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Thursday, 31 January 2013

School's Out by Jack Sheffield

School's Out
As the new school year begins, Jack Sheffield prepares for an even more eventful year than usual. A new teacher is appointed, and before long tongues start to wag. Meanwhile, five-year old Madona Fazackerly makes her mark in an unexpected way, life changes dramatically for Ruby the caretaker and, in the village Coffee Shop, Dorothy Humpleby plans a dirty weekend. It's 1983 - the era of the new CD player, Microsoft Word, the McDonalds McNugget, cabbage patch dolls, the threat of a miners' strike and a final farewell to the halfpenny piece. Jack has to manage a year of triumph and tragedy.

I am a big fan of Jack Sheffield's books and was looking forward to this one for a long time. I was not disappointed, Sheffield has written another fantastic account of another school year at Ragley on the Forest Village School.

When we left Jack and his wife, Beth, at the end of Educating Jack, they had just welcomed their son, John, into the world and now while Jack returns to the headship role, Beth is on maternity leave, at home, with John.

I really enjoy reading these books, not only to catch up with what is happening in Ragley on the Forest village, because although the book is predominantly the unofficial record of the school year, the villagers are frequently popping up and village life recorded. There are lots of regular characters and now, with this being the seventh book, they feel like my own neighbours, and it is great to be able to catch up with them again.

Not only is this book a fictional story, it is also a look back at social history with this book alone seeing the new craze of Cabbage Patch Dolls for children and computers beginning to be used in schools to name but a few.

This book has many humorous moments, with some of those gems which come out of the mouths of babes being included in the book, but this book also has some sadness, as one character dies.  One teacher leaves the school, leaving the door open for a new teacher to be bought it. I think that this could have an effect on the school over the next year and am looking forward to the next instalment already.

However, when I got to the end of this book I am unsure in what direction the next book will be going in as I think Jack and Beth have some big decisions to make over their future. Also Laura is back on the scene and I think she may be about to cause trouble for at least one character. I look forward to seeing how Jack Sheffield moves on from here.

I recommend this book to anyone who has been following the series so far, but also to new readers. Although this book is part of a series, I am sure it would be a great stand alone read and could get you hooked on the series. I also think it would be great research for anyone who is studying social history in the early 1980's.

Thank you to the publishers, Transworld, for sending me this great book to review.

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