"You may ask yourself, 'Well, how did I get here?'" -- Talking Heads, "Once in a Lifetime" Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112: "Nussbaum noticed my zombielike concentration. 'Dude, what are you doing?' "I didn't answer, and he didn't really expect me to. He knew me. They both did. "I cocked back the branch, and unloaded a home run swing. The impact vibrated up through my arms to my brain stem, and into every cell of my body. The branch shattered in my hands. "I have to say that this was always the best part of it for a guy like me -- the split-second the tomato hits the car; the very brief flight as I drop from the edge of the roof to the pool; the instant that the balloon lifts the toupee and the sun's rays glint off that shiny bald head. "Or, in this case, the go-o-o-ong! sound from the statue's bronze behind. The payoff. It was usually downhill from there. Sometimes literally."

After Hardcastle Middle School student -- and class clown -- Donovan Curtis sneaks out of detention early (being that the teacher in charge has snuck out of supervising him in order to go watch the big basketball game in the school gymnasium), Donovan impulsively decides to give the school's statue of Atlas a big smack in the bronze butt. Of course, he had no idea that his home run swing will unexpectedly cause Atlas to drop his four-hundred pound bronze globe. Or that the four-hundred pound bronze globe will roll down the hill, shatter the gymnasium doors, destroy the gymnasium floor, and prematurely terminate the basketball game. Or that School District Superintendent Dr. Alonzo Schultz will come running out of the gymnasium and grab him. Or that Dr. Schultz will mistakenly use the blank form that is meant for listing gifted and talented students for school transfers when the Superintendent scribbles down Donovan's name. Or that School Secretary Mrs. Cynthia De Bourbon will subsequently refer to that form in order to prepare a letter for Dr. Schultz to sign that mistakenly transfers Donovan to the district's Academy of Scholastic Distinction for gifted and talented students.

Of course, given the damage to the gymnasium, coupled with Dr. Schultz's fortunate (for Donovan) lapse of memory as to the name of the culprit he'd scribbled down, Donovan is certainly not about to clarify the situation. And so off he goes to the ASD.

Chloe Garfinkle IQ: 159 "Abigail leaned over to me. 'That can't be right! He's coming to this school?' "I was intrigued. 'You know him?' "'We went to the same elementary. He's the kid who jumped off the roof with one of those Gymboree parachutes.' "I sized him up. He was kind of cute in a careless, windblown way. Great eyes -- black fringed, pale blue. "'Well, he must be smart if he passed all the tests to get in here.' "Abigail was unconvinced. 'Maybe. But he would have had to change a lot since I knew him.'"

Changes, eh? There are lots of changes in store for Donovan, and for all of his new classmates at the Academy of Scholastic Distinction when these two seemingly opposing forces begin to occupy the same space. In fact, it takes Donovan less than sixty seconds of being in his new homeroom at his new school for these changes to begin: "I was fascinated. Now everybody was referring to this array of nuts and bolts and circuits as he. Was it possible that, in not naming our robot, Donovan had just named our robot?"

Behind the waves of hilarity, for which Gordon Korman is so deservedly known, we also discover in UNGIFTED some pretty significant social commentary about the state of education here in the twenty-first century. Who gains and who loses -- both socially and academically -- when all the talented students are pulled out of the "normal" schools and given a disproportionate share of scarce resources, whether it is in a charter school or a magnet school or a school for gifted and talented? And -- as I have been asking for decades now --how the heck is it that we, as a nation, have repeatedly chosen to provide far less overall in terms of public education for our children than our parents did for us? (Or are we just so blind that we don't even realize how we got to here?)

Recommended by: Richie Partington, Librarian, California USA

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com_


Donovan Curtis, IQ 112, has the PA in his hands.  "Reckless," "Poor impulse control," are the words used by his teachers to describe him and he's living up to his reputation.  "Our fans are great.  Our team is nifty.  We're going to get blown out by fifty."  His cheer rings out through every classroom and hallway 'cause that's the kind of guy he is.

