I re-read Louis Sachar's There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom again yesterday. It's a lovely book about 5th grader Bradley Chalkers. As the book opens, everyone in his class (including the teacher) dislikes Bradley. He sits on his own in class, he doesn't pay attention in class, he doesn't do his homework, he cuts up his test papers and sticky tapes them to other bits of junk in his desk. He's aggressive and unfriendly. Then one day, two new people arrive at Bradley's school: Jeff Fishkin, a new 5th grader who is obliged to sit next to Bradley. Jeff is a friendly boy who automatically says "Hello" to people who say "Hello" to him, and he tries to befriend Bradley. The other new person in school is Carla Davis, the school counsellor. She meets with Jeff (because he's new) and with Bradley (because no one knows what to do with him). She has the best line in the book: "I won't tell you what to do. All I can do is help you to think for yourself.". Unfortunately this is going to prove to be a difficult stance for Carla to maintain after various parents misinterpret her ideas - one even tells Carla that it's not necessary to keep promises to children after Carla refuses to repeat to a parent what one of the children had told her, because she had promised she would not tell anyone else. (An attitude - the parent's, not Carla's - I found absolutely strange !)
Each time Bradley visits Carla, she greets him with the words "Hello, Bradley. It's a pleasure to see you today. I appreciate you coming to see me." Eventually, between the efforts of Carla and Jeff, Bradley starts to become both a better person and a better student. The big breakthrough comes when he and Jeff are invited to a birthday party by one of the girl's in class. Unfortunately, just before Bradley goes to the party, Carla is asked to leave the school, because of the objections parents have to her working with their children, and this causes Bradley to panic that he'll turn back into the horrible person he used to be. Carla does her best to persuade him this won't happen - and fortunately she's right.
Despite the fact that Bradley's a fairly unsympathetic character for much of the book, I did like him; I felt sorry for him and I wanted people to find the good in him, so the book was very satisfying in that respect.
I also liked Carla a lot - I loved the fact that she respects the children with whom she deals, and I really loved the way she loaned her books to children: she lends Bradley Uriah C Lasso's My Parents Didn't Steal an Elephant (which unfortunately doesn't appear to be a real book) and she lends Colleen (the girl who invites Bradley to her birthday party the very real Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters by J D Salinger. This books is very much a book about the power of friendship, but it's also a book about the value of reading and learning to think for oneself. I recommend it heartily.