March 19, 2018

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The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds | SLJ Review

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LooneyREYNOLDS, Luke. The Looney Experiment. 208p. Blink. Aug. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780310746423.
Gr 5-8–Eighth-grader Atticus Hobart is having a rough time. He is short and unathletic; his courage (and his voice) routinely fail him, especially when he’s around his crush Audrey Higgins; and he is the primary target of a blowhard class bully, who calls him “Fatticus.” To make matters worse, his father has just left the family to “figure things out” and the boy can’t help but feel that he is somehow to blame. The situation brightens a bit with the arrival of Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute filling in when Atticus’s English teacher goes on maternity leave. Early on, Mr. Looney confides in his students that the one thing he has learned in his long teaching career is that “we are most afraid of ourselves.” With this revelation and his unconventional and highly dramatic teaching methods, he inspires his charges to get to know themselves and to stand up for what they know to be true. The man takes a special interest in Atticus and lends him his personal copy of their class reading assignment, To Kill a Mockingbird, inscribed by the author. The book changes everything for Atticus, and just in time, since the bully’s verbal assaults have turned physical. When Mr. Looney’s job is on the line, Atticus is able to rise to the occasion and speak out in his mentor’s defense. Reynolds has written an accessible and engaging novel that presents a light, if purposeful, take on finding one’s voice, growing into one’s name, and discovering courage in unexpected places. The fact that it can be used as companion text to Harper Lee’s classic is a great selling point on its own. VERDICT An appealing coming-of-age story told with humor and a great deal of heart.—Luann Toth, School Library Journal

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth ( is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.