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A Fine, Fine School


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About the Author

Sharon Creech has written twenty-one books for young people and is published in over twenty languages. Her books have received awards in both the U.S. and abroad, including the Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons, the Newbery Honor for The Wanderer, and Great Britain's Carnegie Medal for Ruby Holler. Before beginning her writing career, Sharon Creech taught English for fifteen years in England and Switzerland. She and her husband now live in Maine, "lured there by our grandchildren," Creech says. www.sharoncreech.com New York Times bestselling artist Harry Bliss is a cartoonist and cover artist for the New Yorker magazine. He is the author and illustrator of Bailey and Luke on the Loose and the illustrator of A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech, Which Would You Rather Be? by William Steig, Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, and Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo. His self-titled single panel gag cartoon Bliss appears in newspapers internationally. He lives in New Hampshire. You can visit him online at www.harrybliss.com.


Given current battles over standardized testing and summer sessions, this timely story about extended schooling touches a nerve with a kindly delivery. The tale centers on Mr. Keene, a good-intentioned but zealous principal, and Tillie, a studious girl who spends free time teaching her little brother to skip and climb trees. When strolling the school hallways, Mr. Keene beams, "Aren't these fine students? Aren't these fine teachers? Isn't this a fine, fine school?" He so adores education that he schedules classes for weekends, then holidays, then summers, too. Tillie's low-key home life is transformed. She checks her watch and lugs a giant briefcase off to class, despite her lonely brother's imploring looks. Meanwhile, Mr. Keene exclaims, "How much we will learn!" He doesn't notice the gasps and grimaces of his stressed-out students and teachers. Creech (Love That Dog) styles the principal as proud of his scholars and staff, but shows how his drastic measures diminish quality of life. New Yorker cartoonist Bliss, in an impressive debut, foregrounds the core drama between Tillie and the principal, yet also develops secondary characters among Tillie's overwhelmed classmates (toting books called Really Hard Math and The Meaning of Life) and her precocious dog, Beans (calmly enjoying the "Arts and Leisure" section); comic thought balloons, clever book titles and expressive faces contribute to the tale's success. In the end, Tillie politely convinces Mr. Keene that he has been unreasonable. With quiet intensity, Creech and Bliss persuasively argue one side of a volatile issue. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

K-Gr 2-Principal Keene is proud of his school. "`Oh!' he would say. `Aren't these fine children? Aren't these fine teachers? Isn't this a fine, fine school?'" He becomes so enamored of the learning he sees taking place that he decides there should be more. First he schedules school on Saturdays, then Sundays, then holidays, and finally throughout the summer. With each addition, readers are told, "The teachers and the students did not want to go to school [on Sundays, holidays, etc.], but no one knew how to tell Mr. Keene that." Finally, young Tillie confronts him and explains that not everyone is learning-there are little brothers who can't skip and dogs that can't sit-and she herself cannot climb her tree. The principal finally realizes that there are certain kinds of learning that take place outside the classroom and the normal schedule is resumed. Creech's telling of this implausible parable is repetitive and not particularly energetic, but Bliss's colorful cartoon illustrations take up the slack with their sly humor and meticulous attention to detail. Children are pictured with backpacks labeled "wide load," and plastered with Post-it notes reading "massive test on your birthday" and "power nap at 2 pm." In this day of the over-scheduled and hurried child, this book could be a good impetus for a discussion of the value of stopping to smell the roses.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"Charming." -- Kirkus Reviews"Impressive ... Expressive ... Clever." -- Publisher's Weekly (starred review)"This book has it all." -- ALA Booklist (starred review)"Charming, rhythmical and humorous." -- BookPage.com

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