There are some books that I talk to students and teachers about every year or perhaps even every week! One of these is Frindle. As I have now said goodbye to my school library for a whole year I am working my way along my own home library shelves and last night I picked up this old favourite.
Surprisingly I have only read this outstanding book once but my memories of the teacher, the classroom, Nick the hero and of course the heartwarming ending have are still so vivid even after fifteen years.
Chapter two opens with the ominous words “Fifth grade was different. That was the year to get ready for middle school. Fifth grade meant passing classes. It meant no morning recess. It meant real letter grades on your report cards. But most of all it meant Mrs. Granger.”
Let’s begin with Mrs Granger. Just like my third grade teacher, Mrs Granger has two outfits – one is gray, one is blue. She never wears pants and even when the weather is extreme she does not sweat but it is her eyes that I especially love. “She was small as teachers go… but Mrs. Granger seemed like a giant. It was her eyes that did it. They were dark grey, and if she turned them on full power, they could make you feel like a speck of dust.”
Andrew Clements clearly loves Mrs. Granger and when he describes her reactions to the ‘war’ between this special teacher and Nick, it is her eyes that give the reader a real insight into what might unfold.
Mrs. Granger is a huge fan of the dictionary. Not as a book but as a place to expand our knowledge of words. As is often the way with my reading this has a link with my real life. Over the Summer I clipped a newspaper column about words from the Sydney Morning Herald by David Astle. He challenges his readers to gain a word each week (Oxford or Wordsmith).
When Nick tries to distract Mrs. Granger by asking where do all the words come from, he does not expect to land himself a homework assignment. He does manage to sidetrack the next lesson with his oral presentation but this is just the beginning of the battle. Nick is an ideas person and this idea seems brilliant. Invent a new word. The new word is Frindle. It is not in the dictionary (yet!) and so Nick finds himself going head to head with the formidable Mrs. Granger but along the way he will learn quite a lot about himself, discover new loyalties including the loyalty of his parents, gain a better understanding of the power of words, and he will even begin to realize the news media can have a huge impact on our lives.
If you have been reading my blog you will know I am a huge fan of Andrew Clements. One more coincidence. I saw the movie Hugo based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret last week – the author/illustrator Brian Selznick did the art work in Frindle – I like connections like this. It is also quite odd and yet very exciting to discover Frindle warrants its own entry in Wikipedia. I will admit that when I finished reading Frindle last night I almost reached for my newest dictionary just to see if it contained this memorable word!