August 09, 2018

My Teacher's Not Here!

Written by Lana Button
Illustrated by Christine Battuz
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
April 2018 

For our youngest students, school can be a daunting daily ritual only made bearable by an awesome teacher who greets you, helps you throughout the day and always knows what you need. But if that teacher is away, what happens to your day? In easy rhyme that young children will love, Lana Button tells the story of Kitty whose day goes from shaky to manageable, even fun, when her wonderful teacher Miss Seabrooke is absent and replaced, for the day, by the substitute teacher Mr. Omar. 
From My Teacher's Not Here! by Lana Button, illus. by Christine Battuz
The first thing our story's narrator notices when she arrives via school bus is the absence of her teacher on the playground. She's sure they must all go home but is shocked to realize that things will proceed as normal but without Miss Seabrooke.
Call back those buses!
Close school for today!
Wait! Why's the BELL ringing?
Do we start ANYWAY?!
But Miss Seabrooke, like all good teachers, is still thinking about her students though she is ill. She leaves them a message about Mr. Omar (teachers: get this note copied to use in your classrooms)...
From My Teacher's Not Here! by Lana Button, illus. by Christine Battuz
...and plans for fun activities which Mr. Omar follows to the best of his abilities. Still, he needs a little help from the students who know their routines best, especially Kitty who observes Miss Seabrooke's directive to help him out because she's counting on them.  Soon enough...
The school bus is here!
I made it! I'm done!
I survived the WHOLE day.
(I even had FUN.)
Even with that little worry that Miss Seabrooke might not return the next day, Kitty and her peers have managed to endure the day, be helpful to their teachers and classmates, and even find that Mr. Omar's differences-he is a tall, deep-voiced giraffe-add a new flavour to their school day.

Most of us don't like change to our routines and it can be even more distressing for our youngest who thrive on routines. They gain comfort from them, making them feel safe and in control in a world that can be very big and baffling. Miss Seabrooke and Mr. Omar know how important it is to follow routines for the children to be their best selves. By giving voice to what a child might be thinking and experiencing when a teacher is absent, Lana Button is demonstrating that a successful teaching day begins with detailed lessons and instructions and a substitute teacher who follows them while gaining important information directly from their students. Lana Button, who works in early childhood education, recognizes this, and the capacity of children to adapt to new circumstances, sharing this through her upbeat rhyming with vocabulary that is perfect for our youngest students. Even though Kitty's distress, as conveyed in the title and her initial reactions to an absent teacher, is evident, Lana Button writes in a cheeriness to the situation, which Christine Battuz encourages with her illustrations.
From My Teacher's Not Here! by Lana Button, illus. by Christine Battuz
Christine Battuz, whose artwork enhanced Wade's Wiggly Antlers (2017), creates a diverse class of cat, pig, koala, bunny, fox, hedgehog and more, taught by a hen and then a giraffe. Every animal, and hence every child and teacher, are represented by her wonderful collection of characters. The colours are bright without being primary, making My Teacher's Not Here! a great read for kindergarten as well as Grades 1 and 2.

As teachers start preparing for the upcoming school year, they should ensure that a copy of My Teacher's Not Here! is purchased and sitting on their desk in anticipation of that inevitable day when they will be absent and a substitute teacher needs a gentle reminder for students that they and the day are going to be okay.

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