Gooney Bird and the Room Mother
By Lois Lowry
Ages 6 to 10
Using the drama of the Thanksgiving pageant as background, we are treated to another episode in the delightful world of Gooney Bird Greene. Irrepressible Gooney and her fellow second-graders have a dilemma. They need a room mother - or father. But in this contemporary world, everyone is too busy. Her teacher, Mrs. Pigeon, has issued a challenge. Anyone who can find someone to fill the job will get the coveted role of Squanto in the Thanksgiving pageant.
There is nothing Gooney likes more than a challenge. Earlier in the year, faced with the absurd reality that the only dictionary in the classroom was on the teacher's desk, Gooney headed to the local library dressed in black evening gloves, silver ski pants and an Einstein T-shirt. She "planned her work and worked her plan." Now every student in her class had their own dictionary and a passion for new words.
Gooney is indefatigable in her search for a room mother. In the end she cajoles a most surprising person to fill the post. Her only request is that she remain incognito. You get the idea.
The voices of the children in the class are right on, down to the discussion of smelly socks and annoying siblings. Mrs. Pigeon makes it clear that she intends to stretch this class and they all seem up to the challenge. She is the teacher we all want our children to have. The principal is good-hearted and hysterically inept. His description of first-graders with no front teeth singing, "... he chastens and hastens ..." is bound to bring the lucky read-aloud reader to a laugh-out-loud stop.
The pilgrim hats and feather headbands don't quite fit and Gooney's version of Squanto's dance is a little like a tango (which she is sure he learned while in England). The Thanksgiving story we learned long ago is fraught with error and although Gooney's version is only a little more politically correct, it is a lot more entertaining.
The best part is the room mother surprise and the tune Mrs. Pigeon writes in tribute to the person willing to step forward. Think "Moon River" and imagine second- graders singing "Roooom Moooooother..." Even Andy Williams would laugh.
- Linda Ague, retired Eugene School District librarian