Sounding Off byTed Staunton
Fourteen year old Sam Foster, staring 9th grade in his small Canadian town, plays drums in a local band and is searching for a mystery girl who won the talent contest in their local fair. When a famous composer visits and gives their music class an unusual assignment to make music, the composer also hires Sam to tape sounds around town. Sam’s dad, the high school drama teacher, starts organizing a rock-type band with both adults and teenagers, which Sam joins. Given as assignment to defend a book by a famous local writer, Sam says at a city meeting that the book is not very good, but anyone should be allowed to read it. All the sides of the argument are happy with his testimony. Subplots involving a famous local writer, other members of the band and a girl on whom Sam has a crush all add interest to this tale of Sam’s freshman year of high school.
The Canadian setting does not distract from the story; high school is pretty much the same everywhere. The author combines teen dilemmas with humor and empathy.
Acting Up by Ted Staunton
A sequel to Sounding Off, this book starts in the middle of Sam Foster’s junior (11th grade) year of high school. Sam is on track to finish required volunteer hours ahead of time as a way to convince his parents he’s mature and responsible enough to them to leave him at home alone when they go away for March break. Assigned to care for an electronic doll by an inflexible family studies teacher, Sam plays a gig with his rock band while wearing the baby in a snuggly. Stuck under a leaky roof while playing his drums, San doesn’t realize the doll has gotten wet and the electronics destroyed. Things get worse when he is assigned more volunteer hours and jobs. His girlfriend, who was expelled from her private school, keeps suggesting things like getting tattoos that will get Sam in even more trouble. Even as he tries to stay on track, Sam is torn between turining down his girlfriend’s ideas, taking on more obligations and fulfilling those he already has. How he deals with everything at home, school, in the community and his girlfriend brings Sam to crisis mode.
I got worried about Sam and kept reading to find out how he would solve all his problems. Told realistically and with humor, this book kept me involved with all the characters in Sam’s small Canadian town. I recommend this book to anyone who wonders how high school students manage to keep up with everything in their lives. The Canadian setting does not at interfere with the story.
Reviews by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson