Ten-year-old Fred loves being a student in the one-room schoolhouse in her remote Alaskan village on the Koyukuk River, where she lives with her grandfather, widowed Mama, and twelve-year-old deaf sister, Bokko. It's October, 1948, and yet another teacher has just quit. Fred's worried when Sam the pilot tells her about the strict new teacher he just flew in: "This one's got a little mileage. You kids are not going to get away with nothin'."
None of the twelve Athabascan schoolchildren have ever encountered a teacher like the remarkable Agnes Sutterfield. She wears pants, plays opera records, and reads Robin Hood aloud to the class, and she helps all her students take pride in learning. When she even manages to convince Fred's skeptical mother to send Bokko to school for the first time, the whole class joins in learning the sign language alphabet.
From the dedication -"In memory of Sylvia Ashton-Warner, and for all unorthodox teachers"- to the inspirational message Miss Agnes promotes-"You have to keep learning all your life."-this is a treasure of a story Fred tells, of the transforming effect a dedicated, innovative teacher has on the lives of her children. You don't have to be a teacher to appreciate the special qualities of someone like Miss Agnes, though this is a book teachers take to heart.
Reviewed by : JF.
Themes : HISTORICAL FICTION. MULTICULTURAL BOOKS. SCHOOLS & SCHOOL STORIES. TEACHERS.
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- "Hill has created more than just an appealing cast of characters; she introduces readers to a whole community and makes a long-ago and faraway place seem real and very much alive." – School Library Journal
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
- Clements, Andrew. Frindle. Simon & Schuster, 1996.
- George, Jean Craighead. Julie of the Wolves. HarperCollins, 1972.
- Frost, Helen. Diamond Willow. Farrar, 2008.
- Hill, Kirkpatrick. Toughboy and Sister. McElderry, 1990.
- Hill, Kirkpatrick. Winter Camp. McElderry, 1993.
- Houston, Gloria. My Great Aunt Arizona. HarperCollins, 1992.
- McCully, Emily Arnold. My Heart Glow: Alice Cogswell, Thomas Gallaudet and the Birth of American Sign Language. Hyperion, 2008.
- Morey, Walt.Gentle Ben. Dutton, 1965.
- Peck, Richard. The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts. Dial, 2004.
- Peck, Robert Newton. Mr. Little. Doubleday, 1979.
- Shreve, Susan. The Gift of the Girl Who Couldn’t Hear. Morrow, 1991.