What Do You Do?
Front Street Books
Fall 1997 $15.95 112 pages 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Ages 10 and up
Book Description: Joseph Adams was a teacher whom all his former students remember as a man passionately committed to his job; a special teacher who took an interest in all of his students. Charlie remembers Mr. Adams as the teacher who first motivated him to learn, so he is shocked when he sees a man whom he thinks is Mr. Adams panhandling in a neighborhood park. Charlie’s parents dismiss the idea as ridiculous — only Colleen, a classmate of Charlie’s who also remembers Mr. Adams fondly, is willing to help give Mr. Adams the care and concern that he once showed for his students. Charlie and Colleen realize that their task will be neither safe nor simple as they return to the park day after day in an effort to reach Mr. Adams. Their teacher, disillusioned and hopeless after a series of problems that ended his career and led him to the streets, is at first reluctant to acknowledge that he knows the children, and later hesitant to trust them. However, Charlie and Colleen’s dedication eventually inspires Mr. Adams — and members of their own community, who rally in support of the man who made a difference in many of their lives.
Reviews: From Kirkus Reviews Two sixth graders find their third-grade teacher living in a cardboard box in the park and give him a fresh start in this contrived, misguided tale from Evans (The Classroom at the End of the Hall, 1995). Charlie isn’t sure why he follows the filthy, shambling street person into the public library--until he realizes with a shock that it’s Joe Adams, his all-time favorite teacher. When Charlie rushes up to talk, he is coldly rebuffed. Enlisting the help of classmate Colleen, another Adams fan, he begins bringing food and clean clothing to the box where Adams keeps his books and opera tapes, lying about his whereabouts to conveniently oblivious parents. As weeks pass, Adams slowly becomes less hostile, and at last explains how the combination of chemotherapy, divorce, and a publicized incident in which he shoved a bullying student destroyed his self-esteem, led him to resign, and eventually drove him to drink. Ultimately, Charlie and Colleen sneak him into his old school classroom for a week (it’s spring break), while appreciative former students gather to get him back on his feet with a check, an apartment, and a pep rally. Evans pays warm tribute to the profound effects a teacher can have, and suggests that helping the homeless often requires more than finding them places to live. Still, there are several characters and subplots undeveloped, and in Charlie’s example is a potentially dangerous course of action. (Fiction. 10-12) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Author Comment: When I was a teacher I’d take classes on walking trips along the sidewalks of Berkeley where I live. If we passed a street person asking for spare change, the children would grow silent and offered kind smiles. I wondered what a student would do if he ever recognized one of the homeless men—let’s say, a former teacher.