In this sweetly old-fashioned tale, set in an isolated Colorado mountain town in 1925, 14-year-old Ida is devastated when the teacher of the local one-room schoolhouse must leave before the end of the school year and the school is closed down. Ida wants desperately to graduate from eighth grade, go on to high school, and become a teacher herself. So she decides to secretly take over as the teacher, hoping to prepare the seven other children as well as herself to pass the final exams set by the county examiner. It's terribly hard work, she finds, as she juggles her duties on her family farm with class preparation and trying to make time for her own studies. Ida has the support of her hard-working parents and of Tom, a fellow eighth-grader who is sweet on her. However, she must contend with the hostile head of the school board, who doesn't seem to think a girl needs a high school education, and with obstreperous Herbert, whose father thinks school is a waste of time. This doesn't have the exciting adventures of Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, but it does feature a determined girl who follows her convictions to do what she feels is right, and it's a satisfying tale. It has a nice sense of place, too: Avi himself lives in Colorado and knows the landscape well. For middle school and upper elementary school. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 2001, Harcourt, 154p., $16.00. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
Creative storyteller Avi has another winner on his hands with this compelling tale of a spunky heroine. In 1925 a young girl, living in a remote Colorado town, held very little hope of getting an education. Fourteen-year-old Ida Benson is only a few months away from earning the coveted diploma that will secure her entry into high school when her one-room school is abruptly closed. Afraid that her dream of becoming a teacher is slipping away, Ida convinces the seven other students in grades 1-8 to vote to secretly keep the school open with her as the teacher. The role of teacher that seemed so easy when Miss Fletcher managed the class becomes a test of Ida's confidence and courage. Keeping the students engaged, risking the lose of her friendship with classmate Tom, keeping up with her own studies and farm chores, and eluding the local school board are just some of Ida's problems. As the days progress, Ida learns it takes more than lesson plans to be a good teacher and she proves that she is up to the challenge. This is a satisfying story with a delightful heroine and an appealing cast of supporting characters. Avi blends generous amounts of humor into the brisk paced narrative. Readers will laugh out loud as Ida steers the family's decrepit Model T Ford while shouting, "Brake!" and "Clutch!" to her little brother operating the pedals from the floor. 2001, Harcourt, $16.00. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
It is spring of 1925, a time to enjoy the last months of eighth grade in Elk Valley, Colorado, when the teacher suddenly announces her resignation. The head of the school board then declares that the one-room school will be closed for the rest of the year and will resume when and if a new teacher is found. The news of a lengthened summer break, coupled with the possibility of no school for the foreseeable future, might quicken the pulse of any contemporary young person, but Ida Bidson is saddened by the news. Refusing to abandon an opportunity to complete her eighth grade year and gain admittance to a regional high school, Ida becomes Miss Bidson, assuming teaching duties in the small schoolhouse while struggling with her own studies and responsibilities at home. Simply written and peppered with humor, Avi's latest work of historical fiction is a must for upper elementary and junior high school libraries. Although not as rich in characterization as his earlier novel, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Orchard, 1990/VOYA June 1990), this book sketches an admirable heroine in Ida Bidson. Ida's ambition, tempered by the very real exhaustion that creeps up on her as she assumes the identities of Miss Bidson, teacher, and Ida, daughter, is well described. A thread of girl power runs through the novel as Ida proves wrong the school board head who maintains that girls do not need further education. Student readers might not sympathize with the education-hungry Ida, but her independence and her simple life will intrigue them. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to9). 2001, Harcourt, 160p, $16. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Amy S. Pattee
Gr 3-6-"I'm not so sure a girl needs a high school education," the head of a rural Colorado school board tells 14-year-old Ida Bidson in 1925. The one-room schoolhouse that she and seven other children attend is to be closed early, and if Ida and her friend Tom don't finish eighth grade and take their exams, they'll lose their chance to attend high school. Without a diploma, Ida will never fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher and seeing the world beyond the mountains. After Tom suggests that she could conduct the classes, the secret school commences and is subsequently threatened by a county administrator, the local school board, and an angry parent. Avi ably conveys an evocative sense of life in a poor, remote farming community just before the start of the Great Depression. He skillfully creates interesting, fully developed main and secondary characters. Ida's struggles with the difficulties of being both teacher and student and carrying out her duties at home, as well as her worry about whether or not the students will pass the exams, are suspensefully portrayed. Humorously effective descriptions, as in the Bidsons' old car "hiccuping like a damp firecracker," enliven the sense of hardships. The importance of education and dreaming of one's future are imparted in an entertaining way. This carefully plotted, enjoyable, old-fashioned tale of children taking control of a bad situation is a welcome addition to the literature of empowerment.-B. Allison Gray, South Country Library, Bellport, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A strong-willed young woman pursues her educational dreams in this Andy Hardy-esque tale of a rural school in peril, circa 1925. When Miss Fletcher's mother's illness calls her away from her teaching position at a one-room Colorado schoolhouse, the school board president is transparent in his pleasure at the prospect of closing the school. Fourteen-year-old Ida Bidson is not-closing the school will mean missing the exams that would qualify her to go on to high school, effectively dashing her hopes of becoming a teacher. But all is not lost: the students vote to continue secretly, with Ida as their teacher. While the plot is entirely predictable-the mean school board president finds them out and tries to shut the school down, only to be defeated in a climactic public meeting-the characters are well-developed and appealing. Ida is a diminutive spitfire who steers the family's broken-down car while her little brother crouches on the floor to operate the gas and the clutch; her best friend Tom is a tinkerer whose home printing press saves the day; and even the most obstructive student in school is rendered sympathetically and with depth. Avi (Prairie School, p. 494, etc.) effectively conveys Ida's difficulty in balancing her new role as teacher within her already busy life as student, family member (and therefore helper on the family's sheep farm), and friend, and the details of one-room education are genuinely fascinating. This isn't heavy stuff, but it gives a glimpse into a past where, although the form of education may have been very different from today's, the problems facing the schools and students will be all too familiar to modern readers. (Fiction. 8-12)
"[A] carefully plotted, enjoyable, old-fashioned tale."School Library Journal