In the grand tradition of Roald Dahl, author William M. Akers delivers a debut novel about a gifted kid taking on a tyrannical and even nasty authority figure.
When Tobias Wilcox switches schools to the McKegway School for Clever and Gifted Children, he lands in Mrs. Ravenbach’s grad four class where his rebellious spirit clashes with her dictatorial teaching style. In a series of ever-escalating confrontations, Tobias and his teacher engage in an epic battle of wills.
While the trope of a kid standing up to out of control authority figure is tried and true, appearing in virtually every area of pop culture, what sets Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way is Akers’ decision to tell the story from the villain’s point of view, interspersed with journal entries and the like from Tobias. It’s a stroke of genius which results in a book not quite like any other middle grade novel I’ve read. (How often do you see the villain as narrator?)
The tone is a bit uneven in spots, but that’s a minor criticism when the majority of the work is so original and fresh. Akers, a screenwriter and teacher in his real life, has crafted something truly special here.
Highly, highly recommended… And a great option for reluctant readers.
As well, a special mention must be made of Anna Wilkenfeld’s excellent illustrations. While the majority of the book is narrated by Ravenbach, alternating chapters are Tobias’ journal entries, which are illustrated by Wilkenfeld, and they are wonderful. Not to mention her cover illustration, which makes for one of my favorite book covers in years. Gorgeous.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way in exchange for an honest review. Read about our Review Policy HERE.