105 Ways to Give a Book

What To Do With Gooney Bird?

There are times when it is good to have children.

You may be thinking that I am referring to a time when my youngest hugs me tightly and declares that I am the prettiest mommy ever. Or when my oldest comes home with yet another perfect spelling test.

Yeah, those times are good too.

But what is great about having kids is when you read a book about kids, and you can say with authority, “That would never happen!”

Gooney Bird and the Room MotherThat is how I felt when I read the second page of Lois Lowry’s Gooney Bird and the Room Mother.

The second page is where the entire class of second graders look up the word ennui in their dictionaries. First of all, I have to accept the premise that even Gooney Bird uses the word ennui in a sentence. I can be pretentious, and I never use it. I am going to give the author that. But having an end-of-the-year first grader who still needs to sing the alphabet song to remember if O comes before U, I cannot buy that a room full of second graders could look up the word ennui in the dictionary. No way.

And if that weren’t enough, at the end of the book, Gooney Bird is giving a speech using lots of big words, and the second graders are behind her calling out the meaning just after she says it. My fourth grader couldn’t even use Dictionary.com that fast, so no way. No way.

I liked the first book of Gooney Bird Greene. She was precocious, but not unbelievable. She had a bit of that Pippi Longstocking thing going on. Sure, she was unusual and ahead of the class, but overall it made sense. Her adventures weren’t that unusual, it was her storytelling that made the adventures sound exciting. The first book was about telling a good story.

In this book, she goes to the library to request dictionaries for her whole class. They can’t help her, but they call in a rich patron and let her pitch her idea to him. He loves her moxie and buys dictionaries for everyone. No way.

The Gooney Bird I liked wasn’t overly pretentious and precocious, she just told a good story. And in doing so, taught the class (and the reader) how to tell a good story. I miss that Gooney Bird.

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