About eleven years ago, I fell in love with Miss Agnes. Kirkpatrick Hill’s The Year of Miss Agnes is one of my first-weeks-of-school read-aloud books. Miss Agnes’s loving but no-nonsense teaching methods inspire me every time I read it, which is just about every year. Now, more than a decade since that book was published, readers can see how Miss Agnes’s second year at the one-room schoolhouse in rural Alaska turns out.
Having spent the summer in her native England, Miss Agnes returns, this time with a ginger cat. Miss Agnes and the Ginger Tom (CreateSpace, December) is also told in eleven-year-old Fred’s straightforward prose, so again we see the school year through her eyes. This year, the focus is not the fear that Miss Agnes will leave the community and never return. The children and parents have another worry: will the gifted Jimmy Sam pass the challenging entrance test to a boarding school that will allow him to use these intellectual gifts?
This sequel will appeal most to people like me: people who loved the community and characters of the first book. The first installment painted a marvelous picture of life in the fish and hunting camps and gave a peek at the challenges of life in post-WWII Alaska, and this offering provides more of the same. There is a fair amount of repeating the life stories of the children, because, like life in rural Alaska, little changes in a few months.
I don’t know very much about the publishing industry or why this little volume is self-published. I wish it had had the tender touch of an editor who would have tightened it up, fixed the typos, and added characters and some plot twists to help keep young readers engaged. I was hoping that someone new would move in or Miss Agnes might have a love interest or the community might face threat from weather or encroaching development… Something. But no matter. I still loved reading more about these children on the Koyukuk River. And I love sharing the lives of Fred and Jimmy—and even the surprising ginger tomcat—with their modern counterparts.