Title: How I Survived Fifth Grade
Author(s): Megan and H. William Stine
Cover Art by: Susan Tang
Publisher and Year: Troll Associates (1992)
Number of pages: 92
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Descriptive Annotation: How I Survived Fifth Grade is written from the perspective of fifth grader, Elliot. Elliot is the smallest boy in fifth grade- he has been getting made fun of his entire life. In fifth grade Elliot gets put in the same class as the school bully, Justin Ambrose. Many of the students in Elliot’s class begin to join in on teasing Elliot. However, Elliot has one friend, Carlo. Carlo and Elliot spend a lot of their time together- Carlo has a series of schemes to try to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. When Justin continues to bully Elliot, Elliot and Carlo begin to take Karate lessons in an effort to toughen up Elliot. However, the scheme doesn’t work because Elliot is still not big enough to take on Justin. When Elliot comes back from Christmas break his teacher has been replaced by a new teacher, Mr. Oakes. Mr. Oakes assigns the class a project to make a video in a group. While Elliot is working on the project several of the people in his group begin teasing him. Mr. Oakes comes over and confiscates the tape. Mr. Oakes councils Elliot on how to deal with Justin and ultimately Justin becomes friends with Carlo and Elliot.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Linguistically this book is very rich- Elliot makes many word plays and is very playful with language. The words in the book are fairly challenging and the text is of average density per page. Culturally, everyone in the book seems to be middle class. Elliot has highly educated parents. There are no physical descriptions in the book of the characters (other than Elliot), and race is not discussed. All of the names in the book are traditionally Caucasian names with the exception of Carlo.
Interdisciplinary Connections: Elliot and Carlo have a mission to collect money so that Carlo can fund his mission to get in to the Guinness Book of World Records. This mission could be connected to math class, names from the book could be used in math problems and students could create their own business plan to fund a project of their own.
Other Information: I really enjoyed this book. How I Survived the Fifth Grade is the quintessential campy chapter book. However, I don’t necessarily think kids today would like this book. It was published in 92 and many of the things described in the book (beepers, computer technology) are now outdated. Additionally, the portrayal of the relationship between Elliot and Justin is unrealistic and possibly damaging to a student who is being bullied. I think the easy resolution of the problems between Elliot and Justin is unrealistic- and I don’t like that this book perpetuates the stereotype that all bullies are just misunderstood and lonely.