Something Very Magical: A Review of ‘Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook’

“You can find magic wherever you look.  Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.” – Dr. Seuss

Reading level

Grades 1 – 2

AR 3.8

Interest level

Pre-K – 2

Review and Comments

Miss Smith’s rather ordinary looking storybook is truly quite amazing.  Zach, a student in her class, quickly recognizes its unique nature after the very first story time of the new school year. Miss Smith’s stories are mind blowing!  The first tale she reads is about pirates.  It’s a good story, but this time Zach can actually see the characters come to life right before his eyes and feel the atmosphere of each setting as if he is in the middle of the action.  And he also sees the characters promptly return to the book when the story ends. After that first experience, Zach’s excitement does not wane.  He has so much curiosity about the adventures of each new story that it makes him want to go to school.

A different kind of adventure occurs one morning when the principal has to act as a sub for Miss Smith for a short time.  He decides to read from the storybook.  Just as before, the characters come forth.  This time there is a princess, a knight, and a fire-breathing dragon. Of course the principal has no idea what is going on and becomes so unnerved he leaves the classroom and runs for help.  Any teacher knows that it is not a good idea to leave a classroom of second graders alone, but second graders alone with a princess, a knight, a fire-breathing dragon, and an incredible storybook is just asking for alarming consequences!

After the principal dashes from the room, a student begins reading from the storybook.  New characters now leap into the classroom.  Then, another child starts reading a different story, and more characters come out of the book.  The book is read by student after student with each child starting a new story.  The problem escalates when the characters from all those stories begin to overflow into the rest of the school.  Zach seems to be the only one who understands how the magic works.  He tries to explain to his classmates that they have to finish the stories so the characters will return to the book. By this time, however, the storybook characters do not even want to return to their pages and that contributes to the pandemonium of a missing teacher and extraordinary excitement.

When Miss Smith arrives, she manages to bring order once again by reading each story to its conclusion.  All the characters return to her incredible storybook, and the classroom and school are once again at peace.

Besides the obvious entertaining story, there is another subtle message.  At first, Zach’s expectations for his new teacher are limited, but when he meets her he realizes she is different than what he expected.  And when he gets to know her a little better he understands that she has unique talents to share with her students.  This is a good lesson and reminder for children.  As they get to know new people, there may be differences, but there is also a potential new friend just waiting to share his or her gifts.

This story is a delightful, funny story that children will definitely enjoy.  What problems to unravel!  What details to explore!  What creative ideas to discuss!

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion

Vocabulary:

  • characters, swashbuckling, pounding, adventure, whoosh, leaped, knight, principal, pounced, yank, tumbled, amazement, chaos, screeching, raced, tug-of-war, appeared, ruffled, adjusted, spellbound, swirl, skidded
  • There are many action verbs in this story. Make a list of the action words.  Act them out.  Use them in original sentences.
  • Make another list of nouns from the story. Divide the nouns into three groups: Person, Place, and Thing.

Questions:

  • Why did Zach think Miss Smith seemed different from other teachers?
  • Which story from Miss Smith’s storybook is your favorite? Who is your favorite character?
  • Why did the Principal run out the room? What would you have done after the Principal left the room?
  • Why didn’t anyone listen to Zach’s solution?
  • Why didn’t the characters want to go back into the storybook?
  • Would you like to whoosh back into the book? Which story would you check out?
  • What do you think will happen to the bear peeking out from behind the bookcase shown in the illustration on the last page?

Catholic Resources

  • Saints for students:

“10 Saints Every Student Needs for Going Back to School”  (I found St. John Berchmans’ story inspiring.  He is an excellent role model for children, whether at home or in a classroom.)

 

  • When kids are with their teacher they should remember CCC 2199.  The fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother, because this relationship is the most universal. It likewise concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honor, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors. Finally, it extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it.

This commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons.

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