HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: This School is Driving Me Crazy
Author: Nat Hentoff
Jacket Illustrator: Lorraine Fox
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books, republished 1980
ISBN-13: 978-0440085492 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0440085497 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0330259415 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0330259415 Paperback
Language level: 5
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: No one, really
Rating: * 1 star
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Category: Bad language
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Hentoff, Nat. This School is Driving Me Crazy (Published in 1976 by Delacorte Press, New York City, NY). Twelve-year-old Sam Davidson lives with his father Carl and mother Liz. He is a sixth grader at Bronson Alcott School, a prestigious private K-12 academy, where his best friends are Benjy and Blake. Unfortunately, Sam has a magnetic attraction for trouble and thus finds it increasingly difficult to attend the school where his own father is headmaster. Then one day a fellow sixth-grader named Tim is caught stealing at school and when asked why accused Sam of shaking him down for money. Of course, Sam denies it, but with his penchant for mischief, will people believe him? Can Sam prove his innocence? How does he go about trying?
One thing stands out to me in this book. A reviewer wrote that “Nat Hentoff doesn’t pull his punches,” and that “he writes hard hitting stories for middle school age children that adults can enjoy equally.” Not pulling punches and writing hard hitting stories must refer to the fact that everyone in this story—both adults, including Sam’s parents and the school teachers, as well as the students from age ten and up, all curse like sailors. They frequently swear (with the “d” and “h” words including the form “godd***”), profane the names of deity (God, Christ, Jesus as interjections), and use various forms of vulgarity (such as “pain in the a**,” a slang term for the male sex organ, and even the “s” word, among others).
In fact, it seems that practically the only “dirty word” known to mankind that is not found in This School is Driving Me Crazy is the “f” bomb. I guess that even Nat Hentoff has some line that he won’t cross. The unfortunate problem is that there is actually a good, timeless story here about school bullies extorting victims for “protection.” However, it is overshadowed and thus marred by the bad language. It’s like going through a barrel full of badly rotten apples in the hopes of finding just one good enough to eat. There are also references to smoking cigarettes, drinking Scotch, and using “grass.” Recommend this for middle school age children? No way!