Monday, August 24, 2015

Gooney Bird Collection by Lois Lowry

Gooney Bird Collection (includes Gooney Bird Greene, Gooney Bird and the Room Mother, Gooney the Fabulous, Gooney Bird is So Absurd) by Lois Lowry
Random House
Rating: 5 stars

Lorelei, Ben, Kiefer, and I listened to this collection of Gooney Bird Greene books while traveling to, around, and from the beach this month. Because the beach we love the most is a solid six hours (without crazy beach traffic) away, I thought I'd try a few audio books. I looked for short ones, less than an hour long. This collection, by the prolific and talented Lois Lowry, was their second try. (The first, The Twits by Roald Dahl received a ho-hum rating from them.) This collection was a smashing success!

Gooney Bird is the clever, eccentric new girl who brings intrigue and excitement (in appropriate, elementary-school ways) to her classroom. She wants to sit smack-dab in the middle of the classroom because she likes to be smack-dab in the middle of the action. She wears tutus and sometimes underpants on her head (it's a "two pony-tailed hat," not underpants!) and even stilettos once, though she has buyer's remorse about them because they're so uncomfortable. She tells crazy stories that sound like far-fetched whoppers but are actually true, and she takes time and pride telling the whole story to her classmates.

What makes me want to climb the nearest hilltop and shout about these books? Lois Lowry has the recipe for a fantastic middle grade book because of the wild and funny, mostly believable but sometimes looney character of Gooney Bird. My kids loved her--Ben and Lorelei cheered for her, begged for me to put the CDs on in the car for even a five minute drive. And Lowry has the perfect amount of humor and education in each book. 

The classroom's teacher, Mrs. Pidgeon, and Gooney Bird herself teach the class (and all the readers) a huge amount in and through the books. In Gooney Bird Greene, Mrs. Pidgeon uses Gooney Bird's wild stories to teach how to write a story--how to have interesting characters, create a setting, weave a plot, add some suspense, etc. Gooney Bird is satisfied with her role as "junior teacher" (though I suspect if she was in a real-life classroom setting the teacher would want to bump down her importance just a notch). In Gooney the Fabulous, the class learns to write fables, and Gooney Bird's classmates all take turns sharing theirs, and Mrs. Pidgeon listen and critiques each one. In Gooney Bird is So Absurd, the class learns all about poetry and how to write different types of poems, including rap, which my kids loved.

Any age can listen, but because the books take place entirely inside the classroom, Kindergarten through fourth grade is its sweet spot. Highly recommend!

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