Author Jonathan Grant pulled from his experience as PTA President to write Chain Gang Elementary, a satirical look at life in a middle class elementary school.
Richard Gray is a former journalist-turned stay-at-home-dad and part-time newsletter editor who has moved to the Malliford neighborhood with his wife Anna Lee and their son Nick after a shooting at Nick’s former elementary school. Roped into becoming PTO President, Richard finds himself dealing with a Principal who wants to spend the PTO’s money to decorate her office, a Treasurer determined to find missing PTO funds and to seduce Richard, the influx of kids from an apartment complex, causing a fear of lower test scores and home values, as well as various parents, teachers, administrators and students, all of whom want something from him.
Richard also has some ghosts from his childhood that he hasn’t moved past, including a run-in with his kindergarten Principal and an alcoholic father, and his relationship with Anna Lee is strained at best. Richard just wants to provide a good educational experience for his son, living by the rule “if it’s not good enough for my child, it’s not good enough for anyone else’s either,” but soon wonders if it’s all worth it.
The events in Chain Gang Elementary may be a bit far-fetched but I’m sure every PTO/PTA parent will recognize at least one character from this zany novel as someone they’ve dealt with, and the students rang true as well. I often lost track of who was who, the myriad parents and teachers began to blend together, but the action kept the story moving without needing to remember every character.
Chain Gang Elementary is a wacky peek into our worst elementary school nightmares, with humorous takes on zero-tolerance rules, standardized test scores (called Standard Hightower Intellachievement Tests – note the acronym), and the use of Ritalin to control problem children.
Note that Chain Gang Elementary is available for the Kindle for $.99 as of this writing, a great price for this fun read.
Nancy is on the PTO Board at her son’s elementary school, though President isn’t in her future. She writes about her 2 boys, book and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.