I Became An Elementary School Outlaw

A Memoir by Frank Nappi

Non-Fiction - Memoir
245 Pages
Reviewed on 07/20/2019
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Author Biography

Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for thirty years. His debut novel, ECHOES FROM THE INFANTRY, received national attention, including MWSA's silver medal for outstanding fiction. His follow-up novel, THE LEGEND OF MICKEY TUSSLER, garnered rave reviews as well, including a movie adaptation of the touching story "A Mile in His Shoes" starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. Nappi continues to produce quality work, including SOPHOMORE CAMPAIGN, the intriguing sequel to the much heralded original story and the thriller, NOBODY HAS TO KNOW, which received an endorsement from #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille. The third installment of Nappi's Mickey Tussler series, WELCOME TO THE SHOW, was released in April 2016. Summer 2018 marked the announcement of Nappi's first memoir, I BECAME AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL OUTLAW, which was released in June of 2019. Nappi makes his home on Long Island, where he has lived his entire life.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

“You just continue to break the rules and make a mess of things.” Such are the memorable admonitions we receive in childhood. Young Frank Nappi heard this prophetic utterance from one teacher when, according to older Frank Nappi, I Became An Elementary School Outlaw. Possessing an uncanny knack for vivid recall, both Franks seem to possess a well-nurtured knack for not letting go, something he talks about in Chapter One of this deceptively funny but subversively psychological memoir. Older Frank attempts to understand himself by reliving (so vivid are his recollections) those events during elementary education when younger Frank endured his earliest defining moments. What is so remarkable about this process of excavating primary causes for unconsciously-motivated adult behavior is how quickly the reader becomes sucked in by the compelling narrative, written astonishingly well, and thus becomes intensely invested in its outcome.

Frank Nappi may seem a bit obsessive when concentrating on the often humorous, often devastating consequences resulting from his assertion: I Became An Elementary School Outlaw. As he states: “Third grade residue is everywhere.” But this incredibly tantalizing and strangely powerful memoir is neither an apology for nor a condemnation of his childhood predilections. Instead, with the mastery of a magician’s misdirection, Mr. Nappi subtly immerses the reader in his own, personally directed psychological investigation. Without immediately knowing it, we wind up sharing and comparing our own youthful experiences, coming to the somewhat troubling conviction or question: What kind of elementary school role did I play, and how does it affect me now? One admires and hopes to share Mr. Nappi’s unrelenting commitment to answering such a question. And hopefully, as he did, come just as close to finding one. This is an extraordinary book, and incredibly well written.

K.C. Finn

I Became An Elementary School Outlaw is a work of nonfiction in the form of a memoir, penned by author Frank Nappi. In a story focused on the formative years of life during elementary school and junior high, we meet our author when he is known as little Frankie, and follow him on a road that leads him through student life, influencing the teacher he will one day become. From family relationships to school friendships, the sensation of growing older and growing up is laced with nostalgia and mixed emotions. What results is a heartfelt and entertaining work about personality, growth, and guidance from those influences around you as a child.

I often forgot that I was reading a memoir during this experience because author Frank Nappi writes with a narrative that feels like a polished work of childhood fiction. I loved the anecdotes and interjections by the older and allegedly wiser adults in his life, and though there are moments where the older Frank pokes through with his own wisdom, little Frankie is definitely upheld as the star of the show. The chapters are well organized to flow through different important scenes in the young boy’s life, and whether the experience is traumatic or joyful at the time, each moment is discussed with sensitivity and raw emotion, bringing us closer to the central character all the time. Overall, I Became An Elementary School Outlaw is a nostalgic and enjoyable recollection of schooldays and the trials of growing up, sure to be enjoyed by all memoir fans who love stories with humor and heart.

Jack Magnus

I Became An Elementary School Outlaw is a nonfiction memoir written by Frank Nappi. Nappi is an educator and author who finds comfort in long walks, some with his wife, but even more miles spent in contemplation and revisiting scenes from his childhood. While many adults his age have blissfully closed the doors on their youthful follies and catastrophes, Nappi has the ability to relive and re-experience those past memories. I felt an instant connection reading Frank Nappi’s memoir. As I began reading I found myself craving Wise Potato Chips, which are found only on the East Coast, and visualizing that iconic owl face embellishing each package. I also have been blessed, or cursed, with one of those memories which continually recalls episodes, conversations, and feelings from decades past. Like Nappi and so many others, my time in grammar school had few bright spots, leaving me with a jaundiced view of education that took some time to wear off.

Nappi’s past experiences come vividly to life in this well-written and engaging memoir. I bristled at the unfairness of Mrs. Dunbar, who did nothing to stop the thieving of another student and basked in the attention and praise of Miss Pitrot. Each story found me raptly paying attention and feeling a part of the action. Nappi intersperses those memories with stories about his present-day existence, his work as a teacher and how his teaching philosophy has been informed by his own experiences as a child. His efforts to heal wounds that have remained open for far too long are also discussed. I’ve no doubt most readers will find themselves involved in or moved by each of the stories that make up this memoir. I Became An Elementary School Outlaw is most highly recommended.

Mamta Madhavan

I Became An Elementary School Outlaw: A Memoir by Frank Nappi is an entertaining journey by the author who grows up to become a teacher himself. The author's formative years in school - kindergarten, elementary school and junior high school - will take readers down Memory Lane to reflect on their school days. The author's relationship with his mother, the laughter and tears while growing up, and becoming a teacher are interesting to read. He gives a peek into his emotions while going to school for the first time, leaving the safety and security of home. This memoir will bring back many memories to readers about their growing up years and help them appreciate the beautiful moments of their lives that have played an important role in shaping them into the people they are today.

The memoir is honest and the author's experiences are palpable and relatable to readers. Very often the simple moments of life while growing up are eclipsed by bigger issues that are faced in later stages of life. I like the way the author captures the simplicity of life while growing up and his commitment towards his job after becoming an elementary school teacher. His narration is detailed and descriptive, making the images in the book vivid. His appreciation of nature and how he loves open skies, the sun, and the trees help readers connect with him and his life. The author's experiences are rich, encouraging, and motivating and will make readers look at the teaching profession with a new perspective.

Gisela Dixon

I Became An Elementary School Outlaw is a non-fiction memoir that centers around recollections and memories of early life and elementary school. In this book, author Frank Nappi, who himself has been a teacher now for many years, looks back at his childhood and early years and recalls the experiences, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, that made him into the person he is today. The book is divided simply into chapters and weaves back and forth between memories of school, his experiences with his own teachers, his peers and other classmates, his relationship with his parents, his reminiscences with his mother, the day-to-day life of a classroom with all of its attendant school work, homework, play, and playing truant that every kid has usually had some experience with, and the life lessons that he learned from these experiences.

I Became An Elementary School Outlaw by Frank Nappi is a simply written memoir with no frills attached. The stories and anecdotes are typical of a schoolchild’s experiences sometimes and, at other times, they provide a fresh perspective of what it means to be a kid in a world of “grown-ups.” Frank’s writing style is light and humorous in this book and I think every reader will probably find something relatable here. I also liked that Frank tries to reflect on and provide simple and hence easy-to-read life lessons that come through in his writing here and there as he looks back down memory lane. I think adults, as well as young adults, will find this book a good read.