Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech

 A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech, illustrated by Harry Bliss

Rating: 5 fine, fine stars

Here's a book with a lesson for kids and parents: a story about balancing work and play.

Mr. Keene is a principal who thinks that his school is so "fine, fine" that kids should attend it even more than usual.  Why go just Monday through Friday?  Let's go on Saturdays and Sundays, too!  Why take days off for holidays?  Come to school on Christmas and President's Day!  Summer?  Bah!  Who needs to play?  Come to school instead!

Young Tillie, one of his fine, fine students fights her way through the under-played and over-worked students, staff, and teachers to go see him.

"Somebody's not learning, Mr. Keene," she informs him.

He gasps!  Oh, no!  What an emergency!  He's about to find a way to get the kids to go to school even more when she stops and explains who is not learning.

"My dog is not learning new tricks.  My little brother is not learning how to swing by himself.  I am not learning how to sit still in a tree for a whole hour.  Because I am at school all the time, I am not there to teach my dog and my little brother, and learn to be and do things by myself."

I love this!  Go, Tillie!

Was he going to make their dogs come to school, too?
The pictures in this book are great, and full of humorous little tidbits for us grown-up kids.  My favorite is the kid toting The Meaning of Life...  And the dog in the story is a fun character in himself.  (Another cheer for dog-lovers!)

What more important lesson is there for today's kids?  (Okay, I can think of one other that gets me fired up: health and food...)  But the lesson in this book is more for the reader than the listener.  We parents are the ones scheduling our kids for so many things.  I know it's tempting--it sure seems like all of Lorelei's classmates have been taking a language for at least a year, if not two.  And sports start as soon as they can run, so...shouldn't I be signing up Kiefer in a few months?  But playing in an unstructured way with your siblings, teaching your pets new tricks, and sitting silently with nature...  These are priceless, priceless things.

And some of us readers need to learn the lesson, too.  Work and play.  Play and work.  It's a hard balance, but I'm on the side for playing more.  These kids of ours are going to be working soon enough, so let's play with them and and stop working ourselves.

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