With the overwhelming amount of homework in middle school, Gregory Korenstein-Jasperton wonders how all the popular kids at Morris Champlin Middle School have time to be popular. He hasn’t even found the time or the energy for writing the poetry and short stories he loves. When his dropping grades get him grounded, preventing him from attending open mic night at Booktastic, an indie bookstore and his favorite place on earth, Gregory decides to take action.
Borrowing inspiration from Dr. Seuss’ character, the Lorax, Gregory realizes change never comes unless someone speaks up: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not” (78). Although he doesn’t initially know how he can make it better, Gregory decides to go on a homework strike. In an act of civil disobedience, Gregory takes on the tyranny of the powerful to gain a personal license to freedom. His first surprise comes when he doesn’t get full support from his friends and classmates.
Another of Gregory’s obstacles is his history teacher, Dr. Bankster, whose grading system calculates homework as one third of a student’s overall grade. According to Gregory, Dr. Bankster may not have invented homework—Roberto Nevilis usually gets that credit—but he perfected it. Because Gregory feels powerless and voiceless, he focuses with passion and determination on his mission to ban homework. His research on the homework issue leads him to some interesting history: In 1901, a law banning homework in some locations did exist, calling homework “a sin against childhood.”
Although Gregory hasn’t prepared for all the unexpected consequences, he learns a great deal of history. Readers of The Homework Strike by Greg Pincus will not only understand the compelling arguments on both sides of the homework debate but also acquire knowledge about strikes, rights, and the Colonists’ fight for freedom prior to the American Revolution. Another perk of the book is getting to read many of Gregory’s poems, with my favorite being the villanelle that opens Chapter 13. Pincus pens a story that features issues and characters with whom middle grade readers will likely identify as they find kinship with Gregory, Ana, Benny, Alex, or Kelly.
- Posted by Donna