word craft


One School, One Book

The Secret School
The Secret School

I recent­ly received a let­ter from an ele­men­tary prin­ci­pal and media spe­cial­ist who want­ed to let me know that their school did a “one book” read­ing pro­gram that, to my delight, used one of my books, The Secret School. All 235 fam­i­lies and staff mem­bers were giv­en a copy of the book. “We read the book togeth­er fol­low­ing a read­ing cal­en­dar, did triv­ia, and activ­i­ties, and end­ed with a pop­corn par­ty … Every school day dur­ing the read­ing peri­od, we had a triv­ia ques­tion based on the book and a his­tor­i­cal fact about our school.” 

[For read­ers who don’t know the book, the set­ting is 1925, in rur­al Col­orado. It tells the sto­ry of a one-room school­house that los­es its only teacher. Not want­i­ng to close the school, the eight stu­dents, led by eighth-graders Ida and Tom, decide to secret­ly keep the school open so they can fin­ish the term. They do so con­trary to the desires of the head of the school board and choose Ida—fourteen years old—to be their teacher.] 

One of the won­der­ful thing about books—such as this one—is that they can be a fresh expe­ri­ence for new read­ers even though it was writ­ten more than twen­ty years ago. Indeed, it is curi­ous­ly iron­ic that his­tor­i­cal fic­tion can often live on when cur­rent up-to-date fic­tion can some­times fade because it is too current. 

Fur­ther­more, that a pub­lic school should choose a book that high­lights the mild rebel­lion of young peo­ple want­i­ng to con­tin­ue their education—no mat­ter what it takes—gives me great plea­sure on many lev­els. Not only was I able to thank the school but I’ve been able to show my appre­ci­a­tion by offer­ing a vir­tu­al vis­it (no fees involved) to talk about the book, answer stu­dent ques­tions, and share the news (and a first chap­ter) of the sequel to the book, The Secret Sis­ters which will be pub­lished in 2023. No writer could ask for more. 

[And if any oth­er school wish­es to do such an all-school read of any one of my books, I’ll be hap­py to join in on the fun in the same fash­ion.] Let me know.

1 thought on “One School, One Book”

  1. My 3 chil­dren are at the ele­men­tary school that did this pro­gram and they all thor­ough­ly enjoyed read­ing it each night.


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