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this week's library book

We just returned from our first Back to School night, so this week's library book seems especially appropriate for this time of year. Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard and James Marshall. (And I just realized that Mr. Marshall is also the creator of another favorite series of mine, George and Martha.)

Miss Nelson is a sweet soft spoken teacher who has lost control of her classroom. The children don't obey any of the rules, they shout in class and won't sit in their seats, so Miss Nelson does not come back to school the next day.

"Great!" say the children. "Now we can really be terrible!" They wad up their spit balls and start making paper airplanes. But then their new substitute teacher arrives.

Miss Viola Swamp is a different kind of teacher, mean and impatient. She barks orders at the children. "Where is Miss Nelson?" they ask. "Never mind that," yells Miss Swamp. "Open those arithmetic books!"

After a few days of Miss Swamp's harsh tutelage, the children are desperate for Miss Nelson. They try to find out what has happened to their sweet teacher. And a few days later, she returns. Happy to have their teacher back, the children are now perfectly behaved. Only Miss Nelson knows the real identity of Miss Viola Swamp, but smart kids who read this book sometimes figure it out as well.

I read in this interview that the character of Miss Viola Swamp is based on a teacher that illustrator James Marshall had as a child. Mr. Marshall recalls... "When Harry (the author) and I were doing Miss Nelson is Missing, we devised the scenario so that a wicked substitute arrives on the scene. And Harry said, “I want you to draw the most awful teacher you ever had.” Well, it took me five seconds to get Viola Swamp down. She’s the spitting image of my second grade teacher, who is still alive in San Antonio, Texas. In April I saw her in the supermarket in San Antonio. I was pushing a cart and around the corner came Viola Swamp! And I felt my knees weaken. There she is! She has seen the book and she finds it very amusing, so I don’t feel too terrible." So teachers, watch out!

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Reader Comments (41)

I absolutely loved this book when I was a kid. It scared me to death to ever cause trouble in school. Thanks for the memory :)

10.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterCopyStrands

We just returned this to the library and my son absolutely loves the book!

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Noeske

What a great book, my second grade teacher was awful, she used to mock me in front of the entire class for being left-handed. Ugh, glad that is over.

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Oh, does this bring back memories! I loved this book as a child- thanks for reminding me of it... it's now on my growing book list for my little girl.

10.2.2009 | Unregistered Commenterchelsea

I've always, always loved this book!

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea

I was so excited to read this post. I teach third grade and I can't wait to tell my class that James Marshall is from San Antonio, since that is where we live! They will get a real kick out Viola Swamp being a "real" person.

10.2.2009 | Unregistered Commentercamala

Oh my goodness... I used to love this book when I was little~ I must go see if my library has a copy!

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusannah

Oh goodness, I love this book! As a teacher, I worry that some student of mine will write a scary book about me :)

Truly, one of the most fun books of all time....

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAli

This was my favorite book in first grade, it helped that my teacher's name was Miss Nelson. Great Book.

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

Your library book features are my favorite part of this blog. I used to LOVE this book!

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterMari

This book was on the great list even before my school-age eyes saw it on Reading Rainbow. Those were awesome days - when you were one-up on Levar Burton. Thanks for the memories!

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarly

I read this to my first graders last week and they LOVED it. They made me read all three!

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanssen

I completely loved this boook as a kid, hadnt thought of it in years, but when I saw it at a local thrift shop, I had to buy it for my daughter. I'm so eager to share with her the things I loved as a kid. Thing is, she's only three and is scared by Ms. Swamp! So it's getting shelved. I'm sure she'll love it in time!

10.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

This was one of my favorites as a child. I'm a speech-language pathologist and I recently used this book for some of my therapy sessions. Kids still love it!

10.3.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

I had totally forgotten about this book from my childhood! Thank you for reminding me - it is a must buy now for our Godson.

10.3.2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeardeedle

Just one more chiming in, but I had to - we LOVE Miss Nelson Is Missing! I can't count how many times I've enjoyed it as a child or as a parent. Also, I had never realized the George and Martha connection - another perennial favorite. Cooincidentall, my four year old and I were reading G&M just last night, at bedtime. Great, great book choice!

10.3.2009 | Unregistered CommenterKateB

I will definitely have to pick this book up for my daughter Chloe. I really love your photography, by the way.

10.3.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

My first year of teaching, I was 23, soft spoken, and I taught all 9th graders in 5 different classrooms.
It took me a while to convince a number of my classes that they could not walk all over me. There were quite a few times when I wished I could have done what Miss Nelson did.
I love that book.

10.4.2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreta

OMG!!! Memories!~ I read this book so many times when I was a kid~

10.5.2009 | Unregistered CommenterTruly Smitten

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