From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5-Teaching the children in an Athabascan village in a one-room schoolhouse on the Alaskan frontier in 1948 is not every educator's dream. Then one day, tall, skinny Agnes Sutterfield arrives and life is never the same for the community. Frederika (Fred), the 10-year-old narrator, discovers that unlike previous teachers, Miss Agnes doesn't mind the smell of fish that the children bring for lunch each day. She also stokes the fire to warm the schoolhouse before the students' arrival each morning, wears pants, and speaks with a strange accent. Miss Agnes immediately packs away the old textbooks, hangs up the children's brightly colored artwork, plays opera music, and reads them Robin Hood and Greek myths. She teaches them about their land and their culture, tutors both students and parents in her cabin in the evening, and even learns sign language along with her students so that Fred's deaf sister can attend school. Hill has created more than just an appealing cast of characters; she introduces readers to a whole community and makes a long-ago and faraway place seem real and very much alive. This is an inspirational story about Alaska, the old and new ways, a very special teacher, and the influence that she has over everyone she meets. A wonderful read-aloud to start off the school year.Kit Vaughan, Midlothian Middle School, VA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 4-6. From the author of Winter Camp
(1993) comes another moving novel about Athabascan life. But instead of a wilderness survival tale, this story is an uplifting portrait of a dedicated teacher, set mostly in a cozy village classroom in 1948. Fred, a ten-year-old girl, describes the year Miss Agnes takes over the one-room school. Unlike the school's other teachers, none of whom have lasted, Miss Agnes encourages the children to explore art, literature, and their own potential. She also teaches basic subjects in relevant ways and shows sensitivity to the rhythms of village life and to each child. The students are devastated when it's time for Miss Agnes to leave, but the story ends with a happy surprise. Readers longing for action may resist the simple, subdued story. But Fred's plain, direct voice, sprinkled with regionalisms, will connect readers with the well-integrated cultural particulars, the poignant scenes of home life, and the joy Fred feels learning in the snug classroom, the snow falling outside. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved