DiscoverMiddle Grade

Through Calvin Arthur's 4th Grade Eyes


Loved it! 😍

Most 1976 school-life scenes are relatable to happenings found in today's school.

It's 1976, and Calvin Arthur is starting his fourth year at Washington Elementary in Kingston, Delaware. He, like most children, has first-day jitters. He wants to be accepted while avoiding all school drama.

After the students have found their place cards, Mr. Jones (homeroom teacher) starts class with a speech full of wise words: "We are not alike on the outside, but we are a lot alike on the inside. You cannot walk in everyone's shoes, but you should understand each other. We don't have to be best friends, but we do need to respect one another." 

Mr. Jones's advice was directed toward children, but its advice that adults should follow as well.

As the school year progressed, chapters reminded me of the Afterschool Specials I watched as a child. There'd be situations, often controversial, of interest to children and teenagers, and at the end of the episodes, the viewer learned a life lesson. When Calvin decided to skim-read to move his story reading ranking from the middle of the pack to the top 3 readers, his classmates called him out for cheating. Calvin mentally acknowledged they were right. He realized that "integrity is better than cheating."

Another afterschool special scene involved a heated and humiliating encounter between Calvin and Mr. Sampson, the math teacher. Yes, Calvin talked in class, but the teacher didn't ask why. Instead, he hit Calvin with an eraser. Suppose the teacher had asked him why he might've learned that Calvin was having trouble understanding the new math concept. Calvin failed his math quiz because a teacher was a stickler for no talking in class. Calvin also messed up; he should've raised his hand and told the teacher he was having difficulty with the math lesson. As a parent or teacher, ask your listener(s) if this behavior by the teacher is acceptable and how they would have handled the situation. In my opinion, the teacher was out of line.

Readers will follow Calvin as he navigates through the bad and good times of fourth-grade life. We'll follow the class as they meet a (roughly) 1000-pound giraffe who spat on a misbehaving student. We join the students on their field trips and sit side-by-side as Calvin takes the dreaded standardized test. While most scenes are relevant to the day's school system, two stood out to me as not: teachers smoking in the lounge and paddling (disciplinary action.) But, as you recall in my opening line, this story takes place in 1976 when times were much different. 

This story is perfect for those children going into or leaving the fourth! 

Check it out and the others books in the Calvin Arthur series, too! 

Reviewed by

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First Day Pressure

About the author

R. A. Stone is an award winning public school teacher of thirty two years. He has taught at the elementary and middle school levels in the USA, Writing has been a life long passion for R.A. The Calvin Arthur series has evolved from all of his countless student interactions and teaching experiences. view profile

Published on November 21, 2022

20000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Middle Grade

Reviewed by