by Lois Lowry
illustrated by Middy Thomas
(Did they make the letters down the right side of the cover say, "Yesssssss" on purpose?!?!)
Gooney Bird is back with her wacky outfits and her take-charge attitude in Mrs. Pidgeon's 2nd grade class. Gooney's got the whole class writing fables this time, and what a great writing teacher she is! My favorite part was when Barry read his fable about the buffalo ("The correct scientific name for the American Buffalo is actually bison.") and it was clearly a report, and not even a story, and certainly not a fable. But Gooney helps him revise it. She has him start with once, and with a character that gets his audience interested. At one point he asks Gooney, "Is that too reporty?" and she says, "No. Details are good. I liked knowing about the thick fur because I could picture it in my imagination. But I'd add a little action now." After Barry introduces the hunters, Gooney suggests some dialogue. "Barry frowned. 'Bison can't talk,' he said. 'In stories they can,' Gooney Bird explained. 'That's the good thing about stories. Anything can happen.' " When the class gets bored (even Mrs. Pidgeon has resorted to grading spelling tests), Gooney suggests that it's time for a SUDDENLY. Barry writes:
Suddenly the hunters came riding out of the trees on their horses, shooting their guns, and shot a lot of the bison. Even the young one.[A bit too topical, I know, but when I read it, I was thinking urban violence or Iraq War.]
And after that there were practically no bison left in North America.
"That's the end," Barry said. "It's a sad ending."
"Some stories have sad endings," Gooney Bird announced. It's good to be reminded of that.
Tricia raised her hand. "But what's the moral?" she asked.
Barry stood in front of the class with his arms folded across his chest. He thought and thought.
"Guns make a mess of things," he said finally.
There's a hilarious part when Malcom complains that Mrs. Pidgeon never holds up her grammar finger when Tyrone raps. Mrs. Pidgeon explains that "Rap is a special art form. And it uses a different grammar." [At least she didn't go into the different vocabulary that rap can use and radio talk show hosts cannot...once again, a bit too topical...] Mrs. Pidgeon has Tyrone give a rap example and then say it in correct grammar:
Tyrone looked down at his lunch, a pear and a sandwich on a paper napkin in front of him. He thought for a moment, the chanted, "Ain't no pear as big as my hair, cuz pears be small and my hair be tall..."
Mrs. Pidgeon laughed. "All right," she said. "Now, Tyrone, tell us that in proper grammar."
Tyrone grinned. Then he said, "There isn't any pear as big as my hair, because pears are small, but I always comb my hair up to make it look pretty large."
[Could that happen in real life? In second grade? I'm not so sure, but if it happens in a book, then I have hope! After all, Gooney herself said, 'That's the good thing about stories. Anything can happen.' ]