7th Grade Revolution: Liana Gardner
What would happen if an entire grade of middle school students were given the opportunity to take over the school, just their grade and make the rules for everyone in their specific class? What would happen when this group of disjointed kids who some like to rank out the others, make fun of their differences or are just there to take up space are forced into a situation that might endanger their safety and possibly bring them together as a unit? Welcome to Washington Academy and meet the 7th grade and their teacher Karen Rectanus who believe or not created this learning experience for her students. Wait until you hear what they had to do? Wait until you learn the rules that had to be followed as Ms. Rectanus takes the floor and tell these students “ It’s not like we like to torture you, as I’m sure some of you are thinking.” Seventh graders she sates at Washington Academy Middle School, upset with teachers that ran the school well the bloodless revolution was successful and the new policies and directions are now in your hands.
The stars of this book are the students of the 7th grade but the main stars are Dennis and Rhonda. Dennis is in school to basically take up space hoping that he does not get kicked out after his father gave a huge donation to the school in order to get him in. Rhonda is brilliant and although at times the other students sort of pick on her and don’t realize that she knows survival skills, she would rather be in the background and not take center stage. Some think she is weird but by the end of this story you might change your mind. Dennis finds school a waste of time and boring but watch what happens to change all that for both of these students. When the teachers finally announce that they are in charge this is what happens at first. Maddie tries to take charge the teacher informs them before leaving them to their own devices that a QuackerMe Fee has been set up so that their parents and any other interested parties can follow along. The war has begun as Maddie decides to take charge as the girls form a circle and Dennis kicked back against the wall and ripped a page from his notebook and well I’m sure you get the picture. The author shares in Chapter three with a great photo of him on page 12 so that readers can get to know him first hand. Dennis has a police scanner app and this is where thing and events get interesting.
Maddie starts to write different suggestions on the board and Dennis tried to picture James wearing a cap as that is one of the suggestions from the boys. Spencer loves to play jokes and his suggestion about the girls did not get very far. When Dennis fires off several wads of paper wads no one thought it was funny. Ellen and Maddie pointed to the board and then Maddie decided that she would give up and that maybe they should break into groups since nothing was getting done. Rhonda stood on the sidelines watching them decide which group to be in and no one seemed to even notice her. Maybe during the break she might write down some ideas but she did not know how the teacher’s felt about the noise level. Then with all of the chaos they learned that they were going national and the news was just outside waiting to interview them.
Dennis replayed in his mind what he saw when he was dropped off for school and the teachers warned them but none of the 8th grade listened and they kept playing games. What did the 7th grade decide: no homework or working lunch, use music players and chew gum. With so much chaos and the teachers by the door drinking coffee and the students out of control someone suggested taking a secret ballot and this is where it gets interesting. Let’s enter the basement and find out what Dennis relates to them as they learn more about Silas Morgan the man who gave his house to the school and wanted it kept in tact abut why name it after Washington? Taking the secret ballot and then hoping to get on with the rest of the rules and how they wanted to plan the year, Dennis hears something on his app and things go into a different direction. The FBI is right outside and there is some national treasure they are after and intend on getting but first they decide to evacuate the entire schoolteachers and all but no one comes to get the 7th grade. Things change when Dennis informs the other students that the FBI is outside and they must find the hidden treasure before the FBI locks down the school and takes over. Realizing that time is of the essence and they have to regroup and maybe get organized with both Rhonda and Dennis at the helm they begin what most students would never do or maybe they would create an organized plan or action. Groups are formed, ideas are talked about and since Rhonda knows survival skills a generator needs to be found, water, snacks and other supplies need to be available, fabric, and other materials including something to light a fire or flashlights so they can see better in the basement/dungeon when they finally go exploring the inner depths of the school.
This plot is based on a true event and this really happened. As we learn more the author not only teaches organizational skills, responsibility, teamwork, committee work, sharing thoughts and ideas but also injects a great way to learn about the history of our country and one person in particular including Silas Tucker the man who gave them his home as a school. Blueprints need to be found, information about the school and its found too. With dusty files and bats flying around plus other unknown creatures that might deter others but not these students, the clock is running out and they need to get done before the school day ends and the FBI takes over.
Finding the blueprints then going through the files they find Silas’s will and learn about why he was going to disinherit his nephew. But, something else is there and when Rhonda goes deeper into the tunnel she finds some cigar cans and when she opens them what is in them could set the school financially solvent for many years. But, what exactly is in the cans and who gets what is in them if the FBI finds out what she found? Added they find something else more like an artifact, a letter written by Patience Wright and a book whose subtitle read America’s First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy. But, Who? What does the paper say that they found? What historical piece of information would change their perspective about someone close to our nation’s founding? What does this have to do with the battle of Cowpens and Paul Revere’s Ride?
As you enter the tunnels and the dungeon and experience the excitement as they deal with each hurdle, obstacle and try and work together as a team you will see a drastic change in all of these students as Spencer stops playing pranks, Selena remembers she is not practicing to become a beauty queen, Brooke finally shares some incite and uses her tech skills to create a twitter tweet account letting everyone in QuackFeedMe know what they are doing. When the FBI and Mrs. Recktanus enter the school and they teacher defends her students, wait until you hear the final results. The news is broadcasting and the students declared a second war on the FBI: Who wins? What happens when they bomb the agents with their Halloween special treats? What happens when the agents threaten to arrest them and the teacher explains why not? What historic cache of art and weaponry is found from two wars? The cast of characters of the students created is so great that I hope author Liana Gardner will continue the series bringing them back in school and seeing what else they can learn from taking part in this 7th Grade Revolution.
The illustrations are fantastic and bring both Dennis and Rhonda to life with varied expressions as the plot line changes and their difficulties progress as they want to complete their mission before they are stopped. WAR: WASHINTON ACADEMY REVOLUTION: Join in the search, enter the dungeon and get to see what happens when one creative teacher decides there is nothing better than a first hand, hands on experience to learn more about our country’s history. Can’t wait to see what she has in mind next.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine
Sounds like a great read for middle schoolers.