The SOS File

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Overview

Have you ever needed to call 9-1-1, but you couldn't get to a phone? Have you ever needed to run, but your legs were like spaghetti? Have you ever needed to yell "help!" but your throat was dry with fear?

Laugh, cry, and panic with Mr. Magro's class as they listen to twelve exciting SOS tales

Throughout the year, twelve of Mr. Magro's students have written about their biggest emergencies and tucked them into the SOS file. Now it's time to read ...

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Overview

Have you ever needed to call 9-1-1, but you couldn't get to a phone? Have you ever needed to run, but your legs were like spaghetti? Have you ever needed to yell "help!" but your throat was dry with fear?

Laugh, cry, and panic with Mr. Magro's class as they listen to twelve exciting SOS tales

Throughout the year, twelve of Mr. Magro's students have written about their biggest emergencies and tucked them into the SOS file. Now it's time to read the stories out loud and try to guess whose contribution has not earned extra credit. Sit back and enjoy twelve humorously illustrated stories that are sure to keep your heart thumping.

The SOS File is a 2005 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

The students in Mr. Magro's class submit stories for the SOS file about their biggest emergencies, and then they read them aloud for extra credit.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Newbery winner Byars and her two daughters, with whom she collaborated on My Dog, My Hero, offer a collection of fictional students' responses to their teacher's request for stories about times that they needed to call for help. Unfortunately, what emerges is a mishmash of a dozen tales, not all of them sticking to the theme. For instance, a boy whose parents are divorced and who considers himself a complete loser on the baseball field tells a tale that builds to a poignant moment when he hits the winning home run during the first game his father ever attended, but, as he writes in conclusion, "I didn't need an SOS after all." Other stories, in adhering to the childlike voice of the student "authors," detract from the momentum of the tale, such as an account of two girls' calamitous test ride on their homemade go-cart (after the narrator wipes out, injured, a kid claps-"This wasn't exactly the applause I was looking for"). The highlight is "Miracle on Main Street," in which a girl who was found as in infant in a dumpster recounts how she and her adoptive parents tracked down the man who rescued her. Though inconsistent, these anecdotal accounts-embellished by Howard's charcoal-and-wash illustrations, appropriately reflecting the mood of each piece-make for short takes that may well boost the confidence of reluctant readers. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Betsy Byars and her two daughters have teamed up to create a simple chapter book using the theme of small disasters that happen to children. Mr. Margo invites his students to write about an SOS experience with the promise of extra credit for those that do. Each of the chapters consists of a child's adventure. Marcie tells about ending up with her arm in a sling and Band-Aids on her legs when the brakes on her Pink Panther go-cart fail to work. Randy relates his fears about playing baseball and his less than distinguished record which became an even bigger problem when his dad finally decides to come to a game. Jerry confesses to eating all forty of the chocolate bars he was supposed to sell for the baseball fundraiser. Abraham Lincoln saves Augustus' life when a bear appears in the woods. And so the stories continue. Mr. Margo surprises the class with his own SOS experience at the end. Howard's black and white line drawings capture the emotions of the tales and add to the humor. 2004, Henry Holt, Ages 6 to 8.
—Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Mr. Magro asks his students to write about a big emergency, for "fun and extra credit," and the 12 stories that follow are the result of that assignment. (All but one receives extra credit.) The situations described are as varied as the personalities that emerge as the children read their stories aloud. Some tales are poignant, others are humorous; all are as credible as the characters sketched. Some youngsters are determined; with the help of her mom, Joy Frazure tracks down the man who saved her as an infant, just to thank him. Others demonstrate quick thinking or the ability to rethink opinions: Abe Lincoln's words save Augustus T. Bruewhiler III from a bear during a camping trip while a goat helps Robbie Robinson change his mind about mean Mrs. Meany. The final story-the one that didn't get extra credit-by Anonymous reveals how an astute teacher helped shape a boy who had trouble learning and had to repeat first grade. It's Mr. Magro's own inspiring story. Lighthearted sketches enhance characterization and add to the already open format. Children's ages are not specifically mentioned, broadening the appeal of this engaging, plausible, and highly readable collection of anecdotes.-Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mr. Margo gives his class the opportunity to earn extra credit by writing a personal essay for the "SOS File." Twelve students submit essays, and Mr. Margo tells them eleven will get extra credit. Wondering who didn't get the promised credit, they each read their stories about times when they would have liked to have put out an S.O.S. One student met a bear; another swam with sharks; one lost his favorite hat; and another was left in a Dumpster as a baby. But who's not getting credit? The mother and daughters trio behind My Dog, My Hero (2000) are back with a more creative conceit to tie stories together. Though some of the children don't always sound like children, this collection will be a hit with its target audience and is perfect for encouraging reluctant readers. Howard's illustrations are spot-on funny and frightening as usual. An excellent package. (Fiction. 7-11)
From the Publisher
"The mother daughter trio behind My Dog Hero are back with a more creative conceit to tie stories together. . . .this collection will be a hit with its target audience and is perfect for encouraging reluctant readers. Howard's illustrations are spot-on funny and frightening as usual. An excellent package." —Kirkus Reviews

