Miss Nelson is Missing! – Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall

I really enjoyed this book when I was little.  I don’t know about you, but when I was in grade school, substitute teachers were either easygoing, or terrifying.  If the former, we’d treat the day like a holiday and be uncontrollable; if the latter, we’d sit in meek submission and do our assigned work.  Most of our substitute teachers were of the treat/holiday variety but every now and then, we would have a Viola Swamp.

The kids in room 207 are the worst kids in the whole school.  Poor sweet Miss Nelson, with her pretty face and blonde hair and sweet manner is just frazzled when the book begins.  So it’s no surprise that finally, a substitute teacher shows up to take over for awhile…Viola Swamp, a mean, scary teacher.  With her evil-looking makeup and sour mouth, she looks just like a witch.  She makes life miserable for Miss Nelson’s class, and the poor students just dream of Miss Nelson’s return.  Thankfully, Miss Nelson does come back and the kids are as good as gold from then on.

Simple enough story, so where is the mystery?  The mystery is: who is Viola Swamp, and where did she come from? [Spoiler!]  Although Allard never says in so many words, Marshall’s illustrations give it away to observant kids…sweet Miss Nelson and mean Viola Swamp are one and the same, and readers get to laugh gleefully at their own clever mystery-solving abilities and at the trick played on the kids of Room 207.

Reading Ages: 5-8.  I read it when quite young, but thought it was fun for a long time (and still do).

Rating: B+


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