You can’t fault Hank Zipzer for trying. After studying words with his mother in preparation for the next day’s spelling contest, he feels that for once in his life, he can finally succeed in his most difficult subject. That is, until he gets up in front of his fourth grade class. After getting the first word right, things start going downhill. “Last night I knew every one of these words forward and backward,” a baffled Hank says, “This morning, I’d lost them. From the time I left my apartment until the time I arrived in class, they must’ve fallen out of my head.”
Not only does he bomb the contest, he is sent to Principal Love’s office. The day continues to get worse for Hank when report cards are handed out. Fearfully, he opens the manila envelope. “I got a D in spelling. But that wasn’t the worst of it. I also got a D in reading. I also got a D in math.” In addition, his teacher Ms. Adolph included a personal note. How was he going to explain this to his parents? Although music teacher Mr. Rock suggests that Hank be tested for learning difficulties, Mr. and Mrs. Zipzer are convinced that their son just needs to work harder and stop daydreaming.
With the help of his friends Frank Townsend and Ashley Wong, and tag-along third-grader Robert Upchurch, Hank decides to solve the problem by simply “losing” his report card. He ends up disposing of it in a meat-grinder at his mother’s deli. Unfortunately, the card gets mixed in with a batch of soy salami which his mother is planning to give to Vince Gristediano, owner of New York City’s largest supermarket chain! It’s a deal that could make the Zipzer family a lot of money. It will take the creative mind of Hank Zipzer, the world’s greatest underachiever, to come up with an outrageous plan to save the deal, and to avoid getting “a D in salami.”