The Year Of Miss Agnes

( 18 )

Overview

It's 1948 and ten-year-old Fred has just watched her teacher leave — another in a long line of teachers who have left the village because the smell of fish was too strong, the way of life too hard. Will another teacher come to the small Athabascan village on the Koyukuk River to teach Fred and her friends in the one-room schoolhouse? Will she stay, or will she hate the smell of fish, too?

Fred doesn't know what to make of Miss Agnes Sutterfield. She sure is a strange one. No ...

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2000 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. New book. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 128 p. Audience: Children/juvenile.

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The Year of Miss Agnes

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Overview

It's 1948 and ten-year-old Fred has just watched her teacher leave — another in a long line of teachers who have left the village because the smell of fish was too strong, the way of life too hard. Will another teacher come to the small Athabascan village on the Koyukuk River to teach Fred and her friends in the one-room schoolhouse? Will she stay, or will she hate the smell of fish, too?

Fred doesn't know what to make of Miss Agnes Sutterfield. She sure is a strange one. No other teacher throws away old textbooks and reads Greek myths and Robin Hood. No other teacher plays opera recordings, talks about "hairy os," and Athabascan kids becoming doctors or scientists. No other teacher ever said Fred's deaf older sister should come to school, too. And no other teacher ever, ever told the kids they were each good at something. Maybe it's because Miss Agnes can't smell anything, let alone fish, that things seem to be all right. But then Miss Agnes says she's homesick and will go back to England at the end of the year. Fred knows what this is about: Just when things seem to be good, things go back to being the same.

How Fred and her friends grow with Miss Agnes is the heart of this story, told with much humor and warmth by Fred herself This is a story about Alaska, about the old ways and the new, about pride. And it's a story about a great teacher who opens a door to the world — where, once you go through, nothing is ever the same again.

Ten-year-old Fred (short for Frederika) narrates the story of school and village life among the Athapascans in Alaska during 1948 when Miss Agnes arrived as the new teacher.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Set in rural, post World War II Alaska, this book tells a heart-warming story of the positive changes set in motion by a caring and skillful teacher. The one-room school has had a succession of temporary teachers who start out fresh and cheery and leave in disgust soon thereafter from the children's behavior or the ever-present smell of the fish they eat. Then, Miss Agnes comes, and the children can tell at once that she is different. For one thing, she doesn't start out smiling. But, by book's end everyone is smiling--for they've had the rare and special privilege of being in the presence of a teacher who knows what good things there are to learn. She also knows how best to communicate those things to the whole class and to the individuals. If the tone of this book at times seems preachy, it's balanced by the honest and authentic voice of the narrator, young Fred (short for Frederika,) a native student who guides readers as patiently through the intricacies of Athabascan life as Miss Agnes guides the children through their studies. Dedicated to Sylvia Ashton-Warner, a pioneer of modern educational thought, this book is indeed a tribute to good teaching--wherever it is found. This book would be an excellent addition to classes for teachers in training, but kids will enjoy it, too. It's a good story with a happy ending. 2000, Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster,
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Teaching the children in an Athabascan village in a one-room schoolhouse on the Alaskan frontier in 1948 is not every educator's dream. Then one day, tall, skinny Agnes Sutterfield arrives and life is never the same for the community. Frederika (Fred), the 10-year-old narrator, discovers that unlike previous teachers, Miss Agnes doesn't mind the smell of fish that the children bring for lunch each day. She also stokes the fire to warm the schoolhouse before the students' arrival each morning, wears pants, and speaks with a strange accent. Miss Agnes immediately packs away the old textbooks, hangs up the children's brightly colored artwork, plays opera music, and reads them Robin Hood and Greek myths. She teaches them about their land and their culture, tutors both students and parents in her cabin in the evening, and even learns sign language along with her students so that Fred's deaf sister can attend school. Hill has created more than just an appealing cast of characters; she introduces readers to a whole community and makes a long-ago and faraway place seem real and very much alive. This is an inspirational story about Alaska, the old and new ways, a very special teacher, and the influence that she has over everyone she meets. A wonderful read-aloud to start off the school year.-Kit Vaughan, Midlothian Middle School, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
In 1948 the unorthodox Miss Agnes arrives to teach the children of an Athabascan Indian Village in remote Alaska. Ten-year-old Fred (Fredrika) matter-of-factly narrates this story of how a teacher transformed the school. Miss Agnes's one-room schoolhouse is a progressive classroom, where the old textbooks are stored away first thing upon her arrival. The children learn to read using handmade books that are about their own village and lives: winter trapping camps, tanning moose hides, fishing, and curing the catch, etc. Math is a lesson on how not to get cheated when selling animal pelts. These young geographers learn about the world on a huge map that covers one whole schoolhouse wall. Fred is pitch-perfect in her observations of the village residents. "Little Pete made a picture of his dad's trapline cabin . . . He was proud of that picture, I could tell, because he kept making fun of it." Hill (Winter Camp, 1993, etc.) creates a community of realistically unique adults and children that is rich in the detail of their daily lives. Big Pete is as small and scrappy, as his son Little Pete is huge, gentle, and kind. Fred's 12-year-old deaf sister, Bokko, has her father's smile and has never gone to school until Miss Agnes. Charlie-Boy is so physically adept at age 6 that he is the best runner, thrower, and catcher of all the children. These are just a few of the residents in this rural community. The school year is not without tension. Will Bokko continue in school? Will Mama stay angry with Miss Agnes? And most important, who will be their teacher after Miss Agnes leaves? A quiet, yet satisfying account. (Fiction. 9-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689829338
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 790L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Kirkpatrick Hill lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. She was an elementary school teacher for more than thirty years, most of that time in the Alaskan "bush." Hill is the mother of six children and the grandmother of eight. Her three earlier books, Toughboy and Sister, Winter Camp, and The Year of Miss Agnes, have all been immensely popular. Her fourth book with McElderry Books, Dancing at the Odinochka, was a Junior Library Guild Selection. Hill's visits to a family member in jail inspired her to write Do Not Pass Go.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"What will happen now?" I asked Mamma as we watched the plane take the teacher away.

