Radio Fifth Grade: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

This lesson provides a summary of Gordon Korman's novel ''Radio Fifth Grade.'' We learn about the story, characters, conflicts, jokes, and hijinks that make this novel a fun ride.

Centennial's Radio Enthusiasts

Radio Fifth Grade by Gordon Korman follows three students at Centennial Park Elementary School who produce a radio show called 'Kidsview' on WGRK Venice, 92.5. For Benjamin 'Benjy' Drive, Mark Havermayer, and Ellen-Louise Turnbull, the broadcast is the highlight of their week. They not only enjoy running the show, they take pride in its professionalism.

Benjy, Mark, and Ellen are co-producers. Benjy is the on-air host. Mark, a radio enthusiast, is the heart and mind behind the show. He never stops talking about his hero, golden-era radio broadcaster Eldridge Kestenbaum. Ellen's got plenty of hobbies already, but she gets pulled into the project because her dad runs the station. Mr. and Mrs. Whitehead sponsor the show to advertise their local pet shop, 'Our Animal Friends.' They supply the show's mascot, an orange-and-green-feathered parrot named Winston Churchill (named after the British Prime Minister who was in office during WWII).

Winston Churchill, parrot, mascot

Benjy is on top of his game; he's a happy, ambitious elementary school kid. But when a new 5th grade teacher begins to rock the boat, Benjy and his friends need to find a way to balance their school work, the radio program, and their many other obligations without going completely insane. Hijinks ensue, and the world seems to momentarily turn upside down. But with a bit of elbow grease and ingenuity, Benjy and his friends make it out on top.

Ms. Panagopoulos' Seminar

Out of the blue, Miss Gucci, Centennial Park's 5th grade teacher, wins the lottery. Her $8.3 million winning buys her a plane ticket for Honolulu and overnight she's in early retirement. The next day, principal Storm introduces their new teacher, Ms. Panagopoulos. She rolls out a new experimental teaching method and also re-titles the class: it's now a seminar, a term used to define college classes that involve intense discussion and research components.

By calling herself professor, Ms. Panagopoulos raises the standards of the 5th grade classroom to a post-secondary level. She explains: ''Learning isn't something that can begin at nine o'clock and suddenly end at three-thirty. That's why we're going to have a lot of homework--to make learning a twenty-four-hour experience!'' That Friday, she assigns 'independent research projects' for the weekend.

Benjy is frustrated with the new workload. How is he ever going to find the time to get ready for Saturday's broadcast?

The Quiz Show

Inspiration strikes! The kids decide to make a quiz show out of the independent research project questions. Mr. Whitehead can sponsor prizes for whoever calls in with the correct answers! Not only will the quiz show fill their time slot, it'll help them get their homework done! Some of the questions include:

  • What is the longest river in South America?
  • Which space mission of the 1970s was struck by lightning on lift off?
  • Who was the Roman God of war?
  • What is the speed of light?
  • In which Asian country is the Great Wall located?

Radio broadcasting studio

The Venice Menace

Just when it seems as though things are under control, Benjy is approached by Brad Jaworski, AKA the Venice Menace. He's a 6th grader, ''the biggest, toughest, strongest guy in school!'' Brad's teacher, Mrs. Harris, was so impressed by the story he wrote for class that she now wants him to read it on the air. What can Benjy do? No one can say 'no' to Brad Jarowski.

That Saturday, Benjy hosts another quiz show, Winston Churchill learns how to speak French, and Brad reads his story on the air. 'The Adventures of Fuzzy and Puffy' turns out to be the silliest story anyone has ever heard. Two kittens fight over some yarn and then make up over a ball of catnip. The dialogue is worse than the plot, if you can imagine.

At school the following week, nobody can figure out why Mrs. Harris showered Brad with so much praise. Also, how could Brad could be proud of such drivel? Surprisingly, nobody in school says a word about it. Everyone is so afraid of upsetting the Venice Menace that they either keep their mouths shut or pat him apprehensively on the back.

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