cover image The Boy Who Owned the School

The Boy Who Owned the School

Gary Paulsen, read by Nick Podehl. Brilliance Audio, unabridged, two CDs, 1.5 hrs., $14.99 ISBN 978-1-4558-0823-6

Jacob Freisten just wants to live life inconspicuously. But when his English teacher, Mrs. Hilsak, tells Jacob he's on the verge of flunking the class, she gives him an alternative: he can save his grade with extra credit by working on the fog machine for the school's production of The Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, Maria Tresser, Jacob's dream girl, is playing the Wicked Witch. Jacob already made an idiot of himself in front of her, and now he worries about the ramification of a second failure. Nick Podehl turns in a standout performance in this audio edition. The narrator convincingly embodies Jacob's middle-aged teacher, as well as his ethereal young crush. But Podehl really shines in his rendering of Jacob. Podehl captures both the boy's quivering anxiety ("Disappear me, now, from the eyes of all people in this room") and the sardonic way he often deals with his all-too-common humiliations. At two hours, one only wishes the audiobook were a little longer. Ages 9%E2%80%93up. (Mar.)