"Simon inspected his huge feet. He didn't actually regret putting his energy into his work for the whole of the period she'd been watching him. But most of the early enthusiasm, and all of the guilt had drained away now. He felt like an empty pen cartridge, used and spent. Just for a moment he did consider the idea of trying to stay a new person, a born-again Simon, religiously doing his homework and handing it in on time, spending his lunch hours in the library, discussing study projects in depth with his teachers."
Carnegie winner: 1992
Author: Anne Fine
Singularly comprised of reprobates and those with reduced interest or application in learning, class 4C is as much of an ordeal for its teacher as it is for the pupils unfortunate enough to be in it. The lumbering and lugubrious Simon Marin is one such individual, a constant thorn in the Mr Cartright's (Carthorse) side.
The cheers and jeers of the classroom are astutely observed and make for some pitch-perfect comic moments. Carthorse is a familarly sardonic and sarcastic teacher, worn-down and jaded but nonetheless trying to steer the academic ship.
The genius of the novel is in capturing the sensitive, more reflective and softer side of Simon's personality. This is brought out by the flour babies experiment, a project of the ambitious Dr Feltham's invention, intended to encourage learning about child development. An overheard and misunderstood conversation between Cartwright and Feltham leads Simon to believe this is going to be an explosive experiment and that chaos will reign in the classroom.
Each child is given a six pound sack of flour and has to look after it at all times, treating it as though it is a real baby. This results in all manner of misadventure, mayhem and mishaps, but also, reveals the emotional capacity of boys who learn beyond simple and segregated curriculum areas.
Peppered with wry excerpts from Simon's diary. There's a glorious ending when the all encompassing responsibility has release and Simon finds his freedom again, throwing off the shackles that accompany the epiphanies of self-realisation that the experiment provokes.
A tremendously life-affirming novel that succeeds in showing and normalising the emotional capacity of boys. Writing is sharp, deft and incredibly spirited.
experiments with slow learners / funny / parenting /