"[T]he stories will inspire thought and discussion about the different kinds of crises that may touch our lives. The accessible format, lively tellings, and diverse characters may also appeal to reluctant readers older than the target middle-grade audience." —Booklist

"[E]ngaging, plausible, and highly readable collection of anecdotes." —School Library Journal

Additional Honors:

Junior Library Guild Selection

Oregon’s Beverly Cleary Children's Choice Award

Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List 

Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award Master List 

Great Stone Face (New Hampshire) Children’s Book Award Master List 

Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award Master List 

Nebraska Golden Sower Award Master List 

Illinois Monarch Award Master List 

West Virginia Children's Book Award Master List

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781627790970
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 5/1/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 163,511
  • Age range: 7 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Betsy Byars is a recipient of the Newbery Medal, and her two daughters, Laurie Myers and Betsy Duffey, are also well-known authors of a number of successful middle-grade novels. Their first collaboration was the popular My Dog, My Hero, illustrated by Loren Long. Ms. Myers's previous book with Holt is Lewis and Clark and Me.

Arthur Howard, an illustrator of note, is best known as the illustrator of the Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant. He has also written and illustrated three picture books of his own, including When I Was Five, an ABA Pick of the Lists. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

The SOS File

Have you ever needed to call 911, but you didn't have a phone? Have you ever needed to run, but your legs were like spaghetti? Have you ever needed to yell "help!" but your throat was dry with fear?

For fun and extra credit write your story and put it in this file.

Mr. T. Magro

"Good morning, class."

"Good morning, Mr. Magro."

"Well, today's the day. The file is full. Everyone has turned in an SOS for the file."

"Mr. Magro, did you read them?"

"I did."

"Which was your favorite?"

"I liked them all."

"Did we get extra credit?"

"Yes."

"All of us?"

"Well . . . all except one."

"Who didn't get extra credit, Mr. Magro?"

"Who?"

"Calm down, class. You will each have a chance to read your story, and I will read the last one. Now, sit back and enjoy the first SOS."

Mrs. Meany

by Robbie Robinson

The old lady across the road is named Meany. Mrs. Meany. And she sure lives up to her name. She's the meanest woman in the county, in the state, in the world. Everybody said so.

Now, I've got a goat named Billy. Here's how I got him. My friend Tom's family was moving to the city, and you can't have goats inside the city limits, so he asked me if I wanted Billy. I said, "I'll ask Mom."

rd

My mom's a writer. I always wait till she's writing to ask for things, because she says, "Yes, but don't bother me."

So I went in and said, "Mom, can I have a goat?" She said, "Yes, but don't bother me," and when she came downstairs an hour later, there was Billy.

"Where did that come from?" she asked. "Mom, it's my goat. You said I could keep him."

"I did not."

"You did! I said, 'Mom, can I have a goat?' and you said, 'Yes, but don't bother me.'"

"I'll tell you one thing," Mom said. "You better keep him out of Mrs. Meany's yard. You don't want to get on the wrong side of Mrs. Meany."

I said, "I didn't know Mrs. Meany had a right side. I'll keep him fenced up in the back yard," and that's what I did.

