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Gooney Bird Greene Paperback – March 9, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews
Book 1 of 5 in the Gooney Bird Series

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Realistic fiction for tweens
Ms. Bixby's Last Day
Wishing Day
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1.



There was a new student in the Watertower Elementary School. She arrived in October, after the first month of school had already passed. She opened the second grade classroom door at ten o'clock on a Wednesday morning and appeared there all alone, without even a mother to introduce her. She was wearing pajamas and cowboy boots and was holding a dictionary and a lunch box.

"Hello," Mrs. Pidgeon, the second grade teacher, said. "We're in the middle of our spelling lesson."

"Good," said the girl in pajamas. "I brought my dictionary. Where's my desk?"

"Who are you?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked politely.

"I'm your new student. My name is Gooney Bird Greene -- that's Greene with a silent 'e' at the end -- and I just moved here from China. I want a desk right smack in the middle of the room, because I like to be right smack in the middle of everything."

The class stared at the new girl with admiration. They had never met anyone like Gooney Bird Greene.

She was a good student. She sat down at the desk Mrs. Pidgeon provided, right smack in the middle of everything, and began doing second grade spelling. She did all her work neatly and quickly, and she followed instructions.

But soon it was clear that Gooney Bird was mysterious and interesting. Her clothes were unusual. Her hairstyles were unusual. Even her lunches were very unusual.

At lunchtime on Wednesday, her first day in the school, she opened her lunch box and brought out sushi and a pair of bright green chopsticks. On Thursday, her second day at Watertower Elementary School, Gooney Bird Greene was wearing a pink ballet tutu over green stretch pants, and she had three small red grapes, an avocado, and an oatmeal cookie for lunch.

On Thursday afternoon, after lunch, Mrs. Pidgeon stood in front of the class with a piece of chalk in her hand. "Today," she said, "we are going to continue talking about stories."

"Yay!" the second-graders said in very loud voices, all but Felicia Ann, who never spoke, and Malcolm, who wasn't paying attention. He was under his desk, as usual.

"Gooney Bird, you weren't here for the first month of school. But our class has been learning about what makes good stories, haven't we?" Mrs. Pidgeon said. Everyone nodded. All but Malcolm, who was under his desk doing something with scissors.

"Class? What does a story need most of all? Who remembers?" Mrs. Pidgeon had her chalk hand in the air, ready to write something on the board.

The children were silent for a minute. They were thinking. Finally Chelsea raised her hand.

"Chelsea? What does a story need?"

"A book," Chelsea said.

Mrs. Pidgeon put her chalk hand down. "There are many stories that don't need a book," she said pleasantly, "aren't there, class? If your grandma tells you a story about when she was a little girl, she doesn't have that story in a book, does she?"

The class stared at her. All but Malcolm, who was still under his desk, and Felicia Ann, who always looked at the floor, never raised her hand, and never spoke.

Beanie said, "My grandma lives in Boston!"

Keiko said, "My grandma lives in Honolulu!"

Ben said loudly, "My grandma lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania!"

Tricia shouted, "My grandma is very rich!"

"Class!" said Mrs. Pidgeon. "Shhh!" Then, in a quieter voice, she explained, "Another time, we will talk about our families. But right now --" She stopped talking and looked at Barry Tuckerman. Barry was up on his knees in his seat, and his hand was waving in the air as hard as he could make it wave.

"Barry?" Mrs. Pidgeon said. "Do you have something that you simply have to say? Something that cannot possibly wait?"

Barry nodded yes. His hand waved.

"And what is so important?"

Barry stood up beside his desk. Barry Tuckerman liked to make very important speeches, and they always required that he stand.

"My grandma," Barry Tuckerman said, "went to jail once. She was twenty years old and she went to jail for civil disobedience." Then Barry sat down.

"Thank you, Barry. Now look at what I'm writing on the board. Who can read this word?"

Everyone, all but Malcolm and Felicia Ann, watched as she wrote the long word. Then they shouted it out. "BEGINNING!"

"Good!" said Mrs. Pidgeon. "Now I'm sure you'll all know this one." She wrote again.

"MIDDLE!" the children shouted.

"Good. And can you guess what the last word will be?" She held up her chalk and waited.

"END!"

