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The Year Of Miss Agnes Hardcover – September 1, 2000
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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 Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
This book is written by Kirkpatrick Hill, an author who is a school teacher in the Alaskan "bush". She chooses appropriate vocabulary related to the life they live. She highlights the differences in their culture through the eyes of a child. Most children will be amazed at the responsibilities the children in this book embrace. I think this book would be wonderful for parent and child or teacher and child to read together and discuss. The language is simple, and the Indian words are described in context. Overall, an excellent book to read, discuss and enjoy. I can't wait to read another of Kirkpatrick Hill's books.
Kirkpatrick Hill 2000
Frederika thinks that this new teacher of hers is going to fail. But it happens that Miss Agnes proves them wrong. This story takes place in Alaska and it is a good book to read when it is cold outside like it is in Alaska. One interesting part I really liked was when Miss Agnes gave her class all new working supplies like pencils, pens, color pencils, markers, crayons, and colored paper and more. They thought she wouldn't last long either because there always was a bad smell of fish in Alaska but she said, "Well, I can't smell anything. I have sinus trouble." I would think people who just like sit down by the fire, have a cup of hot chocolate, and read to a younger one would like this book. I would give this book a 4 1/2 stars out of 5 if I had to choose, but it is right on the line for a 5 star book. I just want you to know this is the best book ever in my opinion!
I did not have the sense that Hill condemed or slighted "normal" teaching, however that may be defined. Rather she wrote a description of a teacher who took the students as they came and met their individual needs. While Miss Agnes sets aside Dick and Jane, she does share a selection of "great" works with the children. Miss Agnes acknowledges that there are many "right" ways of communicating. The trick is to know when colloquialism is acceptable and when it might be more appropriate to use formal language.
Hill writes this book in the voice of a 10-year-old girl. In keeping with this voice, some aspects of the culture are explained while others are mentioned without explanation. This is an effective device. It permits the reader to understand the story at hand. While it might be argued that the book could contain more factual information, this would slow down the action of the story and dissuade some readers.
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