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Baker, Sheena.

Illustrated by Lynn Johnston. Toronto, Stoddart, c1985. 111pp, paper, $6.95, ISBN 0-7737-5029-0. CIP

Reviewed by Mary Fallis

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

The illustrator of this amusing book, Lynn Johnston, is the creator of the widely read cartoon strip, For Better or Worse, and several cartoon collections. She also is a parent, and this book came out of an interview with her child's teacher. She challenged the teacher to write a book about "the funny things that have happened over the years." Lynn Johnston would do drawings for the book. Sheena Baker was amazed at how much she could remember of her experiences with young children.

The drawings and the commentary complement each other perfectly. There are some exceedingly good anecdotes, and they are well told with just the right tone; not sarcastic, not sardonic, just witty. The book will be an entertaining read for anyone who is exposed to young children at the primary level, and will, of course, have a special appeal to teachers and parents. It is not about textbook educational psychology or the role of educators, though both those features are inevitably below the surface. It is an account of how children act as children as seen by a pragmatic teacher with a sense of humour.

There is a wonderful analysis of what makes a good Grade 1 teacher, and observations on attention getting devices of children, the "Four Eyes" syndrome (children and glasses), and parent/teacher interviews. The interesting concluding section discusses "Who Is Teacher's Pet?" She notes the children's interest in this question. She suggests some candidates she has for the role: the overweight girl who is developing self-confidence, the underachiever who betrays his acute intelligence in oral discussion, the troublemaker who learns to count to ten before he swings at someone. "A teacher prizes these children for the most selfish of reasons: they have the potential to make a teacher feel that teaching is worth while."

Mary Fallis, Prince George, B.C.
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