We Recommend: Awesome Teacher Edition

It's time for We Recommend, in which  readers ask for suggestions, and we try our very hardest to come up with the perfect book in answer (and then you guys come up with even more amazing choices in the comments). Looking for a recommendation? E-mail us! We're very agreeable.

 And just in time for Cathie Black's resignation, we have the first official Teacher Edition of We Recommend.

It's astonishing to me how much of a difference teachers can make in a person's life—in students' lives, in the lives of the students' parents. I feel like as a culture we're in a deep trough of teacher respect, and it pains me. Teaching is a job I could never do (and trust me, I tried); it's a job that swings so wildly between thanklessness and heart-bursting empathy that it's a wonder any of them ever find any equilibrium. My kids' amazing teachers have been vomited on, risked lice, gotten their feet stepped on (both purposefully and not), been screamed at by parents, by kids, by politicians, and still they manage to come in and patiently explain why when you divide, usually the answer will be smaller. I am in awe.

Today's request killed me for a number of reasons: 1) it's a teacher whose students are going to be leaving her school, and she wants to find just the right presents for them. 2) when she wrote the email, she noted that I probably wouldn't post it because "the children aren't technically mine."

See, that's what teachers have to balance all the time: they give their heart and soul and time and energy to these none-too-easy kids all day, and then watch the kids go on and leave them, all the while acknowledging that "they aren't technically mine." Which just speaks to the fact that they feel like they are hers—and they are.

At any rate, let's see if we can help her find books for technically-not-her children:

The first child is a girl. She is 9 years old and she can read at a Grade 3 level. She has been reading the Rainbow Magic books and she can do Magic Treehouse ones without a problem. She is not that kind of child who needs to be told to put the book down and go and play already, but she does enjoy reading. She is quiet until you get to know her, at which point she is strong and silly and stubborn. She likes stuff that is girly but not too girly. She found it hard to make friends when she first came to our school and I worry that it might happen again. I would like to encourage her to be true to herself and not feel that she has to be like somebody else.

The boy is 8 years old and I don't think he is reading chapter books yet, but a book he will grow into (or that somebody else will read to him) would be good. I expect he can read at Frog & Toad level or thereabouts. He likes knights and dragons and animals and adventures. He is all boy but with a tender, sensitive side that is not immediately obvious. I would like to encourage him to hold on that side of himself, and to be strong and gentle and responsible.
All right, girl first: girly but not too girly, trouble making friends, strong and silly and stubborn. Magic Treehouse level book. Hmmm…. I'm going obvious, people.
Odd quirky girls. The hope of friendship. Very sweet and readable. Here's hoping.
Now to the young man, who needs to find something on a Frog & Toad level that allows him to hold onto himself, with dragons and adventures and more. I was thinking of My Father's Dragon, but that seems too hard; I want it to be something he can read on his own. And of course, it sounds like Frog and Toad area already in the mix (I love them!). I'm thinking maybe a comic book? Or better yet, a book with no words at all, and animals, and adventures:
This is a wonderful and strange wordless graphic novel, about a strange flying Korgi dog, and goblins, and mayhem. It's both beautiful and deeply odd. There are a few of them, and when Chestnut was having trouble reading they were like magic for her.
But as we all know, the comments are really where people find answers. So tell us what you think.
(And if you can, hearken back to this post if you have a book for a heavy-reading boy who loves fantasy and needs to be assured you can survive divorce.)

9 thoughts on “We Recommend: Awesome Teacher Edition

  1. For the girl a few other ideas:
    Betsy Tacy
    Bink and Gollie
    All of a Kind Family
    Ellen Tebbits (although she might need someone to read that one with her).


  2. For the girl: A Wrinkle in Time. Maybe slightly above her reading level, but covers the trouble making friends angle and is all around just about the best book ever.
    For the boy: What I immediately thought of is The Neverending Story, but that’s definitely a read-aloud.
    Good luck and thank you for loving your kids. 🙂


  3. Okay, that’s funny, before scrolling down, I thought of almost the exact same two books… though I was thinking of Owly instead of Korgi (which, honestly, is a little weird, but my sweet, tender boy also liked it a lot).
    Since I suspect all the add ons will be for the girl and I think Ivy and Bean is the clear best pick anyway, a couple more boy suggestions…
    A Mouse and Mole book – a little harder to read than Frog and Toad, but also sweet and friendly
    A Henry and Mudge book – ditto the reading level, but also such a “sweet boy” series
    And how about a picture book? Something that has a sweet tale about a boy – like one of Oliver Jeffers’s books, or Iggy Peck, Architect, or… I don’t know… I could go on, I guess.


  4. I haven’t read it in a while, but the boy might enjoy “Me, All Alone, at the End of the World.” At least to encourage the philosophical, introspective aspects.
    Well, heck, both of them might like it, come to think.


  5. Oh! For the boy, perhaps a book in the COMMANDER TOAD series by Jane Yolen?
    What a wonderful gift this teacher is giving.
    I live in amazement at the depth of feeling and thought that goes into each and every student from each and every teacher.


  6. For the girl, I would definitely choose “Harriet the Spy”.
    The boy is harder because I’m not one, I think, but what about “Fudge”? Or “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad Day”?


  7. Thanks everyone for your suggestions and even more so for your kind words! This post made one of my own terrible horrible no-good very bad days a lot better.
    After much deliberation I have decided on Ivy & Bean for the girl, although Clementine was a close second, and Iggy Peck, Architect for the boy, although Oliver Jeffers’s books tempted me greatly, too (but I think that’s what I would have liked rather than what he would have liked.)
    Once again, thank you!


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