word craft


The Secret School

The Secret School

Har­court Brace, 2001

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audio book nar­rat­ed by 
Johan­na Parker

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What’s this book about?

More than any­thing, Ida Bid­son wants to become a teacher. To do that, she needs to fin­ish eighth grade so she can go on to high school. But when the one-room school in Ida’s remote Col­orado town clos­es unex­pect­ed­ly, that dream seems unat­tain­able. Her only hope is to keep the school open with­out any­one find­ing out. Yet even a secret school needs a teacher. Ida can’t be it … or can she?


Read­ers’ Guide

Dis­cus­sion Guide

Les­son Plan, “Spot­light on Avi and The Secret School,” Lin­da Ward Beech for Scholastic 

Rur­al School Build­ings in Col­orado,” by coun­ty, with pho­tos, from His­to­ry Col­orado. “In 1861, a com­pre­hen­sive school law was among the acts passed by Colorado’s first Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly.  His­to­ri­ans have not­ed that a community’s con­struc­tion of a school build­ing often reflect­ed not only a belief in the impor­tance of uni­ver­sal edu­ca­tion but a desire to lend an aura of per­ma­nence to the com­mu­ni­ty itself. ”

Por­traits of the Past: Revis­it­ing the Days of One-Room School­hous­es,” Com­mu­ni­ty His­to­ry Writ­ers, The Fort Mor­gan Times, 5 Sep­tem­ber 2019

The One-Room School­house,” Jodi Wilgo­ren, The New York Times, 6 August 2000. “Bloom­field, which opened in 1908, is one of near­ly 400 remain­ing pub­lic one-room school­hous­es in the nation, at once a nos­tal­gic rem­nant of the past and a mod­ern out­let for edu­ca­tion­al exper­i­men­ta­tion. Even as the num­ber of tiny rur­al schools has plunged in recent years, the fun­da­men­tal aspects of teach­ing inside them—from mul­ti-age class­rooms and peer tutor­ing to inter­dis­ci­pli­nary projects and keep­ing stu­dents with the same teacher for more than one year—are being copied in large school sys­tems across the country.”

Video: “Min­neso­ta’s Last One-Room School­house,” Kao­mi Goetz, Almanac, TPT, 27 March 2020

Story Behind the Story

The way The Secret School begins, with four­teen-year-old Ida dri­ving a Mod­el T Ford, but being so short her broth­er need­ed to be on the floor work­ing the clutch and brakes, is a true tale, told to me by a book­store own­er who had gone to a one-room school house. Though very young she had a spe­cial driver’s license which allowed her to drive—but only back and forth to her one-room school house.

I think it was hear­ing that sto­ry that led me to write The Secret School.

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Awards and Recognition

  • IRA Teach­ers’ choice
  • IRA-CBC Children’s Choice Award 2002
  • Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture Choice, 2002
  • Smith­son­ian Mag­a­zine, Notable Book Of the Year, 2001
  • Parent’s Guide Media Awards, 2001
  • Chil­dren’s Choice nom­i­nee, Kansas
  • Chil­dren’s Choice nom­i­nee, South Carolina
  • Chil­dren’s Choice nom­i­nee, California
  • Chil­dren’s Choice nom­i­nee, Iowa


“Humor­ous­ly effec­tive descrip­tions, as in the Bidson’s old car ‘hic­cup­ping like a damp fire­crack­er,’ enliv­en the sense of hard­ships. The impor­tance of edu­ca­tion and dream­ing of one’s future are impart­ed in an enter­tain­ing way. This care­ful­ly plot­ted, enjoy­able, old-fash­ioned tale of chil­dren tak­ing con­trol of a bad sit­u­a­tion is a wel­come addi­tion to the lit­er­a­ture of empow­er­ment.” (School Library Jour­nal)

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