Friday, February 4, 2011
Thaddeus A. Ledbetter Needs No Defense!
If you ever need someone to help you prepare for whatever dangers lie ahead of you, Thaddeus is your man! If you ever need an old-fashioned chuckle, Thaddeus is your man. And, if you want to meet a character that is far more complex than initially meets the eye, Thaddeus is your man as well.
Today, on my "ice day", I read The Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter by John Gosselink. Gosselink is an English teacher, and I think that is why he creates such a believable character. Thaddeus is most likely a compilation of many former students of his (as well as some students to whom most teachers can relate).
I enjoyed the organization of the book -- it is entirely made up of artifacts -- emails, files, letters (friendly, business, and some threatening legal action), maps, illustrations, resumes, church bulletins, Boy Scout information, discipline referral forms, "prison" journals, Thad's defense argument, and many others as well. These artifacts are the vehicles Gosselink uses to tell the story of Thaddeus, and each layer allows the reader to see that Thaddeus is far more than just a class clown. He is someone who is trying to control his environment in a time when he feels he has no control in life. The artifacts remind me a lot of how Wendy Mass set up Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf. The reader is required to do much inferring about what has happened when it is not explicitly stated.
The book also reminds me a little of the Roscoe Riley series in that the reader finds out immediately that Thaddeus is in trouble at school and serving in-school suspension time. The rest of the book unravels how that suspension came to be. Because of that format, I sometimes had to recheck dates of events, because the plot of the story jumps back and forth in time. It wasn't a detractor, it just made me think a little harder about sequence.
I also loved how much Thaddeus enjoyed words -- he is a member of The Young Etymologists group (membership: 1), and spends a great deal of the book sharing definitions of great words in the letters he sends his principal, assuming the principal wouldn't know the meaning.
I also loved his wicked sense of humor (rather he realized it or not). My favorite suggestion Thaddeus made to the principal was to improve the heart health of the teachers in his middle school. He suggested that the front row of parking should be for those in the "fit and trim" BMI (body mass index) group. The middle row should be assigned to the "Heart-Attack-Waiting-to-Happen" group. Finally, the last row should be assigned to the "Whoa-Put-Down-That-Doughnut-Fatso" group. How can you not appreciate a sense of humor like that?! He was just looking out for his teachers, right? :)
One of my students finished reading this yesterday and I immediately snagged it before it got returned to its rightful owner in hopes that today would be a good reading day. I got lucky, and it turned out to be a perfect day for reading The Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter. I had to order it today so that now a copy can live in our classroom. I might even suggest it for the next round of student book clubs. :) Great book, great character!!
See Franki's thoughts about Thaddeus and the book during her January reading reflection.