Sunday, April 14, 2013

School Stories

The soon-to-be-six-year-old has bid goodbye to his Montessori environment. Come June, he will sit at a desk in a classroom for the first time. In preparation, he has been devouring school stories.

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Marvin Redpost Class President
By Louis Sachar
Ages 6-9

Class President is one of a series of eight books by Louis Sachar. At around seventy pages, these are ideal early chapter books. The topics are relatable and the books beautifully written.

The main character, Marvin Redpost, is just your average third-grader, with all the doubts and anxieties of a kid of that age. In one of the books, he is scared to cycle down a steep slope. In another, he is quite sure he isn’t his parents’ son. Marvin battles his fears, with his parents and teachers helping him along. Along the way, young readers root for Marvin and probably pick up some tips too.

In ‘Class President’, the President of the United States makes a visit to Marvin’s school… and his class!

I thought the Q&A session between the kids and the President was a clever tool to discuss important topics without getting preachy or boring.

Jake Drake Class Clown
By Andrew Clements
Simon & Schuster
Ages 7-10

Jake Drake is a boy with ideas. In this series of four books, he goes from being a Class Clown, to Teacher’s Pet, Bully Buster, Know-It-All… Every classroom adventure makes for an engrossing book. The teachers are likeable, and the problems very real. The books have been written with great sensitivity.

Every little kid will identify with Jake Drake’s buffoonery in ‘Class Clown’. At first, the teacher is amused - she even breaks the golden rule ‘never to smile before Christmas’. Then the class clown crosses the line… Andrew Clements gives the reader a peek into a typical classroom. For kids who’ve been wondering what goes on inside a teacher’s head, the book is sure to reveal some surprises.

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Trouble According to Humphrey
By Betty G. Birney
Puffin Books
Ages 7-10

A school series with a difference – this one is a classroom hamster’s account of the goings on in ‘Room 26’! Refreshing and absolutely delightful!

With characters like Sit-Still-Seth, Stop-Giggling-Gail, Don’t-Complain-Mandy-Payne… (I love those names!) the books are great fun... and touching at times. There are some wise words too -

“You can learn a lot about yourself by taking care of other species”
“Everybody makes mistakes”

On weekends, the kids take turns taking the Humphrey the hamster home, providing ample scope to discuss the differing circumstances of families – an opportunity the author puts to good use.

The Gooney Bird Greene stories by Lois Lowry (reviewed here) are not to be missed either.

In a couple of years, I hope my boy will enjoy the wonderful books for a slightly older age group by these very authors. And then, when he grows up some more, there’s ‘School Ahead!’, a collection of short stories by Paro Anand. Some of those stories made me teary-eyed, others made me smile.

School can be fun, school stories even more so!

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