Niagara Falls, or Does It? (Hank Zipzer Series #1)

Niagara Falls, or Does It? (Hank Zipzer Series #1)


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Inspired by the true life experiences of Henry Winkler, whose undiagnosed dyslexia made him a classic childhood underachiever, the Hank Zipzer series is about the high-spirited and funny adventures of a boy with learning differences.

It's science project time in Ms. Adolf's class. This is good news and bad news for Hank-he loves science, but he hates the report part. So Hank turns to TV to take his mind off things. But when the program directory scrolls by too quickly for Hank to know what's on, he decides to take apart the cable box to try to slow down the crawl. Great! Now Hank has found the perfect science project! But what he wasn't counting on was his sister's pet iguana laying eighteen eggs in the disassembled cable box. How is Hank going to get out of this one?

Illustrated by Carol Heyer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780448431628
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 05/12/2003
Series: Hank Zipzer Series , #1
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 34,542
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.53(h) x 0.30(d)
Lexile: 610L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Henry Winkler is an acomplished actor, producer and director.  In 2003, Henry added author to his list of acheivements as he co-authored a series of children's books.  Inspired by the true life experiences of Henry Winkler, whose undiagnosed dyslexia made him a classic childhood underachiever, the Hank Zipzer series is about the high-spirited and funny adventures of a boy with learning differences.

Henry is married to Stacey Weitzman and they have three children.

Lin Oliver is a writer and producer of movies, books, and television series for children and families. She has created over one hundred episodes of television, four movies, and seven books. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alan. They have three sons named Theo, Ollie, and Cole, one fluffy dog named Annie, and no iguanas.


An Interview with Henry Winkler

Barnes & Tell me about the Hank Zipzer series. What inspired you to start writing these books -- and why now?

Henry Winkler: Somebody asked me, "Hey -- did you ever think of writing a children's book?" and I said, "No, actually I didn't," and they said, "Well it might be really interesting -- especially if you write about your dyslexia." They then suggested I meet Lin Oliver, who is in the children's book world, and we had lunch at a pretty bad restaurant and hit it off. After we met again and started to put the series together, I went to my agent and she put it out to six publishers: Three said yes, one said "Absolutely!" and two said no. The "Absolutely!" turned out to be Debra Dorfman and Penguin Putnam, and I think things couldn't be better. She is smart and supportive and funny, and it has been a really incredible experience so far.

B& What do you want kids to take away from these books?

HW: One is that yes, Hank Zipzer does find out he has learning challenges, but his friends are these wonderful kids who are funny and inventive, and they get themselves into these incredible adventures. So I want kids simply to laugh. I think the books are touching, and I want kids to feel for the characters. I want them to have a great time. I also want those kids who do have learning disabilities to say, "Oh my gosh! That guy knows how I feel! I'm not alone." But we wrote for the parents who read the book to their children. We wrote for the kid who just picks the book up and wants a funny read. And we wrote for those children that are really smart and just learn differently -- kids who have a real identifiable experience with Hank.

B& How much like Hank were you when you were a kid?

HW: I was maybe not as charming! When I write, I don't shy away from being emotional or writing from my memory of being so frustrated…so "Why can't I do this? I'm ready. My pencils are sharpened. My reinforcements are on every hole of my looseleaf paper. I'm ready. Why can't I remember what I learned last night?" I truly know what it feels like to be Hank.

B& Did you have a Mr. Rock -- someone who supported you and made you feel better about your failures?

HW: Mr. Rock actually was the music teacher at McBurney School for Boys in New York, where I went to school. I was in the bottom 3 percent of the school, and Mr. Rock was the one who was very supportive. There was also my American history teacher, who said, "Winkler, if you ever really get out of here, you're gonna be great." But they thought I'd be in high school for the next 10 or 15 years. They said I wasn't trying hard enough…but I was.

B& I've read that you were labeled "lazy, stupid and an underachiever" as a child. Despite this, you succeeded at Yale and reached your goal of becoming a successful actor (and more!). How did you get past the negative feelings? What made you believe in yourself and pursue your dreams?