So, when Donovan notices the naked behind of Atlas, the school statue, he can't help himself, poor impulse control and all.  He grabs a large branch and takes a swing at the titan.  What happens next is colossal.  The "ball of the world" previously hanging by a corroded thread, rolls off, gathers speed and with momentum on its side, goes crashing through the school gym door to the sound of major breaking glass.  Next stop, the superintendent's office and life is about to take an unexpected bounce of its own.

Through a series of missteps by the authorities, Donovan's name will be added to the list of students qualified for the district's gifted program. The kids enrolled at the Academy for Scholastic Distinction hold some pretty vaunted IQ's and have some great expectations of themselves and of others.

Written in the first person this is a non-stop, wacky, hilarious version of life as seen through the eyes of an imaginative, risk-taking, adventurous twelve year old boy. Big question here:  Is it all about the IQ and the test score?  Or does Donovan bring something more to the equation...something that perhaps doesn't appear on the standardized test?  Ages  9 and up

Recommended by:  Barb

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This book is Gordon Korman at his best. It's also not very old, so that gives me hope for his future books. I hate it when an author kind of slowly slides down in quality until you go from great books to reading mud, you know? But this is definitely not the case with Gordon Korman. He's at the top of his game in Ungifted, and I love it!

Donovan is not gifted. At all. He's average in every sense of the word - but he does get in trouble more than the average person. He has what could almost be some form of ADHD or something, where once he thinks of an idea he just has to try it - no matter the conseqences. So it's business like usual when Donovan grabs a stick and whacks it across the giant behind of a large metal statue of Atlas (the guy, not the map) holding up the world. When things get a little out of hand, however, is when the world literally falls out of Atlas' hands. The world portion of the statue falls off, rolls down the hill, and crashes into a mega-expensive sports building full of screaming sports fans. No one is hurt, but Donovan's in trouble.
But wait. Y'see, the superintendant of the school made a mistake. He wrote Donovan's name on the paper with kids who go to the special school for gifted kids down the road. That's right, Donovan didn't get expelled - he got promoted. He decides to stick it out with the geniuses to save his parents from footing the bill for the gym, and that's when he starts to realize that those geeks and nerds are very cool in their own way - they just need a little push in the right direction from someone who doesn't spend all his time stressing about grades or some new science concept. But this uneasy answer won't last forever, and Donovan knows it's only a matter of time before the super-intendant finds him.

This book is flat out hilarious. That's the first thing I'll say. Donovan is a hoot, and everyone around him, from the serious genius girl who can't think about anything but getting into a good college, to the freakishly smart boy who wishes he were normal and didn't have to go to the smart kid school (and so tries desperately to flunk, a running punch-line throughout the book) - and who discovers the secrets of YouTube and is suddenly addicted.
The book is told alternating views between classmates at the Academy (the gifted school), the teachers, the super-intendant, Donovan himself, and Donovan's also funny (and highly pregnant) sister. It is very cool reading how everyone thinks about Donovan and sees him, which is somehow very different from how he sees himself in certain ways.

There is a reference throughout the book to an ancestor who survived the sinking of the Titanic, which for me (a tried-and-true Titaniac) was kind of a cool little tie-in to actual history. Also, for those who don't know Gordon Korman's works, he also wrote the Titanic trilogy and I find he fits in little references to the Titanic in many of his books. Got half an hour to kill? Ask me a question about the Titanic. Or books that even use the word titanic (i.e. "He took a titanic leap"). I probably know a little too much on the subject than it is really possibly to classify under "passing interest."

Parents, don't worry that this book might be inappropriate for your children. Katie (Donovan's sister)'s husband is stationed over-seas in the military, and rather than being anything bad her pregnancy is more of a running gag and something that comes in very handy when the Academy students realize they haven't taken "sex ed" yet - what's better education in that area than studying an actual child in vitro? Nothing inappropriate, and it's actually extremely sweet.
This book is awesome, and I have given it as a gift to a friend who loves Wendy Mass books (who said she loves it). It is a great, great book and even if it might be a little tilted when it comes to what smart kids are like, so what? I'm a smart kid (though no Noah), and I don't mind. You come into the story knowing it's not really the way life is, and it's the story (not the "message") that is the reason you should read it.
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