What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there are some good moral issues to discuss here, and some powerful insights into people and the reasons why they act the way they do.
What's the story?
When the substitute for Mr. Fabiano's sixth grade class calls in sick, her message is misplaced in the hectic office, and the children find themselves without a teacher. Rather than tell anyone, the students decide to run the class themselves. They know the schedule -- who needs adults? "What could possibly happen? This school is crawling with teachers."
But powerful emotions are brewing under the seemingly ordinary surface; this is the six-month anniversary of the death of a classmate, Tommy, who was often teased for his slowness, and Rachel has been mute ever since his death. And it is Bastian's last day before moving away.
Is it any good?
Ralph Fletcher teachers writing, and he teaches teachers how to teach writing. Here he shows that he knows what he's talking about. Written in simple language, this is a tour de force with an emotional climax and some big questions left at the end for readers to wrestle with.
The children in this class are vividly alive, each a three-dimensional person with strengths and faults, all of which will be recognizable to child readers. As they bicker their way through the day they achieve, almost in spite of themselves, something they're proud of, though their parents and school are horrified by what they have done. Though the teacher, Mr. Fabiano, appears only at the end, his presence is felt on every page -- it's a portrait, both brilliant and realistic, of a truly gifted teacher. Funny, real, and powerfully moving, this exceptional novel will leave both students and teachers with a lot to think about.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about Rachel's decision not to speak after Tommy's death. Why does she make that decision? Does it make sense to you? Families can also discuss the kids' decision not to report that they don't have a teacher. Are their intentions good? What would you have done?