The Year of Miss Agnes
By: Kirkpatrick Hill
Published: Aladdin Paperbacks 2002
This is a very easy read that has a touching story for children and for teachers alike. The Year of Miss Agnes is about a small remote village in Alaska in 1948. The village has one schoolhouse for the dozen children of the village that go to school. The schoolhouse, however, has a revolving door of teachers. The remote life, harsh winters, and smell of fish seems to run teachers off left and right. The book starts off with yet another teacher leaving as fast as she can and the young "Fred" short for Frederika wondering if and when they will get a new teacher. Along comes Miss Agnes, a British lady who has taught in various areas of Alaska. She brings hope, laughter, and the joy of learning to the children. They learn that school can be fun and she starts to teach them to read and write. Fred's older sister who is deaf is even taught sign langauge when before she was not allowed to attend the school. The story takes us through the year and their learning until it is time for Miss Agnes to leave and go back to England.... or does she?
This book has very little plot but more memories of the year told by Fred. The story is mainly about the children's school year and how great Miss Agnes excites them about learning but it also tells a little about what Alaska was like for the children during this time period. It goes through how they the were so sheltered from the rest of the world and they did not even realize what was all out there and that they were apart of something much bigger. Miss Agnes introduces them to maps, history, math, and gives them the hope and dreams that they can be something one day. You also see how they lived. Fred tells us all about her family and how they make a living with sewing and making snowshoes. She also talks about the children leaving at different times throughout the year to help their family and camps for hunting and fishing. We see a small glimpse of what life in Alaska might have been like.
I have two favorite parts of the story. One was when Miss Agnes takes away the literature that they have such as Dick and Jane books because the children can not connect to those characters and have difficulty reading the books. She instead makes paper books about each individual students life. She writes down what they say and makes them into their own story books. This makes the children want to read more and more. They read their own books over and over as well as their friends. Then they start to write their own versions of stories. My other favorite part was when she takes their pictures and the children are amazed at what they look like. They have never looked in a mirror much less a photograph of themselves and this one part really shows how remote life was in the 40's in Alaska.
I also like how Fred and the other children do not complain about their life. They seem to enjoy being with their families and Fred says she has so much to learn in and out of school because she realizes that her grandparents and mother have much to teach her as well.
I really enjoyed this book. I don't know if its because it was about a wonderful teacher that all good teachers would want to become or if it had some glimpse of history in it. Either way I think it would be a great book for upper elementary and for any teacher to read themselves.