Sunday, January 22, 2006

What Mr. Mattero Did

Cummings, Priscilla. 2005. WHAT MR MATTERO DID. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525467210 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-9]

Every teacher’s worst nightmare is that of being falsely accused of improper behavior with students. When seventh graders Claire, Jenna and Suzanne want to be removed from their music class because it is “boring,” they concoct a tale that their music teacher, Mr. Mattero has touched them inappropriately. What follows is not what the three expected: their parents are contacted, the police interview them, and Mr Mattero is suspended from teaching until he is able to clear his name. While Claire suffers from her guilty conscience, Jenna feels no remorse and indeed had an alternate reason for making the accusation: she wanted her mother who was having an affair to pay attention to her. Melody, Mr Mattero’s daughter who attends the same school, must face classmates who believe her father is guilty as well as her father’s severe depression and return to drinking. Finally, when Claire discovers Melody has been helping Claire’s mentally challenged brother in a special riding program, Claire comes forward and confesses. Mr Mattero, though, never returns to teaching.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Claire and Melody, WHAT MR. MATTERO DID reveals the damage false accusations make on all those involved as well including their families. While the supposed abuse is relatively minor and handled with care by Cummings, the resulting damage to Mr. Mattero’s dignity and reputation is not minor and is fully described in terms of both his professional and personal life. However, instead of being a cautionary tale with a heavy–handed moral message, the book is a gripping story seemingly lifted directly from today’s headlines and written in such a way that it affords readers the opportunity to make their own moral judgments.

Readers can use available databases and newspapers to discover factual incidents involving students making allegations against teachers.

Books about student/teacher relationships:
Frank, E.R. FRICTION. ISBN 068985384X
Grant, Cynthia D. WHITE HORSE. ISBN 068983263X
Oates, Joyce Carol. SEXY. ISBN 0060541512

By Terri Moore

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