cover image A Letter to My Teacher

A Letter to My Teacher

Deborah Hopkinson, illus. by Nancy Carpenter. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-86845-0

Hopkinson’s moving epistolary text and Carpenter’s emotionally incisive flashbacks chronicle the evolving relationship between an impulsive second grader and her life-changing teacher. Never doubting the girl’s potential, the unnamed teacher holds the rambunctious student’s attention with a steady, reassuring gaze and deep reserves of empathy and patience. Those same qualities are at work in the storytelling: rather than building to a single dramatic epiphany or declaration, Hopkinson and Carpenter (who previously teamed up for Fannie in the Kitchen and Apples to Oregon) allow the girl’s trust and confidence to grow little by little. There are setbacks—the girl’s misbehavior during a field trip prompts the normally even-tempered teacher to describe her as “exasperating” (“That night my mom helped me look it up in the dictionary”). But by the end of the school year, the child has become an avid student and class leader. And by the end of the story, which returns to the present day, readers will discover just how powerful a great role model can be. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)