Cover image for Standing up to Mr. O.
Standing up to Mr. O.
Mills, Claudia.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998.
Physical Description:
165 pages ; 22 cm
Twelve-year-old Maggie comes to dread biology class because her favorite teacher is insisting that she dissect a worm, an assignment that makes her feel very squeamish and awakens her to the question of animal rights.
Reading Level:
690 Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.3 10 Quiz: 21575 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


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Material Type
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X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Maggie McIntosh is crazy about her biology teacher and loves to impress him with her academic excellence. But when the dreaded day of the first class dissection arrives, Maggie has to disappoint Mr. O. There's no way she can cut up a worm. Maggie's best friend, Alycia, understands. Alycia is squeamish, too, and shares Maggie's moral outrage. However, she's willing to keep quiet and let her lab partner do the dirty work. Maggies' own lab partner, Matt, completely disagrees. Then, after Maggie walks out on the dissection, he seems to respect her. And classmate Jake, who follows Maggie out the door, appears positively smitten. As she struggles to clarify her position about dissections, Maggie discovers that people and relationships are not always what they seem, and just as there are no perfect fathers (hers left years before), there are no perfect father figures - or even friends.

Author Notes

Claudia Mills is an American author of children's books. She is also an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado Boulder. She has written several children's series including: Mason Dixon Series, Gus and Granpa Series, West Creek Middle School Seres, and Dinah Series.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. Like Mills' Dinah for President (1992), this is a school coming-of-age story for those who love a stimulating argument. The issue this time is animal rights, specifically, the dissection of animals in seventh-grade biology class. Maggie McIntosh is against it; she refuses to cut up worms, fish, and frogs ("It was wrong to kill something on purpose, just to cut it up to see what its insides looked like"), even if it means getting an F in biology instead of her usual A. Her smug, clever lab partner, Matt, argues forcefully against her; her best friend agrees with her but is too scared to take a stand. Hardest of all for Maggie is going against her beloved biology teacher, Mr. O., who has always been special to her, almost a father figure for her absent dad. Mr. O. is furious at her opposition, and he lets her down. Then there's the brooding, attractive outsider, Jake, who supports her, but does he care about the issue, or does he just want trouble? What makes the book so compelling is that Mills really opens up the arguments; she is fair to all sides, and no one really wins. The issues matter, but there is no self-righteousness. Maggie is as rueful as she is passionate, and there are some very funny lines ("What do frogs eat?" her mother asks when Maggie brings home a pet frog. "Are they allowed to eat real bugs, or do we have to find bugs made out of soybeans?"). Maggie turns 13 and learns no easy answers. People disappoint you, even your best friend lets you down, even your beloved mentor, and you go on. --Hazel Rochman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-7-Seventh-grader Maggie McIntosh is a good student and loves biology class. She especially loves the teacher, Mr. O'Neill. She feels she can talk to Mr. O. about anything, except her reluctance to do dissections in class. The other kids don't seem to mind killing worms, but Maggie feels it is wrong. When she takes a stand and refuses to do the dissection, Jake, a good-looking troublemaker, is her only ally. Later, her lab partner stands by her when he feels that her anti-dissection essay should have won a prize and Mr. O. was one of the judges. Maggie's inner struggle is well drawn as she attempts to articulate her beliefs and what she is willing to fight for. Her pain in disappointing, and possibly alienating, her favorite teacher is believable. Her arguments with her friends provide other viewpoints in a natural way without any didacticism. The tension is maintained until Maggie and Jake are caught "rescuing" the frogs that are next to undergo dissection. Maggie's fight to follow her conscience will hold readers, and her growth as a person will be applauded even when she makes mistakes. Her interest in Jake forces Maggie to make other decisions, all of which help her define her beliefs. A thought-provoking book.-Jennifer Ralston, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.