I purchased this book from a scholastic bookfair in my elemetary years. I remember loving the book however I had not read it in over 20 years. This last month Jozlin and I pulled it off the shelf to read together. The further we read, the more I understood why it held a place on my shelf for decades. This book encourages young children to be creative and think outside the box. It teaches the importance of words and emphasizes the influence a great teacher can have.
(Some may think it is disrespectful toward authority, but after reading it from cover to cover I disagree.)
The conclusion of the book touched my heart deeply. Emotions bubbled out of me. It was nearly impossible to read through the tears.
SPOILER ALERT: If you plan to read the book and don’t want the ending spoiled STOP here… otherwise read on my friend.
The story begins with Nick, a sharp 5th grader, attempting to sidetrack the teacher hoping to reduce the homework load for the day… Instead he ended up with the additional assignment to give an oral report about the origin of the dictionary. His lengthy report lead to the discussion: what gives meaning to a word?… we do. If we no longer acknowledge that the word d-o-g means a four legged animal (also known as man’s best friend) the word dog would lose it’s meaning.
Running with this idea Nick invented the word FRINDLE: a device used to write or make marks with ink. The story follows the battle and rise of the word frindle.
Mrs. Granger wrote a letter to Nick three weeks into the ‘battle’. She had Nick sign his name on the envelope. He would receive the letter when the battle was over. The presence of his signature would confirm it was the same letter written on that September day.
Ten years later Nick received the letter and in it he read:
“I now see that this is the kind of chance that a teacher hopes for and dreams about – a chance to see bright young students take an idea they have learned in a boring old classroom and put it to a real test in their own world.”
This great teacher knew Nick’s new word could go the distance. She helped it along by playing the villain. In my mind, Mrs. Granger embodies all noble teachers who have spent their lives teaching and striving to make the world a better place.
Perhaps our students won’t invent a new word or change the world, but as teachers of 3, 20, or 115 we have a responsibility to inspire the hearts and minds of those we teach each day.
My prayer is that parents and teachers everywhere will encourage, inspire, and plant seeds of goodness in the children they teach. One day those seeds will bloom into a generation of kind, creative, inventive, morally healthy and strong individuals. Let us be those teachers who believe in their students and help them reach their full potential!