Derwood, Inc. by Jeri Massi. My all-time favorite novel to teach my fifth-graders. For eleven years straight Derwood, Inc. was one component of the literature curriculum in my Christian school.
Now, I am NOT a person who despises change. I thrive on change. If I had to stay with the same text for three years straight, I searched for ways to tweak lesson plans and make them better. Make them more applicable. More fun. NOT BORING. Because everyone knows the old adage,
Derwood never got boring. Jeri Massi’s story is both hilarious and serious, absurd and real. Every year the antics of the Peabody kids were a new thrill for my students and a much-anticipated reading class for me. More than once, as we read chapters out loud, we would literally ROFL. Well, not the teacher.
The book stars Penny and Jack Derwood, the two oldest of a blended family. Together they make a great kid-comedy team rivaling Abbott and Costello. Stir in three more siblings, a gang of bullies, and an international crime ring, and you have a recipe titled, “Don’t Stop. Read the Next Chapter.” By the end of the book, the characters have grown in their Christian faith while the reader never feels captive to a sermon.
You’ll delve into dangerous mysteries to be solved, yet even in the darkest moments a giggle may slip out of you. You’ll listen to Jack’s crazy stories knowing full well they are absolute figments of his imagination – but little brother Freddy doesn’t know that. There are bad guys who are really bad and bad guys who turn into good guys and good guys who maybe aren’t as good as you thought.
From a fifty-ton-mile-long octopus to a near-lethal can of peaches, Jeri Massi keeps you highly entertained and on the edge of your seat. Not only did she write a wonderful work of entertainment, she did it five more times. There are six books in the Peabody Kids series.
Unfortunately, Derwood, Inc. is no longer in print. After a search of several websites, I found editions may be purchased for as little as thirty-nine cents and as much as a thousand dollars! Four to nine dollars seemed the average for a used copy. My own library doesn’t carry the book (shame on them!), and I’d share mine, but it’s so tattered I have to keep taping in the pages!
In addition, BJUPress published a guide which teaches children how to write a good story. It sets up exercises to practice creating characters, using the five senses in descriptive writing, and planning a stair-step approach to build tension in the plot.
Q: You’ve been hunting for a new favorite in middle grade humor?
A: Derwood, Inc. Ready, set, read!
I have never heard of this series but it sounds too perfect. Or at least, you’ve done a great job selling me on it. 😉 Hmm, maybe the author has plans to republish eventually. I might just ask her…
You’ve just helped me add a question to a future interview! Thank you for being so faithful in your follow of Scriblerians and making sure to comment often.
I haven’t paid attention: do you have kids in middle grades that would enjoy Derwood and Chronicles of Narnia?
I try to comment often on blogs I read. So the writers know it was read & appreciated. 🙂 Though if there’s already 50 comments, I tend to skip commenting.
My daughter’s in 4th grade – she just turned 11 a few weeks ago. Definitely at the right age to appreciate the stories, although if it’s not an audio book, i have to read it to her.
Thank you for your kind words regarding Derwood! I didn’t know it was out of print.
Derwood is the biggest reason I miss teaching fifth grade, although teaching Spanish to elementary kids part time is almost as much fun.
If you are ever willing for me to interview you, I would love to do a post about you, followed by your latest, Hall of Heroes. Last February when I checked into other books you had written, I didn’t notice it on Amazon.
I think BJP sells Derwood to schools but not to individuals. Go figure.
Hi, I sent you a reply via email. Just send me your mailing address, and let me know if the interview is over the phone or via email. Many thanks!