________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 20 . . . .June 9, 2006


Radio Fifth Grade.

Gordon Korman.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1989/2006.
179 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 0-439-94599-2.

Subject Headings:
Radio programs-Juvenile fiction.
Schools-Juvenile fiction.
Problem solving-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Jonine Bergen.

** /4



Benjy’s attention was suddenly diverted by a flurry of activity in the control room. In an attempt to cure Winston Churchill’s hiccups, Mark had tried to put a paper bag over the bird’s head. But the parrot had dodged the bag, and escaped through the open door of the cage. Now he was flapping around the control room, evading capture by Murph and Mark who were scrambling about, trying to grab him. Mr. Morenz did not glance up from Vampire Slave Monsters of the Planet Garafrax, not even when Winston Churchill made a dive-bombing run at his head.


Korman builds his plot in Radio Fifth Grade in a similar manner as a child creates a house out of a deck of cards. Korman constructs a typical, yet solid, base with an interesting, though one-dimensional, set of characters in a familiar setting upon which he places successively more outrageous events. The humour grows with the suspense of waiting for the inevitable card that will make the whole house come tumbling down. The cumulative process makes the chaos of the crash much more fun.

     Benjy Driver is obsessed with putting on the best radio show in the town of Venice. Benjy, Mark and Ellen-Louise are grade five students in Centennial Park School. They are also co-producers of “Kidsview,” a Saturday afternoon radio show on WGKR Venice, FM 92.5. “Kidsview” is produced by and stars the students of Centennial Park School. The plot follows Benjy and his friends as, week by week; their attempts at producing the perfect show are foiled.

     The first week, the talking parrot, Winston Churchill, creates the crisis when he won’t talk. The following week, Mark accidentally teaches Winston to say, “This parrot is a rip-off,” and their idealistic teacher gives them seminar questions to deal with. Benjy decides to turn the questions into a quiz thus completing his homework and helping the show at the same time. The following week, they have the parrot, the questions and the school bully’s literary attempts with which to dea. Each week, another difficulty is added to the unresolved problems of the week before.

     Radio Fifth Grade is a good piece of Korman-style formula-like fiction with definite boy appeal. Korman uses the same type of physical humour and one-liners he developed so successfully with Bruno and Boots in his “Macdonald Hall” series. He also uses the same basic storyline of kids outwitting the system with a stock set of secondary characters. However, though the humour and plot of the story would appeal to ages 8 through 12, the ages of the characters in the story would not. Benjy and friends, who are in grade 5, are too young to interest the older reader. Unfortunately, the reading level is too high for most early and emergent readers. Therefore, Radio Fifth Grade is recommended for ages 8 through 10.

     The unofficial co-reviewer of Radio Fifth Grade, my seven-year-old son, recommends the book, giving it ***. But, it was read to him. He could not read it independently. He says it is really funny and “This parrot’s not a rip-off. Squawk.”


Jonine Bergen is working at the Millennium library and studying to become a Library Technician in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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