Chain Gang Elementary tackles tough issues with “acerbic wit”


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Book Tackles Difficult Issues of Education, Parenting, and Bake Sale Embezzlement

Jonathan Grant’s timely, poignant tale of war between a PTA president and a grade school principal has struck a chord with both parents and educators as well as critics. In addition to receiving praise from reviewers, Chain Gang Elementary is “Required Reading” in PTO Today.

“It’s funny. It’s not so funny,” says Grant. “I tell people it’s my revenge for being forced to read Lord of the Flies in high school.”

Setting PTA embezzlement and testing scandals against a backdrop of “diversity fails” and bitter culture wars, the novel’s plot may seem like it’s been lifted from recent news headlines. But there’s more to the book than that.

Winner of non-Pulitzer Prize

“When I was an elementary school PTA president, I wanted to write a non-fiction book—a how-to guide for parent leaders,” Grant explains. “Then I saw Murder at the PTA Luncheon. Actually, I came across this phrase: ‘Every good school is fundamentally the same, but every bad school is unique.’ This got me thinking, and being a novelist, I decided instead to tackle the subject as a cautionary tale, a ‘how-not-to’ guide for parent-educator relationships.”

To get an idea of the novel’s bite, check out this excerpt on The Standard Hightower Intellachievement Test.

Here’s just some of the praise being given to Chain Gang Elementary:

  • “This book is the show ‘Desperate Housewives’ wishes it could be.” – Indie Books List (“Book of the Month” award)
  • “Grant provides trenchant criticisms of educational policy … (with) acerbic wit.” – Publishers Weekly
  • “Exceptionally well-written.” – John Pearson, teacher and author of Learn Me Good
  • “Those who have written education columns for newspapers, survivors of parent/teacher organizations as well as many others will find that Grant has done an exceptional job of weaving educational fact and enticing fiction together. For that, he deserves an ‘A.’”—Jack Kennedy, former president, Education Writers Association
  • “Truth or fiction: Chain Gang Elementary cuts too close to reality. A novel that reads like daily news.” – Diane Ravitch

Grant also publishes the Chain Gang Blog (, his Darwin Award-ish take on crime, education, public policy, and whatever else he finds weirdly fascinating. A representative headline: “Contrary to popular opinion, duct tape does not fix children.”

Book Description: After a murder at Bonaire Elementary, Richard and Anna Lee Gray seek a good school for their son Nick in a safe neighborhood. Their search leads them to Malliford, a “school of excellence.” When redistricting sends scores of minority students to Malliford, iron-willed Principal Estelle Rutherford declares war on kids to raise test scores and save her reputation. Dissident parents revolt, electing Richard to head the Parent-Teacher Organization, and tensions explode. Welcome to Chain Gang Elementary, home to vast right-wing conspiracies, third-grade gangsters, and bake sale embezzlers–where toxic childhood secrets boil over, reformers go stark raving mad, and culture wars escalate into armed conflict.

Chain Gang Elementary

A Novel by Jonathan Grant
Thornbriar Press
ISBN 978-0-9834921-0-8
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9834921-1-5
Contemporary Fiction
Available wherever books are sold

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