Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book #361: Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, Illustrated by James Marshall

Image from Scholast
The students in Miss Nelson’s class, Room 207, were misbehaving again. No matter how nicely Miss Nelson asked they won’t stop talking, they won’t do their schoolwork, they were even rude during story hour! Sweet Miss Nelson knew something had to be done. The next day at school Miss Nelson did not arrive in Room 207. The students were ecstatic, until they heard an unpleasant voice hissing down the hall. The substitute teacher had arrived. Her name was Miss Viola Swamp and her mood was as ugly as her black dress. She put the kids right to work and they knew she meant business. They had stacks of homework and story hour was canceled. As the days passed the kids realized they missed Miss Nelson! They tried to find her. They even went to the police department and talked to Detective McSmogg, but Miss Nelson was nowhere to be found. When the kids spied on Miss Nelson’s house, they were scared away when Miss Swamp came around the corner. There was nothing the kids in Room 207 could do. They might be stuck with Miss Swamp forever! But then one morning they hear a sweet voice ring out, “Hello, children.” Miss Nelson had returned! And she was happy to find her class had not only missed her, but were very well behaved too! As to the whereabouts of Miss Viola Swamp, well, that’s Miss Nelson’s secret and she’ll never tell.

This humorous tale of a teacher in disguise is told in third person narrative and snappy dialogue. The text is printed in black letters against the white page and is laid out to match up with the corresponding illustration. The illustrations are done in Marshall’s signature style. The line work is wild and the characters all sport gigantic smiles, tiny eyes, and large amounts of hair. Watercolor washes provide color and background. My favorite pages show the students contemplating what terrible thing might have happened to Miss Nelson. The story could be a moralistic story about learning to behave if it weren’t for the inside joke of Miss Nelson disguising herself as Miss Swamp. This makes the ending not only satisfying, but hilarious.

Compare the two teachers using a venn diagram, graph, or visual chart of your choice. Read other books that feature teachers, such as Iggy Peck, Architect or Chrysanthmum. How do those teachers compare to Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp? Alternatively, you can compare the kids in Room 207 before they meet Miss Swamp and after she leaves.

This story is often performed at children’s theatres. Check out the suggestions in the activity guide created by the Oklahoma Children’s Theatre. I especially like the suggestion to make help wanted posters on page 2.

This is also a great story to perform as a reader’s theater production. Try this script for seven readers. If you want to use this script for a larger group split the narrator into two and divide the lines for Kids 1-4 to create additional Kids.  

If you enjoy this book, check out the sequels, Miss Nelson is Back and Miss Nelson has a Field Day.


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