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Friday Fiction: What Happened to Mr Forster?

What Happened to Mr. Forster?

This novel, aimed at upper elementary/young teens, is about 6th grader named Louis set in the late 1950s. Louis is surprised to discover that his teacher for the year is a man named Mr. Forster. Mr. Forster is a great teacher and spends a great deal of time with Louis, coaching him in softball and inspiring him to love writing. Suspicions grow about Mr. Forster’s bachelor status and male roommate. The community eventually ousts the teacher. Louis tries to reconcile the community’s actions with what he feels is right.

This book was published in 1981. I am pretty impressed that these themes were front and center in a youth lit book at this time. (For a time context, the American Psychiatric Association had only removed homosexuality from the DSM in 1972.) Is it worth hanging on to? I would probably give this book a qualified yes. This book does have some cultural significance. so it does belong in a library. Would today’s young people like the story? Maybe. Any ALB readers rember this title crossing your path in the olden days?



16 Responses to Friday Fiction: What Happened to Mr Forster?

  • This one actually sounds pretty good! May have to see if my library has a copy.

  • If not, interloan…

  • Might work as historical fiction, now.

  • I like A.C. want to read this one. Sounds interesting.

  • Never heard of this, but it sounds like something that might have been sold in those book orders I used to get in grade school.

  • I have heard of this book but never read it. It is a classic from what I understand. I wouldn’t get rid of it if I were a librarian!

  • Sounds like the type of book you’d only get rid of if you can find a newer edition in better condition. Fiction doesn’t really go bad like non-fiction.

    • Fiction isn’t immune to going out of date. Old Science Fiction, for instance, tends to get as outdated as non-fiction of the same vintage. Too many pop-culture references from the year the fiction work was made, or even just one reference that’s a bit too prominent, can date a work very quickly. And old prejudices or other old social attitudes can leave a work coming off as out-of-date.

      • Gee whilikers! My teacher this year is a dandy!

      • Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, The Phantom Of The Opera, Frankenstein…. none of those out of date. And old scifi can be really interesting reads. Especially if they’re set in the year you’re currently living so you can see how people thought the future would be. I remember one short story I read set in the early 90s but written in the 50s or 60s about a future where breeding partners were assigned and a guy who wanted a specific woman found a book on how to commit murder from the past. When he wasn’t assigned to her but rather to someone else, he killed the woman he was assigned to and the man who was suppose to mate with the woman he wanted. Anyway, it sure made me glad that the future the author saw, my present time at the time of reading, did not turn out that way!

        • I’m not sure that’s true. There are plenty of Sherlock Holmes stories which I’m not sure I’d be comfortable leaving in a school library. Same with Tintin, which is another one of those “but fiction never goes out of date!” classics. Lots of interesting and important and exciting bits, but the interludes with the “chinamen” and the “niggards” are a problem.

          • Like, here’s Sherlock Holmes encountering a black man in “The Adventure of the Three Gables”:


            “The door had flown open and a huge negro had burst into the room. He would have been a comic figure if he had not been terrific[…]

            “I won’t ask you to sit down, for I don’t like the smell of you, but aren’t you Steve Dixie, the bruiser?”

            “That’s my name, Masser Holmes, and you’ll get put through it for sure if you give me any lip.”

            “It is certainly the last thing you need,” said Holmes, staring at our visitor’s hideous mouth.”


            Middle-school library? Weed it. Weed it now.

          • A niggard is a miser. Jack Benny was the niggard, not Rochester. From Dictionary dot com: The words niggard and niggardly are sometimes misinterpreted as racial slurs because they sound like the highly offensive word nigger. However, niggard dates back to Middle English. The first element nygg-, nig- was borrowed from a Scandinavian source, and -ard is a pejorative suffix. The English word niggardly is a modern English formation from niggard. Therefore these two words are not etymologically related to nigger.

        • Yeah, Philip K. Dick had a few outdated things in his books, but he’s still amazing. And the role of ancient electronics in Eye in the Sky is fascinating.

  • Actually, old science fiction just becomes about a parallel world rather than the future–and the type of people who read science fiction sometimes find this amusing, if the story is otherwise good. Love me some H. Beam Piper . . . even though in his futures, everyone smokes. (Which isn’t to say that old SF shouldn’t be weeded if it isn’t circulating!)

  • It has a Wikipedia page.