A few weeks ago, I stated this thing with my 2nd-5th grade classes where I read them an old, classic children’s book or two and then we discuss the merits and flaws of the books. After we discuss them, they vote on whether they think each book is a classic or not.

I am finding that it’s very hard to find a book that they won’t think is a classic. Usually they are enthusiastic about them all, and with the exception of a few fifth grade classes , they almost always vote a book a classic.

Sometimes, we read books that a lot of them have never seen. Not this week. This week, I picked two that I was sure that most of them had heard. I wasn’t wrong. A majority of all of my classes knew both of these well.

Miss Nelson is Missing

What a brilliant book! Even in 2019, thirty-four years after it’s publication, I still feel like this book is one of the best. I read it to kids pretty frequently. Allard and Marshall pretend to discreet, but  are actually pretty obvious. They found a way to tell a kid exactly what is going on, while making the kid feel like they figured it all out on their own.

For fun, I asked a lot of the kids when they figured out that Miss Nelson was reallyViola Swamp. Most of them said that they didn’t realize it until the end. There were very few who caught on early, (and even fewer who I actually believed ;)) It’s so well done, and the delivery at the end is perfect.

From my point of view this was the most popular book that I’ve read in this series, so far. When I asked, “Who doesn’t think this book is a classic today?” In every class, there were very few hands up, if any.

The Giving Tree

Oh, The Giving Tree. You either love it or you hate it, right? I’ve talked to so many adults who despise this book, and so many kids who love it.

I don’t really know how I feel about it. I go back and forth. I was very interested to see what my students thought. I figured that for sure, there would be some classes who voted against it, maybe even a couple. No such luck. Even after we discussed how selfish the boy was and how unhealthy the relationship seemed, every single class voted it a classic. I was honestly a little disappointed that I only really got positive feedback from the kids.

This got me thinking. Maybe kids don’t mind the take-everything-and-give-very-little-back relationship the boy has with the tree because it doesn’t seem that strange to them at this point in their lives. Most of them have the exact same dynamic going on with their parents. The  book was written for kids, after all, and Shel Silverstein really seemed to get kids. I liked this book myself, as a kid, and didn’t have second thoughts about until much later.

Things the kids liked about it: The illustrations, the story, how nice the tree was, how they got to be together in the end, and lastly, the scary Shel Silverstein photo on the back of the book.


Next up: The House on East 88th Street.