Monday, April 11, 2011

Children's Book Monday


The Year of Miss Agnes 
by Kirkpatrick Hill

I read about this book online or in another book.  I'm not even sure where, but I remember that the short description interested me.  A teacher in the wilds of Alaska who instills in her students a love of learning?  Hmmm. I scribbled the title onto a sticky note and then put it away...for another day... because first we had to finish reading about Molly.  Then we moved on to another book, but as we were polishing off our last few chapters of  Celeste, I remembered my sticky note and figured the time was right. 

When the hold came in, Brian picked it up for us one evening on his way home.  It was a skinny book with no pictures, but we dove in anyway.  That first night we read two chapters.  

I think I loved this book so much because it reminded me of our style of schooling. 

Miss Agnes arrives in town after a long succession of unsuccessful teachers.  The children are discouraged and don't enjoy going to school.  The parents are discouraged and think book-learning is a waste of time. when there are more practical matters of hunting and fishing to attend to.  Miss Agnes breathes a breath of fresh air into the one-room schoolhouse.  Miss Agnes doesn't believe in grades or tests.  Miss Agnes puts away the old textbooks and brings out abstract art instead.  Miss Agnes hangs maps on the wall and plays opera and reads Sherlock Holmes.  Miss Agnes teaches them to write cursive and use sign language and create timelines.

"You have to keep learning all your life," she said.

That was a good thing to think about, always learning something new.  It wasn't like you had to hurry up and learn everything right away before the learning time was over, it was like you could kind of relax and take your time and enjoy it.

Just as the school children begin engaging their minds, though, they find out Miss Agnes plans to only stay the year, just like every other teacher before her, and so they fight disappointment and discouragement again.   We mourned for the children and wondered  if Miss Agnes's replacement would ever be able to equal her. 

When we sat down to read that last day, we had three chapters left.  Alaine was a little fussy, but the kids kept begging to read anyway.  I bounced and I walked and I finished the book.

The book ends with a question and as I turned over than  last page, and closed the book, Maddie said, "Read one more chapter.  Please, please, please."

"That's it," I said.

Gavin chimed in with, "Well, we need the next book."

But there isn't another book.  We are left to ponder and decide for ourselves.  And perhaps be inspired to add a spark to our learning, too.

Visit Kathi's place today for more read aloud inspiration.

And won't you consider joining Elise at her quiet spot for book ideas on Monday? 


  1. Now I want to read The Year of Miss Agnes! (Maybe a summer read...)

  2. We are reading this right now for our second time. :)

  3. OH!!! That is one of my most absolute favorites!!!

    I read it last winter, and Brian bought it for me for Christmas (I first read about it from Voskamp's daughter's 20 booklist).

    ...see why I'm having such a problem with read alouds right now?!?! I want all our books to be like The Year of Miss Agnes, or Understood Betsy, or Witch of Blackbird Pond!!!!!!

  4. I love that book! I read it to my fifth graders when I taught public school.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...