Diane Prather

Diane Prather

Diane Prather: Middle school kids can relate to Hank Zipzer

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Diane Prather

Diane Prather's columns appear in the Craig Daily Press and Saturday Morning Press. You can call her at 824-8809.

— The Hank Zipzer books, by author/actor Henry Winkler and author Lin Oliver, are popular with young adults. "Hank Zipzer, the World's Greatest Underachiever: the Life of Me (Enter at Your Own Risk)" is book number 14 of the series (2008).

Hank Zipzer lives with his parents and sister Emily (who has a pet iguana named Katherine). He's a fifth grader at PS 87. Ms. Adolf is Hank's teacher. According to Hank, Ms. Adolf doesn't like misspelled words, tardiness, running in class, nicknames and odd smells that come from student lunches.

In other words, Hank isn't crazy about his teacher.

But, on this particular day, it isn't Ms. Adolf who greets the students. Instead, it's Mr. Rock, the music teacher. Mr. Rock says that Ms. Adolf put out her back so he'll be the substitute for four weeks.

Boy, is Hank delighted. He thinks Mr. Rock is the coolest teacher at PS 87. After all, it was Mr. Rock who talked Hank's parents into getting him tested to see if he had learning challenges. It turns out that Hank does, and learning to read is one of them.

At recess, Mr. Rock tells Hank that he's starting a Reading Gym after school. It's designed to help kids with reading.

However, Hank is planning on doing the Tae Kwon Do After-School program that also starts this afternoon. Hank's best friends Ashley and Frankie are going to join, too. (The program is being run by Principal Love, the owner of the world's greatest collection of snowman scarves.)

Mr. Rock offers to talk to Hank's parents about getting Hank switched to Reading Gym, but Hank doesn't want that. He's afraid his father will overreact. So Hank is left to decide for himself - Reading Gym or Tae Kwon Do?

After school, Hank goes to Tae Kwon Do as planned. He thinks they will end up learning some moves, but instead Principal Love decides to lecture about the drawings on the ceiling of Mu Yong Chong tombs.

Hank watches as students follow Mr. Rock down the hall to Reading Gym. They're having fun. So, since Hank didn't count on lectures in Tae Kwon Do, he is out of there and into Mr. Rock's room.

It turns out that Reading Gym is going to help with reading a lot, and the kids are going to make life scrapbooks, too. And there's a bonus - one Hank didn't count on. Her name is Zoe, she's from PS 9, and Hank is in love.

There's just one problem; Zoe's last name is McKelty. It turns out that she's Nick McKelty's cousin, and Nick is a creep. He calls Hank "Zipper Doofus," pretends that he's the best at everything (like camel racing), tries to sabotage other kids' achievements and thinks it's funny to stick out his tongue and show everybody his half eaten food.

Will Zoe be like her cousin? Will it be Reading Gym or Tae Kwon Do?

It's a book that middle school kids can relate to. Hank makes comical lists to help him solve problems. His scrapbook is included at the end of the book, complete with photos and drawings. (A little scrapbook of photos and information about Winkler and Oliver is at the end of the book, too.)

Hank Zipler Book 14 is published by Grosset and Dunlap. The book I reviewed was paperback and costs $5.99. It can be found at the Moffat County Library.

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