"Maybe no more school." Mamma twitched her shoulder a little to show she didn't care. Mamma never went to school much, just a few months here and there when her family wasn't trapping or out at spring muskrat camp. She said she hated school when she was little.

The little plane circled our village and then flew low over Andreson's store and waggled its wings at us. That was Sam White, the pilot, saying good-bye to us.

It was Sam White laughing, too. Sam thought nearly everything was funny. He had just landed with the mail and there the new teacher was, waiting for him when he opened the door of the cockpit. She pushed right through the rest of us and started talking before Sam even got to say hello.

"Wait for me, it will only take a minute," she'd said. "Please. Take me back to town. I can't stay in this place for another second."

And he'd waited, and she'd come tumbling out of her little cabin, leaving the door open, leaving everything behind but the two suitcases she carried. It was kind of funny, how she looked. I could tell Sam thought so, the way he winked at us. And then Sam had helped her into the plane and the engine had roared and they were up and over the spruce trees and on their way.

I knew what she would tell Sam. She'd tell how Amy Barrington had got mad and had busted in her door because the teacher bought mukluks from Julia Pitka instead of her. And she'd tell about the big boys who didn't listen. And she'd tell about the fish.

When we brought our lunch to school, it would always be fish. Salmon strips or kk'oontseek, dried fish eggs, to eat on pilot crackers. Or half-dried fish. The oil would get on the little kids' faces and on the desks.

"Heavens, don't you ever eat anything but fish?" And she'd make us go to the basin and try to scrub the fish smell away with lots of Fels Naptha soap, and then with a bad face she'd scrub the oily ring from the washbasin.

That one time, she pushed Plasker away from her desk when she was helping him with his arithmetic.

"You smell of fish," she said, real mad, with her teeth together. Plasker looked scared.

"I was helping my old man bale whitefish," he said. He was pretty nervous, wiping his hands on his pants as if that would help.

The teacher told him to sit down, and she didn't even help him with his arithmetic. There were tears in her eyes. Right there we knew she was not going to stay with us.

We had a whole bunch of teachers since they started the school here, back when I was six. Some left before the year was over. Some stayed one whole school year. But none ever came back after the summer.

Sometimes we could see the look on their faces the first week they were here, cleaning out their little cabin, putting up pictures on the walls. The ones who looked mean from the very first lasted the longest. It was the ones who smiled all the time and pretended to like everything who didn't last.

Maybe they were running out of teachers and we wouldn't get another one.

