"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

20 May 2011

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey. New York: Simon Pulse, 1996.

Mrs. Dunphrey is Tish's new English teacher, and she has assigned journal entries to Tish and her classmates.  The students are allowed to mark the entries as "don't read" if they do not want Mrs. Dunphrey to read them.  Tish opens up in her journal, pouring out her frustrations at working at a fast-food place to earn enough money to care for herself, her younger brother, and her mother.  She describes her horror at discovering that her deadbeat father has returned and is back to screaming at her mother.  She is terrified when she discovers that her father has left and her mother has left to search for him.  Now she is sixteen and trying to run a household, care for her brother, and survive high school.  Tish's world is spinning out of control, but she's not sure who to trust.  Can she let Mrs. Dunphrey in on her secrets?

As a former English teacher, I really enjoyed this story.  I have assigned journal writing to my students before, and I can imagine being the teacher who is seeing so many "don't read" entries in Tish's journal.  I have also been in Tish's place - overwhelmed with responsibilities beyond my years and maturity and bursting with desire to get some help yet afraid to trust those around me.  I was proud of the teacher for not reading the entries until she was given permission and then taking the appropriate actions to make sure that Tish and her brother were taken care of.  I was even prouder of Tish for seeking the help she and her brother so desperately needed.  This book is a quick read and a good one; every teacher ought to stop by the library and check it out.  Chances are you have a Tish in your classroom, too.

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