on Oct. 8, 2012 :
This delightful book is a compilation of the author’s Facebook posts made over years of driving a school bus. The organizational structure is perfect for the subject matter: a loose sequence of quick, pithy anecdotes and observations, distinct but connected, like beads on a thread. In fact, this structure is very much like the bus-riding community itself, a collection of personalities briefly united twice a day by the necessity of getting from Point A to Point B, all bumping up against one another in their energy, individuality, and desire to survive high school (or middle school, or just the first day of kindergarten). The little narrative blurbs are like chocolates in a box; you never know what the next one’s going to be until you bite into it. It might be a brief snatch of overheard passenger dialogue, hilariously baffling in its lack of context, or the driver’s joy at receiving unexpected disciplinary support from a couple of elementary “kingpins”; an affectionate tribute to the big yellow behemoth itself, or a lament over the shortcomings of an antiquated, physically exhausting “sub bus”; a list of prizes to reward good passenger behavior (including a pair of highly coveted cow bicuspids), or what happens when the driver gets the bus intercom confused with the dispatch device used to communicate with other drivers; wellsprings of fondness for the young passengers, or threats to produce an Assigned Seating Chart Where No One Sits By Friends; reminiscences by veteran drivers about the days before air conditioning and paved roads, or a discussion among that same group as to whether all that fancy stunt bus-driving in Super 8 could really happen. Characters recur: the Human Sparkplug, the Mouse, Zombie Warrior, Mr. Pop Tart, and a handsome male high school athlete inexplicably thought of as “Shannon.” All this is recorded by a driver/writer so smart and compassionate, funny and lovable that you just want to sit down and share a pot of tea with her.
Trouble Lives at the Back of the Bus is quick and light, but never shallow; humorous, but poignant and insightful. It’s the kind of funny with depth. It’s a treat you’ll be glad you gave yourself.
(reviewed 26 days after purchase)