"Correct!" Mrs. Pidgeon said. "Good for you, second-graders! Those are the parts that a story needs: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Now I'm going to write another very long word on the board. Let's see what good readers you are." She wrote a C, then an H.

"Mrs. Pidgeon!" someone called.

She wrote an A, and then an R.

"MRS. PIDGEON!" Several children were calling now.

She turned to see what was so important. Malcolm was standing beside his desk. He was crying.

"Malcolm needs to go to the nurse, Mrs. Pidgeon!" Beanie said.

Mrs. Pidgeon went to Malcolm and knelt beside him. "What's the trouble, Malcolm?" she asked. But he couldn't stop crying.

"I know, I know!" Nicholas said. Nicholas always knew everything, and his desk was beside Malcolm's.

"Tell me, Nicholas."

"Remember Keiko showed us how to make origami stars?"

All of the second-graders reached into their desks and their pockets and their lunch boxes. There were tiny stars everywhere. Keiko had shown them how to make origami stars out of small strips of paper. The stars were very easy to make. The school janitor had complained just last Friday that he was sweeping up hundreds of origami stars.

"Malcolm put one in his nose," Nicholas said, "and now he can't get it out."

"Is that correct, Malcolm?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked. Malcolm nodded and wiped his eyes.

"Don't sniff, Malcolm. Do not sniff. That is an order." She took his hand and walked with him to the classroom door. She turned to the class. "Children," she said, "I am going to be gone for exactly one minute and thirty seconds while

I walk with Malcolm to the nurse's office down the hall.

Stay in your seats while I'm gone. Think about the word character.

"A character is what a story needs. When I come back from the nurse's office, we are going to create a story together. You must choose who the main character will be. Talk among yourselves quietly. Think about interesting characters like Abraham Lincoln, or perhaps Christopher Columbus, or --"

"Babe Ruth?" called Ben.

"Yes, Babe Ruth is a possibility. I'll be right back."

Mrs. Pidgeon left the classroom with Malcolm.

When she returned, one minute and thirty seconds later, without Malcolm, the class was waiting. They had been whispering, all but Felicia Ann, who never whispered.

"Have you chosen?" she asked. The class nodded. All of their heads went up and down, except Felicia Ann's, because she always looked at the ßoor.

"And your choice is --?"

All of the children, all but Felicia Ann, called out together. "Gooney Bird Greene!" they called.

Mrs. Pidgeon sighed. "Class," she said, "there are many different kinds of stories. There are stories about imaginary creatures, like --"

"Dumbo!" Tricia called out.

"Raise your hand if you want to speak, please," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "But yes, Tricia, you are correct. Dumbo is an imaginary character. There are also stories about real people from history, like Christopher Columbus, and --" She stopped. Barry Tuckerman was waving and waving his hand. "Yes, Barry? Do you have something very important to say?"

Barry Tuckerman stood up. He twisted the bottom of his shirt around and around in his fingers. "I forget," he said at last.

"Well, sit back down then, Barry. Now, I thought, class, that since Christopher Columbus's birthday is coming up soon --" She looked at Barry Tuckerman, whose hand was waving like a windmill once again. "Barry?" she said.

Barry Tuckerman stood up again. "We already know all the stories about Christopher Columbus," he said. "We want to hear a true story about Gooney Bird Greene."

"Yes! Gooney Bird Greene!" the class called.

Mrs. Pidgeon sighed again. "I'm afraid I don't know many facts abut Gooney Bird Greene," she said. "I know a lot of facts about Christopher Columbus, though. Christopher Columbus was born in --"

"We want Gooney Bird!" the class chanted.

"Gooney Bird?" Mrs. Pidgeon said, finally. "How do you feel about this?"

Gooney Bird Greene stood up beside her desk in the middle of the room. "Can I tell the story?" she asked. "Can I be right smack in the middle of everything? Can I be the hero?"

"Well, since you would be the main character," Mrs. Pidgeon said, "I guess that would put you in the middle of everything. I guess that would make you the hero."

"Good," Gooney Bird said. "I will tell you an absolutely true story about me."

