For educators of all sorts
The Child and His Book: Some Account of the History and Progress of Children’s Literature in England (Mrs. E.M. Field, 1891) discusses the merits of educational material in children’s books and includes the observation that there are those who believe
[I]nstruction, if admitted into a story book at all, must be scrupulously veiled and clocked.page 5
The book itself is an objective history of English children’s literature, but it is clear that Mrs. E.M. Field does not agree with this point of view. Nor do I. I think story books are great places to learn!
If you’ve had a chance to preview Miss Missy’s School Book I:A Pack of Farm Dogs Starts a School you’ll have seen the two sorts of call-outs in the book: “Missy-isms” (vocabulary words), and “As Someone Once Said” (a few lines about a famous quotation and the person to whom it is attributed). These are placed within the story so as not to disrupt the flow.
The story also includes references to–not to be too technical–things from the past about which I know children (and as I like to say, maybe their grownups, too) have no idea. These things require longer explanations. They are the entries in the “Epilogue: Old Things & Ways Explained.” I took great care to make them kid-friendly and kid-centric. Again, if you’ve read the preview, you saw the first of these, “I could have danced… [all night].” It’s from “Chapter IV: The Nominal Problem” in which Missy and her pack are trying to help the nameless hound find a name. She comes up with Aubrey, but when Missy tells this to Marica, Marica hears Audrey and begins singing. In the “Epilogue” we go in three short paragraphs from Audrey Hepburn and My Fair Lady (couple of sentences), to George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion (couple more), to the Greek myth of Pygmalion.
I was trying to figure out a way to convey the breadth of the “instructional” material to parents and educators without previewing the entire book. Sharing the “Index of Missy-isms, Quotation first words, Persons, and Old Things & Ways” seemed to be the way to go. A sample of “Old Things & Ways” entries follows. (Click to make readable.)
“Using an index is one of the earliest tools of independent research as well as helping to promote analytical skills.” Valerie Elliston, Indexing Children’s Books.
[Aside– Later in the story there is a gift exchange and John gives Rocky a 1st edition Principia Mathematica. A 1st ed. PM goes for about a quarter million so there’s that little bit of silliness!]
One more quick note to address the apparent scattered-ness of the topics/subjects. “Missy-isms” just sort of happen because I know her so well and I can hear her making these silly mistakes. After I’d plotted out the Missy-ism distribution across all of the chapters, I think I went back and tinkered to add a few. “As someone once saids” were written much the same way–here’s a good place for the character, Gilbert, to quote someone. Many of these were included after the story was written.
“Old Things & Ways” worked differently. The story always came first and led where it led picking up Old Things & Ways along the way, so to speak. Other than knowing I wanted to plunk some American history in when I had the chance, there was no grand plan to focus on any particular subject/discipline/time period. I think this is a good thing for kids. Little bit of this, little bit of that. Exposure to a wide variety. Much like sitting down with a topical children’s encyclopedia, reading independently, each child is going to skip, skim, or read different “Epilogue” passages. Reading as a family, grownups can summarize longer entries if needed.
Here’s how one review put it:
The book also has the added bonus of teaching tidbits of history, vocabulary, the love of learning and about some of the animals that live in the pastures. Don’t miss reading the Epilogue.Amazon 5-star review
Obviously, I’d like for you to purchase the book and read it with your family. But just as (even more?) important is your sharing the Miss Missy’s School web site and the news about the book with your relatives, friends, on social media, and with those at your library and local bookstore. I am well aware that Miss Missy’s School Book I: A Pack of Farm Dogs Starts a School is not for every child or family. But I am just as sure there are children and parents who would love to read the endearing story, and to learn things along the way. With your help, I think we can find them!
Marica, and Missy and her pack–including Tiger the Cat
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