Friday, October 29, 2010

Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever

Niagara Falls, or Does it?


What's great about Niagara Falls, or Does It? is that it's not just a funny story. Yes, main character Hank Zipzer is plenty funny. It seems that Hank is one of those "if I'm not laughing I'm crying" kind of kids. He's bad at all subjects in school and worse yet, trouble seems to follow him everywhere. He even has to visit the principal on the first day of school!

When Mrs. Adolf assigns Hank the dreaded "what I did over summer vacation" essay, also on the first day of school, Hank feels doomed as he cannot make himself sit still long enough to read or write anything any teacher would want to read. Hank is sure his year will be a failure until he's saved by a brilliant idea. Instead of writing his essay, he will bring his essay about a family trip to Niagara Falls to life for his entire class. After much creative work to construct a portable running waterfall, trouble sloshes downstream and right onto Hank's head as Ms. Adolf is drenched by the assignment and the principal calls Hank to the office as a trouble maker, again.

By the end of the book, a special and understanding teacher together with Hank's parents figure out that Hank has learning differences that need to be taken care of to help Hank be the best student that he can be. It's a hopeful ending and readers will certainly want to read the rest of the series to see what happens to Hank next. Readers just can't help caring about and liking Hank.

What's best about Niagara Falls, or Does It? is that it's written by Henry Winkler who played 'The Fonz' on the 70's TV show Happy Days. In real life, Mr. Winkler learned that he is dyslexic when he was helping create a documentary about the condition in which makes reading, spelling, handwriting and arithmetic very difficult for students. Instead of allowing his challenging school days ruin his life, the talented Winkler became an acclaimed actor and now author. With the help of Lin Oliver, Winkler gives credibility to the character of Zipzer who struggles with learning differences.

The Hank Zipzer: The World's Greatest Underachiever series contains at least 17 books and Winkler continues to write new ones. He's an inspiration to students who learn differently as well as parents and teachers. These books are super for boys in grades 3-8.

Winker, Henry and Lin Oliver. Niagara Fall, or Does It? New York: Grosset & Dunlap. 2003. Print.

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