The Secret School by Avi- 3 Stars!
Today's Tea Choice: Spice and Tea Exchange, Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte over ice
Trigger Warnings: none, very clean novel
Genre: middle grade-YA historical fiction
More than anything, Ida Bidson wants to become a teacher. To do that, she must finish eighth grade, then go on to high school. But her dream falters when the one-room school in her remote Colorado town shuts down. Her only hope is to keep the school open without anyone finding out. Yet even a secret school needs a teacher. Ida can't be it. . . . Or can she?
In the spirit of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Newbery Medal winner Avi creates an inspiring story of a headstrong girl determined to control her own destiny.
Anytime you're looking for a YA or middle grade historical fiction novel, my first choice is always Avi. As I've written on the blog before, Avi is a phenomenal writer and through his techniques, you are transported to another time period. While I enjoyed this short novel, I would say it wasn't his best nor worst.
What I loved:
Setting and themes: Like many of Avi's novels, one of the best techniques utilized is setting detail. In this novel, the setting is the early 1900s where schools were only one room and had different grades. Not only did I enjoy the rich farmland descriptions, but I also appreciate how we see the difficulty of receiving an education and how it wasn't taken seriously back then. Once the regular teacher leaves for a family emergency, there wasn't anyone else to take her place, so Ida Bidson stepped up! The time period also shows that people still had antiquated beliefs about women, since one of the town's prominent figures discouraged Ida from getting her education.
One of my favorite setting/historical details was how Ida and her brother drive a car even though she's only 14!
Characters: Ida was my favorite character. I loved her resilience and determination to become a better person despite her obstacles. Every morning, Ida was responsible for farm chores in the early hours and then had to teach school all day, followed by her own studies. It was incredibly inspiring!
Her friend Tom( maybe a secret crush too) was super supportive as Ida takes on the laborious task of becoming the teacher. Another character named Herbert represents the poor state of Elk Valley and how ignorance clashes with education and self- improvement.
What Needed Improvement:
There wasn't anything in the plot nor technique that needed improvement. However, the novel was predictable without any surprising consequences. I believe Avi has better historical novels to check out, which you can also find on the blog.
Authors Can Learn:
- how to create resilient characters, especially young women during such a difficult time period
- The importance of historical accuracy
Readers Will Love This For:
An appreciation of school systems today and following the difficult journey of a young woman trying to get a basic education.
I give this book 3 stars.