________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 7. . . .October 21, 2016


Top of the Class (Nearly). (Tom Gates).

Liz Pichon.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2015.
227 pp., trade pbk., $8.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-5707-0.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Myra Junyk.

**** /4



“But just for NOW could you at least TRY and keep your amazing see-through eyelids OPEN and your head OFF the desk? That way I’ll be able to tell that you’re really paying attention in this catch-up class. Is that OK with you, Tom?”

“Yes, sir,” I say.

(I’m not sure Mr. Fullerman is convinced.)


It is time for School Council Elections, and Tom Gates is running for the position of school councillor. As the book begins, the whole school is cheering for him. Not only has Tom been elected, but Mr. Fullerman, his teacher, has just announced that he has received the highest score ever on last week’s test! Tom Gates is at the top of his class!

     However, his joy does not last long. Mr. Fullerman suddenly wakes Tom up from his wonderful dream. He is just announcing to the class that they must prepare for a “Very Important Test.” When test day arrives, Tom is distracted and manages to do very poorly on the test. “If it was a DOODLE TEST, I’d be right at the TOP of the class for sure.” (p. 30) As a result, Tom has to take catch-up classes after school. His friend Derek is there, and so is Buster Jones, an older student who frequently gets into trouble.

     After Tom sees Buster vandalizing a glass cabinet in the hall, he mentions it to Derek in a note. In another note, Tom draws a funny picture of Mr. Fullerman, and later hides it in The Big Book of Birdwatching. Will Tom become Buster’s mortal enemy for revealing his vandalism? Will Tom find his picture of Mr. Fullerman before anyone else does?

     Tom’s life has become very complicated with his catch-up classes, his new relationship with Buster Jones, and his misplaced picture of Mr. Fullerman. However, his spirit remains irrepressible. He is constantly making lists about what he wants to accomplish in his life: “My Top Five Superpowers,” “Reasons I need to get my (Mr. FB) drawing back,” “Top Five Reasons to be voted on to the school council,” and “Top Five things that are not easy for me to do right now.”

     Tom is still doodling, but he is also trying to do well in class, and he is building his relationships with his schoolmates and his family. Although he is afraid of Buster, he soon realizes that Buster is just a normal young man who wants to have friends. Tom even goes birdwatching with his Uncle Kevin and his cousins! He also realizes that he must study to do well on his tests.

     Readers will once again be fascinated by Tom’s commentary about his school life and his doodles. His doodle book gives readers insight into his complicated life, his family relationships, as well as his school activities and the frustrations of middle school life. This is another book in the “Tom Gates” series which began with The Brilliant World of Tom Gates. These books have won several awards including the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the Blue Peter Book Award.

     Pichon’s novel has several interesting humorous touches. The copyright page heading is, “Here’s the Boring (but slightly important) stuff…” The dedication page has a picture of her mum and dad instead of just a dedication. Teachers could use them as an opportunity to discuss the purpose and importance of copyright and dedications. There is also an interesting glossary, a list of birdwatching facts and instructions for making a paper “aeroplane”. Pichon has once again captured the spirit of Tom’s lively personality and the complicated world that he lives in at school and at home. Tom is still doodling, but he is also realizing that study is also important in his life.

Highly Recommended.

A resident of Toronto, ON, Myra Junyk is a literacy advocate and author.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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