NIAGARA FALLS, OR DOES IT? by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

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Hank Zipzer has never been especially good at school.  And when he gets stuck with mean Ms. Adolf as his teacher, he realizes that fourth grade will be no exception.   She assigns a huge five paragraph essay as homework on the first day of school!  Hank is terrible at writing essays, even about a topic as interesting as his summer vacation to Niagara Falls.  It’s not that he doesn’t try; it’s just that he is really bad at writing.  So when he has the brilliant idea to build a living essay—a working model of Niagara Falls—his friends Ashley and Frankie are eager to help, even if it takes time away from their current business venture, a magic act called the Magic Three.  All they have to do is finish Hank’s project with enough time left over to perfect their act before their performance at Hank’s grandfather’s bowling league.  But when Hank Zipzer is involved, nothing ever goes quite according to plan . . .

First and foremost, yes, this book series was written by the Fonz.  It’s actually pretty good!  Hank is a very well-intentioned character who despite his best efforts gets cast as the delinquent class clown.  Part way through, it is revealed that Hank may have some learning difficulties and a compassionate teacher appears to help him learn how to express his ideas and complete his projects more effectively.   The Hank Zipzer series may appeal to readers who enjoy the Time Warp Trio books by Jon Sciezka, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or Big NateIt is also a good series for struggling or reluctant readers in grades 3-5 who may enjoy reading about Hank’s humorous escapades and relate to his frustration with school work. 

There is a great audio book version of the series, as well, read by Henry Winkler himself.

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