This Can’t be Happening at MacDonald Hall by Gordon Korman Review

by Daniel Johnston on January 30, 2014 · 5 comments

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When twelve year-old Gordon Korman didn’t have an English teacher to teach his seventh grade English class, the school had no choice but to have a gym teacher put the reading and writing hat on. As Korman said, “When it came to writing he just sort of blanked, so he said, ‘Just work on whatever you want for the rest of the year.’ And I wrote my first book.”

It is such a crazy and inspiring. Twelve year-old Korman going crazy on a homework assignment and writing his first book, This Can’t be Happening at MacDonald Hall. Now remember, this wasn’t modern day where children authors are fairly common and most of them are self-published. The G-Man sent in his manuscript to the address on the Scholastic book order form, and the day after his thirteenth birthday he signed a contract for his first book.

But here, I’ll let Korman tell you himself (the first part of the movie is about his journey as a kids author. The second part is about his recent book Swindle):

Isn’t that so amazing? The thing is that it’s not like this book is a slacker, either. It’s actually quite good, already showing the humorous style of Korman that everyone loves.


At the beginning of the story we are introduced to the main characters, Bruno and Boots, two roommates at the boarding school MacDonald Hall who are “partners in crime,” playing all kinds of funny pranks. We see some of their hilarious escapades, including going over to the girls school and hanging out with Diane and Cathy.

Unfortunately, however, the headmaster of their school, Mr. Sturgeon (also known as “The Fish“) decides that their trouble making has come to point of being detrimental to both them and the rest of the school. He switches their rooms, making Bruno the roommate of Elmer Drysdale, the eccentric school genius, and Boots the roommate of George Wexford-Smyth III, a weird guy who is obsessed with money and the stock market.

Bruno and Boots attempt to get themselves back together into the same room, but all of their plans backfire. In the end, a series of improbable events take place that make Bruno and Boots heroes. They are congratulated by an important government official, but will their headmaster congratulate them by giving them what they really want; having each other as roommates again?


It’s hard to believe that Korman really wrote this book at twelve. Many of the jokes in this book are quite funny, hilarious even. It’s written in a very different style than his current books, which are mainly based on action. Korman’s earlier books (and all the MacDonald Hall) books are based on humor.

The characters in this book are very familiar and it’s easy to connect with them. I still remember and feel for all the lovable characters in this series. It’s like a happy world that is no less real than this one.

The only way that you can tell Korman was twelve when he wrote this book is the fact that it’s only 144 pages. In those 144 pages, however, is a story of very great depth and enjoyment.

This book also opens the way for a great series. The books only get better and better and climax with The Zucchini Warriors and Beware the Fish, the latter of which is the funniest book I have ever read.

These books are super easy to read. The great thing about Korman’s writing is that he doesn’t write his books to prove a point, not for book committees or reviewers. He writes books to be enjoyed, period. Reading MacDonald Hall you feel a great happiness and joy for life.

As much as Korman’s current books are great, I know old fans of Korman’s classic stories who think that his new books pale in comparison. While they are both good in different ways, I have to agree that there is no better way to guarantee yourself you’ll be laughing up a storm than reading MacDonald Hall.

Thank you for reading this review and if you’d like to purchase the book you can do so through this link. You can also like my Facebook page or subscribe through email below to hear about more awesome books.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg Pattridge February 3, 2014 at 8:35 AM

I love Roger Korman’s books but have never read this ‘earlier’ work. Sounds like a fun. And the video was interesting – thanks for featuring.


Daniel Johnston February 9, 2014 at 12:33 AM

Yeah, the earlier books are way better in my view. I’d definitely check out MacDonald Hall if you get a chance.


Iron Guy Carl February 8, 2014 at 6:32 PM

What a great story! Thanks for letting me know about this series. I’ll have to see if my library has them. Or are they even in print anymore? That looks like a classic ’80’s cover.


Daniel Johnston February 9, 2014 at 12:39 AM

Yeah, they are absolutely amazing! They recently had a new reprinting, although the picture I used was of one of the early covers.

Early ’80s, man, I love that term just because I’ve read the MacDonald Hall books!


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