It is only the first day of school for fourth-grader Hank Zipzer, and yet he was already being sent down to Principal Love’s office. A frequent visitor to the office in past years, Hank’s latest offense was tardiness. “Did we not have this talk thirty times in third grade,” Principal Love lectures, “fifteen times in second grade, and I won’t even refer to first grade?”
Hank doesn’t mean to be a trouble-maker. Just ask his best friends Frank Townsend and Ashley Wong, or his grandfather Papa Pete. He is friendly, creative, and bright. It just that he’s not a very good student. Hank has trouble focusing, being organized, remembering anything that he studies, and can’t spell to save his life. “I can’t imagine not being able to spell,” know-it-all third-grader Robert Upchurch says, “[d]oesn’t it make you feel stupid?”
What really bothers Hank is his first homework assignment: a five paragraph essay about what he did during summer vacation. Five…whole…paragraphs! Instead of writing the paper about his family’s trip to Niagara Falls, however, Hank decides that it would be easier to build a working model of the Falls instead. He brings the model to school which leads to disastrous consequences and yet another visit to Principal Love. No one seems to know what to do with Hank. His parents figure that he is lazy and should work harder. Hank believes that he really is stupid.
The music teacher Mr. Rock sees something else entirely. “You know, many children have learning challenges,” he explains to Hank’s parents. “Every child’s brain is wired differently.” He urges that their son be tested. While the Zipzer’s mull over the idea, Hank, Frank, and Ashley form a magic show business, and thanks to the creative abilities of Hank, the show is a success. “We were Magik 3. Frankie thought we definitely should spell Magic with a k because it looks cool. That was fine with me, since that’s the way I thought it was spelled anyway.”
Niagara Falls, or Does It? is the first book in the Henry Winkler/Lin Oliver series that follows the life of Hank Zipzer, the world’s greatest underachiever.