A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Worst Class Trip Ever is a funny, suspenseful story from humor writer Dave Barry (Peter and the Starcatchers). He strikes just the right tone for this age group: There's plenty of action and excitement but no menacing edge. A "hot girl" turns out to be a bold, resourceful adventurer, and the accidental hero finds he's capable of incredible feats when left with few other options. The two teacher chaperones are comically clueless. The only sour note is some stereotyping: the "weird guys" from a fictional Middle Eastern country, speaking clipped English; a Nigerian taxi driver enraged by a shorted fare; references to another taxi driver speaking "Martian"; a Cuban mom prone to verbal and physical outbursts.
What's the story?
Eighth-grader Wyatt Palmer had been looking forward to his parent-free school trip to Washington, D.C. But things go awry before he even lands: He and his friend, Matt, grow suspicious of two strange men seated behind them on the plane, looking at aerial photographs of the White House. Matt swipes a strange device from their backpack, setting in motion a wild pursuit complete with disguises, kidnapping, unlikely alliances, and international intrigue. Wyatt would like to be a hero but finds himself following the lead of his longtime crush, a "hot girl" with a keen sense of adventure.
Is it any good?
Dave Barry's goofy humor is spot-on in this fast-paced novel of a hapless eighth-grader caught up in an international plot -- it's 24 tamed for the middle school set, punctuated with fart jokes. THE WORST CLASS TRIP EVER is told in the self-deprecating voice of Wyatt, who's trying to impress out-of-his-league Suzana but instead finds himself in awe of her boldness.
For all the implausibility of the plot, Barry is right at home in the world of 13-year-olds. The class dutifully treks from one place where "something historic happened" to the next, and, as on any field trip, all the interesting stuff happens in between: For most of the class, the most exciting part of the trip is speculating why Suzana is spending so much time with the nerds. There are elements of real danger (kidnappers, Secret Service agents, missiles), but they lack teeth -- it’s more slapstick Pink Panther than Mission Impossible.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the vaguely Middle Eastern men are presented. Would they strike the children as suspicious if they were, say, white men or Cuban-Americans from Miami? How is this stereotype similar to those in other suspense stories you've read or seen involving international plots?
Wyatt says ghost stories don't spook him because playing violent, gory video games have made him hard to scare. Do you feel like violence in movies or games desensitizes you? If so, is that a problem?
Do you think the adults' responses to the children in this story are typical?
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