HW: You know that's an interesting thing, because you don't get over the negative. You buy it. You just think that's it -- it must be the truth. I am stupid. And so there are certain things you won't do. There are certain conversations you won't enter. There are certain friends you don't think you can have because they're smart and you're not. You forget that just being alive on this earth might be a really good reason why you can be friends with anybody.

But somewhere in me I knew what I wanted. And I would lie awake at night dreaming about it. I would eat my breakfast thinking about it. I would brush my teeth thinking about it. Every breath I took, I kept thinking about where I wanted to be. There is a dichotomy there because on one hand, you keep moving toward your dream, and on the other you think this can't possibly happen because I'm not good enough. And like a pinball in a pinball machine, those two thoughts collide in your brain and you just keep going…putting one foot in front of the other.

B& How and when did you realize you were dyslexic?

HW: When my stepson was tested -- when he was in the third grade and everything they said about him made me think, Oh my god! Oh my god! That's me. And then I got really angry, because all of that grounding, all of those parties I missed, all of that television I didn't watch, all of that stuff that happened when I was a kid wasn't necessary. I wasn't stupid. I had a learning challenge.

B& Being dyslexic clearly set you back in school, but how did it affect your acting? How did you deal with reading scripts?

HW: Well that's a good question. I picked a profession where reading is paramount, and I had to work myself up to it. I just steeled myself. I would walk around this pile of scripts that I, as a producer, had to read -- it was like I was getting ready for an Olympic event. And then I would just be like, OK. Sit down…pick up the script and -- GO!"

B& It's a great feat for someone who's dyslexic to become an author. What's the writing process like?

HW: Well, first of all it was tough for me to read a book, and now I've actually written a bunch of them. It's amazing. But I'm very, very fortunate in my writing partner. She is unbelievable because she sits at the computer and I sit in the rocking chair in front of her -- or bore a hole in her rug walking in a circle, or lie on the couch on the other end of her office. And we literally act out the characters. It is just a stream of consciousness -- a stream of the characters, stream of situations, stream of emotions that come pouring out. And her fingers go flying across the keyboard. Then we read what we've written. I either read it to her or she reads it back to me, and we argue over every comma. It's true! Because there's a rhythm, and sometimes I hear the rhythm differently than Lin does. Sometimes I write a chapter in longhand, while going on a plane somewhere, and I give it to her and she somehow translates it into English and types it up. And sometimes she writes a chapter and faxes it over to me, and then I look at it and add something -- or don't add anything because it's perfect the way it is. So it really is a wonderful collaboration. We make each other laugh. I think the books are very funny.

B& No matter what you do, you'll always be Fonzie to the general public. Does that bother you?

HW: No. First of all, I had the most wonderful time playing that guy. We had a great time on and off the set. For instance, we traveled all over the world playing softball. Now, here's another thing…I don't have eye-hand coordination, so playing ball when I was younger was completely out of the question. But then I was on the Happy Days set, and Ron Howard bought me a mitt, Anson Williams bought me a bat for my birthday, and the dialogue coach taught me how to pitch in between scenes. I became the pitcher of the Happy Days team, and we traveled all over the country, all over the world, and it was just extraordinary! We played for the troops in Okinawa, and we played for our American troops in Germany. Now, that was 1983, and in 2001 I was in Washington, D.C., working on a Neil Simon play before we went to Broadway. One day I was at the Lincoln Memorial, and a guy came up to me with his wife and said, "Hey! I played ball against you in 1983 in Okinawa!" Wow. Believe me, I've had a great time being the Fonz.

B& Your life is full of so many accomplishments -- actor, producer, director, father, now author. How do you juggle it all?

HW: All of it -- except for being a father -- came from my fear: I never wanted to be a flash-in-the-pan. So I became a producer when the acting roles weren't coming so fast because I was typecast as the Fonz. And directing came because I was walking down the Paramount lot, and the producers of Happy Days were doing Joanie Loves Chachi, and they couldn't find a director. I said, "Hey, I'll do it," and they went, "OK." I said, "No, no! I was just joking! I was just being, you know, flip." They said, "No, we think you'll be OK." And so that's how my directing career started.

B& What's next for Hank…and for Henry?

