Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Weird School series

Being an elementary school librarian has its perks for a YA-minded person like me - it forces me to read children's books. And not just the highly literary, hey look I won an award-type books, but also the books that kids are actually reading and enjoying. Which brings me to the My Weird School series by Dan Gutman. Students gobble these books up - I don't how much of it comes from library promotion or peer pressure or comfort in a formulaic story; whatever the reason, they check them out repeatedly. I confess, until today, I had not read a single one. If you're unfamiliar with the series, the premise is fairly simple. A.J. is in second grade, and he's not shy to admit that he hates school. Each book introduces a teacher or administrator who acts as the catalyst for conflict and resolution in these humorous stories.

In Miss Daisy is Crazy, the first book in the series, Miss Daisy is the second grade homeroom teacher, but she doesn't know a thing. She can't read, write, add, subtract, know her history or social studies - she's pretty dumb. So, her second grade students have to teach her a thing or two, especially when she admits to hating school too. Told through the voice of A.J., who truly does hate school and can be a bit oblivious himself, this story sets the tone and introduces the characters for the rest of the series.

In Mrs. Roopy is Loopy, the third book in the series, we meet the new school librarian, Mrs. Roopy or George Washington or Johnny Appleseed or Little Miss Muffet or Humpty Dumpty or one of her other many aliases. Mrs. Roopy has a thing for bringing characters to life, quite literally. The students don't know what to think of her play-acting and some are genuinely confused if she's the one dressing up or if these people who visit the library and tell them their life stories are actually real. I never realized how fragile students' perceptions of fantasy versus reality were, but I definitely see it in my own school. I'm constantly asking students if what we just read was nonfiction or fiction and how they can tell the difference - not an easy task! So, this one resonated with me. And it made me want to dress up in character the next time I read a story. :)

I mentioned it before, but I'll say it again, these books are funny and formulaic. And they're what some kids need. Especially reluctant readers or kindred spirits who don't think there's anything worth reading in the library. The kids who constantly check out joke books should check these out too. As a librarian, I understand the place that these books have in the library and in kids' lives. They hook non-readers. They allow students who may not be strong readers to read for pleasure and humor, within the confines of a very structured story with familiar characters. And they're not for everyone. Obviously. No book is. But I say this because some people, parents especially, need to be reminded that books in the library are as varied and diverse as students themselves. The collection is for everyone, but not every book will be the book for every child. And so Dan Gutman says so himself in a School Library Journal article entitled "How I Corrupted America's Youth." Check out the article - it's why I blogged these books in the first place. :) Happy reading!



Jan von Harz said...

These sound like perfect books for my soon to be second grade grandson. I think he would definitely relate to the characters in Miss Daisy is Crazy. I will call his school librarian and my friend and see if she has this and have her put it in his hands next time they go to the library. Thanks

NatalieSap said...

Yay! Glad I could pass it on. :)

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