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The Secret School Hardcover – Aug 31 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Aug. 31 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152163751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152163754
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 14.9 x 1.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 286 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,668,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Weaving together a fast-moving plot, solid characterizations, sharply tuned dialogue and a wealth of detail, Avi (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle) offers another satisfying historical novel, this time evoking rural Colorado in 1925. When the teacher at the one-room schoolhouse in Elk Valley must depart unexpectedly, the head of the school board decides to end the academic year right then, a month and a half before the summer break. To his surprise, 14-year-old Ida Bidson protests, because without exit exams, she cannot proceed to high school in the fall. "I'm not so sure a girl needs a high school education," Mr. Jordan retorts, undeterred. Then Ida's friend Tom comes up with a plan: "You're such a gravy know-it-all," he tells her. "You could take over the school when Miss Fletcher leaves." And so she does, swearing the students to secrecy. It's no easy task "Miss Bidson" has to learn self-confidence, and she must keep up with her farm chores and with her own studies. To compound the challenge, the county examiner discovers the secret and agrees to keep it only if all the students take a final exam. Right from the opening scene showing resourceful Ida and her seven-year-old brother driving the family's Model T to school Ida at the wheel hollering directions ("Brake and clutch!") while Felix pushes the pedals with his hands Avi wittily up-ends the usual roles assigned adults and children. A crowd-pleaser. Ages 8-12.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Gr 3-6-"I'm not so sure a girl needs a high school education," the head of a rural Colorado school board tells 14-year-old Ida Bidson in 1925. The one-room schoolhouse that she and seven other children attend is to be closed early, and if Ida and her friend Tom don't finish eighth grade and take their exams, they'll lose their chance to attend high school. Without a diploma, Ida will never fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher and seeing the world beyond the mountains. After Tom suggests that she could conduct the classes, the secret school commences and is subsequently threatened by a county administrator, the local school board, and an angry parent. Avi ably conveys an evocative sense of life in a poor, remote farming community just before the start of the Great Depression. He skillfully creates interesting, fully developed main and secondary characters. Ida's struggles with the difficulties of being both teacher and student and carrying out her duties at home, as well as her worry about whether or not the students will pass the exams, are suspensefully portrayed. Humorously effective descriptions, as in the Bidsons' old car "hiccuping like a damp firecracker," enliven the sense of hardships. The importance of education and dreaming of one's future are imparted in an entertaining way. This carefully plotted, enjoyable, old-fashioned tale of children taking control of a bad situation is a welcome addition to the literature of empowerment.

B. Allison Gray, South Country Library, Bellport, NY

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
ON A COOL MONDAY morning in early April 1925, Ida Bidson, aged fourteen, carefully guided her family's battered Model T Ford along a narrow, twisting dirt road in Elk Valley, Colorado. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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By A Customer on April 20 2004
Format: Paperback
The book I read is called The Secret School. It was really good. It was about a girl, Ida Bidson. She wanted to become a teacher, and needed to have her exit exam her eighth grade year. Things were looking good, but then her teacher, Miss Fletcher leaves. Mr. Jordan, the head of school board, decides to close the school instead of finding a new teacher. This breaks Ida's heart because next year may be too late for her to go to high school. Money depends on how well her family farm prospers. Her friend, Tom, mentions her being the teacher. This idea grows to a reality as she teaches secretly for quite a while. Mr. Jordan finds out and tries to close the school. Fortunately this doesn't work. So Ida, along with her students pass the exit exam. Now she can finally have a chance of going to high school.
I thought this was very brave of her to teach at such a young age. I would never have enough courage or confidence to do this. She acts as if it's no big deal. Even though I want to become a teacher someday I know I am far away from my goal. She had problems, but she didn't seem to handle them any different from an experienced teacher. "I'd [meaning Herbert, the troublemaker] sure like to see your make me [referring to the very nervous Ida on her first day.]"All in all she did very well. I hope if I do get to be a teacher myself, I'll be like her.
I most disliked the character of Mr. Jordan. I'm sure Avi meant to make readers dislike him. She did a very good job of it too. He was made out to be mean, bossy. In my opinion I think guys and girls are equal. It might be partly because I am a girl, either way that's how I view it. I think most of today's people agree with me. In the 1920's when this story takes place it was different. Girls were no comparison to the almighty man.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Secret School" did not live up to my expectations, but then again, I have high expectations for Avi. The plot sounded very intriguing, with a one-room school being closed down when the teacher leaves, and Ida becoming the secret teacher, because she is the most knowledgeable pupil out of her classmates, but once you finish the book, you'll feel empty, as if you missed a chapter or two. The characters were underdeveloped and the ending a little too sugar coated. Ida's parents were one-of-a-kind during this era, as most parents didn't want their daughter going past elementary school, especially farming families. The relationship between Tom and Ida was underdeveloped - we know they knew each other from early childhood and that they fancy each other, but that's all we know. Miss Sedgewick wasn't portrayed accurately in my opinion - no one, no matter what era, would allow an 8th grader to teach students. An epilogue was also lacking. The reason I give this book three stars, and not one, is because the topic *is* interesting, in it's own, bland way. Good for younger readers, being introduced to the 1920s life, but not a good way to acquaint yourself with Avi. Ten years and younger - I recommend ; 11 years and older - I do not recommend.
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By Jay on April 21 2002
Format: Hardcover
Taking place in a small rural Colorado turn in the 1920s, The Secret School takes a serious look at the educational values and views of women at that point in American history. When the schoolteacher must leave town before the end of the school year, the school board decides to close the one-room schoolhouse rather than hire a new teacher to save some money. Crushed by this news is 14 year old Ida who now will not be able to take her exit exams to continue on to high school in the Fall.
Ida, along with the support of the other 7 children of the school decides to become the teacher and finish out the school year. As this is a small valley, nothing stays secret for very long and Ida and her classmates must face the music.
This book serves an invaluable look at the history of the area and also of education and the struggles for women's rights. The superintendent wonders if girls even need to go to high school. This book would serve a purpose in guided reading groups or literature studies in upper-elementary grades and on through middle school.
Why 4 stars?:
This book serves an incredible purpose - it tells the struggles that women and educators have come through in the last 80 years. I only took a star away because the book did not make the issues more important but focused on the plot more. The plot, while entertaining failed to grab me as much as the questions about society. Still, this book definitely deserves to be read and find its way into elementary and middle school classrooms.
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By Heather T. on Oct. 5 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book will take you back to a different time in America. It was a time when children of all ages attended school together in one room. It was also a time when children did not have to attend school, and most did not go past the eighth grade.
In this story you will discover what happens when the teacher in the town gets called away for the second half of the year. Do the children call it quits until next year? Or can something be done? What if an eighth grade girl named Ida decides that she can be teacher? Will the school board accept her idea, or will it have to be kept a secret? Read to find out.
I enjoyed this book from cover to cover. It was very entertaining, and I especially liked finding out how Ida thought she could make the transition from student and friend to the teacher and disciplinarian. Once you start reading this book, you won't want to put it down.
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