HW: What's next for Hank? Well, Lin and I are in the middle of the third book. And Hank's sister's pet iguana lays eggs in the cable box. You see, Hank opened the cable box because he couldn't read the words going by on the TV screen. So he figured, "Look -- there's a knob for everything. There has to be a knob to slow down the words." And then the iguana gets inside the cable box.

As for myself, we're casting the pilot for Young McGyver. I am having the most wonderful time executive-producing Hollywood Squares. And we're waiting to hear about this wonderful show I'm executive-producing on the Game Show Network called Win Tuition, where you win $50,000 toward your college education.

B& Can you name a few of your favorite children's books?

HW: Well, I love Holes (and was lucky enough to spend time with Louis Sachar while acting in the Disney movie). Mostly what I'm really able to read now are thrillers. So that's what I read. And I have to own every book I read -- so they're all on my shelf when I'm finished. Each one is a triumph. But when I'm asked to read young children a book, I always read The Big Fat Enormous Lie. Or Stop That Pickle!

B& Is there anything else you'd like to add?

HW: Just that we are so proud of the Hank Zipzer books and can't wait to see if we're right -- you know, if the kids respond. Because you never know. But it's all very exciting!

Customer Reviews

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Niagara Falls, or Does It 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My son (11) read this book in 1 day and laughed the whole time. I am a bookseller and I will be reccommending this book to everyone I can. What a fun way to pass the time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hank has great friends who help get him through tough situations. Any kid who is experiencing trouble in school because of learning disabilities will get a great deal from this book about coping. They should then pass the book on to their family and teachers.
jlsherman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shows that being different, and solving things differently, is OK
piggy345 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Niagra falls or does it is a book that basically explains a kid that has learning problems and doesnt want to write a report so he does a project instead. I dont think this book stays on topic very well. It is more for littler kids. I think the author should have stayed on topic a little better
PigOfHappiness on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A funny story from the Fonz. This is the first in a series. Touches on more serious issues such as learning disabilities but mostly stays light. Appropriate for fourth grade and up...
prozacstan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book is delightful. We met Mr. Winkler at a book signing in Riverside, CA. He was most gracious. The place was packed and there were many people in line. Mr. Winkler went outside and invited all the children to come in and gather around the table and he spent a good deal of time reading from some of his books and answering questions. His kindness gave me a new respect for him and his work. This signed copy means that much more to me as a result.This isn't a typical review but this isn't the typical author about whom I'm writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! It's for defenetley for kids.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read half of the series and so far i have loved it its very entirtaning and funny hank has a fun persinalite just from looking at the cover it aready looks amazing -Anna
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Should l read it or no? Please get back to me befor this wed.. also the full moon for a hint.
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Joy Hannabass for Readers' Favorite “Hank Zipzer, report to principal Love’s office at once!” the loud speaker buzzed. But this was the first hour of the first day of school, and how did they know his name already? School just didn’t start out well for Hank, and when his teacher gave the assignment to write five paragraphs on “What You Did This Summer,” Hank knew he was in for it. But then he thought of a plan, one that would be even better than writing five paragraphs. But things didn’t exactly turn out the way Hank wanted them to. I have always been a Henry Winkler fan, so I was excited about reading a book written by Winkler and his co-author, Lin Oliver. This is such a fun book to read, and I can imagine how students everywhere feel when they read about Hank Zipzer. School was not easy for Hank, and we see his many struggles and difficulties as we follow in his footsteps in fourth grade. Hank had trouble learning, which made it very difficult to do his school assignments. But Hank’s brain seemed to always be creative and buzzing, so he was good at coming up with alternatives to his assignments. The authors did a wonderful job creating characters that are believable, and ones students can relate to. This is a fantastic book for students with learning disabilities, because that is what Hank deals with in his story. Anyone who has a child with a learning disability would benefit from "Niagara Falls, Or Does It?" Hank’s story could be the turning point in your child’s life. Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver’s series of books would be at the top of my book list if my child had any learning problems. You just can’t go wrong with Hank Zipzer’s story in "Niagara Falls, Or Does It?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Emily has to wear diapers beceause pooped and wet her pants
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I couldnt breath because of all the laughter
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May i join? Ripplestream
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of cores you may join! Sorry i did not reply very soon. My nook broke
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