Miss Little's Gift
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Miss Little's Gift

by Douglas Wood, Jim Burke
In a compelling and beautifully illustrated story, award-winning author Douglas Wood tells of the teacher who led him to love reading, in spite of his ADHD.

Douglas is the youngest, smallest, and newest student in his second-grade class, and he doesn’t like reading. He doesn’t like sitting still. And he doesn’t like Miss Little, especially


In a compelling and beautifully illustrated story, award-winning author Douglas Wood tells of the teacher who led him to love reading, in spite of his ADHD.

Douglas is the youngest, smallest, and newest student in his second-grade class, and he doesn’t like reading. He doesn’t like sitting still. And he doesn’t like Miss Little, especially when she makes him stay after class day after day, forcing him to sound out lines and blobs and squiggles when he’d rather be throwing a football. Luckily Douglas likes the pictures in the book Miss Little has chosen for him, pictures that remind him of the lake his family visits every summer. Award-winning author Douglas Wood — the boy in the story — alludes to scenes from The Little Island, the first book that enticed him to read, in a tale that will resonate with many children with ADHD. It is also a heartwarming ode to a special teacher whose gentle persistence changed one little boy’s life forever.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Debby Willett
Written in the first person, this is a memoir of the author's experience from second grade and his struggle in learning to read. Douglas had just moved with his family from Kentucky to Iowa, so he had a Southern accent that set him apart from the other children. They thought he "talked funny." On top of that, he was the youngest, the smallest, and the newest student in Miss Little's class. To make things worse, Miss Little was asking him to read out loud in class! Reading was a struggle for him: the words looked like "lines, blobs, and squiggles." The one place he did not want to be was in school. He did not like school, he did not like sitting still, reading, and, today, he did not like Miss Little. He wanted to be outside playing ball. Miss Little told him she would help him with reading after school. The only time he had stayed after school before was because of getting into trouble. Learning to read did not sound like fun. He thought, ?Rats!' Miss Little was persistent, bringing books she thought he would enjoy. The first one was about an island that reminded him of an island he and his family and granddad used to visit. That caught his attention. Maybe reading would not be so bad. Throughout the seasons, autumn, winter, and spring, Miss Little was determined that he would read. Douglas realized what a gift Miss Little had given to him: her time and care and, even more than that, the gift of reading and books. At the end of the book, Douglas reveals why reading was such a struggle for him and how her help and that of others enabled him to succeed. This book should be in every elementary school class and every home that has a child with the same struggle that Douglas has. He shows that through perseverance and compassion from educators and family, success is possible. Kudos, Doug. Reviewer: Debby Willett
Publishers Weekly
This tribute to the author’s second-grade teacher will resonate with those who struggle with reading. “I didn’t like school. I didn’t like sitting still. I didn’t like reading. And I didn’t like Miss Little.” Wood’s (Nothing to Do) story takes place during one of his numerous after-school sessions with Miss Little, who worked tirelessly “to help me learn how much fun reading could be.” Just as an unfocused student strays from a task, diversions from the classroom setting flesh out some of Wood’s life outside of school, e.g., his playground troubles or trips to a Minnesota lake. Burke (Naming Liberty) keeps his realistic oil paintings fresh with various perspectives, giving readers a bird’s-eye view of the classroom’s checkerboard floor or Wood’s view of the book he’s laboring to read, The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown. A poignant final scene describes the author sending a copy of his first book, Old Turtle, to an elderly Miss Little, shown smiling and clutching it to her chest. Endnotes discuss how the author copes with his diagnosis of ADHD. Ages 4–7. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—This autobiographical picture book chronicles the author's struggles in second grade. Smaller than everyone else, new in town, and speaking with an unfamiliar Southern accent, Wood also found reading to be a chore. Miss Little had him remain after school each day, and while he was at first resentful of the attention, her patience and careful choice of reading material eventually won him over. The story works as a tribute to those unsung teacher heroes whose dedication to their craft and native intuition about children have changed lives, although that aspect of the book may be appreciated more by adults than by youngsters. However, the book also works as a tribute to Golden MacDonald's (Margaret Wise Brown's) The Little Island (Random, 1946). It is that gentle but quietly magical tale that Miss Little wisely used as a teaching tool, and that showed the boy that learning to read was worth his time because the book truly spoke to him. Burke's large, realistic oils, with their rich greens and blues, complement the story nicely. In an author's note, Wood discusses ADHD. While not quite as powerful as Patricia Polacco's Thank You, Mr. Falker (Philomel, 1998), this book is a worthwhile addition to most collections.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Second grader Douglas is not only the smallest person in his new Iowa classroom, he is the youngest. When Miss Little discovers that he does not know how to read, she has Douglas stay after school for extra help; she sees something of promise in him. Even though he would rather be outside playing, he attends daily tutoring. When Miss Little gives him The Little Island, Douglas's interest is sparked and, by sounding out and perseverance, he learns to read. Eventually, little Douglas grows up to be a writer (Old Turtle, illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee, 1992, etc.) and is able to thank the much older Miss Little. Burke's oil illustrations paint many different moods and places as young Douglas imaginatively connects the book he's reading to summers with his granddad on a Minnesota lake even when trapped in the classroom with his teacher. Never heavy handed, Wood shows that the magic of books is how much fun they are to read. An author's note explains his ADHD and provides insight for teachers and youngsters alike. (Picture book/memoir. 4-8)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.90(w) x 11.40(h) x 0.40(d)
AD710L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Douglas Wood is the author of GRANDAD'S PRAYERS OF THE EARTH, a recipient of the Christopher Award, and the best-selling OLD TURTLE. He is also an artist, musician, naturalist, and wilderness guide. He lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Jim Burke has illustrated many celebrated picture books and is the author-illustrator of TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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