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Archives for September 2008

>Score one for the big guys

>J. K. Rowling has prevailed.

>The happy couple

>Aren’t they bee-yoo-ti-ful?

>Yeah, I only have the one suit

>The fathers-of-the-groom walking up the aisle at Ethan and Becca’s wedding in Sedona last Saturday. The monsoon took down the chuppah but we all soldiered on, and there was nary a drop during the ceremony. The officiant said that there was an ancient Sedona tradition (uh-huh) that rain on a wedding day was good luck, […]

>The Invigilator Strikes

>A complaint from an “exams invigilator” has caused Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “Education for Leisure” to be removed from the U.K.’s GCSE curriculum. Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen is quoted being sensible (“Of course we want children to be talking about knife crime and poems like these are a terrific way of helping that happen. Blanket […]

>There’s a thousand library trustees just like her.

>I wouldn’t elect Sarah Palin to anything, but this old censorship charge is really reaching. As far as we know, as mayor of Wasilla she asked the public library director three times about the possibility of removing “objectionable” books from the collection. Three times the director said no. (Positively biblical!) Then Palin tried to fire […]

Independence Day: What Makes a Good First-Day-of-School Book?

According to the old adage, death and taxes are the two things in life we can’t avoid. Children know about a third: school. In the United States, youngsters of a certain age must attend school, receiving state-mandated instruction at home or in public, private, boarding, or parochial institutions. School is a child’s introduction to inevitability, […]

Not an Essay

A special guest article by Kadir Nelson, originally published in the September/October 2008 issue of Horn Book Magazine.

Let’s Call Her Mrs. Shropsharp

by Jeff Kinney I attended an all-boys’ high school, and it could be an unforgiving place. If you were so unfortunate as to drop your lunch tray in the cafeteria, you could count on a ten-minute invective-filled harangue from the entire student body. The law of the jungle ruled in the lunch room, the gym, […]

More of Robin Smith’s Favorite School Stories

Marianthe’s Story: Painted Words / Spoken Memories written and illustrated by Aliki
The story of a young immigrant girl from an unnamed country is told in a pair of back-to-back picture books. The first describes Marianthe’s adjustment to her American school; the second (arrived at by flipping the book over) allows the girl to tell her own story of why she and her mother came to this country. Aliki’s drawings are warm and expansive, giving heart to the somewhat purposive text. Grade level: K–3.

Ramona the Pest written by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Lois Darling
Eight- or nine-year-olds who can look back upon their kindergarten days will smile knowingly at Ramona’s first encounters with school life. Ramona does not submit to the process of education without a struggle, and the skirmishes, vividly described, will remind the young reader of the child he once was (or wished he had dared to be!). The author has a sure instinct for the thought and expression of five-year-olds. Grade level: K–3.

Teachers I Remember

Although I love to write about books, I am a teacher, not a writer. My favorite writers create worlds out of their imaginations; what I try to create, every August, is a new community of children, one I hope will be strong enough to make it through the school year. Secretly, I have another hope: I hope the children will remember second grade as one of their best years. I hope they will remember me the way I remember my teachers — those from my childhood and those who come alive in the books I love.

Each year, right before school starts, I organize my classroom library, pulling out the chapter books I like to read to the class during the year and finding the picture books I use during the crucial first weeks when my students and I are settling in. What kinds of books am I drawn to? My favorites are books about school. You would think I would be sick of them, especially since some are schlocky and idealistic — impossible to live up to — but you would be wrong. Books about school give me some common ground with my class to talk about my expectations for the year. Though fictional, the teachers in these books inform my teaching every day.