But in just a week Sam brought us a new teacher.

I was helping Old Man Andreson in the store when Sam came in. It was my job to cross off every day on the calendar with an X so Old Man Andreson wouldn't get mixed up and forget what day it was. And it was the first day of a new month, so I had to tear that last month off, too. October 1, it was now — 1948.

Sam was really big and tall, and when I was little, he always used to lift me up and make my head touch the ceiling. Now I was too big for that, so he just stuck me on top of the counter.

"Fred! I brought you a new teacher. I kidnapped her. What do you think about that?"

I had a bad feeling about that, so I asked him, "Is she nice?"

"Oh-ho," said Sam. "This one's got a little mileage. You kids are not going to get away with nothin'."

That didn't sound like she was going to be nice, so I wiggled down off the counter.

I wanted to go have a look at her.

Copyright © 2000 by Kirkpatrick Hill

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Reading Group Guide

ABOUT THE BOOK

Ten-year-old Fred (Frederika) tells the story of school and village life among the Athabascans in Alaska during 1948 when Miss Agnes arrives to be yet another new teacher.

THEMES

Schools; Teachers; Alaska; Indians of North America

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

• Why didn't Fred's mother think school was important?

• Why do you think teachers always wanted to leave the village?

• What are some differences between Fred's school day and yours? Are there any similarities?

ACTIVITIES

• The book is dedicated to Sylvia Ashton-Warner. Research this person.

• Research the Native American groups of Alaska and chart them on a map of Alaska.

• Study the American Sign Language alphabet. Learn signs for words significant to this story.

This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

Prepared by Diana Enriquez, Quinton Heights Elementary

© William Allen White Children's Book Award

Please visit http://www.emporia.edu/libsv/wawbookaward/ for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 3, 2011

    Understanding a slice of Alaska - Highly recommended

    This book will give you a sliver of Alaska history, capturing the challenges of schools in Alaska given the distinct differences between Alaska Native and Western European cultures. A must read for any educator or future educator considering coming to Alaska!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2003

    Year of Miss Agnes

    I just read The Year of Miss Agnes. Kirkpatrick Hill is a good writer. I just did not like the book. I would recommend it to somebody who would like to read about Alaska, and the places there. The book is about the kids in Alaska that don't like to go to school because they have mean teachers until Miss Agnes comes. The kids think that she is the best teacher until they find out that she is homesick. She left England because of a war and did not go back. The reason I said I did not like the book in the begining is because it is a historical fiction book and I don't like that genre. Now back to the summary! After she did not go back somebody told her the school in town needed a teacher because the other one did not like the kids. That is what the Year of Miss Agnes is about. I did not give away the end so I want you to find out yourself.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2013

    Jk

    This book was read to my 3rd grade class 2 years aho. This is a great book that I would reccomend.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    Great Read!

    My son was assigned this book for his enrichment class! Great message about valuing yur education!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    : l

    OK i gess

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2011

    Okay

    Okay.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2007

    A reviewer

    The Year of Mrs. Agnes is about Fred and her deaf sister Bokko, who doesn't start school until later in the year. And every year a teacher leaves because of the smell of fish! But then another teacher, Mrs. Agnes, comes and she can't smell. The kids thought Mrs.Agnes was only supposed to stay for a year and go back to England. But when they come back from fish camp, they see something very exciting!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2006

    a good book

    This book is o.k., but it is pretty good. If your going to read this book you'll like it a little!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2003

    Year of Miss Agnes

    The teachers of this small village aren't very satisfied. But, when Miss Agnes comes along that is about to change. She is Fred's dream teacher and just when she thought things could not get better, Miss Agnes decides to leave. Find out what will happen to Fred and her heart broken class!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2002

    Miss Agnes was a terrific teacher!

    Miss Agnes took what it had to really teach "hard to reach children" in a romote town in Alaska. I learned a lot about Alaskan customs (1940's)and ways.I loved the way a deaf child was included in the classroom and all the children learned sign language along with her with pride! This story was believable because it was written by a teacher-author that taught in an Alaskan school house for many years herself.

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    Posted February 7, 2012

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    Posted September 29, 2013

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    Posted October 17, 2011

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    Posted April 23, 2011

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    Posted April 18, 2014

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    Posted January 16, 2012

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    Posted February 25, 2013

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    Posted January 17, 2012

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