As I’ve mentioned before, I work in the children’s section of a public library. Besides being an incredible job that allows me to live out so many of my personal and professional goals, the sheer volume of books at my disposal ensure that I’ll never run out of source material for this blog. I am so lucky to be surrounded by rows and rows of quality juvenile literature that I can then share with my readers.
If you have access to a library, I urge you to visit as often as possible. And if you already frequent the library, I encourage you to find out if there is friends of the library group operating at your branch. Library friend groups will look different from location to location but their mission is simple; to support the local library through service and philanthropy.
At my branch, our friends group runs a bustling bookshop that sells donated books given by community members. They then pour the funds made from sales back into the library by purchasing things like new books for the library’s collection, crafting supplies for children’s and adult’s programming and equipment like 3D printers.
Most recently, a large collection of read-alongs were purchased for our branch by our Friends. Read-alongs are picture books and chapter books that look like their non-audio counterparts but also include a recording of the book. Readers can choose to follow along with the audio reading or allow it to read to them. We keep this collection near our reference desk so I get to see how excited the children are to explore the books.
My child is no exception and we have recently been enjoying the Classroom 13 series, written by Honest Lee and Matthew J. Gilbert. Geared towards readers ages 6-10, this fun and funny series follows unlucky schoolteacher Ms. Linda LaCrosse and her 28 students as they navigate situations that at first glance may seem enviable but nearly always end in disaster or disappointment. The chapters are short and easy to read which help ensnare reluctant readers who may be reading the non-read-along version of the books.
The first book in the 6-volume series, The Unlucky Lottery Winners of Classroom 13, follows Ms. Linda and the gang as they evenly spilt a 28-billion-dollar lottery fortune. Each chapter is devoted to one character and outlines what they choose to do with their portion of the winnings. Of course, no one gets it quite right, though some have better luck than others.
Well, I suppose the one student who banked her billion bucks for her future education may have made the best choice. Others suffered their beautiful new homes being swallowed by sinkholes, finding out they were deathly allergic to cats after creating a feline island sanctuary and in the case of one child, having their entire fortune stolen by their parents, who never returned!
In the end, everyone’s lives return to normal, with no one having really learned from their short-lived experience as billionaires. This is a great opportunity to talk with your child about how they would spend their money, if they found themselves with unexpected riches. You might just learn something new from their responses, as well as maybe being surprised by your own. Then again, they may just reply that they’d never have to go to school again. I may have heard that one myself!
In the second book, The Disastrous Wishes of Classroom 13, Ms. Linda’s streak of terrible luck continues when she’s stung by bees on the way to school. On the other hand, she finds an old oil lamp that just happens to house a djinn… not a genie, thank you very much! The djinn tells the class that he will grant each child one wish. But he warns them to be very careful what they wish for. After all, Ms. Linda accidentally wasted her wish by saying she wished her lip was no longer swollen. And given the poor decisions many of the kids made with their lottery winnings in the first book, I think it’s safe to assume there are plenty of missteps taken in this installment, as well.
The remaining four books follow a similar format, with Ms. Linda and the children navigating fame and fortune (and a greedy talent agent) in The Fantastic and Terrible Fame of Classroom 13. Will they be able to keep fame from going to their heads? And how will the children handle superpowers in The Awful Superheroes of Classroom 13? The title alone is enough to tell readers that the children likely won’t handle great power and great responsibility very well.
The silliness ensues through the holiday season as the class becomes their Halloween costumes in The Happy and Heinous Halloween of Classroom 13. Between vampires, werewolves and zombies, how will everyone survive to celebrate Thanksgiving?! Somehow, they must because in the final book of the series, a field trip gone wrong results in the children turning into reckless, ruthless rulers in The Rude and Ridiculous Royals of Classroom 13.
This series will hook children who are fans of the Wayside School books, Captain Underpants and the My Weird School series. The focus on multiple characters allows readers to find themselves in the children and identify with some of the crazy situations they find themselves in. My son tends to love silly stories and with him nearing 10 years old, I’m keen to help him hang on to that part of his personality as long as possible. And I’ll be honest, these read-alongs have been a lifesaver for me because there are many nights when I am exhausted by bedtime but I want to keep up our ritual of bedtime reading. My son loves them because the read-along aspect makes them a novelty.
I would recommend this series for reluctant readers, kids who love silly stories and characters, those who love to be read to and for those who enjoy reading series. Parents will enjoy the books because they teach subtle lessons despite the silliness of the source material. Readers have the opportunity to out themselves in the characters shoes so they can think about what they’d do if they were in a similar situation. I hope you and your readers will enjoy getting to know Ms. Linda and the children of Classroom 13 as much as we have!