Monday, November 9, 2015


Ungifted by

Gordon Korman


I found this book through my local Digital Library and I’m so glad I did. “Ungifted,” by Gordon Korman, is the perfect kind of story for today. Mr. Korman cleverly contrasts two schools, Hardcastle, the one for average middle school students and the Academy for Scholastic Distinction (ASD), the other for gifted students. In the course of his novel Mr. Korman makes the best case for inclusion and integration in education that I’ve yet seen.

The story begins with Donovan Curtis, an impulsive, almost a how-can-I-get-into-trouble kind of student, telling about his life. He has some thuggish friends who delight in causing problems—your average middle school screw ups or delinquents, as the administration would call them. You can imagine the kinds of problems they cause and trouble they get into. 

But Donovan’s latest caper takes the cake. For some reason, with a stick, he whacks a bronze statue of Atlas holding up the world, which sits on a hill above the school. The bolt breaks and the huge globe rolls down the hill, smashes the doors, and scrapes the gym floor during a dance. No one was hurt, but there is significant damage to the gym. Donovan must face the district superintendent and the consequences of his action. Crazily, due to a colossal mix up, his name is sent to the gifted school by mistake and off he goes to hide out.

Next we see Donovan’s attempts to fit in with the gifted crowd and do well enough to stay at ASD. It has superior facilities to his old school, and there he can avoid the dreaded consequences of wrecking the gym. All too soon teachers and students realize Donovan isn’t gifted and doesn’t belong there. But, for some ASD students, Donovan brings normalcy, humanity, and an awakening  of the possibilities outside of their gifted program. 

Donovan is still a screw up and does so spectacularly in the end. But the gifted students are forever changed by their meeting Donovan. They now have a chance to be more than gifted—they can be human teenagers, with a real camaraderie based on shared experiences and supporting each other. And Donovan has learned how to study and care about his education, how to be part of a team, and to appreciate his family. These are all good lessons to learn. This book is highly recommended for ages 10-13.

Reviewed by:
Penelope Anne Cole
Multi-Award Winning Author of  
Magical Matthew and Magical Mea 
and Mágico Mateo (Spanish)
New: Magical Mea Goes to School and 
Magical Max and Magical Mickey
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Middle School, Gordon Korman, Donovan Curtis, Hardcastle Middle School, middle grade, academic excellence, human growth and development, Atlas, Chloe, Abigail, Noah, The Daniels, Dr. Schultz, Katie, family, consequences, messing up, screw ups, teenagers.