Please Sir! – Jack Sheffield

Please Sir! Is the fifth book in Jack Sheffield’s teacher series and like the previous four it follows a formulaic structure which is predictable and safe but also successful.

At the Ragley-on-the-Forest School another year is beginning and the Head Teacher as well as having an obligation to all those who he teaches has to fulfil another role as headmaster – recording in the School Logbook what happens. These books are the stories fleshed out with what really happened with all the characters of the wonderful Yorkshire village. Jack has also new obligations for himself as well, his marriage to Beth is getting closer and decisions have to be made about their future together, their home but also the ghosts of their past.

Popular characters such as Ruby the larger than life school caretaker who has a wonderful way with words makes me smile on most pages she features in. However it is the children that perhaps have the best voices as well known little tales and misunderstandings are voiced throughout the book. Where did they sign the Magna Carta? At the bottom! Special mention must go to the wonderful Theresa Ackroyd who announces all school arrivals up the drive without missing a beat or a glance up from her school work. Children have a remarkable ability.

And so another year progresses, but I think whilst some ‘school’ stories focus on the development of the children and the lives of the teachers this is very much a background running theme for me in Sheffield’s books. They are actually I have come to the conclusion little gems of social history. The year is 1981 going into 1982. We have had the royal wedding of the century, there is a war looming on some unknown place a long way from home, Enid Blyton books considered not good enough literature reading, petrol going up by 7 pence a gallon, The Times only 20 pence and a new fangled machine where you could record one of the other two television channels whilst watching the third. I think it is that reason that I continue to read them, it makes me smile to think that actually thirty years ago was not that long past and how things have changed and advanced and in some cases not.

It is a while since I have actually read any of these books, this book has been out for roughly a year and to be honest I avoided it. However when given the possible opportunity to read his next instalment due out in 2012, I only felt it fair to myself and the author to catch up and read it. 

My reason for not reading it – to be honest I was getting a little bit  bored. Series of books can I think sometimes take you that way and then you get a little put off. Before starting Please Sir! I spent some time going back through all the reviews of the books in the series. 

First Book – Teacher, Teacher – I think this is one of my very early reviews. When you look at it, it is like I have just garbled it all out into one paragraph. I do take a bit more time nowadays I promise.

Second Book – Mister Teacher  I am going to go out on a limb and say the best book of the series purely based on what I have covered in the review.

Third Book – Dear Teacher Here I pick up on them being more a social history type of novel than anything else.

Fourth Book – Village Teacher And continue that social history in this review as well.

There are many similar stories throughout the books which have featured in Gervase Phinn books but also in all sorts of anecdotes about what children say, what is written in exercise books and exam papers and anything perhaps to do with being a teacher. I think AlanTitchmarsh’s comments on these books sums perhaps most of them up “Wry observation and heartwarming humour in equal measure’

It is fair to say that I like ‘school’ stories in whatever their means and I have read a few this year 2011. I hope Jack Sheffield‘s new novel Educating Jack lives up to the same formula as I think it is my history degree that makes me want to keep coming back and reading these books.