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Chain Gang Elementary Paperback – August 12, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Grant provides trenchant criticisms of educational policy ... (with) acerbic wit." - Publishers Weekly

"Jonathan Grant just might be my new favorite writer. You want to laugh? Grant writes with smart, sardonic wit. You want to be moved to tears of heartbreak or rage? Grant can get you there, too. And, he does it all within a story that speeds along like a bullet train and keeps you turning page after page. Chain Gang Elementary might be every parent's nightmare, but it's a hell of a read, and I highly recommend it." -- Mama Zen, The Zen of Motherhood

"... Chain Gang Elementary is darkly funny, entertaining, well-written, and has a great deal of heart." -- Shay's Word Garden

This book is (what) Desperate Housewives wishes it could be." - Indie Books List ("Book of the Month" award)

"Required Reading: If you've ever clashed with a principal or fretted about passing a motion at a PTO meeting, you'll be able to relate to some of the challenges faced by Richard Gray, a work-at-home dad who becomes PTO president in Jonathan Grant's novel. ... In addition to being an entertaining read, it tackles issues like school violence, racial discrimination, and teaching to the test." - PTO Today

From the Author

Writing Chain Gang Elementary is my revenge for having to read Lord of the Flies in high school.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Thornbriar Press (August 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983492107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983492108
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,907,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What can I say about Richard Gray? He's a flawed, kind, well-meaning man who calls meetings to order with the "rap-tap-tap" of a Duncan yo-yo. As the protagonist in Jonathan Grant's "Chain Gang Elementary", he's pitch perfect. Gray possesses a conflicted social conscience, a sharp tongue, and has the cojones to be an unapologetic, stay at home father.

He's a Southern male that isn't a simpleton, a redneck, or a dandy...I mean...Charlestonian.
When Richard is drafted to be head of the Parent Teacher Organization at Malliford Elementary, he is aware that his presidency will face obstacles. The aging Miz Rutherford is at once Principal, non-benevolent dictator, and Nurse Ratched to the children and parents who inhabit Malliford. She's not fond of Gray's impudent questions, or the changes he would make in student life.

Rutherford is intent on making her school a "five-star school of excellence". The only people standing in the way are Richard Gray, agent provocateur Rita Malloy, and the academic pariahs that inhabit the Chantilly Arms apartment complex. Of course, the school isn't racist for wanting to reassign them to another school. It's strictly an issue of test scores and property values.

This is where the war begins. This war will be won not through frontal assaults, but from good old-fashioned skulduggery and passive-aggressive behavior. This book is the show "Desperate Housewives" wishes it could be, and has the scathing social satire "Suburgatory" pretends to provide.

Gray's personal life is hopelessly endangered by his success as PTO President, with his son Nicholas providing an unbiased look at the effects of his professional achievements.
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Format: Paperback
Try wrapping teaching, testing, tutoring, sex, attempted murder, egos, child abuse and discrimination into one book. At times, Chain Gang Elementary (Thornbriar Press) does read like an improbable, overdone soap opera. But it is not often that a born newspaperman turns out a fiction piece that becomes a searing commentary on education's strengths and failings, while throwing in an extramarital affair and other inducements. Chain Gang is a well-crafted depiction of hero Richard's attempt to keep the local school going and its parent organization alive while combating bad teaching, obtuse administration, racism and other issues that might have been torn from the headlines today.

Author Jonathan Grant has his roots usually in non-fiction newspapering. He served as a school parent association president, and with his dad, wrote the acclaimed book

The Way it Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia. Coincidence? Others have called Chain Gang autobiographical; Grant claims it is not.

The human condition often takes a beating in the book. Good teachers and administrators seem scarce as the book's protagonist and father, Richard, agrees to become head of the Malliford Elementary parent organization. It is not officially a national parent/teacher association unit. The national group dropped it when a previous treasurer ran off with the treasury and other hanky-panky took place.

Richard's efforts to tutor non-Caucasian students new to the school, start teacher in-service training or replace an art teacher sound like current themes chronicled in Education Week or some other pedagogical publication. Through all of the hassles and hurdles, however, some good teachers remain, like Mrs. Little, who cares for kids in and out of her class.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I was contacted by Jonathan Grant a few months ago and asked if I would like a copy of his new book, Chain Gang Elementary, in order to review and share with the readers of my blog. Being a teacher myself, I got a bit bogged down in the intervening time period and didn't get a chance to read it, but here in the middle of our Christmas break, I was really able to get into it.

I highly enjoyed this novel. It was exceptionally well-written, the dialogue was crisp, and the characters were completely believable. I found only a couple of formatting errors, and most importantly, once I got into it, it had me enthralled.

The hero, Richard Gray, is a parent at the school, who winds up falling into the position of Parent Teacher Organization president. Since this is his story, most of the people on his side (the protagonists) are fellow parents and PTO members. Many of the ANtagonists are teachers and administrators at the school. Believe me when I say, the LAST thing I want to read is another round of teacher-bashing (which seems to be getting way too prevalent nowadays), and I will admit that I was a bit anxious when I started getting into the "battle mode" of the story. However, this is not at all a work of teacher-bashing. There was a very heroic teacher (who was of course labeled "the worst teacher at the school"), along with several other common-sense, cause-friendly teachers at the school. The teachers and administrators who were "enemy combatants" were truly idiots and awful people. I found myself getting angry at their actions, thinking that if I or anyone I knew did those sorts of things (putting in a cartoon then lying down in the teacher's lounge, while kids got into fights in the classroom, for instance), I would want to take legal action myself.
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