Date reviewed: 9/30/04 author’s website with virtual field trip!
Grades 5-7 IL 9-12
Summary: Sixth-grader Therese LeClerc (Tessy) envies her friend Deborah, who seems to have a sophistication that Tessy’s farming family lacks. When she’s assigned an oral report on Vermont hero Ethan Allen, and all she has are less-than-school-appropriate resources from adult non-fiction, she enjoys being the center of attention even if it’s bad. Her report do-overs are pretty funny. In the end, she learns to have faith in herself and in her family.
Personal Reaction: I really liked this book but think that the language used by the main character (even in direct quote of Ethan) may be a bit too sassy and ruin a perfectly wonderful read aloud. The substitute teacher is not well thought of by the community for being too loose, the original teacher is not a good role model. The killing of the dog was a bit shocking and, again, might be a bit overboard for younger readers. I think the older students who still act like the younger would enjoy this, but it’s not a “must read.”
Points for discussion with children or topics for study: oral or research reports; teachers; snobs, school relationships; embarrassment by family, grass-is-greener syndrome
Connections to other books? The Landry News by Clements for the another look at bad teaching (should I be mentioning these?); Gooney Bird Greene by Lowry for the storyteller type. Gotta love those spunky girls!
Realia: stuffed dog (mean); oral/handwritten report or posterboard display; cows or farm playset; polka music; tri-cornered hat of the Revolutionary War era; model school house or bus; old style radio; photos of Fort Ticonderoga, Ethan Allen; map of Vermont; French or French-Canadian recipes
Food items connected to story: creamed/chipped beef on toast (standard cafeteria fare), jello fruit mold dessert; French fries, poutine; tart au sucre; cheese curds