Hidden Gems: Death by Toilet Paper

I recently spotted Death By Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart at the school book fair.  I mean, just look at that cover!  I actually picked it up a few times before I committed to buying it.  Usually a book featuring toilet paper in its title would not be something I would find interesting, but this book seemed different.  It wasn't a comic-style book like I expected.  It also didn't seem to be about gross humor.  Instead, this is a realistic fiction book that takes you from happy to sad and back again.

Death by Toilet Paper is a Hidden Gem of a book. Post discusses how teachers can use the novel in an upper elementary reading class. This story is both funny and touching - there is something for all readers to appreciate!
It turns out this book is written by the same author as Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen - which was a Sunshine State Book.  If you read Olivia Bean and liked it, you will love Death by Toilet Paper.

Summary of Death by Toilet Paper

I don't want to give away too much of the story, but it is about dealing with loss and facing adversity.  Ben is a middle school boy whose hobby is to enter contests.  He actually receives a monthly flyer that summarizes internet and mail-in contests!  He enters contests that seem promising.

 Ben and his family are struggling to make ends meet, and no one outside the family really knows how bad things are.  His mom is struggling to finish her accounting degree so she can get a better job.  Waitressing just isn't enough to pay the rent.  On top of that, Ben's grandpa shows up at the apartment and wants to stay with them, stretching an already tight budget.  (The reader soon finds out the Grandpa is dealing with dementia.)  Ben decides that he will win a toilet paper jingle contest to help his mom.

Honestly, toilet paper is everywhere in this book - in a good way.  There are TP facts at the beginning of each chapter.  There is a tragedy involving toilet paper (seriously).  Ben enters two contests about toilet paper. (Wait until you read about the toilet paper zombie bride!)

Teaching Death by Toilet Paper

I want to emphasize that this book has an amazing story.  Students will root for these characters.  Your class will be on pins and needles waiting to find out if they had enough money for rent or if Ben won the contests.  Teachers can focus on characterization with this story.  Ben, his mom, and grandpa are all great characters to discuss.  Teachers can also use the story to talk about coping with loss.  (Ben and his mom are dealing with their loss differently).  I highly recommend this book for grades 4 - 6.

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