The Education of Robert Nifkin Author:Daniel Manus Pinkwater The Education of Robert Nifkin is clearly the work of a disturbed mind. But then, if you've read Daniel Pinkwater's 5 Novels, or any of his other excellent titles, you already know that. This book, set in the 1950s, is filled with a typically Pinkwaterian cast of unique and hysterically funny characters. Robert Nifkin's dad, for example ("My fat... more »her is a son-of-a-bitch from Eastern Europe"), is full of advice for his young son, like "What doesn't kill you makes you strong--or it kills you." And his teachers! His high school, Riverview, is populated by a collection of anti-communists such as his homeroom teacher, Mrs. Kukla, who warns him on his first day, "I can smell a Bolshevik a mile away--and I'm smelling one now." To avoid taking gym, the overweight Robert joins the ROTC, where he meets the only noncommunist of the bunch, the Marxist-theory-spouting Sergeant Gunter.
Robert isn't engaged by the primary method of instruction at Riverview (which is copying from the blackboard), so he stops attending, is threatened with expulsion for truancy, and convinces his parents to send him to the private Wheaton School. At Wheaton, instruction includes many trips to the library, the movies, and late-night sessions at Maxie's Bookshop, crowded with "loonies, lonelys, speakers, listeners, debaters, radicals, beatniks, artists, insomniacs, and chess players." Here, Robert's favorite teacher, Mr. Gerkowitz, asks about his postgraduation plans: "You, Nifkin, while slightly repellent, do not actually present yourself as a borderline case, so it is possible that some college will actually take you. Is this your desire?" Fortunately for us, it is--the book, set forth as Robert's college application essay, is the result. Pinkwater is surely today's funniest writer of books for young people, and readers seeking off-the-wall, irreverent humor won't be disappointed by this bevy of sardonic wit. (Ages 12 to 15) --Neil Roseman« less