Only, one hot summer day the gate was left open, and the next time I looked out the front window, Billy was disappearing into Mrs. Meany's cornfield.

I ran across the road. Then I pretended to be just strolling along, calling quietly, "Billy, come on, Billy. Do you want to get killed, Billy?"

I could hear rustling deep in the field, and I knew I had to go in after him. I slipped inside one of the rows.

It was August, and the corn was way over my head. It was like being in a forest, and I kept going deeper and deeper. I'd hear a noise over there, and I'd go that way. A noise over here, and I'd go here. Pretty soon I stopped. I didn't hear anything.

This was a big cornfield. I was in the middle of it, and not only couldn't I find my goat, I was lost. It was like being in a maze. This is how rats must feel.

At last I heard a noise.

"Billy, Billy! Over here!"

The noise got closer.

"Over here, Billy! But keep quiet or the old hag will-"

At that moment the corn parted, and there stood the old hag. We looked at each other, and all of a sudden the corn just started spinning around me. I felt like I was in a whirlpool, twirling down a drain of green water.

I knew what was happening. All the men on my dad's side of the family have been known to n0 faint. When Mama gave birth to me, it was Dad who passed out. My uncle fainted in the army, right in front of the general. Granddad fainted watching eye surgery on TV.

I didn't stay out very long-not as long as I'd have liked. When I came to, I could hear Mrs. Meany's voice. She was talking to somebody. "Well, do you think he needs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?"

"Baaaa."

She was talking to the goat. About me! About mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

I opened my eyes fast.

Mrs. Meany said-still talking to the goat-"Do you think he can get up by himself, or does he need a hand?"

Billy said, "Baaaa."

I struggled to my feet.

"Follow me," Mrs. Meany said to the goat.

And she led the way out of the cornfield. I followed. When we got out to the road, she said to Billy, "Now you keep him out of my corn, you hear?"

Billy said, "Baaaa."

I said, "Thank you," and Billy and I went home.

I never will forget that day-my SOS day-because of three things:

1. I stopped being afraid of Mrs. Meany,

2. I learned that goats know what's being said to them, and

3. I passed out like a man.

Held Back

by Anonymous

I don't know a worse SOS than being held back in first grade. And I was.

Being held back was humiliating because I was big. Worst of all, my little sister was across the hall in first grade. She was already ahead of me in reading. Everybody was.

Well, the first week our teacher, Mrs. Kincaid, had us draw pictures of our families and sign our names. She handed back the papers, calling out the names: "Sara . . . Bobby . . . Freddie . . . Mot." She stopped and read it again. "Mot." No one came up to get the paper. "Do we have a Mot?"

Everyone laughed. Finally all the papers were handed out, and I didn't have one. Mrs. Kincaid gave me a smile and came back and put the paper on my desk.

When the bell rang, Mrs. K stopped me and asked me to stay for a minute. I stayed. She complimented me on my picture but didn't say a word about my name.

She had figured out right away what was wrong—I was dyslexic. Words looked backward to me. We worked together. She started out by letting me draw. I was good at that. Then she had me label the pictures. Pretty soon I was doing cartoons with dialogue.

Because of Mrs. Kincaid, not only did I pass first grade but I was able to finish high school and college. I even became a teacher. Now, when I sign my cartoons I always sign them Mot.

"It's you Mr. Magro! You were held back in first grade."

"Yes."

"I didn't know you were held back."

"I was."

"I didn't know you could be a teacher if you were held back."

"You can be anything you want if you work hard."

"And I guess you don't get extra credit because you're the teacher."

"Right. I give all the credit to Mrs. Kincaid, who answered my SOS."

Text copyright © 2004 by Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey, Laurie Myers

This text is from an uncorrected proof.

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Table of Contents

The Day Arrives 3
The Pink Panther 7
Three Strikes, You're Out 12
The Chocolate SOS 19
A Bear Tale 25
Mrs. Meany 32
Wanted: SOS 37
Miracle on Main Street 41
Shark Food 48
Identity Crisis 54
White Lightning 59
Pumpkin Man 64
Held Back 70
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