One teacher who is willing to look outside the box for a solution changes the life of a budding young artist.
Charlie Muttnik is the “pup with the pencil, / the mutt with the marker.…” He draws all the time, but finding a place to draw in his crowded Brooklyn apartment is not always easy, and things only get worse when he starts school. The margins of his papers become a doodling pad, which does not endear him to his teacher, Miss Rich, who is strict and by-the-book, or help his grades. Finally, when Charlie turns in a wordless climate report, Miss Rich decides to try something different. Equipped with supplies, Charlie stands at the back of the room orally answering questions while creating his artwork—a ploy that works to improve both his grades and his self-esteem, leading Miss Rich to try it with the whole class. And his now-proud parents dedicate a corner of the apartment to a drawing table just for Charlie. As with the illustrations he did for Joanna Cole’s Magic School Bus series, Degen mixes panels, vignettes and full-page spreads on his busy pages, his dog and cat characters spouting speech bubbles that both continue the story and add funny asides (“Is there fresh air in Brooklyn?”).
Would that every teacher could be this cool; Ms. Frizzle would be proud. (Picture book. 5-9)