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The Secret School

Review

The Secret School

by Avi

If your one burning ambition in life were suddenly snatched from you, how would you react? Would you just lie down and accept it? Mourn its loss and get on with something else? Or would you find another plan to achieve your aims?

14 year-old Ida longs to become a teacher. She already has a lot against her: she lives in a remote part of Western Colorado, in the 1920s, where there's no high school for her to attend. Her parents really do need her help on the farm and have only approved her going to high school on the condition that they have a good year on the farm. If they don't, she'll have to stay at home and help out. Although Ida understands her parents' point of view, she still lives with the hope she will be able to pass her eighth grade test, gain admittance to school and fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher.

The term only has a few more weeks to go when her teacher, Miss Fletcher announces she must return to Iowa to care for her ailing mother. The little one room school Ida and her classmates have been attending will be closed for the rest of the year and all of the work they did for the year will be for nothing. They won't even be able to take the examination necessary to pass into the next grade. Ida is stunned until her best friend and fellow near graduate, Tom, suggests that she take over the teaching of the class. It seems simple enough and the rest of the pupils vote to go
along with the plan.

Of course, they are still some rocks in the road. No sooner does Ida take up her job as teacher than Miss Sedgewick, the local school examiner, appears and the private arrangement between the students of the little school becomes public. After some persuasion Miss Sedgewick agrees to allow them to continue, but she insists they tell the adults what they are doing. This revelation draws the anger of Mr. Jordan, the school board official who ordered the school closed in the first place. The loss of his supports means the kids must ALL pass the end of the year test in order to prove their decision to make Ida their teacher was the correct one. Will their hard work be enough to score passing grades?

Avi's reputation as an excellent author of novels for young teens is well demonstrated by THE SECRET SCHOOL. His characters are realistically drawn and seem as if they could take the seat next to you on any given day throughout the school year. Ida isn't a supergirl; instead she has hopes and fears she that she must face as she learns to cope with a new role in the world. I enjoyed THE SECRET SCHOOL and only wished I could have seen Ida go on to high school.

Reviewed by Cassia Van Arsdale on August 15, 2001

The Secret School
by Avi

  • Publication Date: August 15, 2001
  • Hardcover: 153 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
  • ISBN-10: 0152163751
  • ISBN-13: 9780152163754