11 September 2009

Operation Yes (Sara Lewis Holmes)

I read a lot of books, but seldom write reviews - for the simple reason that I hate writing reviews. The process always reminds me of high-school English class, where we would read a perfectly good story and then ruin it by dissecting it. (I'm a surface reader - I read the story exactly as written, without regard for possible parables, allegories or other hidden meanings.) This week, however....

I mentioned a while back that one of the books I was looking forward to this year was Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes. It finally came out on 1 September, and it was well worth the wait.

The book is set on an Air Force base in North Carolina. Bo Whaley, son of the base commander, doesn't like school; he's acquired a reputation as a troublemaker, too. Gari Whaley doesn't want to spend a year with her uncle Phil's family, but her mother is an Army nurse who's being sent to Iraq for a year. Bo and Gari are both going to be in the sixth grade at Young Oaks School.

Carol Loupe dropped out of the Air Force Academy to become a teacher. She's the only one in her family who isn't in the service - her sister is an Air Force pilot, one brother is at the Academy and the other brother is part of a Special Forces team in Afghanistan. Miss Loupe is also at Young Oaks, doing her first year as a sixth-grade teacher.

Miss Loupe is a very active teacher. On the first day of school, she is down on her knees, taping off a rectangle on the classroom floor whilst calling roll (from memory). The Taped Space is meant to be a stage for improv, leading to some wild scenes. Unfortunately, the School Commission is coming to do a material inspection of the school, and theatre isn't part of the state-approved sixth-grade curriculum....

And then Miss Loupe receives bad news. Very bad news. And Bo, Gari and the rest of the sixth grade - aided by their first-grade reading buddies and 100,000 Little Green Men - set out to help her recover.

Holmes, I believe, was an Air Force brat; she's now an Air Force wife. So her descriptions of life on base sound right, and she deals well with problems like Gari's separation from her mother or Bo's worries about what will happen when his father transfers next year. Favourite bits include the school librarian, who uses book titles as cuss words ("Frog and Toad!" Miss Candy said.); the FOD walkdown Bo organises to find a lost pendant; the performance presented by the Ugly Couch Players, and:
"A milk run is a routine mission," said Mr. Nix to his class as they came through the line. "Does anyone know what the opposite of routine is?"
One of his first graders tried to raise her hand and dropped her pudding. A glob of it landed on his shoe.
"No, that's not it," said Mr. Nix.

Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes. Scholastic, 2009. Ages 9-12 (though our public library lists it as YA). Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, of course - though buying through IndieBound or from your local independent bookseller is highly recommended!

No comments: