A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Dennis Lee (Alligator Pie), Deborah Kogan Ray (Dinosaur Mountain: Digging into the Jurassic Age), and Kenneth Oppel (Airborn).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of William Saroyan (1908-1981), The Human Comedy.
- Also born on this day was educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952).
- In 1803, Lewis and Clark leave Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, starting their expedition to the West. Read Lewis & Clark by Nick Bertozzi.
- Itâ€™s National Trail Mix Day. Read Sheep Take a Hike by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margot Apple.
As August comes to a close, many children head back to or have already started school. Today Iâ€™m recommending one of my favorite stories about school, one that some teachers like to use at this time. It not only tells a great story, but also sends a subtle message.
By the time James Marshall created Miss Nelson Is Missing! he was at the height of his craft. Having worked out picture book pacing and timing in the George and Martha series, he was now able to take a story, run it over thirty-two pages, and create a perfect story arc. Â The idea of Miss Nelson was given to Jim by his friend Harry Allard, who called in the middle of the night and said to Jim: â€śMiss Nelson Is Missing!â€ť And then Harry hung up the phone. Jim couldnâ€™t reach him, couldnâ€™t get back to sleep, and began to wonder about this Miss Nelson. In Jimâ€™s sketchbooks, nowÂ at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, he developed his ideas for the book — as the story progressed Viola Swamp became meaner and meaner.
Miss Nelson presides over the worst-behaved class in schoolâ€”they are rude during story hours and refuse to do their lessons. So the next day, rather than Miss Nelson, a â€śwoman in an ugly black dress stood before” this class. Looking a bit like Maria Callas with a fake nose and long sharp fingernails, Miss Viola Swamp rules the class with an iron hand. She loads them down with homework and works them to death. Days go by without a sign of Miss Nelson. When the teacher finally returns, her students behave like angels. Only on the last pages do readers comprehend the true identity of Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp.
Of course, when read in class,Â the bookÂ can always be followed by that question, â€śWho do you want, Miss Nelson or Viola? The choice is yours!â€ť In this saga, and so many others, Marshall shows that stories that make us laugh together are good for our spirits. James Marshall crafted some of the best characters ever created for children. In Miss Nelson Is Missing! he also explores with heart and wit the relationship between teachers and studentsâ€”and the need for students to show appreciation for a good teacher when they have one.
Hereâ€™s a page from Miss Nelson Is Missing!:
Originally posted August 31, 2011. Updated for .