Schooled, by Gordon Korman, is a teenage problem story with a twist. Much like those picture books for little kids that feature teddy bears with very kid-like problems, Schooled serves up the story of a teenager boy who doesn’t resemble everyday teenagers – a boy named Capricorn who wears tie-dyed shirts and homemade sandals and was raised on a sixties commune with only his grandmother for companionship. A sudden turn of events propels Cap into the world of today’s middle school, including some seriously mean bullying, with no preparation whatsoever.
Despite his unusual upbringing and his sudden introduction into the middle school world,Cap’s problems are not unique. Kids everywhere can identify with having qualities that set them apart from the crowd, and they can appreciate the challenge of suddenly being thrust into a new and challenging role such as Cap had to face when he was elected eighth grade class president without even running for the office. And yet, because Cap is such an unusual character, students can feel comfortable discussing his problems from all angles without it hitting too close to home.
The story element of conflict is a good one to work on with this novel. It can sometimes be hard to find good examples of individual-versus-society conflicts, but Schooled fits the bill perfectly. One of Cap’s main conflicts in the story is with modern society. Both this individual-versus-society conflict and Cap’s individual-versus-individual conflict with Zack, the leader of the popular crowd at school, would be interesting for kids to track as the story progresses.
Cap’s unique perspective is also just fun to read about, and his peace-loving style and simple approaches to dealing with problems might spark some interesting discussions. Along the way, students and teachers alike can enjoy the sixties references to hippies, tie-dyed shirts, the peace movement, the Beatles, communal life, and happenings!
Linked with Reading Toward the Stars for Book Talk Thursday – not a Valentine’s Day book, but one that is just fun to read this time of year!