Sunday, August 26, 2012

Once Upon an Ordinary School Day by Colin McNaughton

 Once Upon an Ordinary School Day by Colin McNaughton, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura

Rating: 5 extraordinary stars

After the first page, I really didn't like this book.  Here's the first page (bear with me):
Once upon an ordinary school day, an ordinary boy woke up from his ordinary dreams, got out of his ordinary bed, had an ordinary pee and an ordinary bath, put on his ordinary clothes, and ate his ordinary breakfast.   
The ordinary boy brushed his ordinary teeth, kissed his ordinary mom goodbye, and set off for his ordinary school.
There are two more pages like that.  When you read that out loud, that's a whole lot of "ordinarys."  I was thinking: This is going to be a long book.

But from the get-go, the illustrations are beautiful and quirky and fun.  Those on the first three pages are all in black and white.

And then, on page three, an extraordinary figure bounds into the classroom.  It's Mr. Gee, a new teacher, and he's got an idea for a lesson that will help him get to know the students, and help the students get to know him.  He puts some music on and wants the kids to let the music make pictures in their heads.

Oh, and the illustrations are so great!  The extraordinary Mr. Gee is in color, but all the ordinary stuff is still in black and white.

And as the music swooped and danced and dived
once more,the ordinary boy began to write.
So he puts on the music, and everyone draws and writes what they hear.  They interpret the music so differently and wonderfully!  The main ordinary boy draws of elephants stampeding and a whole safari of animals and then a deep sea adventure and then of flying over gorgeous lands.  All in color, of course.

At the end of the day the little boy compliments the teacher on the lesson: "That was the best lesson ever!" (I love this kudos giving from little to big.)  Mr. Gee wonderfully replies: "I can't wait to read your story tonight."  I love the genuine interest the teacher has in the boy.

In a different chapter of my life, I was student body president of my college (feel free to chuckle!).  I gave a speech to all the faculty and staff once before the academic year began challenging them to be memorable to at least one student.  Isn't that what it's all about?  Taking the time and energy and risk to make an impression and helping somebody grow.  I hope that my kids are lucky enough to have a handful of teachers who care enough to have lessons like these, to help them grow and stretch and learn.

This is like a pint-sized, less-sad, book version of Dead Poets Society, which is one of my favorite movies.  And honestly, it's made me think a little more about teaching in my next chapter of life.  What fun it'd be to make a difference in other kids' lives.  Hmm.  Something to consider...

Anyway, a FANTASTIC book.  Lucky us to have found it on display at our library.  Thank you, librarians!

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