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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 had forgotten about this book! Thanks for reminding me (I only vaguely remembered it until I saw the picture of Viola Swamp. Who could forget HER?!)

10.5.2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristina

I loved this book when I was little and completely forgot about it. Thanks for the memory!

10.5.2009 | Unregistered Commentererin

I have so enjoyed your blog. I have watched you from afar, ever since the story in Martha Stewart about your family Christmas in Heber. Your sister, Amy, was in my ward at BYU (thus the name Hellewell caught my attention!), and I've always admired her. Thank you for introducing me to Oliver + S and so many other great ideas. Please accept the "One Lovely Blog" award, details of which may be found on my blog, pickupsomecreativity.blogspot.com

Best wishes,

10.5.2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Oh, this brings back memories.

In Kidergarten, when we left the lunch room one day, they told us our teacher had to leave for the day. We returned to our classroom to find Miss Viola Swamp was our new teacher (actually our real teacher dressed up). I remember being so scared...but it was a wonderful memory

10.6.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I totally forgot about this book! It was one of my favorites when I was young!

Oh, I forgot how much I loved this book. Thanks for reminding me! ;)

oh i love that book. we have it and read it quite often still here. i can remember my dad reading that to me too!

10.8.2009 | Unregistered Commentermeg duerksen

Oh my Gosh! This was one of my favorites growing up, along with the George and Martha series. Whenever I babysit my cousins I always take them to the library for James Marshall books :)

10.11.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

Wow, this post just took me right down memory lane. My dad used to read me this book when I was a kid and do a scary voice for Viola Swamp! I loved this book, he used to crack me up when he read it :)

10.13.2009 | Unregistered Commentergeek+nerd

wow.. really brings back memories.. i may not remember the book but the illustration look so familiar. I almost thought it was a Rahl Dahl book

10.13.2009 | Unregistered Commenterhena tayeb

oh i absolutely loved this book as a child. levar burton did a show when i was young called reading rainbow, and they once had an episode about this book. there was a little animated version of it, if i remember correctly. it was my favourite, and i got so excited if they replayed that episode! thanks for reminding me of this book!

Do your kids love George and Martha as much as mine do?

10.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Halatokoua

Ooooh! I loved that boook when I was little. Must read it to the stepchildren :)

10.22.2009 | Unregistered Commenterleslie

One of our favorite books, too!

10.27.2009 | Unregistered Commenterreadersguide

I too vividly recall this book from my youth! How interesting that Miss Swamp is based on a real teacher. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction!

I look forward to reading it with my 5 year old who just started Kindergarten. I wonder if he'll make the connection about the REAL identity of Miss Swamp!

Thankfully, his own teacher seems to have his class well in hand.

11.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLittle Nutmeg

By the second picture, I thought: I think I remember this book. By the third I knew I had read it. Several times in fact.
Thanks for bringing this memory back.

11.4.2009 | Unregistered Commentererin

My sister-in-law dresses up as Miss Viola Swamp sometimes for her second graders. They really don't know it's her!

I love George and Martha! I used to watch it with my now 15 year old and they've started repeats here in Australia so my baby son can enjoy it too!

11.5.2009 | Unregistered Commenterramona

This totally brought back memories of Reading Rainbow! They made some sort of animated version...I think? Anyway, I just remember how scary Miss Viola Swamp was! What a great book!

11.12.2009 | Unregistered Commenterkate so

I love this book. I read it when I was little and I still have my original copy which I now share with my children. x

06.10.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarisa

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