So, my daughter read this for an advanced book club at her school. Because I'm a bit of a control freak I had her read it out loud to me so I could see what was going on in this mysterious club. By chapter two I wanted to stick skewers in my ear holes, but I was already in too deep. I had to know how it all worked out.
Here's the set up - Arthur's class goes to a Medieval fair where they compete with a class from another school to determine who has learned the most about the Middle Ages. The students in this other class are superior to Arthur and his friends in pretty much every way. Mostly they're smarter, but what's really remarkable is that they actually seem to enjoy learning. I kept waiting for the moment in the book when Arthur and his friends realize that this isn't freakish/aberrant behavior, but it never happens. Instead, through some completely convoluted deus ex machina, Arthur and his classmates emerge victorious despite being woefully unprepared and not doing a single thing right. I don't need every book to have a message/lesson, but what's odd is that I think this is supposed to be a lesson/message type of book. So, what's the message? Be proud of your mediocrity and maybe you too will be saved from humiliation by dumb luck?
Also you'd think that a book which features a class trip to a Medieval fair might actually contain some information about the Middle Ages. But, beyond the odd tidbit and random references to Arthurian Legend, there's not much here. Even the competitions don't make much sense - a pie eating contest? The only thing I appreciated about this book was some of the advanced vocabulary.
And what did the kid think? Well, I don't think she hated it as much as I did, but she also wasn't begging to read it or any more of the series either. I'd like to say I'll be keeping my nose out of the book club from now on, but that'd be big fat lie.