✰✰✰½ Seamus Hinkle is just an average kid in an average middle school. Unfortunately, things go terribly wrong for Seamus when an eager new substitute teacher, Miss Parsippany, foils his plans on Fish Stick Tuesday and ends up dead in the lunchroom cafeteria. It was a simple accident, but Seamus' well meaning parents enroll him at the Kilter Academy for Troubled Youth in the hopes of reforming his errant ways.
Expecting severe punishment, Seamus is surprised to discover that things are a little bit off at Kilter Academy where troublemakers are nurtured. Rather than being rewarded with gold stars, students aim to earn demerits instead. In order to advance to the next year, students must complete certain tasks, like pranking teachers, which other kids would get grounded for. Despite Seamus' insistence that Miss Parsippany's death was just an accident and that he doesn't possess any real troublemaking skills, he soon finds himself swimming in demerits. As the end of the first semester draws near, all Seamus wants to do is go home, but before he can, he and his classmates must pass the final exam. In their mission to complete the Ultimate Troublemaking Task and make the director cry, Seamus and his friends learn about teamwork, friendship, and loyalty.
The Bottom Line: Merits of Mischief is a new series for kids in grades 4 - 6. It's a fun read featuring kids who excel in troublemaking. Along the way the characters learn the importance of friendship and teamwork despite all the trouble that they are encouraged to create. There are a few loose ends left at the end of the first book, but I'll definitely pick up the next installment to see what Seamus and his friends are up to. Recommended for kids looking for something a little bit different and quirky to read.
Details: The Bad Apple (Merits of Mischief) by T. R. Burns. Hardcover published by Aladdin in 2012. 352 p. ISBN: 978-1-4424-4029-6