best friend, is ill. Nothing is going Gregory's way, so he shuts down. When he is held back a second time, his parents decide to send him to boarding school. Gregory finds one he wouldn't mind attending, but they have high standards. The right amount of prodding from his grandfather and work on Gregory's part get him the second chance he needs. This slight volume by a French journalist and adult-novelist will satisfy reluctant readers, school-haters, and square pegs of all stripes. Gregory narrates his own story with an authentic, honest voice that could issue from the mouth of any tween in any Western country. Some story elements might appear over-used, but small surprises make them Gregory's own. A hopeful, genuine story that will be an asset to any collection. 2003, Viking, $14.99. Category: Fiction. Ages 10 to 14. © 2003 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Gregory Dubosc, the 13-year-old narrator of this debut novel from France, is a twice-flunked sixth-grader who hates school. But while the author assigns him a host of problems—feuding parents who focus their discord on him, abysmal grades, teasing from schoolmates—she doesn't convincingly explain his academic woes. A battery of specialists have diagnosed Gregory with Attention Deficit Disorder, a notion that Gregory dismisses—and which readers will, too, because Gregory concentrates with great intensity on the activities that interest him, such as making things with his hands and woodworking with his grandfather. Expelled from what appears to be a private school and sent to the substandard public school, Gregory dreams of attending a technical school, but his record is too weak. Urged by his grandfather, Gregory writes to that school and explains, "Personally, I think that grades are not all there is to life. Motivation is just as important... I am not very big: I weigh 95 pounds of hope." This statement may strike readers as discordant, as it is perhaps Gregory's only expression of optimism. The resolution departs from the earlier realism of the story: the voice of his then-comatose grandfather coaches Gregory through entrance exams to the dream school, and Gregory later repays the favor, psychically pouring his strength into his grandfather's recuperation. As a result, the happy ending feels hollow. Ages 10-up.
Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 2003 (Vol. 57, No. 3))
Poor old Gregory: he’s thirteen and in sixth grade, and no matter how hard he tries, school is one massive collection of failures for him; he’s just trying to hold on until he’s sixteen and can finally drop out. His great skill is his ability to work with his hands (his kindergarten teacher, the last to understand him, said he had “a head like a sieve, magic fingers, and a heart of gold”), and his main consolation is his easygoing relationship with his beloved Grandpa Leon, also a gifted craftsman. When Gregory’s current school despairs of him and his parents decide to send him to boarding school, he sees a ray of hope in a technical school that emphasizes the things he’s actually good at--but will his terrible record ruin his chances of entry? Gregory’s narration in this French import is plaintive yet plainspoken and ruefully humorous (“Then comes the torture of homework. If my mother helps me, she always ends up crying. If it’s my father, I always end up crying”), realistic as the voice of a kid who knows that he’s never going to succeed in what’s currently the main arena of his life. The imaginary--or spiritual--intervention of his grandfather at a crucial moment and his grandfather’s sudden recovery from a coma lack the grounded credibility of the rest of the novel, but it’s Gregory’s travails that dominate. It’s refreshing to see a book that acknowledges that working harder doesn’t always get you there, that some struggling kids never succeed at school, and that they may find ways to succeed at life nonetheless. The book’s brevity and easygoing text makes it a promising readaloud or sympathetic, uncondescending novel for reluctant readers, but any kid who knows what it’s like to fail when adults want you to succeed will empathize with Gregory. (Reviewed from galleys) Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2003, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2003, Viking, 112p, $14.99. Grades 5-9.
Jennifer McIntosh (VOYA, December 2003 (Vol. 26, No. 5))
Gregory really hates school. He has hated school since the first day, convinced that he had learned everything he needed to know before lunch so there was no reason to go back afterward. Now a thirteen-year-old sixth-grader, Gregory does not like school any more than he did on that first day. Gregory's story is familiar: He does not apply himself in school because he does not like it, and he does not like it because he does not apply himself. He enjoys working with his hands and inventing things but does not find an outlet for that creativity in the normal public school. With the help of his loving grandfather, Gregory writes a letter to the principal of a technical school asking for a second chance and describing himself as "95 pounds of hope." He realizes his potential and transfers to the school, doing well until his grandfather's illness worsens, causing Gregory to lose hope. Gregory's turning point comes when he completes a rope climb, dedicating his effort and energy to his ailing grandfather. Gavalda's story is a quick read with limited appeal. A well-read teenager will not be interested in such a brief story. Reluctant readers might find some common ground with Gregory and will be attracted to the number of pages. There are other well-written novels for reluctant readers, such as Kristin Butcher's The Hemingway Tradition (Orca Soundings, 2002), that have better character development and a more interesting story. Libraries can safely skip this one. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003, Viking, 91p., $14.99 Trade pb. Ages 11 to 14.
Eileen Conlon, Teen Reviewer (VOYA, December 2003 (Vol. 26, No. 5))
Although I am a girl, I found Gregory's story and his adventures very interesting, which brings me to the point of the age level of this book. The book is recommended for ages ten and up. The length was appropriate for a ten-year-old but some of the language used might be more appropriate for someone older. But if the book is to be classified as young adult, it should be longer because I finished it within an hour and I'm sixteen years old. VOYA CODES: 2Q 1P M (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; No YA will read unless forced to for assignments; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003, Viking, 91p., $14.99 Trade pb. Ages 11 to 14.
|Language||Call Number||LCCN||Dewey Decimal||ISBN/ISSN|
|English (eng)||PZ7.G2347 Ni 2003