cover image Miss Malarkey Won't Be in Today

Miss Malarkey Won't Be in Today

Judy Finchler. Walker & Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8652-4

Despite her name, which suggests deception rather than reliability, grade-school teacher Miss Malarkey really does have the flu. She calls in sick, but then she worries about her students, who must face some member of the substitute teaching staff. Miss Malarkey shudders to think of mousy Mrs. Ungerware, nicknamed ""Mrs. Underwear"" by the class, or frumpish Mr. Lemonjello, whose quavery name matches his ineffectual leadership style. In her robe and bunny slippers, the feverish woman races to work, where her students calmly send her to the nurse's office. Finchler narrates from Miss Malarkey's point of view, while O'Malley overlaps images of the distressed teacher's imagined scenes of classroom mayhem. As in Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10, the collaborators offer a reminder that teachers have lives outside school and indicate Miss Malarkey's dedication to her job. Yet they do a great disservice to fill-in instructors, all of whom are portrayed as inadequate. Though children will likely chuckle, the laughs are at the subs' expense: at story's end, the students prove well-behaved and Miss Malarkey relaxes, but the overriding lesson is that neither adults nor children respect substitute teachers. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)