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Friday, June 23, 2017

a Letter to my Teacher, words by Deborah Hopkinson and pictures by Nancy Carpenter. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2017. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"I hope you remember me.
I was the one who marched
to school that first day,
splashing through every
puddle I could find. I wore
a bright yellow raincoat and a dark, stormy frown - because for me, school meant sitting still ... "

It's second grade. For one small girl, it's her teacher who makes all the difference. As a teacher, I had a special place in my heart for the kids who didn't fit the mold, who acted out, who needed understanding and acceptance. They made me a better teacher every day, and I was grateful to have them in my class so they could teach me what I needed to know. I can only hope that I had the kind of impact this teacher did.

The child remembering her year in second grade knows a lot about herself. She can't keep her voice down, she likes to be the class clown, she needs constant supervision on field trips. She marches to the beat of a different drummer. She remembers how her teacher helps her find what she does best, and guides her through her days encouraging her to acquire the skills needed to be a friend and to find success in a place that holds little appeal for her. With each new success, things get better.

Nancy Carpenter captures every nuance of the memories the now grown woman shares in this emotional and memorable book. Those emotions are beautifully displayed throughout, in illustrations that capture the exuberance and unleashed energy exhibited. The teacher stands out on every page for the patience she shows and the guidance she gives when the going gets tough. She makes room for a 'different' learner in her classroom. Humor is evident as the two work together to form a lasting bond, one the teacher may not necessarily remember so many years later. The girl does not forget.

Her year end gift is testament to the difference a caring teacher can make, and her career choice is proof positive that teachers make differences in children's lives ... every day, and in so many ways.

"For a long time now
I've been wanting to write to tell you
that even though I didn't always listen,
and I know I was exasperating,
second grade really was the best year ever."

What a tribute ... and what a lovely gift for a teacher at the end of the school year. 

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