Review

“Lowry’s masterful writing style reaches directly into her audience, managing both to appeal to young listeners and to engage older readers.”—The Bulletin

“A hybrid of Harriet, Blossom, and Anastasia, irrepressible Gooney Bird is that rare bird in children’s fiction: one that instantly becomes an amusing and popular favorite.”—Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (March 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440419603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440419600
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Author Lois Lowry is perhaps best known for her controversial, award winning, and often very interesting children's books. These books, on the whole tend to be written with the older child reader in mind. Swiveling her head a full 90 degrees to the left, Lowry has now decided to write a book with the younger child readers in mind. Hence, the creation and subsequent publication of the adorable, "Gooney Bird Greene". Tis a tale of one girl, her stories, and her awe-stricken/hand-raising/wide-eyed classmates.
When Gooney Bird Greene arrives in Mrs. Pidgeon's second grade class unannounced, nobody knows quite what to make of her. Decked out in pajamas and cowboy boots, and holding her lunch with a dictionary, she immediately becomes the class's star pupil. For you see, Gooney Bird Greene was blessed with the gift of storytelling. By sheer coincidence, Mrs. Pidgeon is attempting to teach the class all about the different parts of a story. As the book progresses and Gooney Bird tells her "absolutely true" tales, the book carefully examines what it is that makes a story either good or bad. By the end, Gooney Bird has influenced all the students (and even Mrs. Pidgeon) to tell their own stories just as she has.
The book's top notch, really. Both children and their parents reading this book will be entranced by the notion of how Gooney Bird's outrageously titled tales really do turn out to be true in the end. The tale entitled, "How Gooney Bird Came from China on a Flying Carpet" turns out to be about how Gooney Bird and her family moved from their small town of China in their car, and how GB accidentally flew out of the car while in the center of the family's old rolled up carpet.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my second grader because it looked cute. She read it for a book report she was doing at school. After she was done she came to me and told me that I should read it because it was so good. I read it last night and it nearly brought me to tears! I loved it. It was so loving, and sweet, and educational in a completely fun way. Gooney Bird Greene, and the children in her class are how we all hope our children to be; individual, loving, curious, kind, respectful, etc.. Gooney Birds teacher is what every child's teacher should be; patient, loving, and not afraid to let a 2nd grader be smarter then herself! This is a must read for parents and children alike!!!
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Talk about a versatile author! And laugh-out-loud funny, too. Teachers in grades 1-4 are going to love reading this one in classrooms. Gooney Bird is an endearing second-grader who has a lot of practical wisdom to dispense and is able to do it with verve and self-confidence (and while wearing a tutu!) Imagination really CAN change the tone of a classroom and this charming book will show everyone just how it does.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I recommended this book to my 5.5 year old goddaughter who is very bright and has a vocabulary way beyond her years. I also bought it for myself to read so that she and I could discuss it.
Her daddy read it to her, but he said that it was a bit beyond the experiences of a 5 year old and though she loved the character, Lily had trouble identifying with some of what is going on in the classroom of a second grader when she is only in Kindergarten.
I loved reading the story and found myself frequently laughing; however, I quickly began to understand what Lily's dad was saying. Much of the humor is reliant upon "puns" and having taught Kindergarten for years I should have realized that it would be a bit sophisticated for a 5 year old whose humor isn't quite there yet.
For ages 7+ I think this would be a wonderful book to give for the coming holiday season.
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I purchased this thinking it would be a clever story for bedtime, and there are elements about it that are clever, but the story as a whole just didn't mesh. It encourages people to consider statements from different angles, breaks the elements of storytelling down (albeit in a superficial manner, but this is a book for children, after all), and encourages children to tell their own stories, which is probably the best feature of the book. The characters are not well-developed, but that too may have been a device to spark creativity in children--why one child never says anything, and why another child is highly annoying may have been meant to get children thinking and telling their own versions of the story.
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Great story of a confident strong minded girl whose story telling ability surpasses that of many adults. This is a great book to incorporate into the classroom. It demonstrates the elements of a story and emphasizes the importance of the details that make a story great.
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Gooney is quite the character. She IS fiction in that a teacher could never put up with her "help" in the classroom, but my 6 year old granddaughter likes her a lot.

Read it with tongue-in-cheek and don't get hung up on Gooney and think that the book advocates children dictating to the class. It was not written to promote a "Gooney behavior," but to introduce a planning-organizing-better-idea classmate. Her fellow students love Gooney's ideas and look forward to seeing her quirky style and using her seemingly crazy ideas that work for everyone.

Gooney is inclusive with everyone in the class. She "makes it work"!
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