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Friday, October 9, 2015

I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard, written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2015. $19.00 ages 4 and up

"I really wanted
to get a star, so
later I raised my
hand to read out
loud. But Mrs.
Benson stopped
me after only one
line and said,

"ROSE ... "

Rose doesn't fit Mrs. Benson's mold. Mrs. Benson provides stars for all of those things Rose is not good at - being neat, perfect spelling, right answers. Rose is better at doodling on her papers and especially at daydreaming. You know that kid, don't you?

She doesn't do well at math on the blackboard, or reading out loud in a voice that can be heard by her classmates, or serving snacks. Even the end of the day brings no joy. Mrs. Benson is going to check desks for neatness. Again, Rose knows there will be no star for her. The bell rings to bring a reprieve until the following morning.

The next day Rose is early enough to get ahead of the game. By the time school starts, her desk is gleaming. A final assignment to create a thank-you card for the visiting artist, who inspired Rose to dream about being just like him, results in an even bigger desk mess than yesterday's. What kind of trouble is in store for Rose this time?

We can put a lot of pressure on those kids who don't conform to what is considered 'normal' in our classrooms. This book is a celebration of what makes each of us special. Ms. Mann portrays Rose as a creative, enthusiastic artist whose bright clothing, and need to dream is endearing. 'Be yourself' is the message she so honestly portrays. Mrs. Benson has her own heart of gold when it really comes down to it, and she honors Rose and her enthusiasm.

Shouldn't every child and teacher be star-worthy - for reasons of their own?


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