Monday, August 22, 2011

Learn Me Gooder / John Pearson

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Humor

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Kindle US:
YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: YES Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


After being laid off from his job as an engineer, John Pearson made a drastic career change and became an elementary school teacher. His initial year of teaching provided material for his first book, Learn Me Good. Its popularity among Kindle owners convinced Pearson that just one book with a grammatically incorrect title wasn’t enough. Hence, this sequel. Pearson lives in Texas and is proud of attending both Duke and Texas A&M universities. (Insert your favorite Aggie joke here.) For more, visit Pearson’s blog.


Six years have passed since John Woodson started teaching. He’s still exchanging emails with his former coworker Fred Bommerson, sharing stories of his school days, and reminiscing about how teaching is different from his former job.


For those who read Learn Me Good, you know exactly what to expect from Learn Me Gooder. If you liked the first book, you’ll like this sequel. If not, the sequel isn’t for you, either. Everyone else, read on.

I’ve been wondering lately if I’m losing my sense of humor, at least where books are concerned. I find plenty to laugh at in books from non-humor genres. Snappy, smart-ass dialogue and funny situations that are part of a bigger story still unleash the chuckles. But most of the books I’ve read where being funny was their main aim have fallen short. They’ve had funny parts. They’ve also had irritating, stupid, and even infuriating parts. Learn Me Gooder has convinced me it is still possible to make me laugh the whole way through and alleviated my concerns about that missing sense of humor.

The book is structured as a series of chronological emails from John Woodson, a fictional elementary teacher, to his former coworker, Fred Bommerson, who still works for Woodson’s former employer. Each email has a subject line that is usually humorous, often a play on words that relates to the subject. One example is “That doesn’t make any cents,” as the subject for an email where Woodson tells Boomerson about trying to teach his class the relative values of US coins. Each email is “signed” with a name that follows the same pattern, “Seven Dollar Billy” for the last email and “Add’ em Ant,” for an email about teaching addition.

These added touches add to the funniness and give a hint of Pearson’s sense of humor and wit, but the body of the emails is where the real fun lies. The situations described are, if not totally true, at least totally believable. Although drawn from Pearson’s actual teaching experiences, Learn Me Gooder is fictionalized and, at times, the author takes literary license for a better story. Pearson combines school happenings with his inner dialogue, then stirs in comparisons to his former coworkers and comes up with comedy gold. Although each email is a discrete unit, like a small chapter, the book doesn’t read like a series of emails. Pearson’s students and even his former coworkers become like characters in a novel as we follow the students’ progress through the year. Likewise, in references to Bommerson and his other ex-coworkers, Pearson integrates them into the story too. (Sometimes the adult world isn’t that much different than elementary school.) If you have children, work with children, or have ever been a child, I think you’ll find Learn Me Gooder just the thing to tickle your funny bone.


Although this book is a sequel, the references to events from Learn Me Good are limited and inconsequential. I also recommend the original, but reading it is not a prerequisite to reading the sequel.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five stars


Anne R. Allen said...

Because I write romantic comedy, I'm very interested by this, "Snappy, smart-ass dialogue and funny situations that are part of a bigger story still unleash the chuckles. But most of the books I’ve read where being funny was their main aim have fallen short." I used to be so angry that there was no category for "humorous fiction" and that so many agents said they didn't touch comedies. But after doing a lot of ms. evaluations recently, I realized how difficult it is to make things funny on the page. A great stand-up routine falls flat without a comic to present the material. Humor is also terribly subjective.

This isn't stopping me from writing funny, but I know now that the humor has to be attached to sympathetic characters and a fast-paced story, or it's just annoying.

It sounds as if the "Learn Me" books have succeeded because of character and story--not just jokes. Great review, as always.

BooksAndPals said...

I think you're correct, Anne. I think even a stand-up routine or books by comedians that I've liked(Seinfeld, Al Franken, etc) are a series of short stories as the foundation, with all the elements you've outlined. The "Learn Me" books are not unlike a series of stand-up "bits," in that each email focuses on a particular story, with the added benefit that the basic story can stand alone, but can also reference past stories for additional laughs.