The narrator's year in Miss Effie Barr's private kindergarten, not playing at living but learning how to face life--and death--firmly and sensibly and with self-respect, makes a potent story. To note that it originated in the New Yorker is meant not to stigmatize it--while allusive, it is not at all obscure--but to suggest that its frame of reference as well as its implications far exceeds its short length and small size. Miss Effie is not to be seen as an eccentric: conducting the children through her house so they won't be tempted to peek later, teaching them how to enter and leave a room and how to maintain it by dusting and sweeping, how to introduce themselves forthrightly or falsely (if the need should arise), most remarkably how to read proficiently and to drink black coffee proudly--she is a maverick Montessori, inspired and unprogrammed. The children measure up or are dropped; most measure up, leading to the last lesson: Miss Effie's unlovable cat Mr. Thomas, hit by a car, is chloroformed in class. School is dismissed early; Miss Erie has ""nothing more to teach us."" The book reads well enough to be read aloud but be forewarned that it doesn't take parents too seriously.