What does a classroom of rowdy kids do when a substitute teacher shows up? Get more rowdy, right? That is precisely the thought process behind Miss Nelson's class when she goes missing; however, the substitute teacher does not stand for it and quickly has the class seated and doing their reading, writing, and arithmetic. The students see in hindsight how kind and gentle Miss Nelson was with them, and they start to miss her terribly. They even go to Detective McSnogg to help find her! The hand-drawn and water-colored illustrations change from page-to-page adding visual anticipation to the story. Some pictures fill the whole page with a colorful scene, while others are divided into bubbles on the page separated by a sentence, or rows of smaller square pictures, like school pictures in a yearbook. The pictures also include fun information on the blackboard in the background which is accurate if observed closely, such as math problems and capital cities of the world.
This story is a great introduction to discussing consideration and how to treat adults - particularly teachers - with your child. The students take advantage of Miss Nelson's kindness and decide to misbehave in her class, showing her no respect. One day, Miss Nelson was suddenly replaced with a substitute teacher who suspiciously resembles the Wicked Witch of the West. The substitute had a large nose, a mole on her chin, and an ugly black dress. Even the substitute's name - Miss Swamp - is unpleasant! Miss Swamp's hard-nosed rules help the students realize how good they had it with Miss Nelson and they regret not showing her more consideration and respect. There are hints throughout the book that Miss Swamp is actually Miss Nelson in disguise, so see if your child figures it out. If they don't figure it out the first time you read the book, see if they can find the clues the next time you read it.
My five year-old niece, Emily, was very interactive with this book. She was in a silly mood when we sat down to read anyway, so when she saw the children in the book goofing around, she did the same. She wanted to share stories from her own classroom and how nice her teacher is. I listened and then redirected her to the story. By the end of the book, Emily seemed to have gotten the moral of the story when she told me, "Auntie, I'm glad I'm always nice to my teacher. We're friends!"