Title: Because of Mr. Terupt
Author: Rob Buyea
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Themes: Friendship, School, Acceptance, Dealing with Tragedy, Forgiveness
Age Range: 3rd through 8th Grade
Seven students in Mr. Terupt's fifth grade class narrate this story about the power that one special teacher can have on the lives of their students. Told in alternating perspectives, this book follows the students in Room 202 through a school year that changed them all. Mr. Terupt is the best teacher any of them has had, a teacher who sees his students for who they really are, despite the masks they put on to hide their fears, insecurities, and family tragedies. When Mr. Terupt is gravely injured in a freak accident on the playground, his students learn the true meaning of taking responsibility and forgiveness.
I realize I am late to this party, but this book! I basically read it in one sitting, and I gave it a very rare five star review on Goodreads. As a teacher, I'm a sucker for inspirational teacher stories. Especially in the current school reform climate, I need as many reminders as possible as to why I chose this profession. To be honest, I feel like this profession chose me, and while I wouldn't say that I am quite as special as the fictional Mr. Terupt, I try my best every day to be as special as possible. Mr. Terupt's ability to see through the attitudes and behaviors of his students into the very things that made them tick is a gift that not all teacher have.
I was concerned that seven shifting perspectives might be too disjointed, but each student narrator is so perfectly written that I didn't even have to look at the name on the first page of each chapter to know who was speaking. I've been an educator for over twenty years, and in that time I have known students EXACTLY like the fictional students in this book. The brainiacs, the popular girls, the bookworms, the jokesters, and the kids who pretend not to care-I've dealt with them all. Any child who picks up this book is going to see themselves in at least one of the characters-I certainly did (Jessica, in case you're wondering). I can't imagine any student reading this book that won't get swept up in the emotions of it-these kids articulate common childhood feelings and experiences in a way that may help the children who read it figure out how to explain their own truths.
I've had a few days where I ended up crying at my desk over the year, and usually those were the bad days, the sad days. Today, as I closed the cover on the last page of Because of Mr. Terupt, I had tears streaming down my face for the best of reasons-because a book so moved me that I was swept away, not just reading a story, but living it.
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