Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Regarding the Bathrooms: A Privy to the Past

Klise, Kate. 2006. Regarding the Bathrooms: A Privy to the Past. Ill. By M. Sarah Klise. Orlando: Harcourt.

I don’t know how I missed the other books in this Regarding the ___ series. I’ve only read this one book, but I think that the series idea is pure genius.

Regarding the Bathrooms is a mystery concerning the basement bathrooms of the Geyser Creek Middle School, various Geyser Creek residents (including Liet. Sting Ray of the police force, Jeannie Ologee of the Geyser Creek His, Hers, and Theirs-storical Society), Hugh Dunnit of Interpol, members of the sixth grade class, and the always effervescent, Florence Waters. Like an episode of Seinfeld, seemingly unconnected people and events come together with hilarious results.

It is the multi-genre style that makes this series so engaging. The entire story is told using nothing but newspaper articles,

“The Geyser Creek Gazette
Sally Mander and Delbert “Dee” Eel Escape
Principal Russ to Host SPA Conference
Geyser Creek Middle School Principal Walter Russ will host the upcoming conference of the Society of Principals and Administrators (SPA). Russ stated that until this morning, his biggest challenge was getting the school’s basement bathroom in presentable condition before the conference on August 31. He has asked designer Florence Waters to oversee the project.
‘Now, of course, I’m more stressed out about having escaped convicts on the loose,’ Russ ruminated.
Russ will have to worry about the cons and the johns – and write his own letters to Ms. Waters – without the help of school secretary Goldie Fisch-N., who is taking the summer off for personal reasons.”

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letters, postcards, posters, flyers, notes, transcripts, and school bulletins. Each one is humorously illustrated and formatted to bear resemblance to its real counterpart.
The mystery can be completely solved using clues found within the primary source documents. The middle school students, six in all, (each apprenticed to a business or organization for the summer) work together to solve Geyer Creek’s latest mystery.

The story is full of puns, as evidenced in this excerpt from a letter from Florence Waters to the Principal,

“I’m assuming your students will assist me in the renovation. I’d be plumb crazy to plunge into a project this serious (hee-hee) without consulting my favorite pen pals. They’re always flush with great ideas! ….. P.S. Don’t worry about the visiting principals seeing evidence of waste. The simplest flushing mechanism will take care of that.”

This series should be great for reluctant and/or humor-loving readers. The mix of fonts, drawings, sketches, and handwritten notes makes Regarding the Bathrooms a breeze to read. An added bonus, readers will learn a bit of ancient history, some Latin, and various writing styles.

I can’t wait to read Regarding the Bees: A Lesson, in Letters, on Honey, Dating, and Other Sticky Subjects – just in time for this year’s Summer Reading Club theme, Catch the Reading Bug!

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