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Monday, January 31, 2011

Me and My Teaching Partner

When I finish a really good book, I want to tell somebody. During the school year, that somebody resides across the tiled squares of our small shared office in daylight hours. Inevitably on Mondays, we arrive with books in our bags, titles we have read over the weekend and need to share with each other. She had one this morning that did not live up to her expectations nor the reviews she had read. I brought in one similar to that. But I also shared a fantastic short novel by Janet S. Wong: Me and Rolly Maloo.

A school story with a plausible troubling issue, the book draws in readers with the speech bubbles of characters who contemplate each other on the opening pages of the part graphic novel/part traditional novel. In short, Rolly Maloo and her friend Patty Parker want their smart classmate, Jenna Lee, to help them with math...and then proceed to ask her for answers on a district math test. Rumors and lies abound until Mrs. Pie, their wise teacher, helps the truth rise out of the mire. The method of revelation and the subsequent characters' thoughts play out perfectly in the author's carefully planned narration.

Being able to talk about books and our reactions to them is one of the many blessings of having two librarians who serve a large school population. Though we do not always have the same reactions to and impressions of books, our shared comments provide depth to our collection development, as well as authentic book discussions like we want our students to experience.

Interestingly, she talked with a fifth grade teacher last week who wanted to share books with students to demonstrate that people of all ages, social groups, and cultural backgrounds have voices in literature. Me and Rolly Maloo is a perfect example. Each of the schoolchildren is of a different ethnic group, yet that is not the focus of the controversy. Their voices ring true to their situations.

I am hoping my cherished library lady/teacher partner has time to read this book after tonight's PTA meeting so we can exchange ideas in the morning.


  1. There are so many rewards that come from reading. Most definitely, one is the opportunity for discussion.

  2. I read it! OK, not after the PTA meeting, but it sure was hard to put this book down and come in to work this morning :-). Ah, the pleasure of sharing book discoveries!

  3. Another book to add to my list...and then I can discuss it with both you, and your esteemed (and artistically talented) teaching partner!

  4. What a lovely post! I am so impressed by the depth of your reading (and flattered by your review). A little boast: I'm very pleased to say that ME AND ROLLY MALOO is one of this year's Honor Books for the Horace Mann Upstanders Award (for a book in which a character stands up for what's right). In this book, there are two such people: the friend Shorn L (a budding detective), and Mrs. Pie (a dedicated and compassionate teacher).

    Thanks again, Julie!