Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Lois Lowry has created a memorable character in second-grader Gooney Bird. Gooney Bird Is So Absurd is the fourth book in the series (it came out in Spring of 2009), and kids will find her addicting. She IS absurd, and lovable and smart and odd and utterly charming.
Gooney Bird is a second-grader at Watertower Elementary School, and her teacher is Mrs. Pidgeon. It's January and threatening to snow, and Mrs. Pidgeon is ready to embark on the poetry unit. The atmosphere in the classroom is warm and supportive under her delightful guidance. She's the kind of teacher we all hope our kids will have; she has an innate understanding of what makes each kid tick.
Lowry does an admirable job in making all of the students in the class come to life. There's Tyrone who often speaks in rap, Felicia Ann who is missing her front teeth and so speaks with a lisp, Malcolm who laments the day his mother had triplets and Keiko who is sensitive to everything. The kids seem to genuinely care for each other, idiosyncrasies and all.
But it is Gooney Bird who steals the show. She is unique in a class full of unique personalities. Her outfits lean towards thrift store chic, and she's proud of her good buys. Since it's January and it's cold, Gooney Bird decides that she needs a brain-warming hat. So she puts a pair of frilly underpants on her head, pulls her pigtails through the leg holes, and voila she's instantly smarter. At first the kids think it's a little strange, but the idea spreads across the classroom and soon all of them are wearing their panties atop their noggins. The book is primarily centered around the poetry unit, and the little things that happen in the classroom during this time period. When something sad happens to Mrs. Pidgeon, it's Gooney Bird who rallies the class together for the perfect gift (and a perfect ending to the poetry unit).
The reading level is listed at 9 to 12 year olds, but I think younger children will enjoy hearing it read aloud. One of the bi-products of Gooney Bird is Absurd is that poetry is sprinkled throughout the book. Along the way readers will learn about haiku, couplets and limericks and not even realize that they're learning.
There are three other Gooney Bird books: Gooney Bird Greene, Gooney Bird and the Room Mother and Gooney the Fabulous. Make it a summer challenge to read all four. You won't regret it.
BookNosher Activity: You may discover your child has a new-found love of poetry after reading Looney Bird is So Absurd. The Reading is Fundamental (RIF) website has a fun poetry page that will have your kids creating poems on the computer. It's called Poetry Splatter, and is a good way to let kids explore their inner poet. My guess is that after creating poems on Poetry Splatter, they'll put the computer aside and want to create their own poems from scratch.